The Catch-As-Catch-Can Life and Business

A friend of mine had recently shared a frustrating experience. The story was not uncommon, and I have heard variations of it before. This particular experience had my friend face an auto mechanic who tried to convince her that her five years old car was in dire mechanical shape, and required urgent costly repairs. Following days of arguments and digging through old service records that painted a different picture of the vehicle, my friend finally lost trust in the mechanic and took her car to a different shop. The mechanic at the new shop gave the car a thorough inspection, but could not find any evidence to the claims made by the first mechanic. The car was declared to be in fine shape and safe to drive.

Why did the first mechanic claim false repairs needed for the car? Those unneeded repairs only caused emotional stress and loss of time to my friend. And what about the mechanic, his time and reputation? He kept on a confrontational course that could have, and ultimately was, easily refuted by checking the vehicle’s service records (and later by the other mechanic). That course caused him to lose a client, the lost cost of keeping a shop bay needlessly occupied for several days, and perhaps some embarrassment. Was the mechanic motivated by greed, poor technical judgment, or by the fact he faced a woman customer?

I will begin by refuting the third possibility. I have heard similar accounts from both women and men, and I admit to personally experiencing similar situations at varying service stations, some of them verge on the ridiculous. I do have some knowledge and experience with car care, and over the years made numerous repairs to my cars. From tune-ups, belt replacement and bodywork to breaks replacement. With all that I too walked away from more than one shop, vowing to never return, after experiencing dishonest and duplicitous service.

I also have to dismiss the second option. The gravity of the mechanical failure and its possible consequences as described by the mechanic, compared with the facts revealed by the service record and by the second mechanic, leave little for dispute. The recommendations he made were based on fabricated facts, which should not have been used as a professional advice.

We are left with the first option – greed. But why? Greed alone cannot be sufficient to encourage such behavior. Anyone who would operate through that channel alone will find themselves exposed and discarded by their clients and peers. Given my own experiences in the area, I cannot label all those people as crooked. To the contrary, I found most of them to be honest professional people.

The answer may lie elsewhere, and could be simpler than expected – because they can. These people face a situation they perceive as low risk/high yield, and take advantage of it. If the customer agrees to their recommendations, they made an easy sale. If the customer resists, at least they tried. They may feel they operate from a position of strength, where a deceived customer can easily be replaced by a new one. Such boldness may also be born in a misguided sales incentives structure. A manager who is focused on high-ticket sales numbers to gain favorable reviews and salary bonus may neglect customers’ loyalty. Regardless of the motivation, mistrust among their customers grows, and their base becomes dominant with floating customers – deal chasers who are looking for a good price where they – who edge out loyal customers who establish a relationship with a single shop.

This phenomenon is not unique to the business of car care. Many other professions, perhaps all of them, are marred with catch-as-catch-can practitioners. It is a given human trait that contributes to it, the drive we all possess, to advance ourselves, to excel and succeed. The only true variant in this phenomenon is its proliferation and discoverability.

How often are you a victim of such a situation?

How often are you the perpetrator of such behavior?

As disappointing and despicable this behavior is, it encompasses the entire human race. We all take part in and contribute to it, as both gullible victims and conniving perpetrators. We all choose our position, either as an uneducated or unassisted customer, or a bad-faith service professional. Curtailing this behavior requires a few simple steps:

  • Know your weaknesses and take steps to strengthen them before you enter a situation that exposes your vulnerabilities. Take a look at your life and address those flaws that affect you as a victim or a perpetrator in such situations.
  • Educate yourself with enough knowledge that will prepare you to communicate intelligently with the service provider. You do not have to become an expert on the subject, but even some elementary learning will help you hold an equal conversation and make better-informed decisions.
  • Have someone you can rely on assist you in the situation. When you feel you do not have enough knowledge to continue the conversation excuse yourself and consult with your advisor. Your decisions will be better informed, your confidence will be on par, and your service provider will realize you cannot be led off-trail into shady territory.
  • On the other side of the terrace, take steps to strengthen your values, and work on not letting yourself get lured in by darker forces. After the last customer leaves your shop, whichever kind it may be, you will still have to face yourself in the mirror each day. Do not disappoint that person you are looking at.

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