What mechanics think of their customers

I think this applies to any service business but here is what the mechanics think. https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/car-technology/a18930182/car-mechanics-advice/?source=nl&utm_source=nl_pop&utm_medium=email&date=111319&utm_campaign=nl18596146&src=nl

Car are not the problem. The owners are. I run into that with my business as well dealing with IT and have actually eliminated certain options from my portfolio of services. Gaming consoles seem to attract nuts for the most part. Also, I used to get requests for band-aid type repairs because they were cheap. What I found this meant was they wanted a proper repair for cheap, not something that will break in 2 weeks. I have quit even offering this as people come back very angry when something goes out, even when you explain to them that it will not last at the time of the repair.

There is also the fact that people can work wonders at messing things up. That is just a given. Of course they think they are “experts” as mentioned.

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Mr. Watkin , I really hope when the time comes for you to retire it is a enjoyable time for you. You really seem to be unhappy and keep posting the same complaints about your customers and WalMart .

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Sorry I guess I complain about the bad ones too much. It was actually terrible when I started out but have streamlined things to really filter out the nuts. That doesn’t stop them from calling through. The same tactics will work in any service industry. Things aren’t nearly as bad as I make them sound. Those initial growing pains sure do leave memories though. Avoiding trouble while having less stress along with more money is a winning combination.

  1. Requiring money upfront works wonders to chase off trouble. I once advertised FREE ESTIMATES and that was a big mistake.
  2. Most of my work is now onsite and there is the expectation that I will be charging just to show up. I once had a storefront but that was a mess to deal with. Going completely onsite was a great move. Most people need the more serious work done at their business or home and are willing to pay. Those who showed up at the storefront just wanted to waste my time.
  3. Marketing to a higher end demographic played a huge part. I used to do the “shotgun” approach to advertising which hit all targets. I also used a lot of low-cost advertising which got my name out there but attracted a lot of low-quality customers. I now market exclusively to a more educated, affluent, and mature demographic. I want business owners and retirees. I have heard it referred to as the demographic that subscribes to Consumer Reports and shops at Costco. Targeting the top demographic has been a winner for me and I have enough good work to avoid the bad.
  4. I used to charge the same upfront but have upped the prices on what I consider to be high risk jobs or those where the price is expected to be higher. For example, you are breaking some Apples just to get them open and the cost of fixing all that during re-assembly should be factored into the upfront price. Gaming consoles are one where I made the price so high as to run off the trouble altogether. I consider lower-end and outdated stuff to be somewhat risky as well so the upfront price reflects that. I started doing that after having a bunch of time wasted with a Wal-Mart unit of course. I don’t say WM specifically but have a list of minimum specifications that weeds that crap out. There is also the common issue of them not having enough money until next month when their “government check” arrives. Then you are left with their stuff although the want it back on credit (not happening). These types are usually impulsive so when you call them next month, they have gone to the rent to own and have a new one. I am left with a repaired unit that isn’t worth what I put into it.
  5. And now I am refusing jobs that could bring me liability. For example, I get business owners who don’t want to pay for an antivirus or otherwise properly secure systems storing personal and financial data. This has implications for HIPAA violations, etc. but some people are so hard-headed. They will not dump old Windows 7 systems when that automatically puts people out of compliance on many levels. Businesses are usually my great customers but there are exceptions of course.
  6. Reading people for certain red flags is another one. People overly concerned about the price or insisting on knowing what a repair will cost over the phone are usually best avoided. I frequently work for mechanics and they tell me all the same exact stories. In fact I usually overhear a good call like this or two while I am there working.

It doesn’t matter if you work on cars, computers, or HVAC equipment. People are people.


“Just started making noise yesterday. I drove it straight here…”.



I see it as well. It is like driving with the check engine light on for months but only doing something about it when the engine stops running. It is obvious there are problems with something but people just ignore them, often costing themselves more money in the long run. It also seems things break for people at the worst possible times when they let their car, computer, or whatever decide when it is going to stop.

