The customers that shops deal with

Many of the posts here are from people relating their experiences with dealerships, chain stores, or independent repair shops. But sometimes I think it’s fun to post some events from the perspective of the auto shop. Here are three “real-life” events that happened this week:

Customer brings in his late-model Euro car with a check engine light on and a complaint of it not running quite right. We check it out, find a fault with the Variable Valve Timing system that is often caused by low oil level. We inform the customer of our diagnosis. He replies “I know these engines have a reputation for burning oil, so I checked it religiously for the first 30,000 miles. But it didn’t ever need any so I quit checking it.”

Customer makes an appointment to get his brakes looked at, the complaint is that the truck shakes when braking at high speeds or when driving down a long hill. He comes in, drops off the keys, and says “Good luck driving it. The low fuel light came on yesterday morning.”

A man wins 3 free express lube oil changes at a fundraiser raffle. He goes in for the first oil change, they change his oil but tell him they can’t get the drain plug tight. The threads in the pan are stripped and they don’t do that kind of repair. He brings the car to us, we inspect it and find that we have enough clearance to drill and heli-coil the threads. He pays the bill and is on his way, no leaks and our repair holds for three months. Yesterday he calls us, says there’s a puddle of oil in his driveway, he thinks the drain plug is leaking because he just had an oil change. We get the car in the air, inform him that the drain plug is cross threaded. It’s been repaired once before, this time the pan needs to be replaced. I verify with him that there was no leak for three months, then asked him who changed the oil. He replied “Well I still had 2 free oil changes coming.”


Good examples of why there are always two sides of every story.

Yeah free stuff can get pretty expensive sometimes. I never used weekend getaway that I won at our class reunion. I just preferred not to. One of my classmates donated it so I didn’t want to tell her I didn’t want it. I wonder if I should have paid tax on it? I’ve got a stay I’m not using in Orlando too. I guess I just don’t like free stuff.

I think anybody who works w/the public has some of these kinds of stories. I had a gas-station attendant part time job as a teenager working the night shift at a major brand station, and every night at 10 pm the same lady would bring her same car in, ask for $2 in gas, and “be sure to check the oil, check the radiator, wash the windows, and fill up the tires”. Every single night the tires needed new air b/c they were old , cracked, tread bare, and the valve stems leaked. I’d point this valve stem problem out, then she’d say “ok, I guess I’ll have to come back for new air tomorrow” … lol …

There is some karma sometimes though. I remember just out of school I was making a sales presentation to the recruiter of what he considered a high class college, and looked down his nose when he heard of my Alma matter-even though they are both in the same synod. At any rate, while he continued his rudeness, all of a sudden his chair broke from under him and he fell on the floor. No point continuing so just thanked him for his time and left.

But yeah, I’m not a big fan of dealing with the general public. From people that are convinced someone is out to kill them, to the drunks that end up in your lobby-I’d just rather choose my own clientele.

It’s the same in every business.
My father had a shoe store, and an irate woman came in complaining that her daughter’s nearly-new shoes were already worn-out. An examination of the sole revealed that there was a nail hole in one of the soles. My father asked the woman, “Didn’t your daughter admit that she stepped on a nail?”, and Mommie Dearest’s response was, “My daughter goes to parochial school, so she isn’t capable of lying!”.

Of course, he had to give this cheater a new pair of shoes, because… the customer is always right… even when they are lying through their teeth.

The beauty of running an independent shop is that we are free to deal with people as we see fit, we have no corporate office to answer to or higher-ups that control our processes. The guy brought his truck in with no gas, well, it wasn’t a problem for us. We keep a few 5 gallon gas cans in back for these situations. I charge $30 for that 5 gallons of gas. Problem solved.

Ehh, in this business the customer is wrong as often as not. We do our best to ensure that people get value for their dollar at our shop, but sometimes the customer makes that impossible.

Man comes in, asks how much an alignment costs for his Toyota. $89.95. Now whenever we book an alignment the first question is always “What brings you in for an alignment?” because often the complaint will not be solved by an alignment. But this customer wouldn’t give up any info other than “I just think I need an alignment.” The alignment tech drives the truck with no issues, hangs the alignment heads, makes a small toe adjustment so everything is perfect (not just in the green), and returns the truck. I tell the customer that his alignment was out by such a small degree the only sign would be tire wear. Customer asks “How much is a tire balance?” I say $44 for all 4, he requests we do it. I then report back to him that we found one tire off by half an ounce and the other 3 were perfect. Then he puffs up and says “Well what am I paying for if there is nothing wrong with alignment or balance?” I tell him he’s paying for the service he requested, but if you’ll tell me what kind of problem you’re trying to solve we can stop wasting time and money.

So it turns out that occasionally while driving at 45mph or more the truck will start to shake, and he can stop the shaking by engaging 4WD. I tell him I have no idea what’s causing it other than it certainly is not related to alignment or tires. I offered to ride with him so he can point out the condition when it happens, and then do whatever testing and checking was needed to diagnose the problem. He was happy to hear that until I told him the charge for that would be $100.

