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Old 03-26-2010, 10:09 AM
19,122 posts, read 21,362,274 times
Reputation: 7313


One customer, 2 cars: A 911 and a M Benze V-8 (mothers car).

This guy drove me over the deep end. He was in 3 times a day for months, with either car, for any noises he percieved to be bad.

Both cars were mint, and there wasn't anything wrong, other than maybe the oil drain plugs were a tad worn from over use

This guy wanted the deal, and so would buy his own parts from the same place I did, and I got them cheaper. The main problem was the parts he bought were usually for some other like cars, but not the correct parts for these cars.

At first i tried to use what i could of the parts he brought, if they were correct, and sometimes they were, I would adjust the paper work and return the wrong parts, which sometimes cause a delay in the time the work was done, on either car.

After a while I told the guy NO MORE parts, I just don't have the time to return and adjust these pricings, and it is driving the parts guys mad too.

He didn't, so a point came where I just ignored all his parts and didn't bother to look in the bags at all. But that didn't stop him from coming in 3 times a day, still with parts, which was giving me real nightmares. At that point something had to be done. I was dreaming in my sleep about this guy, the 2 cars, and all the parts which included the parts guys gripping too. I was having a bad time telling when I was at work, from when I was sleeping on my own time. Just not the way I live at all.

In those days i collected waste oil, and sold it when ever my storage was getting to be scarey full, and would blow the $$$$ on the crew, and sometimes our friends.

Well that point came to be, and i got the idea to take the crew and our girls to this customer guys restaurant, on the east coast, a real swank place with a fire place, where everyone wore jackets and ties. Most of the crew rode motorcycles, and it was summer. We were 4, and 3 other guys came on bikes too, all with our girls.

We were not in any sort coats with neck ties either, and I decided to pull a wild stunt. So when we arrived in the town, I gave some guys money to got get live clams and live lobsters, others went for corn on the cob, still in the husks, and others yet went for wine and beer.

I was part of the lobster run, and had the clams and lobbys trippel bagged, so not much water would attack our leather saddlebags, and not ruin the restaurant carpets.

We all met at that place, and went in as a group. We by-passed the greeter, and pushed tables to fit us all as one, near the fire place, which burned gas flames most of the time.

We hid the bags under the table quickly too.

A waitress came, and as i was seated at the head of the table she came to me, and i gave her a 50 right there, before i said a word, and then said when this is done, there is another 50 for you.

"Please get us 2 church keys and iced mugs, then take these bags of food and get them cooked. The bags all came to the table top then.

She began to object, and I said Shhhhhh I asked do you want the other 50? That didn't take long for her to decide.

She was gone in a flash with some of the bags, and was right back with as much icey mugs as she could carry, and had the church keys. She took the rest of the bags promptly, and I heard yelling in the kitchen!

I could hear something like 'No one brings food here to be cooked!"

LOL I had him just where i wanted. My customer comes flying thru his kitchen doors sputtering, doesn't bother to look at all, and stomps right over to the table we moved, which he took as something of a shock seeing we had done so, and then, that no one was in coats and ties, nor dresses for the gals! He still missed seeing me, and began to go 'off' with a rant on the foods and the law and a lot more BS.

He said we would all have to leave or he would call the cops! LOL

Then I spoke up and said, that if he called the cops I would call the cops the next time i saw him and either car, in my shop and that he could drive these cars into Boston for future service, and see if the Boston dealers would use any of his parts, and stop working 3 times day to look into all his noises.

I pointed out I was willing to Pay the Labor, and to just use the foods I brought!

My words hit him like a sack of bricks, and he grabbed a near by chair and sat right down, turning gray. Haa Haa Haa He recognized me after all, and knew the gig was up.

The waitress was peeking thru the kitchen doors, and some cooks were peeking over her! Some of them grinning.

Needless to say no cops were called, the foods were well prepared, we all made a big clams and lobster mess, and were about 3 sheets to the wind after howeling it up in that joint.

It ended with me breaking down the labor, and giving that waitress, her well earned other 50.

Also from then on the phone would ring, and my customer made proper appointments with NO More Parts!
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Old 03-26-2010, 10:30 AM
2,320 posts, read 5,865,832 times
Reputation: 997
Years ago a woman pulled into my uncle's service station, he was busy, so she added water to her radiator herself; my uncle just happened to see her and ran over to tell her that she had just filled her engine with water through the oil filler. He said he had to drain it out of her engine fast; she asked if she could drive into town first and then come back.
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Old 03-26-2010, 10:50 AM
Location: So. of Rosarito, Baja, Mexico
6,571 posts, read 17,944,907 times
Reputation: 5919
Amazing...wonders never cease. Good show Mac.
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Old 03-26-2010, 10:54 AM
Location: Jollyville, TX
3,704 posts, read 9,094,038 times
Reputation: 4068
Not a mechanic story...but....

