The Abuse of a Service Writer with Technology

My grandfather owned a gas station with three bays in Denver, CO. On weekends, I would go and hang out with my dad when he filled in. I can remember how much customers valued his opinions and advice on automotive service and maintenance. As a child, it made my dad a very important person in my eyes. 

Recently, I went to a shop to get an alignment. I decided to wait and enjoy the shop’s waiting room on a Saturday morning. As the morning rush was coming to a close, in pulled a car with the wear sensors howling. 

If you have worked the front counter at any shop, you can tell a lot about a customer as he or she walks from the car to the front door. It is a talent all service writers develop in a few short months of working the front counter. I could tell this service writer was in trouble. 

The first clue was her cell phone. She was one of those people whose phone is permanently attached to their hand. She even had a brace on her wrist probably to help with a repetitive stress injury of looking at her phone too much. 

As she walked from her car to the front door, you could tell that she was angry and defensive about something. I am not singling out women. Men act the same way. 

As she approached the counter, she offered no greetings, no common exchanges of human kindness. The service writer behind the counter kept a smile as the customer pushed a previous estimate toward him and asked, “How much?” He said they would need to perform his own inspection before quoting her a price. She did not like this answer but she relented and sat down in the waiting room, smartphone in hand.

She probably went on Facebook to complain and get sympathy. I am also willing to bet she “Googled” or submitted her problem to an “ask the expert” website looking for answers that matched her preconceived notions and pocketbook.

After the inspection, the service writer gave her the estimate. She did not like hearing the job required new front rotors. Her expression got even worse when he brought up a worn control arm bushing. She accused him of trying to take advantage of her because she was a women. She also peppered the conversation with phrases like “I read…,” and “it said…” The lowest point was when she asked him about his commission. 

She declined the work and waited by the front door feverishly tapping away on her phone while they put the wheels back on her car. 

This is in sharp contrast to what I saw at my grandfather’s gas station more than 30 years ago. People were more civil and respected the knowledge and experience of people who worked on cars for a living. 

It can be said knowledge and being able to access it can make some people paranoid, isolated and less trusting. But access to the wrong information and too much of it can make a person downright mean.


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