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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Customer Relations

I’m standing near an old Toyota Cressida this morning I was doing a diagnostic check on, when a guy storms in the big shop door, who looks like he probably played linebacker for one of the NFL teams this past Sunday. He was upset. Names will be anonymous for the protection of innocents… like me. He deserves a classic name for this blog though. He will be Tyro Rex.
Let me explain something about owning an auto repair shop in the East Oakland demilitarized zone for three decades. I’ve seen, interacted with, and traded witticisms with some very scary looking people. I’m never belligerent, nor do I go through any facial tics or voice inflections guaranteed to annoy or provoke. I listen very well, and condescension is not a part of my make-up. Tyro was about to test me.
“Hey, anybody here?!” Tyro shouts out as I’m walking toward him.
“Hi, can I help you?”
To describe what Tyro Rex looked me over with as a glower would be doing a disservice to the barely contained rage his features spiked at me. “I need you to come with me! Bring some transmission oil!”
This was a first, so I may have smiled just a little.
“Well?!” Tyro only had one volume level tone: loud and annoyed.
“Maybe we better start over, Sir. Hi, how may I help you here in my shop?”
Tyro’s face twisted into a mask of horror Freddy Kruger would have been proud of. “I’m tryin’ to tell you! My Ford is stuck down at the store on the corner! It’s revving but not moving, (insert street lingo for someone who has immoral and illegal relations with the matriarch of his family)! I need you to put some transmission oil in it!”
Second aside here for the folks unacquainted with costs in vehicle repair. Transmission oil cost is expensive. It runs anywhere from $6 to $18 a quart – the reason being in a professional garage we have to carry synthetic blend or full synthetic transmission oil of different varieties that will mix with whatever is in the vehicle we add it too. The days of running down to the store and buying a quart of Ford/Mercon tranny oil for 50 cents passed into the annals of history decades ago. I decided to try for some facts first.
“What year and make do you have, Sir?”
“What the… it’s a damn 2003 Explorer! I just need some transmission oil!”
Tyro and I were going to be stymied here by an unfortunate fact concerning his vehicle: the 2003 Ford Explorer has no dipstick tube, and therefore no way to add fluid easily. It is a sealed unit. I won’t go into that here because no one in their right mind should be doing it in the backyard. Secondly, I only stock Mobile 1 synthetic trans oil for Fords requiring Mercon V fluid. It runs $12 a quart on sale. There wasn’t any use in getting into the price with Tyro because neither he nor I could put any in it down the street anyway.
“Okay, here’s the thing. You have a sealed transmission. There’s no way to add fluid to it. When it needs fluid, it is a very complicated ordeal done from under the vehicle. The other problem with…”
“What?! That can’t be true! No $#%&*^@ way!”
“Hold on. Let me finish what I’m saying. If you don’t want an explanation, walk away. I don’t plan on spending the day listening to you shout at me. If you’d like an explanation, calm down and lower your voice.”
Tyro Rex stared at me like he was a grizzly bear and I was a bag of chicken MacNuggets. When he remained silent, I took that as a cue to go on.
“The 2003 Explorer transmission is sealed. You can’t add fluid to it on the street. If yours is slipping, that is trouble… big trouble. Ford had all kinds of problems with the tranny in that one. Have you been noticing a flashing overdrive light coming on?”
“Yeah… so what? I don’t care about the damn overdrive!”
“Unfortunately, on your vehicle it usually means the transmission is shot. I can give you a recommendation for a transmission shop nearby, but I’ll warn you right now, it will be expensive to fix. The other thing is you’ll have to tone down your approach. We didn’t build your vehicle, nor did we wreck it. Screaming at repair people will not get your Explorer fixed. Would you like the information for the transmission shop?”
Tyro appeared to be getting ready to get himself some, but then he spun around with a long expletive filled goodbye. Yep, there’s nothing like the automotive repair business to get the blood pumping. I bet now that I have this blog written my blood pressure is probably back to only coronary level.   :)


Charles Gramlich said...

I admire your calm in the face of such antics. Definitely a good skill to have. Not an easy one too acquire.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Thanks, Charles. It's mostly practice, and that I don't look for ways to be offended. I was aware right off the bat Tyro Rex knew he had major problems. He hoped if he could get me under the hood of the Explorer down the street, that somehow his transmission problem would be mine instead of his. That was not going to happen. :)

Vesper said...

I really hope that one day you will collect these car shop stories in a book! It would be a great one! :-)

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Thanks, Vesper. I just don't think my real life customer relations has that 'Fifty Shades' type potential. :)