I bought a 2001 Toyota Rav4 and joined a forum for Rav owners. They posted the TSB's available through the dealer. One was for a rattle in the dash board. Sure enough my dash was rattling away so I took it to the dealer expecting them to perform the fix (which involved just putting a piece of foam behind it). Instead they called me and said when they pulled the dash out, they found an allen wrench that was left behind.

My dash still rattled, just not as bad. I just put a new stereo and speakers in it and turned up the music!
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:13 AM
Location: Poway, CA
2,698 posts, read 9,519,350 times
Reputation: 2205
Not a mechanic story, but i used to work at auto parts stores part-time through most of high school and all of college. The customers that drove me nuts more than anything else were the ones that would come in looking for parts but not have any specific info on the application. Usually it was because the vehicle was some custom one-off rig. OK, fine. But the way ANY parts catalog or computer system works is by knowing the year, make, and model of the vehicle being worked on.

Specifically, the ones that drove me nuts were the ones that wanted parts for their SBC. I cannot tell you how many times I would get a customer who would tell me that all *fill in the blank here* for a SBC are exactly the same. After a while, I stopped arguing with them. I'd just throw some random vehicle into the computer, get a part number, and hand them the part. Then they'd look at the part, tell me it's not what they want or that theirs doesn't look like that. Well, no kidding because........wait for it....... NO, ALL SBCs ARE NOT THE SAME, JACKASS!!!!!

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Old 03-26-2010, 12:15 PM
19,122 posts, read 21,362,274 times
Reputation: 7313
Another? Guy with a Audi 90, needing carb work and a major tune, and every tune, got all fluids checked and topped off, all door hindes lubed, all filters, and oil either changed or checked, all 4 shocks and brakes checked, all cys comp tested dry then wet and recorded, all cars vacuumed, and windows cleaned. It was that or the crew would take a hike, plus what ever else was called for, every single car, every single time.

So this joker known to me for bad checks wants his car fixed and tuned up. I could tell he was going to be a Royal Pain this time because i had a Wednesday appointment, but he took a Friday, which to me meant he planned on coming Satyrday knowing the shop was closed till Monday, and was going to'just take the car and make me chase him for weeks and then get a bad check anyway.

I took the car this time and did everything, and Doncha just know this guy was madder than Hell come Monday?

He didn't come by 7:30 pm on Friday when I left after doing books. He came on Saturday, and his car refused to start and he even had another rotor because i took that from hios car once for the same thing.

man this guy was just too much, He walked in the office yelling, and I had one customer I was discussing things with and another quietly waiting.

I excused myself and too bad a$$ outside for a stern lecture, and told him if he came in to bother me while the 2 customers I had already were not done, that indeed i would call the cops and have him arrested.

He knew I ment it.
When his turn came he was still mad, and I just told him this gig was up, there wasn't a thing wriong with his car, and that I disabled it. Simple as that, and go walk to the bank up the street, get CASH, and as soon as he did, he could have my set of his keys and his car and this was the last time!

From thence on no more car, and no more service and i didn't care that the train to Boston was just around the corner. A major thing which served my buisiness.

We went way a long time and came back with cash. I went out and popped the hood and with a long screw drive removed the plastic food wrap under that carb... There was still rather a lot of gasoline on that food wrap too..

He was one of about 4 people, i refused to work for in my whole life.
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Old 03-26-2010, 02:25 PM
Location: So. of Rosarito, Baja, Mexico
6,571 posts, read 17,944,907 times
Reputation: 5919
Take the car after closing with another set of keys. Old trick.

Had this guy that had given me a NSF check and had trouble collecting later on.

He has me do some work and I call to say the car is done. Never comes by. Late fri PM I remove the rotor from the Dist so the car cannot be taken over the weekend. Sure enough...on Mon morning I see the car had been moved a few ft forward from it's location. Hr or so later he comes by saying that the car was not fixed....oh contraire...I fixed the car but removed the rotor so it could NOT BE STOLEN. He left for a while and came back with the CASH.

Another time someone called on phone to have his car towed in to be fixed. Car came in (I pay the tow). Check it out for the repair needed...he calls me and authorizes the repair over the phone as required/allowed by the state BAR. I do the repairs (over $200) and wait for him to pick up the car at the agreed time of completion. He NEVER shows up. Next morning I find the car gone with his extra set of keys. He lived in a large apt complex via the address and registration in the glove box. I sent letters etc and NEVER heard anything. I'm out the $200 plus the tow fee. Expensive lesson.

