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Just when you think you've heard everything--a view from behind the counter

The post about getting the runaround from a service department made me think of some of the utterly ridiculous things I get to see and hear from customers at a small independent shop.

“Hi, I need my car checked out. It has some electrical problem. Do you do work like that?”
“Yes we do. What kind of trouble are you having?”
“The little oil light on the dash keeps coming on.”
“OK. That may not be an electrical problem. Have you or someone else checked the oil level?”
“Oh yeah, it’s really low. But I don’t want to fill it until I know what the problem is.”

“What can I do for you?”
“My car needs oil but it takes a special kind of oil I can only get from my mechanic.”
“I have 8 different kinds of oil in stock. Surely one will work for you. What kind of car do you drive?”
“A Ford Integra.”
“Let’s go check your oil.”
She drives an Oldsmobile.

“The grinding noise you’re hearing is your rear brakes, and the front brakes are almost gone too. You’ll need front and rear brakes for $600.”
“Can I pay you half now and half next month?”
“We take just about every credit card there is. Would you like to pay using your card?”
“But they charge interest if I don’t pay it off.”
“And you want me to loan you the money for a month and not charge any interest?”
“Well you’re in business, right?”

“Hi, this is Bill. I had my 66 Chevy Pickup towed there last year, it had some engine problem.”
“I think I remember that, let me look it up…yes, last July, it wouldn’t start, we found some bad wiring and replaced a worn out distributor.”
“I noticed last night that my right rear brake light is out. Do you think that would be covered under warranty?”

“My car is having the same problem it did before and I paid you $300 to fix it.”
“What problem is that?”
“My check engine light is on.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any record of you being in recently. The last invoice I show for your car is over 2 years ago.”
“Yeah, but the light came on the next day. You’re not going to charge me to fix it, are you?”

Didn’t anybody teach these customer’s common sense?

The service desk at a new car dealer service department is not immune from this either. Here’s one from VW with C being the customer and SA being the service advisor. The customer dropped off a VW for a brake shudder and asked to be called about the cause.

SA. The problem is warped rear brake drums and it appears the car has new brakes on it with seriously overtightened wheel lugs.
C. Yes, I just had the brakes done last week at an independent shop across town.
SA. The only thing we can do is resurface the drums and shoes for X dollars.
C. Why should this cost me anything?
SA. Because we’re not the ones who made the error on the brake job.
C. Well, you’re a VW dealer aren’t you?
SA. Yes. What’s that got to do with it?
C. VW should honor their work with a warranty.
SA. Yes we do, but that’s on service work we perform.
C. So you’re saying that you’re not going to fix my car under warranty?
SA. Sir, listen to me carefully. We are NOT the ones who screwed your car up. You need to take it back to the ind. shop and have them redo their work.
C. I’ll have you know that I graduate law school in a month and you will be hearing from me on this issue. Do not fix anything; just put the car back outside.
SA. Sir, normally we may not even apply a charge on something like this but you’re working your way towards just that.
C. You just try that and you will be in court very soon.
SA. Good day sir. Your car will be sitting outside with the keys in it Come and get it off the lot before you’re billed an hour for a brake inspection.
C. “click” as the phone goes dead. (The little twit waited until mechanics left at 5 before showing up to get his car.)

He sent a lengthy letter later on full of legalese and threats but it never went anywhere. It’s assumed he was practicing for his future career as an ambulance chaser…

A few examples from the auto parts counter when I was at the technical college

  1. 3.0 Buick v6 needs a carb kit, tech gives me a 3 digit carb number which doesn’t compute, go outside and look around (carb is still on top of the engine) and find the correct number after having to look from the passenger side (we had the kit in stock)
  2. Ford Escort wheel front wheel seal, tech swears on his life that it’s an 85, 85 is sealed hub only, check the build date and it was an 82
  3. Under Year/Make/Model “1984 Sportscar” (It was a corvette)
  4. The Mitsubishi transmission job from hades, early 80’s galant is towed in with no transmission or anything else, track down a used automatic transmission and they want me to find everything else that would make the transmission work and is not included with the used transmission(mounts/sensors) 99% of which is dealer only, the customer eventually decided to just forget about it after we figured out what it would really cost to get the car on the road. This was in the mid 90’s. This car came in after another Mitsubishi of the same era forced us to have the original cv half-shafts remanufactured when all other reman shafts were of some other design that didn’t fit on the car.

