Thanks to the internet, just about everyone thinks they know everything they need to know about their car when something goes wrong. No longer are they willing to listen to or pay for an experienced mechanic to take care of the problem because... they have already figured out the problem. Or so they think.
A group of mechanics and other professionals in the automative repair industry recently shared some of their worst customer experiences, and it must have been quite cathartic, because anyone and everyone wanted to share their story. Each of the following stories involve some of the most head-scratching interactions with customers. Hopefully we all learn a lesson from these cautionary tales and learn to shut our mouths when taking our cars in for service. All posts have been edited for clarity.
"I work at an auto shop as a service advisor. We are open Saturdays but generally they're pretty slow. It's mostly calls to book appointments and handle oil change traffic or general questions from drop-ins.
I had a pleasant and very short exchange with a customer just a few moments ago - relevant, I'm a young woman in a male-dominated field.
An older guy pulled up with a truck.
Me: 'Hi there, what can I help you with?'
OG: 'Hi, I'm looking for somebody to help me set the computer in my [newer car].'
Me: 'Okay, set what? What are you trying to do?'
OG: 'Forget it! You can't help me!'
He then walked off angrily toward his truck. In an attempt to be somewhat helpful, I called after him (in case he missed the signage and general clues of where he was, as they usually do), 'I'm in the service department, I can answer your question.'
He gave me the typical grumpy-old-man arm flail that usually means 'Forget it, you're just a woman and I'm done here,' and drove away.
These interactions are not rare by any means as Farmer John simply must know more about cars than me, but that one was definitely the fastest I've ticked anybody off.
I never even had time to put down my book."
"This happened about two years ago. I was working in a large store that had an automotive service section. We changed some fluids and tires. That's it.
One time, we had a lady come in with a junker. I thought the thing would fall apart in the shop. So, the driver door was fighting us and we had to climb in through its open window to get into the car. We did not attempt to force the door open in any way.
After shopping, the lady comes back to me to check out and pick up her car. She bought about $200 worth of items. So it took a million years on top of all of the car paperwork.
About five minutes after she left, she walked back in through the door and demanded a manager. I asked what as wrong, and she walked me out to her car. There was a HOLE in the lock of her door. She claimed that we had used a screwdriver to pry open her door!
So I called my manager on his cell, and he walked out there and was as 'surprised' as I was. We checked the security footage, and the LADY PULLED OUT A SCREWDRIVER AND JAMMED IT INTO HER OWN LOCK.
We showed her the footage and promptly called the cops while she vehemently denied it and incessantly accused us.
The techs might look like bad guys, but they treat the cars nicely. So good luck finding fault with them.
The cops were not happy with her. They promptly left with her in the back of their car. I have no idea what happened to her car, though. It was not there on my next shift.
On top of scamming us, she must have done something to tick off the cops."
"A customer came into my key shop and told me that he has locked his keys in the car. Since this was in the '70s, I said, 'No problem, I can pop it open for five bucks.'
Because I had done this a thousand times, it took me about 30 seconds to open the door, and because I had done this a thousand times, I reached in and grabbed his keys before he could. 'Five bucks, please.'
He said, 'No way, 30 seconds work is not worth $5, here is a dollar.'
Me: 'We agreed on five bucks.'
Him: 'Not going to happen. Take the dollar or nothing.'
Me: 'Not a problem, 'nothing' it is.'
Then I tossed his keys on the front seat, hit the locking pin, close the door, and started to walk away.
He said, 'Wait, you can't do that!'
Me: 'I looks like I just did.'
Him: 'Okay, jerk, here is the five bucks.'
Then I said, 'Well, now you want me to open the car twice, so it is now ten bucks, in advance please.'
"Phone lookups are already a pain because of the ever present miscommunication about what part a customer is looking for, several different names all for the same item, and so on. That said, most people understand that mistakes happen over the phone.
I'd been working in auto parts for a few weeks at the time of this story, and I was closing with the manager on duty. We got A LOT of phone calls at that store, so I don't think much of any of them unless there's something exceptionally odd. Most of them are just a basic, 'I need price/availability on a [part] for [year, make, model].'
