Anyone else here deal with customers on "fixed income" or who have already diagnosed the problem?

I always liked the “Tales From the Model Garage” stories in the old Popular Science magazines with Gus Wilson, proprietor of the Model Garage. One character that showed up in a lot of articles was an old tightwad named Silas Barnstable. Silas would always help himself to the free air, water and windshield spray at the Model Garage, but would purchase gas at a cut rate station. In one episode, Silas had a real problem with flat tires on the right rear wheel of his car. He thought the neighbor kid was letting the air out of the tire. When he switched the right rear tire with the spare, the tire in the trunk would hold the air, but the right rear would go flat. Gus had to solve the mystery. Gus noted that the spare tire didn’t have a valve cap. SIlas said that there was no dust in the trunk and a valve cap wasn’t needed. Besides, Silas said, “Valve caps cost money”. Gus finally figured out that it was the valve cap Silas was using on the right rear tire that was causing the problem. When he would switch the right rear tire, which had become flat, with the spare tire, he would put the valve cap on the spare tire that was now on the right rear wheel. Gus figured out that the problem was the valve cap–it had a lock washer stuck inside. SIlas had “borrowed” the valve cap out of the junk box at the Model Garage and it had cost him three flat tires.
I have done minor electrical work and plumbing work at the small church I attend. We have one church member who does have money, but does not want to pay “real” electricians or plumbers, so I get a call. I’ve gone over to that person’s house to wire the lights in the detached garage so that the lights could be controlled from either the house or garage, have been called to restart the furnace, and even received a call in the middle of the night to pump out the basement. Of course, I wasn’t paid for these jobs. On the other hand, I was out at a shopping center and an older fellow who didn’t look like he had much, needed a jump to start his car. I jump started the car and he tried to pay me. I told him that my payment would be that he help the next person who needed assistance.

Unfortunately there are many many mechanics (mainly the national chains) who push unwanted services, or are trying to tell you a part that isn’t broken. Happened to me more then once. People then become skeptical and don’t trust any mechanic (no matter how honest they are).

If you come to me and want part X replaced and no diagnosis by me of what part may really be the culprit…I’ll change that part out, but with the understanding that you are not allowing me to diagnose the problem, so all warranties and guarantees are off the table.

Part X didn’t do the trick “what good working part do you want me to remove this time”.


This is why I have people sign a form. When they argue, I remind them that the signed an agreement to those terms and conditions.

How about the guy that has me do work, then calls me and tells me the part I replaced broke so he had someone else do it but is interested to see if I will warranty the part?

Yeah, I concur. If I was a pro auto mechanic and a customer asked me to change the thermostat and do nothing else, I wouldn’t argue. I’d say sure, tell them my hourly rate and ask them to sign the work order which would state that the customer wants no diagnosis and my only responsibility is to change the thermostat. Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes in my business life I’d have a client ask me to do something which didn’t seem to make sense, but after I explained my puzzlement, if they still said to do it, I’d do it. Nobody ever complained if it didn’t accomplish what they thought it would.

I like that line 16 cwatkin added on the form. My feeling is that there is a certain small percentage though that would sign that, go nuts, and deny ever signing it.

On occasion someone would come into the shop with a complaint after a repair done a few weeks, months, or even a few years before and state that problem did not exist until the car was worked on. In most cases the customer did not have their copy of the repair order because they “lost it”.

Next in line was pulling a copy out of the file followed by some red faces or blustering when the copy showed acknowledgement that they refused the repair they were complaining about.

We had a major ruckus break out once from a guy who signed a repair order 3 times and then denied ever doing it once. He was told that no car ever enters the shop until there is a repair order signed off on by the customer and still he remained in denial.

That form used to be pretty large font but there are many lines that have been added to it over the times and each one has a story. Now is is just a sea of black text on a white page and many people are in a hurry and don’t even read it.

The people who come back months or years after the work was done are always fun. My longest is 6 years on a computer. Really? Computers don’t even really last 6 years without some type of work needing to be done.

The other one I love is where they either buy a computer from you or have one repaired and call months later claiming that this is the first time it has ever been turned on. I had one the other night. It had been 5-6 months since I worked on the machine. The guy called me yelling that the sound was not working and he claimed he was just now turning it on. Issues like this are usually something simple like a configuration error or the cable being in the wrong port. I tried to tell him this but he just yelled and got madder and more demanding. After 15 minutes, I told him I would hang up on him and that would be that if he didn’t settle down and listen to me. 30 seconds later his sound was working when I told him what color port the audio cable needed to go into on the back of the computer.

A night or two later he called me and left a message saying that his power supply had failed and that he had taken it somewhere else and had it replaced. He wanted to know if I was interested in warrantying the part. I didn’t even call back as this reeked of some sort of BS trap. He never called about that issue before having someone else repair it. Never heard from him again.

Wow. Six years on a computer after the repair and they complain? I would have been dancing in the streets after 2 years with no problems.

I hate to further go off the grid here but don’t forget that we have raised at least one generation to equate low income with special privileges. Many many programs are tied to income. Make too much and you get no benefits but if you are at a certain income level then you get all kinds of assistance, so why wouldn’t they think they should get free or discounted auto services too?

I worked with a shop owner who had a customer with a brake problem. On inspection, the rusted brake parts just fell off the car, rendering the car unusable. The customer was unhappy at the cost to repair and wanted to take the car somewhere else - and when informed that the car could not be driven, the customer threatened to call the police. The shop owner told the customer he should do that, but warned him that the policeman just might cite the guy for having an unsafe car.

The customer agreed to replace ONLY the parts to make the car driveable, but with no warranty implied or otherwise.