I did something that I was NOT really proud of...got a large chalkboard and wrote the first initial and last name and the problem they made for me. This board was visible for all my customers to see. Know what? it solved all my problems from that point on.

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Old 03-26-2010, 03:36 PM
10,868 posts, read 41,128,193 times
Reputation: 14009
Originally Posted by sailordave View Post
Question for auto mechanics, did any of you ever come across a Frankenstein car, a car with components from other vehicles that didn't belong on the vehicle.
Yes, indeed.

About 25% of the MB cars I worked on through the 80's-90's were "gray market" Euro cars, with all kinds of "conversions" to meet USA EPA and safety standards. Many were backyard jobs, with all kinds of pieces cobbled up from other cars, and many simply didn't do the job ... especially reinforcements for doors and similar items. Some people would pop rivet on an external plate on the door edge to make it look like they'd actually put a reinforcement inside the door, but nothing else, and this would pass a lot of superficial inspections.

Lots of cars came through with strange emissions equipment, modified FI computers or fuel systems, poorly sized catalytic converters, and so forth.

It was a nightmare trying to get some of these cars to pass a tailpipe emissions check as they simply could not be adjusted to run properly. Many had very poor running characteristics, even if adjusted to their optimal running. And many had marginal cooling systems for the way they ran, so they had overheating problems and head gasket/head bolt problems. A fair number had valve guide problems due to the extreme underhood heat they were never designed to have. Between mismatched distributor/timing curves, ignition retard/advance units, wrong FI control parts, they were very difficult ... and the customers weren't very understanding about what they'd bought ... a cheap cobbled up incorrect version of the car they really wanted, even if the body shell looked (almost) the same as the USA market car.

Real problems also came with Euro spec A/C and heater systems that didn't match USA performance.
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Old 03-26-2010, 04:13 PM
10,868 posts, read 41,128,193 times
Reputation: 14009
Originally Posted by Steve Bagu View Post

I did something that I was NOT really proud of...got a large chalkboard and wrote the first initial and last name and the problem they made for me. This board was visible for all my customers to see. Know what? it solved all my problems from that point on.

I had a different solution ... "denial of service" to the people who abused my business and services.

It took awhile for me to realize that not all business was good business, and I got to qualifying my clientele before accepting any new clients. Typically, if you were not referred to my shop by an existing good customer, I declined to work on your car. Especially if certain speech patterns or other indicators revealed that the new prospect was in the legal profession, or real estate sales. Virtually every bad check I took for over 30 years came from these two groups of clients ... and yes, I had some very good clients from these groups, too, but they were long established.

My happiest days were sending folk that had been headaches for me down the road to the "best shops" in town that could "better handle" the problems that the cars presented. Of course, the shops I sent those people to were the biggest screw jobs in the region, famous for not installing billed parts or damaging cars so that they'd be back for additional work, and charging incredible high times to perform basic tasks. I recall one of their snow jobs was to squirt diesel fuel on motor mounts so that they'd rot out and then have the customer convinced that the motor had to come clear out of the car to install the new replacement mounts (which meant a lot of billable hours for a 30 minute job).

My second happiest days were when those folk would come back to my shop after being severely screwed by my competitors (all with the German accented English and guttural German performance art around the cars) and acknowledge that they'd treated me badly and apologize for their behavior and rationalize why/how they'd given me bad checks or grief ... which would have been unacceptable if you'd been doing business with them ... and ask if they could start bringing their car back to me again for needed repairs. Depending upon a lot of factors, especially as to how nasty they'd been in the past ... for the most part, I did not allow them back into my shop.

Yeah, sometimes it was costly throwing them out of my place, but I'd bet in the long run that I saved money by not doing work for these folks. If nothing else, I was happier and could focus my efforts on people who appreciated my work product and paid for it. The word did get out that I wasn't going to stand for being abused, cheated, or defrauded, and if you were that type of customer, there were other shops in town that were willing, if not eager ... to play those games.

As for people who wanted to bring in their own parts for my installation services, my policy was to charge them the same price as if I'd supplied the part and earned my mark-up margin along with my labor. They'd ask why, and I told them that my labor billing rate was predicated on an average per-hour billable parts profit. In my shop, by the time I paid all my direct and indirect labor costs/overhead, the labor billing rate only paid for the labor component of my business with a 50% flat-rate for my best techs. Without parts profits, I would have made no money at all. So, if people only wanted to purchase my shop labor, it was financially unattractive to me ... and if they only wanted to do business on that basis, then they were welcome to take their car somewhere else. The cost of knowledge, specialized tooling and test equipment, factory workshop handbooks, and so forth was ... and remains ... a huge cost burden to being able to provide competent, knowledgeable, and proper repairs .... I can't tell you how many times I found that the dealership techs didn't know or couldn't be bothered to do work correctly, let alone my competitors who were former dealership techs. A prime example was that few of them would ever adjust the valves in a MB diesel motor, let alone want to change all the filters so the motors could run properly ... which is why I captured such a large percentage of the aftermarket diesel car biz in the area for years. It got to a point where other shops, including the dealerships, were calling me for repair advice or subletting their repairs to me on cars they couldn't figure out. All I was doing was the work per the factory manuals ....

