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Friday, September 19, 2008


I happily caught up on my accounting and database chores in the backroom today, having purposely given the ancient mariner mechanic who works in the shop, and leers at me in the mirror every morning, a break. I can do this because I work alone, without any help from the ‘Sonny Crockett’ types like the guy who came in job hunting yesterday. As I printed out a new batch of business cards a 1998 Cadillac drove in. Those are nice looking cars, but they have a number of common breakdowns, which are very expensive to fix. A middle aged lady hopped out the driver’s side door, hopping mad. I could tell this because her face looked as if she had spent the last five minutes sucking on a very tart lemon. She glared at me, and then reached in to pop the hood. Hands on hips, Ms. Hoppingmad stalked around to meet my approach.

“Hi, can I…”

“I want youuuu… to tell me what the hell they did to my car!” Ms. Hoppingmad accented her demand with a slap to the innocent Cad’s fender.

Oh boy.

“What kind of prob…” I tried to start my investigation.

“I get an oil change done, and now my @#$&*^+ AC doesn’t work!” Ms. Hoppingmad slams my verbal investigation.

“Okay,” I say with a nod, carefully keeping my distance, as I don’t want to get an attitude adjustment like the Cad fender received. “Does the air feel warm inside or…”

“Of course it’s @#$&*^+ warm inside!”

At least she didn’t end this latest interruption with ‘you idiot’. :)

I give her the look I reserve for customers only a split second from being propelled out the door with or without car, and she visibly calms somewhat. She waves her hand.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

“Let me ask a few questions, Ma’am, so I can figure out what page we’re on, okay?”

“Sure… go ahead.”

“Does the blower blow any air at you inside?” I ask.

She thinks for a moment before answering, so I’m thinking no, and Ms. Hoppingmad confirms it.

“No… it doesn’t blow at all.”

Normally, this is where I write up an estimate for diagnosing the problem; but I have a good hunch what’s wrong already, and there are only a couple of steps to check. Since Hoppingmad is already upset, and the price of what I figure went bad will cost a bundle, I’m less than enthused to incur her wrath. I started the Cad and turned on the AC, which allows dialing in of exact temperature. I confirmed no air flow in either AC or heat selection. Next, I checked readings at the blower motor, mounted behind the engine under the hood. I straightened after getting the readings I expected.

“The blower motor has failed, Ma’am. It…”


“Can I finish?” I ask patiently, knowing the figure I’m about to quote won’t be received well either, and I’d like to get it all out at once.

Instead, Hoppingmad launches her demands. “I want you to write up what those guys did, and…”

“I can’t do that,” I interrupt, holding up a hand, more in self defense than as a stopping gesture. “The people who did your oil change had nothing to do with the blower motor failing. It fails on these Cadillacs regularly, due to the extreme heat under the hood where they’re located.”

I give her the estimate for replacing the blower motor assembly. To clear the blower motor, the saddle holding the engine up has to be lowered, and a myriad of ignition parts have to be moved out of the way on the top. Ms. Hoppingmad meets my estimate with open mouthed silence. I take the opportunity to cover myself, by explaining the blower motor must work before I can check out AC cooling.

“You’re all in on this!!” Hoppingmad states.

“Since I don’t even know where you had your oil changed, it would be difficult for me to be in on anything with them,” I reason; because frankly, I’m already writing this up in my head for the blog. :)

“I’m going to the dealer! I should have known…” Hoppingmad hops in the Cad, and takes off.

I take a deep breath, finish a few tasks, and head for my notebook computer. Just as I’m readying my new blog post, the phone rings.

“Nilson Brothers Garage, Bernie speak…”

“They want $125 to check my car!” Ms. Hoppingmad screams into my ear. “I want you to tell him what’s wrong!”

Yea, they’ll happily take my word for it after the Service Manager has listened to you for a few minutes.

“No need to put him on, Ma’am,” I explain. “They won’t do anything there without a diagnostic estimate fee.” And rightfully so. The Service Manager’s probably already cursing me under his breath for doing a freebie. He knows the quickest way for him to get fired is quote prices on the diagnostic expertise of an independent garage. “If you wish for them to check out your Cad, you’ll have to pay the diagnostic fee.”

I hear Hoppingmad rattle off something to someone, and then a deeper voice answer her. Then I heard, ‘What!!??’ signaling the Service Manager had confirmed they don’t do diagnostic work for free like some idiot indy does. Hoppingmad hung up on me or her cell-phone went dead. It’s been an hour, so anything else in this case will have to wait for the next edition. :)


Charles Gramlich said...

Oh man, dealing with the public. Now that is a chore and a half. At least you got some good blog fodder out of it.

raine said...

I have this image of her, sailing from shop to shop, like the Flying Dutchman, looking for someone who'll sacrifice themselves for her car...

Bernita said...

"You’re all in on this!!”
A perfect example of the (name-one) general conspiracy syndrome!

BernardL said...

I've noticed the public has become more entertaining as I've grown older, Charles, and my mortgage got paid off. :)

She was in full flight, Raine. :)

The question of when the oil change was done would have been a good one; but Hopping was so upset, I had to be careful as to which questions to ask. The way it usually happens, Bernita, is a customer has something fixed, or some maintenance done, and then there's a buffer period. In this buffer period anything that happens, including flat tires or scratches were never like that before they had their car in the shop. I'm betting Hopping could have had the oil changed anytime in the last month. :)

It was a funny ending to the week, and Hopping didn't spoil it by coming over or calling again. Of course... there's always Monday. :(

Virginia Lady said...

Well, of course it can't be that the car is old and things are going to break. It has to be a conspiracy. Too bad that doesn't work for my cars. We do the work usually. Kind of hard to blame the mechanic when you're the mechanic.

BernardL said...

That was one of the main reasons I never expanded, VL. When something goes wrong at the shop, I only have one guy to blame. When there's a screw up, I run to the medicine cabinet mirror, point my finger, and say 'you idiot!'. When things go exceptionally well, I take two Advil, and pat myself on the back. :)

Barbara Martin said...

Public interaction in any job can be difficult. I remember when the timing belt went on my Passat wagon and had not been mentioned in the manual as to when to change it. Fortunately I was able to get a new transmission for nothing after telling the dealership I was going to complain to the head office in Germany. I certainly did not have to scream at anyone. Your visitor must be a tad spoiled at home and used to getting her way.

BernardL said...

I doubt she was spoiled, Barbara. She assumed facts not in evidence, and followed today's society's new axiom of looking for someone else to blame. Today, even when a machine screws up, someone breathing has to be blamed for it. :)