The First Hurdle

Words by: Shannon Wendell

I thought the hardest part was getting the job at the busiest shop in the area. I had no idea what I was in for this day. It was a day that would change the way I look at my job forever. As I shut off the ignition, and gather my things, and begin my mantra. I can totally do this! I shut and lock the door, and begin walking into my next adventure.

I am greeted by my new manager who flashes me his rehearsed smile, which surprisingly calmed my nerves. He provides me a quick rundown before showing me to my station. Within a few minutes, the doors are unlocked and in come my very first customers.

A woman and her son approach, by the looks of them, you can see it’s been a rough morning. She got a flat tire on the way to school. They are late, and her son has a project to present to the class. She’s frazzled, but relieved to be working with a woman. I assure her to the best of my ability that we will get her on the road again as soon as possible.

It’s been a few minutes since her car was pulled into the bay so I take a walk back to see what can be done. I haven’t had a chance to introduce myself to any of the technicians and its obvious there are some who are happy to see a woman, and some that aren’t. But that is a story in itself so moving on.

After speaking with the tech, and seeing the tire it’s painfully obvious that it cannot be repaired. The sidewall has been damaged by being driven flat. Great, just what she wanted to hear, NOT!

I know she isn’t going to like the news. I hate telling people it’s more then they hoped. So I put on my happy face and hope she takes it well.  I break the news to her, she agrees to replace the tire, and she is back on the road in a fairly short amount of time.

My day carried on somewhat uneventfully until late afternoon. I am at my station completing my work orders when a man appears. He’s visibly anxious, so I am hesitant to introduce myself and ask if he needs any help. Without warning, he lounges forward; hands stretched out reaching for my throat and shouting something about taking advantage of his wife.

I jolt backward out of his reach and my mind races to connect the dots. Then it clicks, this must be the husband of the women I worked with earlier. Confusion sets in again, because well, I do honest work. I’ve never sold anything someone didn’t need. And furthermore, I am a woman myself, why would I ever take advantage of another? I can see my manager coming towards us. He’s worried, and wants to deescalate the situation. I want to show him that I can handle anything, so I put a hand up to say that I got this. While maintaining my calm, I ask the man if he would like to see why I recommended to replace the tire. He’s still angry but agrees and follows me to the tire pile out back.

His face softens as he sees the damage to the tire, and begins to apologize profusely. The question begs to be asked. Why? Is it because I am a woman? Is it because he has been burned by other people before, leaving him to question every time his vehicle enters the shop?

This is a big problem for the auto repair industry. Creating and maintaining the trust between those who repair cars, and those who need their cars repaired, is crucial in our success. I strive every day to make sure my customers are informed about the estimate on both cost and time. I educate them regarding the repairs needed and make sure they understand why these things are important. I want them to feel comfortable with us. Believe it or not, we are here to help people. We are not just in the business of making money. It truly is a shame, that some have brought such awful misconceptions to all of us in this industry. There are still honest and hardworking people striving for quality work and customer satisfaction.

It can be very easy to be offended by customers with trust issues. After all, it wasn’t you who burned them. But this is your opportunity to show them that there are shops worth trusting out there. We are not all crooks, and it takes people like us to prove it.