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In The Shop: Is TMI A Bad Thing?

Published on: 19:47PM Mar 01, 2011

 Another business ethics discussion during coffee break today, this time about whether or not it benefits customers to be given absolute knowledge about every aspect of a potential repair.

The issue was an older planter, with a badly weather-checked and corroded seed monitor wiring harness. My policy has been to give customers in that situation as much information as possible, provide them as many options as possible, then allow them to choose the course of action. In this case, I would tell the customer the harness needs replaced and offer them all the options possible, including a completely new harness (possibly up to $1000 or more in parts and labor), anaftermarket harness, or, the low-cost option--cut out the damaged portion of wire along the planter's tongue and splice in a new section for a total cost of less than $300.

A co-worker who I highly respect disagrees with offering the customer so many options. His attitude is, "We're being paid to offer him top-quality repairs, so the only thing we should mention are the best ways to fix it. To suggest simply patching and splicing is stop-gap. It might work, or it might just stress weak parts in the rest of the harness and we'll end up replacing the whole thing in the middle of planting season." His contention is that it is a disservice to the customer to offer to patch and splice because, "You're just tempting him to do the wrong thing by offering a cheap fix that you can't promise will permanently fix his problem."

So. Is it ethical to ignore cheap alternatives, if those alternatives are not in the customer's best, long-term interest? If we fix it cheap, and then have to fix it again (and again) later this spring, wlll the customer remember that it was he who initially chose the cheapest option? Or is it better to man-up, tell the customer he needs to spend at least $1000 to plant his 300 acres of crops this year, and trust that he will respect us for acting in his best, long-term interest?

Is it possible for a mechanic to offer a customer TMI (Too Much Information)? 

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