I’m sitting in the office, and I see movement through the glass, followed by a low pitched growl or clearing the throat noise. Upon opening the door, I see a man with one foot in the entrance, looking intently for something inside the shop. He sees me step through my office door and straightens up.
“Uh… hi… can I help you,” I asked, thinking it might be Tuesday's Santa, out of uniform.
“Sorry… I thought there might be a dog… you know… lot’s of places around here have dogs,” the man explained.
“Usually only the drug dealers,” I reply with a smile; “but no, I don’t have any dogs.”
“Oh… good, I have a Ford Escort. It needs a clutch. How much to get it done… just a ballpark figure will do.”
I give him a ballpark figure and he laughs. Maybe I should have added a couple hundred.
“No… you don’t… understand,” the man waves his hand, still chuckling. “I’ll supply the clutch.”
“Not here you won’t,” I reply amiably.
“Really?” He looks at me incredulously, as if he knows all the other repair places are putting in customer’s cheapo parts, and I’m the last holdout.
“No,” I reiterate firmly. “Bargain auto parts stores sell parts cheaply for the Do-It-Your-Self folks. If you wish to buy your own parts, you’ll probably have to install them yourself. A clutch job on a front wheel drive vehicle is not the typical Do-It-Yourself type project.”
“There are several shops I’ve already talked to that’ll do it. I…”
“Great news for you,” I say enthusiastically; because if there are several places putting in customer supplied clutch parts, they’re doing them out of their garage at home, and the chances of him driving his Escort away in good shape are practically nil. “I wish you well.”
I go back in the office, and he follows me in. Oh boy.
“I just live around the corner. It would be easier if you’d do the job.”
“That may be; but if you have it done here, it will be with my parts, at or around the price I quoted you.”
“You mean it could be more?”
“Since I’ve never laid eyes on your car, the answer is yes. It could even be slightly less. I won’t start the job until I give you a complete estimate. You can give me the go ahead then, or drive it out.”
“Shit!” The man exclaims and leaves in a huff.
We don’t give much Christmas cheer in the auto repair business. We’re like the Bad News Bears unfortunately. :)