Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good News & Bad News

     My dad was a professional mechanic who always kept our cars running like well-oiled clocks. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit Dad’s mechanical ability, which skipped a generation to take root in our son. CJ is a remarkable mechanic who treats cars the way accomplished musicians treat their instruments. He can diagnose what’s wrong with an engine by listening to cars whizzing past on the highway. He does a great job of keeping our vehicles in proper running order, but he leads a busy life and isn’t always around.
     For routine servicing we’d been bringing Mrs. Chatterbox’s BMW to the dealership where we purchased it nine years ago. My wife says the car belongs to both of us but it really belongs to her; I drive a RAV 4 and love it. (Note: A story on the unorthodox way I came to own my RAV is on its way.)
     Over the past few months we came to believe that the BMW dealership was strong-arming us and using scare tactics to beef up our bills. CJ finally convinced us it was time to part ways with the dealership and find a reliable repair shop. We settled on Autohaus Bayern, a German car specialist not far from where we live.
     The other day the driver’s seatbelt in the BMW wouldn’t work. Mrs. Chatterbox is fastidious about following rules and wasn’t about to break the law by driving unbuckled. I tried to fix the seatbelt. I failed.
     CJ examined the locking mechanism and told me and his mother, “There’s a dime lodged in the mechanism; I can see it but can’t reach it. You’ll need to take it to Autohaus to see if they can get it out.”
     My mind flashed on the many times I’d driven the BMW and the frequency with which change had rained from my pockets onto the floor and between the seats. In fact, I’d borrowed the car and spilled a pocketful of coins the day prior to Mrs. Chatterbox noticing the problem. 
     “Hopefully they won’t need to remove the seat to get at the problem,” CJ continued, “because that could be time consuming and cost you serious bucks.”
     So Mrs. Chatterbox drove to Autohaus Bayern and explained the situation. She sat in the waiting area as one of the technicians drove our BMW into the garage to check out the problem. He returned ten minutes later and said to my wife, “I have good news for you, and bad news. Which do you want first?”
     Expecting to be told she owed several hundred dollars, my wife braced for the worst and said, “Give me the good news.”
     He pushed back his cap and said, “I managed to fix your belt buckle…”
     “How much do I owe y—”
      Before she could finish, he cut her off. “I’m not going to charge you anything.”
     “That’s marvelous,” she said. “What’s the bad news?”
     The technician grinned at her sheepishly. “I lost your dime.”
     I doubt we’ll ever take our car anywhere else.

     Everyone has had unpleasant experiences with people in the service industry, auto repair shops, municipal workers, etc., but at some point you must have had one or two good experiences. Share one with us during this week of thanks.


  1. I have an excellent mechanic I've used on all my cars after the manufacturer's warranty expired. I know just enough about cars to be dangerous, but certainly not enough to actually FIX anything. I've gone to my my mechanic suspecting something major, only to have him tell me, no, it wasn't what I thought at all but something fairly minor. I really appreciate his honesty. (Scott Ekblad @ Rallye Auto, Richardson, TX)

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too. :)


  2. We take our Mercedes to Modesto European and always have. We've never been overcharged and they do excellent work.

    Our boat mechanic is awesome. We have been lucky to find folks that take care of business and charge appropriately.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  3. Funny you do a story on cars..
    Hubby and I are very mechanically sound and do most repairs on our cars. Recently we got GIVEN a car by our brother in law, and thinking it was going to cost us quite a bit for roadworthy, took it to a mechanic. All it needed was a $10 bracket on the sway bar, and new break pads, and power steering hose. All up, after fixing a few minor cosmetic things and the other stuff, this freebie car has cost us only around $1500 to get it safe back on the road. It's book value is $10 000!

  4. Cute story. I like that mechanic too. I once took my car in for noises. They were mechanics I hadn't gone to before. When I went to pick it up, they didn't charge me a thing and said there wasn't a problem; I must've just picked up something on my tires that was no longer there. I'm so ignorant about cars they could've gotten away with charging me loads of money and telling me they fixed the problem. Thank goodness for the honest people of the world.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Happy Thanksgiving...we have a lot to give thanks for.


  6. This is a very sweet story... thank you very much! Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas.

    Teri, Jalen, and the entire Autohaus Team :-)