One day, a lady came in during the last hour of the night. She talked to my manager about a part for her car, but when given the price, she got upset and proclaimed that that was not the price the manager gave her on the phone. She recalled the earlier call and told the lady that she was given a different year/make/model over the phone and gave the price for that part on that car, but this was an entirely different vehicle, so the earlier price quote was invalid.
Rather than accept her mistake, the customer insisted that we override the price of the correct part to the price of the wrong one quoted earlier. This being an absurd request and my manager being a rational lady, she promptly said no. The customer was not having it, though, and kept throwing a fit demanding my manager call the store manager who was frankly either asleep or wasted at that hour. Eventually, my manager gave in and called up the store manager, who apparently said something to the effect of, 'No, why would you even have to call me on a problem like that?'
With that, the customer finally agreed to the price of the item as it was. She paid and left within three minutes after giving us grief for about 20 minutes, all for pretty much nothing."
"I'm sure everyone who has worked retail has experienced those moments where someone with warped confidence made them question if their own social boundaries are out of the norm. This is one of mine.
I'm a female in her mid-20s who manages an auto parts retailer. The other day, someone phoned in requesting a part we didn't list. I told them that I would have to call up some of our suppliers to find it and they could call back a bit later, or if they would rather, we could call them when we found it. He was convinced however that I didn't understand what he was asking for because 'it's a super common part.'
He asked, 'Can't I text you a picture?'
I explained that we used landlines.
'No, obviously, I meant your personal phone number, just give me that and I'll text you.'
I declined and explained for security reasons I could not give him that. Certainly that's reasonable right? I don't know this man, I'm not comfortable giving him my cell number! The kicker for me though? He was appalled that I would not give him my number and called me a number of things before telling me he would complain to corporate about the matter and hanging up. What? Am I out of the loop here? Is that out of line? Apparently so."
"I work at a car dealership as a cashier. When you get your oil changed, I'm the one you pay. I also answer TONS of phone calls all day. Without fail, I get a phone call asking if they can make their car payment to me over the phone. No can do, but we can give them the number to call so they can pay over the phone. Easy enough right?
No. It is not. At least for this guy any way.
Me: 'Thank you for calling, how can I help you?
Guy: 'Yeah, no one told me how to make my first car payment. Can I do that with you?'
Me: 'Unfortunately, we don't take car payments here at the dealership, however, I can give you the phone number to call so you can do it over the phone'
Guy: 'Okay, what is it?'
I started rattling off a phone number when, all of a sudden, the guy interrupted me.
Guy: 'Can you text it to me?'
Reminder, I'm on a land line. I thought I'd misunderstood.
Me: 'I'm sorry, what did you ask for, sir?'
Guy: 'Can you text me the number?'
Me: 'No sir, I can't do that.'
Guy: 'Why not?!'
I was genuinely flabbergasted at this point.
Me: 'Because...I'm on a...land line?'
Me: 'I'm on a phone that's hardwired sir, I can't text you.'
Guy: 'What does that mean?!'
Me: 'I don't have the ability to text you sir.'
G: 'OH MY GOD, I can't believe this. I spend a lot of money at this dealership!'
I end up giving him the number but gave a lot of thought to the idea of figuring out if there was a way to punch people through the phone."
"I had been working in this automotive retail store for around about three years at this point. It was the week after Christmas. Anyone who has worked in retail for a while know that this period is both quiet, and the volume of returns is quite high.
Before Christmas, we always stock the store with toys, this seems to be pretty common practice, even in stores that don't usually sell to kids. The toy that everyone wanted this Christmas was a mini RC helicopter. Our head office sourced some cheap ones from China and we had them in a few weeks before Christmas. Knowing they would likely sell out, I bought one for myself straight away, and proceeded to torture my house mates for the weeks leading up to Christmas, and in the process, I became quite a good pilot. This was to be expected as their age range was 10-12.
Fast forward to early January, a mother with two young boys who couldn't be any older than 8 appeared in the store with a very 'Can I please talk to the manager' face.
Preempting her hostility, I put my best happy mode on, 'What can I do for you ma'am?'
'Yes, I would like to return this toy helicopter, it's faulty.'
'Ok,' I said, 'Let's have a look.'
She pursed her lips as if to say, 'Well, I just want a refund,' but I had already unpacked it before she got to say anything.
