"What I'd Do" Depends on Who You Are

Published on: 20:08PM Sep 28, 2008
'Tis the season when mechanics frequently hear, "What would you do if it was yours?" from customers trying to decide on repairs to their equipment.

A co-worker says there is only one answer to that question: "Fix it right, no matter what it costs." By "right" he means replacing all damaged parts, all worn parts, and all questionable parts. His reasoning is that by replacing every possible source of future problems, he gives his customer a "new" machine with maximum chance for problem-free operation.

But there is more than one kind of "right" when it comes to repairing equipment. What if the customer doesn't want or can't afford the equivalent of a "new" machine? I've got enough farmer genes in me to know that a little cobbling, a little patching, or some creative work with a welder and hammer can often provide economical, long-lasting repairs. So when a customer asks, "What would you do if it was yours?" I have to pause and reflect on what I know about the customer.

Is he someone who expects no downtime and will come unglued if his machine requires even minor repairs in the future? Will he look for a scapegoat if stopgap repairs fail before the end of the season? Or is he the sort of fellow who is comfortable with occasional downtime as long as he doesn't have to pay full price for all new parts and extensive repairs? 

There are times, when customers ask me, "What would you do if it was yours?", that I respond, "All new parts, no matter what it costs." I know from experience that those customers demand 100 percent reliability and performance from a repair job, and will loudly lay blame to the mechanic if anything goes wrong. Other customers--the kind who prefer "creative" repairs and weigh the trade-off between economy and a 100 percent lifetime guarantee--may hear suggestions on ways to sidestep full-scale repairs and their corresponding expense.

It's a risky proposition. The goal is to give each customer the repairs that best fit his needs and personality. When things go right the customer appreciates the mechanic's ability to save time and money through creative repairs, and the mechanic is a hero. But there are other times when misunderstandings and "faulty memories" about who okayed what kind of repairs make the mechanic the villain who failed to do his job correctly.

Those are the times when I swear to never again offer creative, economical options to customer's mechanical problems and adhere strictly to my co-worker's policy of, "Fix it right, no matter what it costs."