The “Bad” Customer Types for Independent Mechanics and Repair Shops

This was written from the point of view of an independant repair shop, not a dealership. This is not a guide for selecting a repair shop, checking out a repair shop, or being sure that you are paying a fair price. This is written from the point of view assuming you have a regular shop taking care of your needs, and you already trust them, and you don't question their methods. You just want to receive the best service possible.

First of all, do you recognize yourself in any of these customer types? If not, I love you, please come to my shop. If so, don't despair, you can turn it all around with just a few simple steps.

The One-Upper

You are loyal (in your head) to your locally owned small business shop run by a man in your neighborhood who goes to church with half the people you know. You call him by his first name. You get all your work done with him. Well, except when Mall-Wart has a sale on tires.

The last two tire rotations you've had with your local shop, the service writer (who may also be the owner) has told you it's nearly time for tires. This man spent a bit of time with you, explaining the benefits of different tires, explaining why one was more suited for your purposes than the other, finding out what is most important to you from a cost/benefit perspective, gave you a quote, and helpfully wrote down everything you needed to know for the tires that (he was sure) you were planning on buying from him. You asked for the brand name, the rating, the size, the warranty, the price per tire, the final out-the-door price for the set. You were impressed with his grasp of the knowledge of the properties of tires, his expertise in choosing the right one for you, and you completely trusted his recommendation. So much so, you took that piece of paper with all his careful calculations and handed it to the stoned teenager at the discount store and happily allowed them to beat the price by $10 and put new tires on.

If this is you, go hang yourself. We're not going to show our disgust when you show up for your next oil change and tire rotation and we greet you with "So Mr. Jones, ready to do those tires?" and you say "Oh, I already got them". It's your money, it's your right. We'll still outwardly be nice to you and we'll still perform service for you. But we now feel NO loyalty to you and we won't care if you get a flat and are stuck somewhere or your lug nuts were stripped out by Skippy at the Mall-Wart. You may still get service from us, but not our best.

Loyalty is a two-way street. Pay a little more if that's what it takes, and it will go a much longer way. I guarantee you no one at the Mall-Wart has ever left their house a half hour earlier in the morning to pick you up from the side of the road because you got a flat on the tire you bought from them, and given your their cell phone number so you can call them when you are ready to be picked up from work. But I will do that, if I feel I have your loyalty.

Captain Thundercloud

Walk in confrontational, give the service writer the evil eye no matter what they say, and don't just question everything (which is of course your right and what you should do), but do it in as threatening a manner as possible, letting them know at every possible opportunity that You're going to check up on everything afterwards to be sure they actually put that part in, dammit. End a lot of sentences with "oh, it better be right", or "you better hope I don't hear that noise again" or "you actually are going to do that, right" or "you're not lying to me, are you" or "there aren't any second chances" or "yeah, my attorney on speed dial would love to hear about that" or "if it's not the way I want it you bet you'll know about it." And so on.

If this is you, Mall-Wart is down the road. They're used to being threatened.

Eeyore

  • If my stupid wife actually took care of the car, this wouldn't happen. I can't believe I'm stuck here again.
  • Oh, bother. That's what my whole life is like.
  • Let me tell you what happened today from the moment I woke up.
  • It's all bad. Everything is.
  • You don't have anyone who can drop what they are doing and look at it right now? Typical.
  • What do you mean the lifts are full? Anything you can just crash down off the lift, drag into the parking lot, and put mine up instead? No?
  • Figures. Just my luck. And it's raining today too.
  • Boy your phone keeps ringing, huh. That reminds me, I hate my cell phone service. Let me tell you all about it in detail.
  • I got this weird pain in my side. Had it for weeks, along with uncontrollable gas.
  • And my job sucks. Let me tell you all about it. At 8:07 this morning, I ...

Hey, where are you going?

Ficklepuss

Not only is this a way to be that will guarantee bad service, the truth is, you won't be getting bad service. You will just be a product of your own creation.

This person goes to every shop in town and gets something different done everywhere, and has no idea who did what when. Sometimes this person keeps records, sometimes they don't. I'm not sure what the criteria is ... that shop had a coupon last week? You just happened to be driving by at the right moment and the thought struck you that it was time for brakes? The shop across from the mall offers their own credit card and your Visa was maxed out when it was time for tires?

I don't know what brings the people who do this to do it, but it's a bad habit. It's not like buying peanut butter from the Publix one week and the Bi-Lo next week and it's all the same peanut butter, this car is your freedom. Your way to work, your safe coccoon away from the freaks on public transportation, your independence. When you scatter your service all over the place, you have no discernible history and no one has any accountability to you.

