May 18th, 2012

Just Me Too

A lesson for people working in service

A lesson for people working in service:

I had a good relationship with the mechanic -- "Tom" -- at my local gas station. (Circle Citgo, in Pepprell, MA.) He was good, and he was honest, and I could trust him. He's left for other pastures, and I don't know where.

His spot at the local station was taken over by "Steve." Steve started off well for me, removing a nail from a tire treat and plugging the leak for an easy, friendly ten dollars. So far, so good. Well, last night, driving my wife to and from graduation, the "Check Engine" light went on in my car. This morning, I stopped by Steve's and asked him to scan for the code, and then clear it. I just wanted to know what the manufacturer intended that light to indicate.

"That code is meaningless," Steve told me. "What we do is we examine the car, find the problem, and give you an estimate."

"That's not what I want," I told him. "I just want the code, and then clear it, and we'll see if the light comes back on."

"That's the wrong way to do it."

Steve is no longer my mechanic. Steve thinks every time a light shows up on his customer's dashboard, it's his opportunity to make a boat payment.

I drove up the street to the next gas station, asked the mechanic if he could spend 30 seconds on getting and clearing my code. "That's a half-hour labor for my time."

I drove back, passed Steve, and stopped into a small mechanic who had taken over the space of my previous ("Pre-Tom") mechanic a few years ago, when he moved out of town. "Can you slap a scanner on for a Check Engine code without upselling?"

"Sure!" he scans, tells me the code and what it means, looks under the hood to see if the cause (The code means "Bank 1" of my car's V8 engine is "Running Lean") is easily visible, like a disintegrated vacuum hose. We chat a few minutes, and he suggests clearing the code to see if the light returns -- my original plan, remember -- and, when I ask him if ten bucks will cover his time -- which has been ten or fifteen minutes, what with chatting and going the extra mile under the hood -- he waves me off. "Don't even worry about it. Just let me know if the light comes back on."

Now, I haven't had him actually fix anything yet, and, of course, if when I do, I find the work or price unacceptable, I'll re-evaluate, but as of right this moment? I'm considering Jason Kozacka of JSK Automotive, in Pepperell, MA, to be my mechanic.

And that's my lesson to those who do any form of service for a living.