Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oil Change by Diesel

Now for most women [the first exception to the rule being Susan], taking a car to a mechanic is the equivalent to root canal without Novocaine. But it hurts more. No matter how civilized and progressive the human race has become, if the battle of the sexes is held in a mechanic's garage, a girl feels like she's lost the battle before the war has begun.

Today I had to take my car to get the oil changed. And I left a changed woman.

The place I previously utilized for this necessary evil of an auto procedure came with special glasses for their mechanics. For as soon as a woman walked through the door alone, the glasses rendered her obviously helpless and ignorant. As the female customer's I.Q. points instantaneously leaked out like air in a tire going flat, the special glasses kicked in with their x-ray capabilities which had the power to see exactly how much money she carried in her purse. Like lightning these glasses allowed mechanics to calculate to the penny how much the visit would cost, leaving the woman with exactly $5 in change upon exiting. All before the car had even been pulled into the garage bay. With a smile like a snake oil salesman, a mechanic would approach to note which victim...I mean vehicle...belonged to the lady. I don't know why they asked. They saw you pull up and immediately saw dollar signs. Then they'd point you to a waiting room filled with 4 year old men's sports or outdoor magazines while some disfunctional family aired their dirty laundry on reality t.v. from a corner of the room.

After the 4th time these guys tried to sell me a $100 radiator flush treatment, I decided to go elsewhere. I know I can't put a car back together. But at least I was able to keep myself together when one of these numbnuts actually came inside carrying two vials of fluid.

"This here one is how oil is suppose to look," he began, speaking slowly as I swore I heard the banjo from Deliverance kick in. He held up a clear vial filled with brand new, just out of the can motor oil. "And this here is how yours looks," he grimaced with a disapproving grunt, holding up a second vial filled with a hideous brown color.

It took every ounce of adult in me not to shout at him, "Well of course my oil is dirty you igit! It has 3,000 miles on it, which is why I'm here for an oil change."

I didn't say anything of course. I nodded sagely....oh not to show I was smart, but to make him go away. They back away when you nod. Then he offered me that $100 radiator flush for the 5th time and I said no thanks. Loudly.

After the next 3,000 miles were up, I discovered a new mechanic had set up shop in my small hometown. I knew him. He'd coached baseball on the field behind my center. He KNEW I had an I.Q. and wasn't afraid to use it. So I switched over to him.

There is a reason they say familiarity breeds contempt.

I was use to 15 minute oil changes by the Deliverance guys. This guy "knew" me so he'd talk...forever! My last oil change took an hour and a half. Why? Because he kept stopping to come talk to me. Or answer the phone. Or tell me he'd be right back when some guy came in after I'd already been waiting 30 minutes to see if a wrecker was needed to pull the broken down hearse two blocks away. By the time my buddy the mechanic returned, I was ready to put him in the hearse...with full death benefits. He didn't rip me off financially, but he stole too much of my time.

Today, I went back to the original scene of the crime. Because they're under new ownership.

For the first time in my adult life, I was treated as a valued customer, not a stupid chick. As the guy in charge noted it was the first time he'd seen me, he asked if I'd be so kind to fill out a form with my information. While I did that, he asked the other woman to please come forward to pay her bill so she wouldn't have to wait on me. He addressed both of us as Ma'am in a polite way, without a trace of condescension in his tone. When he explained to the other woman he'd be right back as the printer was broken and he had to return to the fishbowl of a garage to print her receipt there, she merely nodded mutely. I thought she was perhaps in shock from being treated human.

That's when she turned to me with a Cheshire cat grin and said,"Does he have a voice or what? I could listen to that all day."

Okay, so he sounded like Vin Diesel. That hadn't gotten past me either. But he had a LOT yet to prove.

I handed back my form and admitted I wasn't sure if the tag number was correct as I'd only had it for a couple of weeks. He kindly told me not to worry as he would double check it. As he turned to hand the other woman her receipt, she took it, still somewhat awestruck and blurted out,"You have the most wonderful voice!" He looked taken aback for a moment, somewhere between shocked and pleased before he uttered softly,"Why thank you very much."

Yeah Mr. Smooth, so you've got a nice voice, the little voice in my head muttered. You've also got a pair of praying hands tattooed on your neck. I'm not sure if that means you're really tough [cause the neck seems like an awful sensitive spot for that] or if you were up to your neck in trouble then put yourself in God's hands.

When all was said and done, I was pretty sure God had done me a favor.

Full service oil changes around here mean change the oil, check the other fluids under the hood, vacuum the front seat floorboards and maybe check the tire pressure. I always bring a book. The first thing the guy did was check to see that my headlights, blinkers, brake lights and plate lights were in working order.

I put down the book to watch them work.

After a few moments, "Vin" opened the door and kindly asked me to step his way. That little voice in my head asked,"INTO the garage?", which was the most forbidden territory known to woman. "There are a few things I'd like to show you," he added, gallantly holding the door.

