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No good deed goes unpunished

December 3, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

In (too many) cases, people feel that they have been treated poorly by auto repair shops. Estimates were not given, or were incorrect, or a diagnoses was wrong, or a call was not made to keep the customer informed. In the business of maintaining the second most expensive and probably most complicated possession most people will ever buy, many things can go astray. Murphy's Law guarantees it. However, it might surprise you to know that the pendulum swings both ways. Many times the shops get less than stellar treatment from the public. For instance:

n The girl called in saying she had been told by another shop that she needed an air conditioning compressor and she also had a leaking radiator. She wanted estimates from us to do the work. We told her we would rather do the diagnosis ourselves, but we gave her a conditional estimate anyway. When she brought the car in the air conditioning had started working again. We told her she did not need a compressor. We replaced her radiator. Later she wanted an oil change, so we did that, and we noticed that the air conditioning had stopped working. We found a wiring problem to the compressor and fixing that connection caused it to resume working. The poor connection undoubtedly was the reason for the intermittent operation and the reason someone else told her she needed a new compressor. When she picked up the car, she refused to pay for the wiring repair. She said her air conditioning was working fine when she brought it in for the oil change, refusing to admit that there had been a problem. We saved her the expense of a compressor job and gave her the repair for free.

n A couple brought in an old car that needed an air conditioning control panel. No new ones were available. We located a used one in a salvage yard and installed it for them. Used parts have a 90-day warranty from the salvage yard. One year later they came in because the used panel had failed. We could not get it replaced under warranty, but we found another one in a salvage yard. The couple said to go ahead. The first one sent to us didn't work when we installed it. We ordered another. It took a while, but another one was finally located and sent to us. We installed it, and it worked. We got scolded for not covering it under warranty and for taking so long to fix it and for calling the first phone number they had given us instead of the second one ... and because they had been terribly inconvenienced because the husband was out of town and the dog needed to go to the vet. We charged for the part and gave her the labor for free.

n A lady said she would like an oil change and a particular engine part replaced on her car. She made an appointment. On the day of the appointment she didn't show, but she called and wanted a firm quote of what our charges would be. After lengthy research, it appeared that the model she said she owned was not produced in the year she said her car was made. There was a wide variety of parts for different models, so we couldn't be certain of all of the parts costs. We called her back, as she had requested, but had to leave a message that we needed more information about her car. She never returned our call or came in again. We returned the parts we had ordered for her.

These people are almost always first time customers, who come in unhappy, fully expecting to leave unhappy, and it is difficult to break that train of thought. Many shops go out of their way to make a fan out of a new customer. Sometimes it doesn't work. The good shops keep doing the good deeds, because everybody likes it when it does work.



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