Can't tell you how many times I had to make that mistake to learn the lesson ... somebody either bringing in their own parts, or they'd already installed them and just "needed to be adjusted properly" so the car would run right. R&R'ing spark plugs that were the wrong ones for the application just so I could gap them properly wasn't ever going to be a moneymaker, nor a customer goodwill situation. Other than OE plugs, Bosch or Beru, I had a lot of running problems in these cars. Anyway, I finally got burned enough times to understand that customer supplied parts were a loser and that's when I shut the door on that clientele. Most of whom didn't want to pay fairly on the labor side, either. Hey, it only takes a minute or two to adjust ignition points with the dwell tach you've got, right? And you can dial in the FI system idle mix with that gas analyzer in a minute, right? Never mind that the fuel filters hadn't been replaced since the car was new or that the injectors were plugged up and needed to be purged. Or that the t-stat had been removed to address a heating problem and the car wasn't running at correct engine temp. The know-it-alls that just needed that little bit of extra help to get everything running perfectly weren't going to waste my time .... either I got to do the work properly, or we weren't going to do business.

Which leads me to a corollary about automotive work: Every customer that I ever relented in my better judgement/shop policies to "help out" was the one that came back to be a headache for me. Every one, without exception.
I've heard every story in the book about how somebody just couldn't afford to do it right, and they'd be so grateful if I'd just do the bare minimum to get their car on the road ...and then, inevitably, that was the customer and car that came back to bite me. I may have been a slow learner, but I did eventually learn to send those folk down the road if they couldn't afford to do the work to a level I could stand behind. I wasn't in business to be their charity supporter, and I wasn't their shrink, social worker, or sugar daddy.

And I didn't trade automotive repairs for another old commodity, either ... although it was offered many times by some very attractive women, I could not figure out how that would pay my lease, utilities, outside labor, inside labor, parts suppliers, or insurance policy. Hi!, Mr Landlord ... I can't pay the rent this month, but you'll be happy to know I had a great time last night. I'll call you the next time "Bunny Joy", er, make that the "Joy Bunny" from the PlayClub downtown needs her BMW serviced, OK? You can take that to the bank ....

Last edited by sunsprit; 03-26-2010 at 04:29 PM..
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Old 03-26-2010, 06:02 PM
19,122 posts, read 21,362,274 times
Reputation: 7313
I got stung a few times too. One guy with a benze got all bent out of shape after i did a total exhaust, but not for that, but for he wanted to never pay. He insisted i scratched the paint for about 6 feet, by 4 inches wide that day, and made it rust!

Talking wasn't going anywhere, and he had given me a check first, which I suspected was bad. I tore up that check, told him to be gone, and ate the parts and labor.

Wasn't very long and he was back with other problems and I told him see ya later in another life... He began to sputter that he would tell someone.. I told him you go tell your 10 best friends, as i don't want them for customers either... In fact mista' if I ever hear your name and whom ever mentions it, will be history as you are now, 'ave yee a good day...
.................................................. .................................................
I took another beating, Installed a hand rebuilt VW air cooled engine, l nice in fresh paint, I have many sitting on a shelf in plain sight all set to plug in. Every part of everything was new.. new push rod tubes and all, whole thing top shelf.

Guy buys one installed and goes... he gets a deal since his dead engine is traded in part.

About 60 days goes by and he comes in on the hooker. Says my engine failed. I couldn't prove this rusting hulk wasn't my work, so I plugged in another one of my engines, but this time I recorded the serial numbers and stamped in my initials took, some 35 mm pictures. This 2nd engine he had was nasty and the sheet metal was rotten, so I could use the rods, cam and case maybe, but not any sheet metals... To me it was pretty clear that engine sat on the ground in some junk yard a long long time, but I had no way to prove it.

Sure enough he comes back swearing I am no good. And he has another engine like that 2nd one. I excused myself, and lied, saying I had to make a wrecker call, but i would be back in 15 minutes, and gave him five bucks for coffee across the street.

I went and got the cops, and had him arrested for theft and theft of services, what a surprise that was. I even got paid for the 2nd engine he stole, and my 5 bucks back in court. Seems he didn't ever know I stamped in my initials and took pictures. Oh well eh?
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