1 Like

In 30 years in the insurance business, the most irate customer was not our customer. He had called the wrong company to complain.
An inspector called me and said an insured’s front door was on his roof, and the house was open. A neighbor told the inspector the insured was in a rage, ripped the door off and threw it on the roof. The insured called in a rage, and was transferred to me, ( I don’t care if you cuss). He asked what the problem was. I merely said, “your front door is on your roof”. He replied “oh,ok” and hung up.

Yeah the public is a pain the rear to deal with sometimes…I used to work in retail pharmacy and have a million stories from that wonderful time in my life. Like the time a local off duty cop thought I didn’t stop at a stop sign (I did, I was driving my grandparents 94 Ranger with the stick shift…I definitely stopped completely and fully), then noticed that I had some bottles of Rx eye drops in the seat beside me that I had just picked up from another pharmacy for one of our regular patients (who definitely shouldn’t have been driving without those eye drops) and he tried to “tack on” a moving controlled substances charge even though they weren’t controlled drugs :man_facepalming:. I found out later from that forces chief that they forced him to resign after finding out that he was drinking and using drugs before he’d leave at the end of the day…I bet he was just disappointed that I didn’t have anything good for him to try and confiscate

For most of my working life I dealt with people who were applying to get Social Security disability benefits. The stories I heard were so ordinary most of the time, but peppered in were some of the most crazy, wacky, tragic and just plain messed up things. Most take too long to repeat. But one guy stands out.

I was holding a formal hearing to decide a case, and had just put the guy under oath. The file was pretty thin and I couldn’t really tell what his complaint was, so I asked him straight out - why do you think you are disabled? And he says because I lie all the time, everything I say is a lie, I can’t help it.

And I looked right at him and said, “I guess we’re done here.”

1 Like

“The dog wasn’t starving when I checked, so I stopped feeding him.”

1 Like

The mechanic I did laemmowing and clean-up work told me this story:. He had customer come into his shop with a 1946 Buick that needed a new clutch. My mechanic friend replaced the clutch and test drove the car and all was fine. Three months later, the Buick owner was back and again the clutch was out. The owner didn’t complain about the clutch job being bad, so my mechanic friend replaced the clutch. A test drive showed that everything was o.k. Three months later, the Buick owner was back and again the clutch was shot. This time, my mechanic friend had the owner take him for s ride. The Buick owner only released the clutch to the friction point, so the clutch slipped badly. When the mechanic pointed out that this was why the clutches kept wearing out, the Buick owner replied indignantly “This is the only way I know how to drive s car. I’ll do the driving, you replace the clutch when needed”.


Unfortunate people have to deal with these numbskulls but I find the stories very entertaining!


hmmmm … it seems by his own logic that he just proved he CAN help it … lol …

I’ve worked at a scrap yard for the past 15 or so years. We buy and process scrap metal from industrial accounts and the general public. The industrial accounts, 99% of the time aren’t an issue. The general public, well…you can use your imagination.

Yep, there are unreasonable people in every line of work, I imagine. After dealing with the public a few years, I’ve found I have more empathy for others who have to deal with the public. I imagine a lot of the people I deal with also go to Wal Mart to shop and go to Wendy’s to eat, and go to the bank. So I try to be extra cordial to the folks behind the counter.

Your story reminds me of a story I remember from high school. I used to hang around a small auto shop across the street. A guy named Eddie owned the shop. One day, a lawyer in town brought his car in and told Eddie it was overheating and it needed a thermostat. Eddie tried to tell him it could be the fan relay, etc. The lawyer/customer cuts him off and says he needs a new thermostat. When he walks out, Eddie turns to me and says “Another case of the educated ignorant”. “I’ll put a thermostat in it and charge him for it. Then I’ll figure out why it’s overheating, fix it, and charge him for that too.”

Your post reminds me of a story. I hauled four 32 gallon garbage cans holding plastic water bottles and aluminum cans to the local recycling yard. Each can or bottle is redeemable for 5 cents, b/c I paid 5 cent deposit when I bought them, they are called “CRV” products, for “Calif return value” I think. Anyway the lady who’s paying out the loot isn’t any too happy about my plastic bottles. No problem w/the cans, but the bottles, she’s very unhappy. When I ask what the problem is, she says “Why did you remove the labels from the bottles” … ??? … I took a look and sure enough some of the labels had come unglued and were all at the bottom of the garbage can. Apparently this was enough to make her appear very unhappy and reluctant to pay up … lol … I should add she finally agreed to pay, albeit w/a big frown.

Hmmm, not familiar with CA or plastic recycling. I imagine they recycle everything in CA. We only recycle metal products, I assume because there isn’t much of a profit margin in plastics, etc.

But can’t comment as to why the lady was frowning. Maybe the crackhead in line before you put dirty diapers in their bags of cans. Or used syringes. It’s a fun job sometimes :grinning:

I think it’s b/c only crv bottles get the 5 cents treatment, and that label has the crv imprint on it. Non-crv plastic bottles can be recycled too, but for a much lower rate. But these bottles all looked exactly the same, the same product in other words. So if one bottle had the crv label logic says they all must have. Apparently she thought I was willing to spend my time removing labels from plastic bottles to scam the system, trying to turn non-crv bottles to crv bottles. Maybe somebody actually does that, and that is what she was concerned about. I think when she saw the missing labels were at the bottom of the garbage cans she relented.

I thought it was “cash redemption value” . . . ?

1 Like