Monday, July 9, 2012

Another "Brake"

Last August, we had the ABS sensors on the van replaced.

Then, back in May, one went bad.  Because it was under warranty, i took it back to Kevin and Louis at my favorite shop for smaller repairs.  They've always done it right, and done only what was needed, and told me when i needed the services of Mr. D, who is set up to do larger repairs.

They replaced it at no charge, and told me if the other went bad, to bring it back.

Over the last two weeks, the symptoms of a bad ABS sensor started up again, so i figured out a day when i could actually get over there.  Of course, when i pulled in, it wasn't acting up.  After all, that would make life too convenient, for it to need work on a day when i didn't need to be running clear from here to the next town and back and no way to use the other cars if need be.  They said the codes showed a past history of trouble, but nothing current, and to bring it back in later in the week if it started again.

It started again and the dummy light came on as i pulled the van back into my driveway, so i turned right around and went straight back.  Pulling directly into an open bay, i got out, left the engine running, and yelled to Kevin and one of the mechanics, Ron, "As my Sweetie would say, if i'm lying, my daddy's a possum!  That light came on as soon as i pulled up to my house, you come see it for yourself!"

They came and saw it for themselves, and hooked up the computer without turning off the engine.  Sure enough, it was the other sensor gone bad, still under warranty (by about a month! phew!), they would replace it right away, and again, no charge.

Waiting for the work to be done, i got to do a few puzzles in a Penny Press puzzle book i brought along, and people watch, and talk to Louis.  It was interesting.

First, in came a nice lady who said she wanted an oil change.  "It's a used car, but new to us, and it's only a 2011," she said.  "It also says it still has 50% of its oil life left, but we are about to drive on vacation to South Carolina and be gone for two weeks, so I wanted to get it done, make sure everything is okay before we go.  Also, I've been reading the manual, and it says it has to have synthetic oil."

Louis told her that he was amazed, very few people read the owner's manual, he was impressed.  He also said that it doesn't really require synthetic, that synthetic doesn't help it run better.  She seemed inclined to argue the point until he told her that a synthetic oil change was between $90 and $120, depending on the synthetic chosen and how many quarts it needed.

"How much!" she yelled in disbelief.  While her jaw was still hanging agape, he told her that she would do better to have a regular 5W30 change and have an additive put in.  Less than half the cost of the synthetic, and does the same thing.

She agreed, and left with her husband in the car he was driving.  As i smiled up at Louis after her retreat, i noted that people really don't expect such prices.

"No, they don't", he agreed, then added, "but they also don't realize there's very little margin in the stuff.  An entire oil change, or anything else we do, only has a small profit margin.  I was a manager in this business for 35 years, even worked directly for GM, and I got tired of having to worry about things like how to get enough to make payroll, and rent, and electricity, and everything else.  Now, I'm not in management, and so I don't have to worry about anything but taking care of the customers."

At that point another customer pulled up, towing a boat, and came in.  "I need some boat trailer tires," he said.  Louis smiled and joked, "About ten of them, right?" and the man laughed.  "Only 4 today," he replied.

Louis went out to see what kind of tire it was, specifically, then came back in and checked his computer.  "I have that model," he said, "and I happen to have 6 in stock, so I can get you out of here in about an hour.  The tires are $98 each, plus $8 installation and the mandatory state used tire disposal fee."

The man did a good imitation of the lady who had been quoted the price on the synthetic oil earlier.  "Wow!" was all that came out of his wide open mouth.

"Yes," Louis said.  "When I went into this business, you could have bought all four of them for that."

The gentleman agreed to everything, disengaged his truck from the trailer after backing the trailer into a bay, and left.

Louis picked up where he had left off.  "People don't realize we are making less than $15 a tire off of that.  Our mark up is really not that remarkable.  That's why we also have to charge the other stuff, so we can make payroll and pay the rent."

"I once worked for an owner who would come in, open the register, and if there were any $100 bills in there, take them out.  So we managers used to hide them.  Because even thought it was his his money and he could do that if he wanted, at the end of the day it would show up as a cash shortage at the register, and be taken out of profits.  Since our pay was based on profits, really it was costing us!"

That, i noted, is a business man who won't be in business long.

"You're right, he isn't.  The owner should be the hardest worker in the place.  Take those little quick oil and lube places around town that closed about two years ago.  The owner was a franchisee, and he wouldn't pay his people enough to get good help, and the quality of the work was so poor the business just dried up.  He was in it to suck the profit out of it, nothing more.  That's what some of these people do, they buy themselves a franchise or two and think they own the world and can spend it all any way they want."

"The owner here," he went on, "is at the other store, the bigger one, every single day.  He is there to serve his customers and his employees, and makes sure things are going well.  He does great.  His kids, though, are spoiled.  Once they get it, they will run it into the ground.  They aren't in the business to serve well, and be rewarded with earning money.  They just want to take the money."