It pays to have the information that the parts person will need to know to get you the right parts

People say the darndest things,no law against stupid-but sometimes the cure is apparently to bitter to take-Kevin

A few years ago, somebody posted a question on this board about how to repair something or other on his “Toyota Accord”. Is it any wonder that he/she said that they were having a hard time finding parts for that car?

On the other hand, I’ve NEVER done anything dumb. May the almighty strike me dead if I ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzappppppp!!!

These examples are of those who can’t afford to go back to the dealer and let someone else do some very expensive thinking for them. It’s typical. If they don’t know how to take care of themseves and can’t afford to, how do you expect them to know much about their own car and have the money to do it.

Great stories guys–keep them coming.

@db4690…where did you ever get the idea that common sense can be taught? If you’re not born with it then you live without it.

No one one is born with common sense. It is taught and nurtured. If you were born with it, good parenting would be unnecessary. Everyone would be predetermined in success or failure.

These are good ones. Makes me feel a bit sympathetic to the service writers. I think dealing with a few costumers like these would make them a little bit edgy.

@dagosa…I normally agree with you on most things but we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.

Years ago at the Benz dealer, one of the top salesmen (who owned an older Benz roadster) said he had a serious oil leak and that we had performed the last oil change. I said I’ll look at it.

I racked it and saw a steady leak from the oil filter housing (this particular car had an oil filter cartridge, and the housing was aluminum).

I removed the housing cap and discovered there was a sizable chunk missing. Then I proceeded to remove the cartridge. Lo and behold, it was a Chinese no-name cartridge. I showed it to him and explained there was no way we were responsible, because we don’t even stock that junk.
I put everything back together and that was the end of it.

Some guy walked into the Subaru dealer one afternoon and the service manager called me up front. Apparently this guy’s girlfriend had purchased a used Subaru from us several months prior and I had replaced the head gaskets in it prior to the car being placed on the lot.

This guy went on for 5 minutes about his GF being “hxxx on wheels” and pegging the tach out on the manual transmission car; eventually throwing a rod through the block. “Women drivers…” he says.
He then asked me if we were going to warranty a new engine as we had “rebuilt” that one recently.
This led to several minutes of back and forth with me telling him we did NOT rebuild it; only replaced the head gaskets. He continued to insist it was a rebuilt motor while veering away from his GF’s driving habits.

He insisted the salesman told his GF it was a rebuilt motor and I finally told him what the sales dept. says or does has nothing to do with me but I was the guy who actually worked on it and that I did NOT rebuild that motor. Knowing the salesman well, I was pretty confident that he had only mentioned head gaskets; not an engine rebuild.

At that point the boyfriend gets enraged, sticks a finger across the counter at me, and said that someone was about to get an axx beating.
The switch flipped and curt politeness was tossed. I reached under the counter, grabbed a tire iron that just happened to be in a bin, and started through the flip-up on the service counter. At that point the service manager grabbed my arm and told the guy he had better leave or the cops were going to be called.

The boyfriend hauled out the door pretty quickly and we never heard from him again.

It took me an hour to get being ticked off under control again and the service manager even made a couple of trips out into the shop to offer me a prescription Valium…

Guy comes in with a VW Beetle and asks us to fix a rattle. I jumped in, drove it 20 feet and hit the brakes. Backed up 20 feet and hit the brakes. Opened the glove box and pulled out a handful of lug nuts. Put them in his hand and said “all fixed”.

