Dealing with Mr. Wonderful

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Mr. Wonderful is what I like to call the recent customer that chewed the ear right off my service advisor (well, not literally) for looking his truck over when he dropped it off for replacement of the rear shocks.

The truck was dropped off in the morning as scheduled and the keys were thrown in the mail slot on the front door of the shop. This was a pre-estimated job for shock replacement and the customer had been there a couple of times before. Our technician, while waiting for the correct shocks to arrive, noticed a good-sized coolant leak under the truck. The tech brought the leak to our attention and was advised to perform his courtesy check as usual, which is something we do on nearly every vehicle that comes in for service. The tech found the source of the leak to be a faulty water pump, and he also noticed a leaking rear transmission seal.

The advisor wrote up the estimate for the needed repairs before calling Mr. Wonderful to tell him about our findings and what was recommended.

The phone call went something like this:

Staff Graphic

SHOP: Hello, Mr Wonderful?

MR. W: Yes.

SHOP: Hi, this is Joe from the shop and there are a couple things I would like to talk to you about regarding your truck. Is this a good time?

MR. W: Yes. Is it ready?

SHOP: No, sir, we are waiting on the correct shock which should be there very shortly, but we noticed a coolant and transmission leak.

MR. W: What the hell are you talking about!? I didn't come in for anything other than shocks. You're trying to sell me more work and you haven't even done what I asked for in the first place. Replace my shocks! I will be right down! Click!

SHOP: Hello? Hello? Mr. Wonderful, are you there?

Within a few minutes, Mr. Wonderful walks in, ranting and raving about us calling him and needing other work, when he never asked us to look at anything else. Joe tried to patiently explain to him about our procedures and how they protect both the shop and the consumer. He explained that, if we closed our eyes to a problem so obvious, it could become a much larger expense for customers and liability for us. Joe tried, but Mr. Wonderful wasn’t listening.

Needless to say, Mr. Wonderful took his leaky truck without new shocks and drove off into the sunset.

Now, I know we do a pretty good job of being clear to our customers and disclaim everything we can, but sometimes there are the Mr. Wonderfuls out there to make your life miserable. Here are a few things you can do to try to avoid him:

• Post a sign at the customer counter stating what routine procedures you perform, such as courtesy checks and safety inspections.

• Add a disclaimer on the repair order that says you perform an inspection unless otherwise noted or declined by the customer.

• Make it clear at the time you write the order that you will be performing your inspection of the vehicle and be sure it is OK—and get the order signed.

I know we all have a story like this to tell. Being in this business as long as I have, it still amazes me. No matter how well you document and educate your customers, you will, from time to time, have to deal with a Mr. Wonderful. When that happens, stand by your processes and don’t take it personally; it’s just business.


B.J. Lee has worked in the automotive repair industry for more than 30 years. He is an industry consultant and trainer for the Institute for Automotive Business Excellence and owner of Stellar Performance Inc. in 29 Palms, Calif. Contact him at blee@ratchetandwrench.com.

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