At that point, another lady walked in and asked for an oil change.

Louis looked on his computer at her last name.  "You just had one back at the beginning of June.  Are you sure you need it again so soon?" he asked.

"It's not the time, it's the mileage," she responded.  "I went out of town and I've put over 3,000 miles on it."

"Okay," Louis responded.  "It's not that I don't want to sell you an oil change, I just wanted to make sure you really needed it.  It seemed like it was too soon."

At that point, my vehicle was done.  No charge, as i said.

Not wanting to do unneeded work.  Honoring warranties.

All i know is, i hope the owner lives forever.

Today is

Call of the Horizon Day -- can't find any history on this one, but if the idea of following your dreams over the Horizon has ever called you, take the time to follow today!

Constitution Day -- Australia; Palau

Constitutionalist Revolution Day -- São Paulo, Brazil

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Omelet Day

Feast of Our Lady of Chiquinquira (Patron of Colombia; the Venezuelan National Guard)

Independence Day -- Argentina(1816)

International Town Criers Day

Kaustinen Folk Music Festival -- Kaustined, Finland (the largest international music festival in the Nordic countries, through the 15th)

Kimberly International Old-Time Accordion Championships -- Kimberly, BC, Canada (through the 14th)

Martyrdom of the Bab -- Baha'i

Muffler Appreciation Day -- if you've ever had a loud vehicle, you will understand why someone started this one

National Sugar Cookie Day -- what could be simpler or more versatile?  make them plain or make them fancy, but be sure you make enough!

Nunavut Day -- NU, Canada

Offerings to Heru and Amun -- Ancient Egyptian Calendar (day Heru hears prayers in the presense of the Netjers; date approximate)

Sempach Battle Commemoration -- Lucerne, Switzerland (remembrance of the battle in 1386 includes a solemn procession to the battlefield and services in the chapel)

Shiman Rokusen-nichi -- Sensou-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo (Day of 46,000; a visit to the temple on this day through tomorrow credits you the same as visiting 46,000 times on ordinary days)

St. Mary Hermina Grivot's Day (Patron of martyrs)

Uniwaine Day -- Kiribati (Elderly Men Day)

Birthdays Today

Mitchel Musso, 1991
Kiely Williams, 1986
Fred Savage, 1976
Jack White, 1975
Courtney Love, 1964
Kelly McGillis, 1957
Tom Hanks, 1956
Fred Norris, 1955
Jimmy Smits, 1955
John Tesh, 1952
Chris Cooper, 1951
Mitch Mitchell, 1947
O.J. Simpson, 1947
Richard Roundtree, 1942
Ed Ames, 1927
Elias Howe, 1819

Today in History

Roman  military commander Avitus is proclaimed emperor of the Western Roman Empire, 455
Henry VIII annuls his marriage to Anne of Cleves (his 4th wife), 1540
In Versailles, the National Assembly reconstitutes itself as the National Constituent Assembly and begins preparations for a French constitution, 1789
The Act Against Slavery is passed in Upper Canada and the importation of slaves into Lower Canada is prohibited, 1793
The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified guaranteeing African Americans full citizenship and all persons in the United States due process of law, 1868
In Provident Hospital on Chicago’s South Side, black surgeon Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first successful open-heart surgery, 1893
Queen Victoria gives royal assent to an Act creating the Commonwealth of Australia thus uniting separate colonies on the continent under one federal government, 1900
Johnny Weissmuller swims the 100 meters freestyle in 58.6 seconds breaking the world swimming record and the 'minute barrier', 1922
The Russell-Einstein Manifesto is released by Bertrand Russell in London, 1955
In a seminal moment for pop art, Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans exhibition opens at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, 1962
Margaret Thatcher begins her second term as British prime minster, 1982
South Africa is readmitted into the Olympic movement after 30 years of exclusion, 1991
The African Union is established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2002
South Sudan gains independence and secedes from Sudan, 2011


  1. rare rare.
    with cars and a/c repairmen (they seem to shout YOU NEED FREON here as soon as they exit their van. no matter what :-))

  2. Who would've known that I would so thoroughly enjoy a blogger's story about oil changers and car repairs. Will there be a other chapter??? ;)

    Instead of a grand day for "eggs in omelets", mine fell onto the floor. Was dumb & tried to break its fall with my foot. Stupid move.

  3. It sounds like you've found a great place to bring your car. We had a similar experience when we brought ours to the dealership and they told us it was unsafe unless we put three thousand dollars into it. We found a specialist who gave us the real lowdown. The car only needed three hundred dollars worth of work.

  4. Miz, A/C gets us, too.

    Josie, i'm glad you enjoyed it. Whether or not there's another chapter will depend on the van.

    Stephen, it's shameful how mechanics will be so dishonest.