What not to say to your shop . . .

Customer says:

"So as you can see I have been experimenting with different mechanics and spending lots of money to no avail. I am frustrated and tired of wasting my money."


"I've already spent $XXXX and now I'm going to stop this gravy train and force everyone from now on to perform first and then I will pay them."


"Since we have invested close to $1200 in the attempted repairs, I hope you can understand that our frustration level is running high."

Shop Owner is thinkin':

"You are mad at the wrong folks, you are holding the wrong folks feet to the fire. You need to go back to those dogs that took your $XXXX and make them give you your money back so you can pay my bill because I can fix it right".

This very nice lady has spent a mint with other shops while they took her money and never performed. Now she is going to hold my feet to the fire. When we give her an estimate, we will be expected to explain why she has already paid for that repair and we have to do it again. We will be stuck in the middle as this very nice lady calls the first shop and says, "They said they have to redo all of your work and I want you to warranty what they are doing or maybe pay their bill"."

Then we can expect a call from that shop who wants to know why we are kicking him under the bus. Yet, it's far from over.

The very nice lady is low or out of money (meaning one of us is going to have to deal with a credit card charge back or stop payment) and we will end up subsidizing the repair because she doesn't have enough money to do it right. So in order to salvage our reputation and "prove we are right, our diagnosis is right and we CAN fix this cold start problem" we will end up paying for some of the repair to prove our point.

The very nice lady will ALWAYS end up mad at both of us and will never come back. We were the hero, the other shop was the dog. We usually end up billing half of our time and losing money on the repair while the other shop got $1200 for NOTHING that benefited the customer. We ALWAYS end up wondering why we got on our white horse and indicated to anyone that we would be willing to and capable of slaying their dragon.

I'm not going to let you hold my feet to a fire I didn't set and had nothing to do with. This is your problem, not mine. Bring your car in, I will fix it without regard to what you have spent or what others said they did or what they said needed to be done next. When I am done, you will have to pay me for all of my time and parts and then you can go back to the first shop and argue with them. I do not want to be involved in a dispute that takes places when I am working on your car. I do not want to warranty the other shops parts because that means he still made the profit and I sold them for cost. What sense does that make?

Of course the typical Customer would say:

"Wait a minute, why should we believe that you are any different than the first shop?

And the shop owner would reply:

"Why don't you allow me a chance to fix it and once it is fixed EVERYONE will know who did what right and did what wrong." You see, if that other shop wouldn't have created this mess by charging you $XXXX for nothing that helped your initial problem, you wouldn't be holding me to these new standards, so I'm not going to let you hold me to them now."

Mark says:

So as you can see, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Please review FAQ #10 for advice around this kind of mess.

Here's an e-mail that should make you smile,
it is a great  example of the lack of information.

Date:    xx/xx/xx 1:07:58 PM US Mountain Standard Time
From:    last_unicorn@xxxxxxx.com
To:    mark@marksalem.com

I have read all the FAQ's and asked several machanics this question. I have a 1986 Chevy Spectrum and it acts really weird. During the winter it runs fine, but in the summer it dies. When it does this it will start right back up. We have checked all the vacuum hoses that we could find. Oh, when it dies is when we take our foot off the accelerator, and no other time. I would much appreciate if you could help us find the problem.


Hi Cheryl,

All I get is it acts real weird? Nothing else? I'm sorry but no one can work with just that. Hot or cold, left or right, a/c on or off, fuel tank empty or full, backfires? stalls? surges? bucks? Perhaps a review of FAQ 1 through 11 would be a good place to start.

Mark Salem

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