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When the Customer Is Wrong

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If you’ve worked in the auto service and repair industry for even a short time, you know that the old cliché, “the customer is always right,” simply does not apply in many cases.

I had the misfortune of demonstrating that recently, as the battery light in my 1996 Toyota Corolla lit up while leaving the office for the day. I had left a door ajar the previous night, which left the dome light glowing for a good 10 hours or so. So, even though the car started in the morning and got me to work, my thoughts immediately turned to that dome light, and the possibility that the battery was not holding a charge.

As I pulled away from the office, and headed to Southeast Auto Service just down the road (I had never been there, but it was the closest shop), I noticed my power steering was also gone. Still, I was focused on the battery. I was convinced that I needed a new one and that’s what I asked for when I arrived at the shop. The service specialist (a jack of all trades) at this small, two-bay shop said he would be happy to sell me a battery, but cautioned that there might be more to the problem.

I was figuratively rolling my eyes during his explanation and  thought it would be a strange coincidence if leaving a door open all night had nothing to do with my sudden battery problem. But I obliged a look under the hood. What was found: A separated crankshaft pulley and missing belts that caused the alternator and power steering to fail. 

Turns out my mistrust was misplaced. It was a strange coincidence. I had the pulley and belts replaced, and the shop did a great job.

The point of this story is that the employee recognized I was wrong, but arrived at that point without humiliating me, and by being patient and explaining his reasoning. Sometimes patience, explanations and common sense can make all the difference.

Jake Weyer

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