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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I answered the phone again with one of those customers I like to call browbeaters on the other end. If they insult you enough, they figure you’ll take on the job you’ve already declined. This technique must work occasionally for someone, because it’s sure been tried out on me enough. The one this afternoon was really laughable. The phone rang, and it was Browbeater.

“How much for a fuel pump job on a 1968 Porsche?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t work on any European vehicles, Sir.” Thank God! For all those who don’t know, the holy European car Gods don’t share well with others when it comes to proprietary information. Also, they ask me to fix the odd Volvo, BMW, etc. only after they’ve been quoted thousands at the dealer, but they want me to just patch it up. Add the fact I only get asked about once every other Full Moon, and no thanks, I’ll pass.

“What!?” Browbeater exclaims with incredulity.

He probably believes I wait breathlessly each day of my life to catch a glimpse of what I’m sure is his classic. To turn down the opportunity of actually touching the blessed chariot of the Gods makes Browbeater apoplectic.

“Is this actually a repair shop for cars?”

I’m smiling; because it’s a familiar song, and I’ve got rhythm. “It has been for the thirty-two years I’ve been here; and I have it on good authority the Nilson Brothers fixed cars and trucks here from 1949 to 1976 when I was hired.”

“Then you don’t work on cars anymore?”

“Not European ones,” I’m not in a rush, so I’ll play.

“I have the fuel pump.” Oh Goody! “I want you to just slap it on for me.”

“No.” A minute ago I was incompetent. Now… I’m so good, with a quick slap, his Porsche will be wearing a new fuel pump.

“I’ll drive over. When you get a look at it, you’ll…”


“Why the hell not?!”

“It’s a European car, and I don’t…”

“Damn it… it’s a classic,” Browbeater persists.

“Look, I’m sure there are European repair shops around here. Why not go through the yellow pages? You can…”

“They want over a hundred dollars just to check it! I don’t want it checked! I want the fuel pump put on!”

“It is the policy of most professional places to only quote a job on a vehicle like yours after checking it out, and they can’t do it for free,” I explain.

I won’t bother typing out symbols for two sentences to relay how happy Browbeater was with me, so let’s just say BB bid me adieu, and hung up.

My friends, it has been my experience, if you are not a vehicle repair shop owner, buying a ‘Classic’ without the intent of doing all repairs needed yourself, is a very bad idea. It may seem like a dream come true; but it’s really a heartbreaker. :)


Jordan Summers said...

***My friends, it has been my experience, if you are not a vehicle repair shop owner, buying a ‘Classic’ without the intent of doing all repairs needed yourself, is a very bad idea. It may seem like a dream come true; but it’s really a heartbreaker.***

That's exactly what my dh says to me every time I start drooling over the 'classic' GTO's. :) I just wish it stopped me from wanting one. *g*

Charles Gramlich said...

Trying to get something for as little as possible, even though they made the choice to get the car they have. you've got more patience than I have.

Miladysa said...

A most enjoyable post Bernard! I had a clear picture of the both of you and the wicked part of me enjoyed the way you played with him a little. How we reap what we sow ;-D

BernardL said...

Your husband is very wise, Jordan. My wife has always wanted a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, and yet we don't have one, and I own a repair shop. :)

I understand what they did and why reality is making them crazy, Charles. :)

Thanks, Miladysa. Once they begin pouring money into their 'project', they rapidly reach the point where they can't stop. So much has been spent, it becomes impossible to write their investment off.

Bernita said...

"To turn down the opportunity of actually touching the blessed chariot of the Gods makes Browbeater apoplectic."

Nailed it. Some mechanics are SUCH barbarians they don't appreciate the honour!

BernardL said...

Exactly Bernita, we mechanics must share all the mechanical dreams out there; and if we don't, we, not they, are uncouth louts. :)

Virginia Lady said...

Oh that last bit of advice was well said, Bernard! I can't tell you the number of times people say they wish they had a car like one of my several interesting ones. Our '64 Chevy Corvair Greenbrier is the current popular one. I always look at them and pause as I think of how to answer. These people use cars to get from point A to point B, not because they enjoy dealing with them.

We play with cars. ALL the time. Every week, every month, every year. Tinkering, fixing, repairing, making them pretty, what-have-you. And when we drive them, we DRIVE them.

Nothing wrong with point A to point B. Bought some newer vehicles for just that purpose since we have kids and jobs and all, but our lifestyle is built around working on those other cars, those 'classics', as often as possible. They don't go into a shop, they go into our carport and we get to them when we can.

And that's also why my hubby doesn't work as a mechanic for employment. It's his hobby, and mine too really, though I prefer the making things pretty aspect more. :-)

BernardL said...

Although I've always been a point A to point B guy, I respect the time and skill in restoring a vehicle... as long as I'm not the one doing it. :) Hobbies are for aesthetic pleasure, and it's always super when a husband and wife can share one. Thanks, VL.

Vesper said...

Nice post, Bernard... You need a lot of patience... :-)

There are plenty of repair shops in Montreal specialised in European cars.

Chumplet said...

One of our classified sales reps received an email from a customer who requested a withdrawal of her ad and a refund on her credit card account because our incompetent accounting system charged her an extra penny.

She said next time she deals with us, she wants to speak to a manager.

BernardL said...

Yea, auto repair and the public are a volatile mix, Vesper. :) We have plenty down here too, servicing European vehicles, but as my friend with the Porsche found out, they are not rightfully not cheap.

A penny? Wow, it sounds like the ad worked the first day, and she decided to try for a freebie, Sandra. :)

Barbara Martin said...

Bernard, have you ever considered putting all these mechanic experiences together and writing a non-fiction book about them. They are quite interesting, and some of them very funny.

Although you are telling these people the truth about your services, it comes off like very dry humour. Love it.

BernardL said...

Thanks, Barbara, the encounters can get very funny, and I've had a lot more fun knowing I can run back to my notebook computer and chronicle them. I do weave a lot of the dialogue from my shop interaction into the fiction I write. In 'Layla', the Djinn book I wrote on line, ABC auto repair reflected my shop's real life action, using Layla as the service manager. :)

writtenwyrdd said...

Amen on the don't buy a classic unless you plan to work on it! I'll have to stop by more often!

BernardL said...

Thanks for stopping by, Writtenwyrdd. Classics are an open-maw bear-trap waiting for their next victim. :)