You charged me to change a bulb?


Unravelling the mysteries of the auto repair business has been a 20 year journey, and I still learn something new everyday, including dealing with upset customers.   Fortunately, I have a thick skin and hopefully I can turn one’s negativity into positivity.  But let’s face it, I picked the wrong career.  Their aren’t too many career choices where you are immediately considered to be dishonest or expected to work for free… Well, I guess  being a lawyer could be worse but nobody expects them to work for free.

A customer with an older Toyota came in for an oil change and upon completion I noticed that the car had a brake light bulb burnt out.    Now, normally bulbs take less than 5 minutes to replace and we usually don’t charge for labour, but this bulb was different, it required complete removal of the taillight to get to it.  To make matters worse the car had a  pesky swinging tailgate that was in the way, too.    So we called the customer and asked her if she would like us to change the bulb. The total cost would be for 20 minutes labour plus the bulb.  The customer tells us to go ahead. She picks up the car at the end of the day, pays the bill and says goodbye.  All is good.. so I think.

Enter a new day with fresh possibilities and after morning coffee we are ready to take on the world.   But wait… in walks the customer from yesterday and she proceeds to tell us that she called the Toyota dealer and “they don’t charge for bulb installation”.  She doesn’t want her money back but she wants us to know, that she knows that she has been taken advantage of or so she thinks.

We now are at the core of the issue.  Dealers rarely do anything for free.   While in this instance they may have sent out a junior staff member to change the bulb, things would have stopped once he/she realized that the taillight had to be removed to get to the bulb.  But this isn’t what I want to talk about.  I really just want to vent, you see this customer has forgotten about all the things I have done for free.  The “dealer” will charge you  $119 each and every time they scan your vehicles computer.  This particular vehicle had an instance 6 months ago where its engine light had come on several times for different fault codes.  I only charged her once at $59 and scanned the car two more times for free over the next month.  You can figure out the savings on your own.

The moral of the story is that regardless where you take your vehicle, do yourself a favour and develop a relationship with a shop that is dependent on trust.   Look at your overall year expenditures and if your relationship is based on trust, then don’t sweat the small stuff.