CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

"Professional" Cleaning

Guys,

Given your penchant for wordplay, a gaffe in your teaser for next week’s show caught my ear.

In the current economic climate it might be possible, yet is still highly unlikely that anyone is going to “professionally clean” a car.

“Professionals” have membership in and are acccountable to some supervisory body that, should you fail to perform to some standard, has the ability to kick you out. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers (but only if ‘PE’ certified), vets, and even soldiers are all professionals. They are accountable for their actions. Lawyers, for example, can be disbarred.

By contrast, no matter how well they do their jobs nuclear physicsits, consultants, politicians, hair dressers, journalists, dry cleaners, chauffers, car mechanics, and janitors or cleaners are not professionals. They are not accountable to a professional board.

So unless your car is being cleaned by a bunch of unemployed accountants, it is probably not going to be “professionally cleaned”.

“Careers” are not “professions”.

Actually, I think the generally accepted definition of “professional” includes anyone who is paid for what they do - as opposed to a “hobbyist”. And then there are always references to “the oldest profession” which I don’t believe included any certification.

Since when has “generally accepted” implied “correct”?

As for the oldest profession, clearly they weren’t professionals. Just talented amateurs!

There is no “correct” definition of what makes someone a “professional.” McWhatsit’s definition is a very narrow one that applies to what are considered the most powerful professions - they become powerful by creating organizations that then establish rules and criteria that go into formal professional certifications.

One of the most commonly used social science definitions of what makes something profession is simply that it is lies in the ability to apply a general, theoretical, esoteric body of knowledge to specific kinds of practice. (“Esoteric” just means that it isn’t commonly known).

When you do real study of people/organizations using knowledge to do work, all you run into is variation. So the world does not contain a simple dualism: professions vs. non-professions. It is, rather, a continuum where different kinds of work are more or less professionalized. Formal certifications are just one part of the variation.

Any other conception is one that operates purely at the abstract level without doing serious study of occupations and what makes them what they are. McWatsit’s conception is actually part of the “politics” end of professionalization. It is a claim to “special status” which is more or less what all attempts at professionalization are.

McWhatsit, pick up a dictionary. You are wrong.

This falls into the “who cares” category for me. But, baseball players are professional when they are paid to play, no college degree required. If I want accountants to clean my car I wouldn’t pay them since they are working in a field unrelated to their “profession”. I would pay an accountant to do my taxes. Every “professional” is only qualified in their field of expertise, otherwise they are just like normal folks in everywhere else.

Merriam-Webster’s would beg to differ from the OP’s assertions. And if you think mechanics are not accountable for their actions, try getting a job as one, blow up or wreck a customer’s car, and see what happens.

Do union members count as professionals according to your definition? I think they would. They pay dues, they get to work, just like the Bar Association for attorneys. The janitors at the school I attended growing up were members of the teacher’s union, so they must have been professionals.

I think the main purpose of the professional boards for doctors, lawyers, and so on is to be more of PR machine and run interference between their members and the press or law enforcement. Only when someone has really screwed the pooch does any professional board turn on their own.

After all, the boards and their members are part of the same fraternity, attend the same seminars, and tee off together at the country club.

Try doing automotive detail work on your own, from scratch, and see how well that works out with your clients. There’s more to it than hosing a car off and vacuuming out the carpets and I would consider anyone who is good at automotive detailing to be a professional.
I’d feel the same way about a chef who is good at what he does and ditto for a bachhoe operator to name a few more. Payment would be made for someone’s expertise in a certain area and that means pro to me.

IMHO the main purpose of most “professional boards” is to limit entry into the “profession”. They’re protecting the territory of their “professionals”. You’ll never find one of these organizations protecting the public’s interest, but they sure are diligent about protecting their own interests!

And clearly McWhatsit’s definition of “professional” is much stricter than any dictionary’s.

I don’t know that I’d be that hard on the professions. They do amount to a strategy to maintain some control over labor supply (and in that respect could be put in the same “family” as unions as mark9207 brought up). However, to boil that down to having a concern only with their own interests is probably a little excessive. (Aside from that, as “market economy” people we’re supposed to celebrate self-interest). There are often very good reasons that certain kinds of activities are restricted to professionals.

People recommend it here all of the time. I’m currently in a quandary with my heat pump. I think I just have a dead compressor fan. But the system is complex and its pretty easy for the careless & clueless to hurt themselves and/or make a little mess into a big one. As such, many online discussion boards have rules against providing DIY advice, and many supply houses won’t sell to anyone without an account with them which requires some degree of certification. There may be some elements of self-interest floating around in there, but mostly not.

Many things do just require specialized expertise, and sometimes the stakes are high. But then, once you have big organizations around it, expecting them not to protect their organizational interests is sort of like asking a fox to stay out of the hen house or a 4 yr old to stay out of the cookie jar. In fact, if the leadership of such organizations didn’t do their best to protect the interests of their members, people would get mad at them for not doing their jobs. Either way, there are often still very valid reasons behind it all.

I too agree with us posters and not the o.p. that ‘‘professional’’ means paid for the work done.
I’ve been a professional musician since 1972 …I’m certainly not famous, you’ve never heard my name, and I needed a day job to survive …but I was still considered professional. …yet the only training I ever had was the piano lessons when I was 8.

"round these parts,
’‘professional’’ car cleaners…aka detailing shops…are NOT very professional at all.
Most of them are nothing more than a front for ‘‘other activities’’ that bring in much more money.
The workers are hired if they can work a vacuum cleaner. I can tell those workers have no idea about steam cleaning,they’ve short circuited more air bag modules than I can count…yet somehow they sure seem to be making a lot of money…hmmm.

Yah. the term professional gets tossed about pretty freely and the definition is often in the eye of the beholder.

The OP has confused “professional” with “certified”. Being a professional does not guarantee quality or adhesion to standards, only that pay is expected for services.

Unfortunately Keith, neither does being certified.

I agree though that “professional” only means that one is paid for his/her services.

I live in Germany.
When we ship our vehicles back to the States, there are ‘professional’ cleaners who will clean our cars in a manner that complies with customs standards. You see, no German soil may leave Germany. If we clean our cars ourselves, the customs guys go over the car with a white glove and it seldom clears customs. If we show the ‘Professionally Cleaned’ certificate, we usually get a first-time-go. Sure, there is probably a fair amount of graft. But, it’s worth 100 euro for that guarantee.

Finally, as a matter of business practice, if someone claims to be a professional, and you are a patron, then that business has an obligation to perform paid service to your satisfaction if there is no established standard of conduct or performance. In the States, there are many consumer advocacy groups that ensure ‘professionals’ earn that moniker. The Better Business Bureau comes immediately.

There are 3 defenitions given in the Mirriam-Webster dictionary…
McWhatzIt’s is only one of them.