Okay, so I couldn't help myself. I actually said out loud,"I thought women weren't allowed into this sacred area."

He laughed. It was a warm, friendly sound, which startled me. I figured a mechanic's laugh would sound like the mustache twirling villains of my youth. He then took me on a tour of my car. Turns out my "3rd" brake light, up on the top of my vehicle was burned out, as were the 2 lights over my license plate. Like a matre'd he told me how much it would cost to replace them there while giving me the option to decline graciously. Next stop was my windshield wipers, which I noted during a DOWNPOUR yesterday would need to be replaced before the next flood the weatherman says is coming this weekend. We continued toward the raised hood, where his arm shot out like lightning to ever so gently cradle my elbow when he walked around something I couldn't see but my foot found the hard way. He pointed out that due to the mileage on my vehicle it was time to consider another procedure, which he did not push on me. Instead he quoted a price and handed me a brochure to share with my husband. No, it wasn't a chauvinist pig move on his part. It was a simple acknowledgement of my instant reply to any attempts to do more during an oil change results in me stating very firmly that oil changes are my job, the rest falls to my husband's care.

As he picked up a meter, I knew we were headed for the dreaded radiator speech. He dipped it in the fluid, then turned to me with a smile and said, "This is just great. Exactly the temperature we want it to be."

I bought the windshield wipers. Any guy who will be truthful in the face of so many past lies deserves some credit.

I was done in less than 20 minutes, including my tour of the car. They did all they were suppose to, plus vacuumed and checked the air pressure in my tires. I watched them. I now trust them because they didn't act as if they had anything to hide. And because "Vin" was man enough to take my decisions at face value. In spite of that girl stuff.

Before I left, I asked for the name or number for their corporate office. He looked puzzled but did not hesitate to provide me with the information. Then I told him why.

"People are always eager to complain but they never take time to say anything good. Good service is hard to find. I think your boss needs to know I found it. And I'll be back."

His reply was a dazzling smile and a most gracious, "Thank you." He then held the door open to let me out before jumping in my car and bringing it to me. We wished each other a nice Memorial Weekend almost simultaneously, making both of us laugh.

Thanks "Vin". I'll be back. And I'll be telling friends. But I don't think I'll tell them about your voice. They'll just claim you somehow hypnotized me.

Truth is, you had me at, "It's your choice."


mapstew said...

It's like the old saying,
'do a good job, I'll tell my friends. Do a bad job, I'll tell everyone'.

It's good to meet people who are honest and trustworthy.

Susan said...

Mmmm... smell that motor oil! LOL

It's so nice to find a place where you can feel respected and listened to. Customer service is a dying art, sadly: I'm glad you found it again!

hope said...

Mapstew it was almost a shock to be treated intelligent. But I got over it. :) And I'll be sure to share the name of that place with others. Especially women.

Susan, not only was this guy grateful I wanted to tell his boss what a fine job he did, he circled two places on my receipt: a number to call and what number to enter for a chance to win $500 in gasoline. I did that, which was a survey, then called headquarters to say job well done. The woman was so pleased, she kept thanking me over and over. Guess no one takes the time to say Thanks any more, huh?

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Good morning Hope,

I think finding a good mechanic is just like finding a good lawyer, electrician or plumber. For every good one out there there are nine looking to exploit a customer (that figure may be low).

Once you do find one, you keep them. I like talking to someone I'm doing business with; getting a feel for the way they do business. More importantly, I like to ask folks I know who they use.

With my car, I take it to the dealer. But a little talking and friendly banter and they can cut you a lot more slack than an independently owned business (my opinion). The lifeblood of any dealership is the Service Department.

If you know a mechanic then you've reached nirvana; that's the motherlode I always look for.

Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. Stop by anytime.

Map's one of my brother's across the water; he's good people.


Peggy said...


Sounds like a dream visit. I used to work in a car dealership....They had their own service and I answered the phone, collected the know. I know what you're saying here. They can be intimidating especially when they talk down to you.
So glad you found a good had to happen, with more women working and making their own decisions, it's only common sense that they would pick up on that change, sooner rather then later.
I missed you too Hope, you're blog is one of my first to read in the morning!

Brighid said...

YeeHa for the excellant service. I have tried for years to get himself to take vehicles in for service. He doesn't get it that they treat the ladies differently.$$$ Same for dry cleaning, mens shirts are way cheaper than ladies. Sooo, I just tell them that they are all mens shirts. Wonder if they think Himself is a cross dresser.

hope said...

Brighid, the shirt thing is hilarious! :) Ah men, they don't know how good they have it sometimes, not having to prove to people they have brains.

Then again, I snuck over to the Boy's Dept. last week to get a pair of tennis shoes. I have small feet, the boy's shoes have a little extra width to them and they're built to last!

Brighid said...

I often shop in the boys shoes section for the same reasons. Plus they are less expensive. Not to worry though, I'm not trading my VS undies for whitey tighties.

hope said...

Amen! :)