Tech Article: May 2014;

Well, it is late in the month again and the time has gotten away from me. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly. We all know it really doesn’t change speed, it is our perception of time that changes. This month I want to talk about something that has very little to do with our LBCs but a lot to do with the perception of how we treat each other in business.

I have run my shop since 1975. Everything I have done has not come out perfectly but I always try to make it right. It is not without some embarrassment that I admit to a few failures. The greatest of which was an engine rebuild on a MGB that lasted 36 miles, give or take a mile or two.

The cause was not anything I actually did, but rather a decision I made on the parts. Fram oil filters had been my filter of choice but in this instance, one failed and the engine suffered a devastating bearing failure. My machinist said he never uses Fram, only Wix or NAPA (made by Wix) filters or he voids your warranty.

I put the filter on so I repaired the engine with another full rebuild. My customer was happy, as was my machinist (he got another job out of it) and my parts supplier. Me, not so much. But the customer still comes to my shop for all his LBCs.

What does this have to do with perception? It had come to my attention recently through rumors (something we should never listen to, but do), that a customer was unhappy with something I had done. Without a lot of details, he came to the shop when I was leaving for an appointment. We did forget he was stopping by to have us look at his car for a planned trip. We begged off from looking at it then and offered to check it and make adjustments at no charge if he could come back later, which he did.

I spent a couple of hours looking it over and making some adjustments and minor repairs and wished him a good trip and excepted no payment even though offered. While on his trip, the car failed to restart after their lunch break and he called me several times and I walked him thru some simple diagnostic steps to try to find the fault. With a simple adjustment of the points, the car ran the rest of his trip with no further breakdowns that I know of.

The rumors had him upset with me because I did not fix something that had not been broken when in my shop. I checked his points and the gap was ok, but I did notice that the retaining screw was not the correct one. The customer said he had removed a Petronix recently and I should have realized the retaining screw used on the points was the one from the Petronix. It is a very minor difference but as it turned out, an important one.

A Petronix screw is a countersunk one while the correct one is a machine screw. You may not notice the difference but I do. The Petronix screw will not hold the points in place as well. I should have replaced it with the correct one. But, it was working and the car ran fine. I sent him out on a short test drive, he came back, a small timing adjustment was made and the car was running great.

Other things we did was tighten the rear axle bolts and fix a leaking fuel hose at the tank, and a minor carb and timing adjustment. He got to look his car over underneath and we had some good conversation.

Here is the problem of perception. I perceived we did him right by not charging, helping him with some potentially serious problems with his fuel system, and in making the car perform a little better. We also helped as much, long distance, as we could, which did help get him to his destination and back. His perception is that we inconvenienced him by not contacting him to let him know we would not be able to see him at his scheduled time (he is correct); we failed to remedy a problem that we should have known about (potentially again correct); and we caused him some concern when his car died.

Neither perception is totally correct. Both are about half true. Since my business has been open, I have preferred my customers to let me know when I screw up and they are unhappy with what was done. Unless a shop is informed of it’s failures, how can they be fixed? Hopefully, this customer will give us another chance in the future. I still have customers from my days as the only foreign car mechanic at Andy’s Sports Car Center, the original Triumph/MG dealer in Marietta and we still see customers from the early years of my shop. I hate disappointing customers as do all the repair shops in town.

All we, as shop owners, can do is apologize and try to make it right. Perception can be, and usually is, a two sided vision, both partially correct.

See y’all somewhere soon I hope. And I hope you are not mad when we meet.

Barry Rosenberg