Inspected a pickup that a guy had after he vaporized a deer. He then said the yellow and white paint on the bedside is related ( there was a dent under the paint). I told him nope, while we do have whitetail deer in the Midwest none of them are painted and it is not related. He said flying parts could have done it. After truck is repaired he called me up saying I forgot to add the yellow paint removal on the estimate. I asked him if he thought the dent under the paint was related and he said no, just the yellow paint. SHEESH

On a Friday about 4 o’clock a group comes in with a Saab that had the convertible top ripped off. Nowhere in sight ( I suspect he opened it at speed). He asked how much so I jumped on computer and clicked on everything for the top, since it was all gone. It was about a butt billion dollars. In a barely audible voice he asked if we could fix it by closing.

Lady drives in a second gen Monte Carlo and asks for a brakes estimate. Back then GM brakes were so easy a caveman could do it. All four corners were metal to metal and the ft rotors were down to the fins. I knew I had a gravy job coming my way. Showed it to her and she she said “ok thanks, I’ll think about it”. Put it back together and off she went happy as a clam.

Drove to an old codgers house and said I’d be there at 2 o’clock. Showed up at 2:03 and he barked your late. I said I was not. He said " you were suppose to be here at 2:00 and its 2:03. I stated " I have already inspected 6 cars and drove over 300 miles and its 2:03. I’m not late". He did say anything else about it.


That Subaru guy must have been short on brains

How do you suppose anybody is going to warranty your engine after you admitted that the car was regularly driven balls out by his girlfriend . . . make that girlFIEND

@Seraph…I will submit an off topic flag to one of your comments if I can find one. You have no idea what is going on…so kindly stay out of the conversation. I found you…and decided against an “off topic” flag so you are now a Troll. Congratulations.

@db4690, based on other experiences this guy is not alone in his thinking.

Another one was an example from a long time ago. A guy and his wife came into the shop with a trashed engine on a Subaru; with the car on a trailer. After giving them an estimate to which they agreed the wife asked me to do her a favor. Sure.
"Will you please tell my husband that he can’t use that Subaru out in the oil field trying to pull pickups and bobtail trucks through knee deep mud?"
Apparently he was revving it to the heavens and at some point it just gave up.

After a thorough rebuild, and throwing in a free follow-up oil change and valve lash adjustment, I cautioned him that if he went back to trying to pull 20-30k pounds of iron through the muck he was going to be back to square one. His wife stood there and made him promise on a stack of Bibles that he wouldn’t do that stuff anymore…

At the follow-up he and his wife said it was running like a Swiss watch. Several months later it came in on the trailer with a scattered engine and he was wanting warranty.
Sure; IF you haven’t been back to the same old, same old which will be determined after teardown. At this point he got embarrassed, turned red, and wouldn’t even answer yes or no to the repeated question, “Are you back to using that thing as an oil field tow vehicle…?”

His wife apparently knew when he was guilty of something and absolutely ripped him apart because “you promised me…” and I’m reasonably sure their divorce not many months later was exacerbated by his driving habits.

Many oil rigs used to have a dozer on site or on-call to drag vehicles in and out during wet spells. The thought of someone attempting this with a 4-banger Subaru is downright goofy.

From my time as a counter person at a Pep Boys in a scruffy part of Philadelphia.

C. I need brakes for a Chevy.

Me. What kind?

C. CHEVY MAN, CHEVY! (much louder)

Me. What kind of Chevy, Malibu, Caprice, Chevelle, Chevette, and so on.

C. ???

Eventually we went out to the car to figure out what it was.

And my personal favorite.

Customer asks for a battery, I go back and bring one out for him. With a straight face he says;

“If this battery doesn’t fit can I come back and kill you?”

With a straight face I reply;

“I’m afraid that would be against store policy.”

We both had a good laugh, well mostly him. Fortunately, the battery fit.

Ed B.