Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE
Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the
ASE L1 certification, and has an associates
degree in business management.
(Printed in the Journal
of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers,
It all began on a typical busy Monday morning. A pile of paperwork on my desk was staring at me from the preceding weekend. In addition, there were phone calls to return, parts invoices to expense, a new car shipment to check in, etc. It was the typical beginning to a new work week. As I went through the ominous pile on my desk, an invoice caught my attention. The invoice was a copy of a service repair order from another dealership. My brother had made a small notation at the top of the invoice: "Mark: Check out these prices!" Right after the exclamation point was a little smiley face that he had also penciled in. I knew immediately that this was going to make for some interesting reading.
As it turns out, our customer, and owner of a 99 VW Golf, had come in to have us check some service recommendations. Another dealership had made some service recommendations and the customer wanted us to follow up on the needed items. My brother had inspected the VW Saturday while I was off for the weekend.
The dealership invoice stated: "Starter is making a noise when starting, $480.00. Serpentine belt is cracked and dry rotted, $165.00. Car is due for 40k service, $465.00. Left front center cap is missing, $35.00. Exhaust bracket is broken, $75.00, Repair play in lower radiator mounts, $187.00. Customer has declined services at this time."
Now I could see why the customer wanted a second opinion. Let's face it. Were talking about $1,400.00 in possible services here.
Since I was not in the shop Saturday, I was intrigued as to what my brother had found. I pulled up the customer's invoice in our system for that preceding Saturday. Our invoice was two pages long and the content was interesting. We had inspected the starter motor and measured its draw in amps. No problem or noise was found with the starter. We inspected the serpentine belt. The serpentine belt was not new but lacked any visible cracks or dry rot. It was noted that the belt could be replaced at some future service if the customer wanted. The estimate we gave to replace the belt was $62.23. We inspected the car for the 40k service. The Alldata showed that the 40k service consisted of the replacement of the oil and filter, air filter, spark plugs, a tire rotation and a few other routine inspections. We inspected the exhaust and observed the broken bracket. Since the location did not yield enough room for a clamp, a muffler shop was recommenced for an inexpensive re-weld of the bracket. The lower radiator mounts did have some slight play but nothing to warrant replacement in our opinion. In the end, our invoice totaled $64.15.
Had the customer decided to do the 40k service, the invoice total would have been higher but surely not anywhere near $1,400.00. I guess our customer was lucky in that they got out of a potentially expensive situation, pretty inexpensively.
It's always tough being in the "second opinion" position knowing that you might have to disagree with another service provider. Ok, you don't want to point fingers but what should you really do? What should you tell the customer? In the end, it does not matter if your opinion is in agreement or not with the other shop. It also does not matter if you are more expensive or less expensive. All you can do is be honest and to the point. Every shop and every technician looks at each car differently. Our industry is not an exact science. Some shops recommend certain services that other shops may not. Some shops compensate their technicians with a percentage of sales while others do not. All these variables can add up to the over selling or under selling of automotive service.
Focus on the positive factors in the situation with your customers and send them on their way.