Cars never break down on a nice sunny day right near your home or right as you pull into work. It is going to be during a snowstorm. The computer that was never backed up and having problem is going to go down right before the deadline when the owner is getting ready to file their taxes online, leaving them in a panic.

I used to be a people person but people ruined it for me :wink:

When I was working for a big company one of my many jobs was customer service manager for a tech support group. Corporate sales did not care who they sold to and we had to support every customer the same. While that is a lofty goal, some customers are not worth the trouble. They want everything for nothing and consume an disproportionate amount of free support time. I was tasked with handling a small business unit the company wanted to divest in 2 years, I managed to keep it running profitably for 10 years. Corporate sales was not involved so I had a free hand in setting prices and dolling out support. It was easy to separate the quality customers from the bottom feeders. Sales dropped a bit as we got rid of the bottom feeders but cost dropped significantly so our margins improved.

I saw a face book post a few days ago from my old 'hood with someone asking for a mechanic who would diagnose their car for free so they could DIY the repair. Before I could reply, a mechanic buddy politely said no mechanic would do what they wanted, their labor and shop time costs money so the customer would need to pay a reasonable fee.

All kinds out there.

I enjoy Mr. Watkin’s posts quite a hit and see many similarities in his posts regarding car owners.I can only imagine what the customer service people go through at the Wal Mart return desk.

Some people being what they are, they’re the reason I always kept a 9 MM in the tool box or desk drawer. For the worst case scenarios…


Same here! I used to talk to anyone but now cut and run from ones that give me bad signals.

The nice thing about being a small company is that you can set your own policies. I was talking to employees of a large corporate chain in town that has a 14 or 15 day no questions asked return policy. People will actually buy an item with consumable materials and return it for another one within the return window, this getting another “full” item. The woman did this like a dozen times and finally the store manager told her she was abusing the policy. Pretty soon they got a letter from corporate. She had complained and by policy, they HAD to honor the return policy. She was also given a $100 gift card as goodwill for the troubles she experienced! She kept doing this over and over. One time she was a day late and they stuck by the policy. It was no longer something she could return. In the end, she got all mad and stormed out, never to return. GOOD RIDDANCE!

So, next time my car needs an oil change, I guess I can go buy a 5 quart jug, use 4 quarts, return the jug with 1 quart remaining, and repeat at the next oil change. We should not be coddling and encouraging this type of behavior.

Don’t even get me started on Facebook! You have never seen the biggest collection of entitlement and stupidity. I think maybe it is worse around here but I hear the same all over. This was yet another mistake I made starting out. Everyone told me how you had to market using social media and that Facebook had a big reach. I paid good money to a marketing consultant only to attract people I didn’t want to deal with. It got to the point where I would get a sinking feeling when someone called about the ad they had seen on Facebook. 9/10 times the “Facebook customers” would be looking for something for nothing. They wanted a free diagnosis so they could fix it themselves, etc. They already knew what the problem was, etc… One called and said his computer wouldn’t turn on so it needed a new power button. I told him the power button was like a 50 cent part that never broke. He was all mad because these shops were just ripping him off. Someone else told him it needed a new motherbaord at $300 which seemed reasonable. He didn’t want to pay the diagnostic fee since he already knew it was just the power button. I told him that I didn’t care and that I did this partly to run off those who didn’t want to pay, etc. I never heard back from him.

Unfortunately the 9mm seems to be a required item to carry no matter what is being serviced. I had a few death threats early on as well. It was never the big commercial jobs where I sometimes end up charging thousands. It was always some little $35 or $50 extra I found wrong on a small job that would get people all bent out of shape and getting all threatening. I mean I told them a price based on the information they gave me over the phone but hadn’t seen the item and they considered that a “set in stone” estimate. I now tell people right off that I don’t do estimates over the phone without a proper evaluation.

