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Just This Once, Everybody Wins!

, , , , | Right | December 7, 2022

I supervise a dealership repair shop and teach automotive vocational classes part-time, as well. In the automotive industry, we joke about the “Ever Since Club”: people who claim some new issue has arisen from their car only ‘“ever since” we worked on something totally unrelated. But I caution my coworkers and students to keep an open mind; you never know what you might end up finding. Then, I tell them this story from the first shop I ever worked.

A customer’s car came in with an atypical concern: instead of his car not starting, it wouldn’t stop. The culprit was a faulty ignition switch; even if the driver took the key out of the ignition, the car would stay on and the engine would keep running as though he hadn’t done anything. He ended up disabling it from under the hood so it wouldn’t drink up all his gas and then towing it to us. We diagnosed and repaired it, he paid us, we all agreed it was a fun story, and he left happy.

A week later, he brought it back.

Customer: “You must have messed something up! Ever since I got my car back, it dies overnight. I have to jump-start it every morning! What kind of messy operation are you running, anyway?”

We checked the car back in so we could get to the bottom of it.

Me: “Sir, I want to remind you that the car never did stay with us overnight, so if the problem was preexisting, it could easily have been missed. Also, given the nature of the repair we did, it seems unlikely to be related. But of course, we want to be certain because we absolutely stand by our work.”

We had him authorize a diagnosis fee, but he would, of course, not be charged if the issue was our fault — standard operating procedure.

He was right: his car was dying overnight every night since he picked it up from us, and it didn’t do that before. But we were also right: we didn’t do anything wrong.

The mechanic found the culprit pretty quickly. We had given the customer his copy of the completed repair order when he picked up his car; he’d tossed it in his glove box, closed it, and driven off. But he hadn’t quite tossed it all the way in; the corner of the paper was sticking right into the latch mechanism, jamming the switch and keeping it from seeing that the compartment was shut. The light inside the glove box stayed on constantly, draining the car’s battery every night.

Fortunately, the customer had a sense of humor about his mistake. We waived the diagnosis charge for him, joking that it was a fair trade for two good stories from one car in the same month. He became a loyal customer and even referred us a couple more.

Pump The Brakes On This Establishment

, , , , , | Working | December 2, 2022

My sister’s car needed new brakes as they were making that “crunching in snow” sound when applied. It just so happens that the local tire store had a coupon for a brake job. [Sister] called me for advice as they said she needed her rotors turned. I agreed. [Sister] paid the bill and retrieved her car.

Within a few weeks, the brakes were making the same noise. Obviously, the rotors were never turned and tore up the new pads quickly.

I went down to the tire store.

Me: “I want you to give my sister her money back for the brake job.”

Clerk: “I can’t do that because we did the service she was billed for.”

Me: “I’m an accountant. The mechanic shop across the street is my client. That shop is the only one in town that has the equipment to turn rotors. The office manager records the make and model of every car that they turn rotors on. I checked, and she has no record of my sister’s car coming into their shop, ever. Now, send her the money she paid you for the job you never did and charged her for.”

My sister got a check a few days later. I found out at a local coffee shop that they had done that to several people. Needless to say, they were out of business not too long after.

Oil Bet He Didn’t Expect That Result

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: gyresirfer | November 30, 2022

One day, our entire parking lot was covered in a cloud of heavy white smoke. I went out to investigate (like an idiot) and found a car on one end of the lot emitting the whole cloud. The driver was GUNNING the engine and the smoke was pouring out of the front end.

I knocked on the window.

Me: “Are you okay, sir?”

Driver: “I topped up my motor oil but put too much in. Now I have to burn it off.”

I’m not a car guy, but I’m sure it doesn’t work like that.

Me: “Do you want me to get one of our mechanics to have a look?”

Driver: *Adamant* “This is perfectly normal! All will be well once the excess oil is burned off.”

Soon enough, one of the mechanics from our garage came to investigate. He had a similar conversation with the guy, and then he led me away.

Mechanic: “That white smoke is burning coolant. The guy has probably blown a seal. Any minute now…”

CLANG! Silence.

The engine seized up. I don’t know what broke in the car, but whatever it was, the car left on a flatbed truck.

They’re About As Bright As The Object They’re Holding

, , , , | Right | November 22, 2022

Customer: “I need to return this flashlight. It’s not lighting up.”

Me: “I can’t return that flashlight, sir.”

Customer: “Why not?”

Me: “Because that’s a hose nozzle.

Seems Like This Is The Flavor Of The Month(s)

, , , , , | Right | November 18, 2022

Many years ago, I was the office manager at a mechanical workshop that converted cars to run on LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) — both new cars (from dealers and private owners) and retroactively fitting to older cars.

Our normal schedule was booked about two weeks ahead with the odd appointment further ahead for people taking a day off to have it done.

The cost of petrol/gasoline shot up and our calendar filled up to a couple of months ahead. Then, the government offered a rebate to get cars converted that, in many cases, totally covered the cost of the conversion. That caused our calendar to fill up to six months ahead, at which point the boss closed the calendar. We’d reopen it one month before our last appointment.

I’ve got some great stories from that time, but one that sticks out was the guy who turned up to have his 4WD done. He claimed he’d booked in, but he wasn’t on the list.

This was May 15th, and then he dropped this line:

Customer: “You said July 15th on the phone, but I knew what you meant.”

I made a quick check of the calendar and, sure enough, there he was booked in for the 15th of July.

When I told him we actually did mean July 15th, he replied:

Customer: “Don’t be ridiculous! Who’d take a slot that far ahead?

Me: “Any of the five vehicle owners we’ll be doing each working day for the three-plus months after your appointment up to the point where we’ve stopped taking bookings.”

Customer: “What?”

Me: “If you don’t want your appointment, I can fill that opening with probably two or three phone calls.”

He very quickly confirmed that he did still want his appointment, and two months later, he was back with his 4WD, looking a little sheepish as he dropped off his keys and filled out his paperwork.