A customer who had a 2001 Chevy Impala had bought it new, and had been to us for only oil changes, once or twice a year (I think when we had a coupon?) had a total of 6 oil changes with us, but she was getting a total of 5 a year, which means by 2007 she had had over 30 oil changes. I received a call from her, very angry. She identified herself and said she had taken her car to have the oil changed and they couldn't do the oil change because the drain plug was stripped out and she needed a new oil pan. I looked up her history and said "Ma'am, according to our records, you are getting your oil changed every 16 thousand miles or so with us and you haven't been to see us in over 9 months. Was that your last oil change?" No, she assured me, she had been to three other places since her last oil change with us.

"You have had your oil changed three times since you've been to our place, and you are convinced that we are the ones who damaged your oil pan? How does that figure?"

She said she had already been to the other places, and they had all said it wasn't them, and the last place she went to told her it must have been us. If you were me, what would you be thinking? Probably one of two things, neither are good. Either:

a) she picked us because our shop is fairly large and well-established and has a reputation to protect and the other shops advised her we would cave rather than risk having her cause a stink; or

b) what a moron.

If you are planning on scattering your car records around the town like loose change, you need to be prepared for no one to give a damn what happens to your car when something goes wrong, and wasting a lot of time trying to find someone accountable. Long story short - she wrote to AAA, BBB, local chamber of commerce, the state attorney general, the local news, and the department of consumer affairs, and still got nowhere. Well, actually, what she did get was a formal invitation in writing from us to never set foot on our property again.

If You're Going to Breathe Down My Neck Like That, At Least Give Me A Backrub Or Something While You're There

(grumble grumble grumble)

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Does not want to pay for diagnostics, just wants the oil "topped off" but not enough that he'd have to pay for it, does not want to put the car on a lift just wants a mechanic to follow him out to the parking lot and just listen for the noise, doesn't want you to check anything on the computer just wants to know what you THINK that might cost, doesn't actually want to bring the car into the shop but just wants to "pick your brain" for a minute.

We hate them.

We suddenly have an important phone call when they arrive. All our mechanics are busy right now. Yeah, even the one who LOOKS like he's just stocking the brake fluid, really he's very busy. No, they can't go into the shop.

We all went to school with our own money, paid for our tools with our own money, built this building, stocked the fluids, pay our electricity and our uniforms and our computers, and this guy is a freeloading creep and we all talk behind their back. And we all argue, "I had to deal with him last time, you ride in the car with him to listen for the noise", "I don't want to look up the firing order and timing marks for him just so he can do it himself", "I'm not going to print out any more wiring diagrams for that freeloader."

There's a place where you can get free advice and pick people's brains and they love it, it's called the INTERNET. In fact, look around, here you are! Get your free advice here, stay out of my place of business when you don't have business to conduct. We aren't here for conversation.

Shemp

  • That's my Grand Prix on the back of the tow truck there, just tell the guy where you want him to drop it. What's wrong with it? Oh nothing is really wrong with it, it just didn't start today.
  • I thought a heard a noise and I plucked this thing out, can you put it back in for me? That'll be how much? What do you mean I broke it? But it only took me a minute to pluck it out, what do you mean you'll have to fix the wiring I stretched? So you can't just glue that broken clip back together or anything?
  • Well, I used a coathanger to hold that together.
  • Yeah, that's chicken wire instead of coated wire to the starter, it was all I had. Oh, that piece of plastic was from a broken stroller I had in the garage. It was the same size as the bolt so I used it. It melted onto what? That's HOW MUCH?

If you recognize yourself in any of those or several of those, don't worry, you can turn it all around and completely put any bad feelings behind you. There is something you can do that can make the service writers trip all over each other to rush to the counter to help you, that will have the manager calling you after service to be sure everything is okay, that will make sure that any silly little thing they can do to be helpful and send you on your way with a smile. Become THIS person:

The Lady Who Brings The Donuts.

I'm not joking, try it! Most auto shops are staffed by men, and (sorry guys) men are fairly simple creatures. I could be crude and say for you to become The Lady Who Brings The Cleavage, but that is really only effective half the time. It works until a) someone's wife is there and spots you; b) errr ... maybe you aren't all that, in which case you're back to TMI and making people uncomfortable; c) they're hungry. All men like donuts. Bring donuts. That works 100% of the time.

—Beth

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