I know many who don’t like dealing with wealthier customers but this has been my best demographic. They always appreciate my services and don’t complain about the bill, etc. I never have a bad feeling when I pull up to a nice luxury home with a Mercedes or Lexus parked outside. These have always been good customers for me although some in other service industries tell me otherwise. There is a possibility I filter out the bad ones with my pricing quotes over the phone.

Those living in subsidized housing who are always home during the middle of the day are the ones to watch out for from my experiences. They know how to work the system and try the same thing with everyone. They have nothing better to do but make your life miserable so find they are best avoided. These are the bottom feeders.

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I don’t know if it fits but what Bruce Williams’ grandfather used to tell him comes to mind. “Work with the classes, live with the masses. But work with the masses, live with the classes.” In other words if you don’t want to make any money, market to exclusive customers, but if you want to make money you have to market to the ordinary jerks and put up with them.


Off topic, but sis worked at a store with generous refund policies, a customer returned a fancy dress, looked fine, subsequent buyer of the returned dress had chemical burns, turned out the dress was used for a corpse at a funeral and whatever chemical used for embalming caused the subsequent buyer troubles.

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Look at it as a last good deed for the dearly departed

Yeah free dressup clothing! Unfortunate for the buyer. Guess to keep it car related any thing should be expected.

I was trying to think of something witty…

To women, that dress must have been drop dead gorgeous!

Sorry, couldn’t help it. There was something funny in there somewhere.


One time a neighbor asked me to come over & help him jump-start his car. He’d never even talked to me before that. I told him I wasn’t a mechanic, just a driveway diy’er, but had never worked on that make/model of car. He said “go ahead anyway”. I worked for 30 minutes on it, but couldn’t get it to start. When I gave up he complained I had ruined the engine, screaming at me after I told him he needed more help that I could give and to tow it to a shop. “you ruined it, you ruined it!!!” he screamed as I walked away … lol … Eventually he discovered all he needed was a new battery. Every now and then he asks me for car help or to borrow tools. You probably know my response. So I can see how mechanics might be a little afraid of their customers.


A carpenter friend told me once that bills get paid more promptly by people with fewer means than people with a lot of money. The reason was that those people would generally take out a loan for the job but those with money would try to pay out of their own check book and sometimes took a little while to gather the money. Myself, I keep a housing account for stuff like that and if I’m short borrow from my wife.

A guy I know builds custom high-end sail boats for millionaires. They start at $500k. The payments are done in 5 stages, with the 5th being the final payment after delivery. He’s priced is so that he get’s all the money he needs the first 4 payments because he’s had so many not make that final payment.
We have a famous millionaire in this country who’s a master at not paying his bills and causing companies to go bankrupt. I’m sure I don’t have to mention his name.

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That’s smart no matter what business you’re in. The only thing I would do differently is that the customer must provide the final payment in a wire transfer, bank draft or cash at the time of exchange. No credit, no deferred billing. Pay now and I give you the keys… This is tougher with things like home improvement where the homeowner already has the goods and can’t be deprived of them. But a boat? It comes off the trailer or gets launched when you give me the final payment…problem solved.

I asked him the same question. It’s a little different for these high-end boats. Boats of this type have sea trials and need to be sailed for a while to get all the kinks out. This is something I have no idea how it works. I’ve never been rich enough to own something even close to it. One boat they built was well over $10,000,000.

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Sizing up potential customers is a significant part of successfully operating a service business. While I can’t fault people for being careful and suspicious due to past dealings with crooked shops an honest shop owner cannot afford to brighten their lives and “make then whole” again. Like others here I used relatively high estimates and demanded 1/2 the estimate up front before working on cars for questionable car owners. But as I have mentioned before for 20+ years I could have made a comfortable living if I had given my regular customers an unlisted phone number and pulled down my signs. For those people who fear being ripped off by every shop I wonder what they think of shops that have repeat customers and referrals keeping their lots covered up. Do they think people just keep going back to be cheated again and again and send their friends to share the grief.


Well, I mean, yeah. If you want the base model.