Make too much and you get no benefits but if you are at a certain income level then you get all kinds of assistance,

I heard from a shop owner who had hired a young man, with promising mechanical talent and skills. The owner told him he had a future at that shop, and his pay would increase over the years as long as his abilities did as well. However, he left and took a lower paying job somewhere else because the cut in pay would allow him, his girlfriend, and young child to quality for food stamps, with the end net being an increase in income (if you can count food stamps as an income).

I hate to sound like a jerk, but people with that mentality don’t deserve any help from anyone.

The situation you speak of is all too common @asemaster. And while the recipients of entitlements are a growing problem it is the system that they must deal with on a day to day basis that is to blame. All too often the political compromises needed to get legislation passed to deal with a problem that deserves attention result in a maze that the recipients fall into for help but see no exit from. The only opportunity that is obvious and dependable is continueing to walk around the maze picking up the benefits. I recall that after many years in prison men fear leaving what has become familiar to them to enjoy the freedom outside.

The EIC program has proven to be a trap that used car lots and check-in-2-cash offices have turned into a gravy train. A great many young mothers don’t want raises and must limit their hours in an effort to ensure that they get that annual ‘EIC lottery’ check. Of course their employers enjoy that situation.

Yep, the entitlement mentality is definitely a HUGE problem and only seems to be getting worse. In some ways some employers encourage this by paying just enough to make them work there and little enough that they qualify for all kinds of assistance. People have accused Wal-Mart of doing this for years and know that is a common criticism of that store.

I just dealt with like 4 of these types of people in a row and am very frustrated. They expect everything for nothing and agree to meet for an appointment and then don’t show. Of course they signed a form agreeing to an automatic $35 charge for no-shows but are not happy when I hold them to this. Basically they take time that could be used for other work away and expect to have the right to do this for free. Lots and lots of computers also get left behind by the people who don’t pay. Most are cheap junk from Wal-Mart although a few are worthy of repairing and reselling.

Every new strip mall around here seems to have a check into cash type place show up. The local newspaper had a story about a parcel of land being developed into a strip mall several years back. I was on the online site and someone had commented that he was betting for a cell phone store to be there and his wife was betting against him that there would be a payday loan place there. Well, there ended up being TWO payday loan places and one cell phone store so I guess they were both right. I just remember reading the comment before anyone knew what was going there and laughing because it was probably right and turned out to be the case.

Another thing I get is the lower the price, the higher the expectation of these deadbeats. I get “It is a good computer. It came from Wal-Mart” all the time. No, it is NOT a good computer because it came from Wal-Mart. Also, they don’t take care of them. It is always a rarity when I get one of these cheapo units in that I consider to be disposable that is really clean and not beat up. They are usually filled with cigarette smoke residue, spilled soda, and insects.

^Bar owners and dealers gotta love it when low-incone folks get a quick $5k cash infusion, too!

This one's right in my 'wheelhouse'; I'm a tax preparer. AFAIC, the whole thing's a scam! (Actually, I've been told it was a LOT worse in the days where we had ATMs in-office: the neighborhood dealer would drive his clients down to get their "instant refund" (and we'd get our cut, too, with insanely high "service charges."))

BACK TO CARS: I wonder if you exploit the "loose money" effect by buying up cars cheap in say, January (with everybody being broke from the holidays) and flip 'em in March? Sound profitable?

Yep, I am sure bar owners, convenience store owners, and the like love it when people like this get turned loose with a little extra cash. They just blow it and then are broke again. Look at all the lottery winners who have gone through HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of DOLLARS very quickly. An old friend used to work at a gas station/convenience store. Someone on food stamps came in and complained that the cost of the beef jerky was too high and that it should be lowered. His comment was that this was a convenience store and if you want your money to go further, then you need to go to a regular grocery store for food items and not a convenience store. They went ahead and bought it there anyway.

The discussion about buying seasonal items off season came up on another forum I am part of. Many people do this with lawn equipment. They pick it up free or cheap during the off season, repair if needed, and start selling it on the first warm days of spring at a pretty good price. Normally push mowers can hardly be given away so you have a limited time window to do this.

Then I made the point about hunting rifles. People will go out and blow a bunch of money on a gun during late summer and fall in preparation for the November deer season here. Of course Christmas is coming right after deer season and people need cash, so they sell the gun at a huge loss. You can sit on it a year and make a nice profit before the next hunting season.

As a country we have dug ourselves into a terrible financial pit. And I will steer the conversation back toward things automotive with my pet peeve of easy money financing of automobiles. We are a country where instant gratification is too often expected and the roads are filled with a great deal more luxury and horsepower and status than the vast majority of drivers can afford. From the EIC check crowd to $200,000/yr physicians people are driving their cars from one pay check to the next. And the auction price of cars in January is significantly higher than October, November and December. Dealers fill their lots in anticipation of the windfalls from the IRS.

I agree. Although I think things have gotten better with less easy credit in the past few years, I still think this is an issue. I think that I will probably buy used cars from now on. How about a used car with something needing repair that I can do? Paid $350 for the last one of those and drive it everyday!

There are all too many people out there with types cars that they don’t really need.

I have one nephew with a big 4wd pickup and he never hauls anything around in the back.
Then he drives 40 miles one way to work 5 days a week.
Another nephew has a Dodge stratus that has way too much power for him…the proof is in all the tickets he’s gotten.

The younger ones don’t want an little sporty car that will get them to work every day. They want the fastest hot rod that’s on the market.
The others seem to only want the biggest…baddest truck they can get and then get a 3 inch lift kit and big old honkin tires to try to get rolling. Then they complain that gas is too high.


I love the people who drive big cars and complain about the cost of gas, especially if they don’t really have a need for something like that. A single guy with a huge Hummer doesn’t make sense from a practical standpoint. I think there is a rap song about rolling around in an Escalade with $5 of gas in the tank.