My manager on duty was hovering nearby in case a return or any form of escalation was required. On a close inspection, the poor chopper looked like it had a very stressful week or so of life, blades with chunks out of them and a frame slightly wonky. I daresay there wasn't a piece of furniture in their house that'd hadn't been touched by those small plastic blades.
'Ma'am, I can see that it appears to be damaged, Have your kids been flying it properly?'
Her angry response: 'No, They can't fly it properly because it is faulty.'
Me: 'Ok, lets see.'
Before she had a chance to say anything else, I powered the chopper up, the kids must have left some charge in it.
And it was 'batteries included' for the controller too.
I promptly hovered the slightly battered chopper in front of her face, buzzed it around her head and landed it back on the desk in front of her.
I could see her rage and confusion starting to build.
'Ma'am, I'm afraid that as this item is clearly not defective and there is obvious damage to the item. I cannot return it for you. Our return policy clearly states that for a return, goods must be in resalable condition. Was there anything else I could help you with?'
The now dumbfounded mother, mumbled something indistinct, picked up the chopper and left in a huff.
As soon as she left, my manager roared with laughter.
Hopefully next Christmas, she better adheres to the age recommendation on toys she buys her sons."
"I work in auto parts and while most transactions are mundane, we do get some oddballs here and there. One night, a gentleman came in saying he needed a battery, and he brought an old one in. I thought this was great and that I would $150 sale and he already had his core in hand! I saw it was one of our batteries, a two-year unit.
I inquired about it and he said it was a good battery and he had it about a year and a half, but he didn't need that one anymore. The unit he brought was a top post unit, and he now needed a side post unit. That was straightforward enough, so I showed him our side post units and their prices/warranties. He said, 'No, I want to trade this battery for one of those.' This request was, of course, absurd, and I tried to be polite in telling him, 'No, you're a moron, buy something or get out,' but he was not having it.
He insisted I could take that battery back after 18 months of use and resell it as a new one, and all I had to do was give him a new side post unit for it. I ended up having to tell him I couldn't sell that battery and the best I could give him is either a $5 recycle or $18 core credit on it. He then retorted that if he went to any other [our store] that they would accept that deal, as if I'm somehow going to buy that.
Thankfully, he wasn't rude or anything, but he did get rather offended when I told him I can't trade an old battery for a new one. He ended up leaving without buying anything. I still wonder what possessed him to think that idea wasn't absurd."
"I work at a family repair shop. Small town, we're the only ones who do computer work for a good two hours drive. We have large tinted glass doors, and in one of the doors is a light up sign with our hours posted proudly and bright for all to see.
And somehow, SOMEHOW, people can't look at it. Not that its hard to see, but people ignore it with a level of tunnel vision that is almost scary.
I live close by to where I work, so I'm always an hour or two early from when we actually open. And the amount of times I've caught people shaking the doors and trying to see inside with tier faces against the window is infuriating.
One day, my personal phone started ringing at work.
Customer: 'HI! I was wanting to make sure ya'll were open!'
I looked at the clock and it read 8:30. I looked at the one-way glass door and some lady was there with a dumb grin on her face, trying to see inside the store.
Me: 'Ma'am, we don't open until 10:30.
Customer: 'Oh, ok!'
Me: 'And how did you get this number? This isn't a work number. -click-'
About 30 minutes later, another person came up, shook the doors, peered inside, and left. I was getting pretty irate now, and I printed out a BIG sign with STORE HOURS and a big arrow pointed to the flashing sign five inches to the left.
Another 30 minutes passed and another person was shaking the door, trying to see if magically someone was there early just for them, and peeking through the crack in the door trying to get attention.
Then a fourth person just stood there for 15 minutes, staring at the sign like it had wronged him before finally leaving.
I was so glad it was Friday."
"I've worked as a car prep for a national car rental company for five years. I don't have much customer interaction, but what I get is occasionally memorable.
This tale happened in the first month I started working, which would be still in the hot embrace of summer. Summer months at car rentals are insanely busy, and on top of that, I was a new hire, struggling to keep up. I thought I knew how to clean cars, but I didn't know how to clean cars 'their' way.
So, there I was, waist deep in the back seat of a car vacuuming, when my vacuum suddenly shut off. I got out of the car to investigate and found out it was my assistant manager who turned it off (I hated when she did that).
AM: 'Do you remember cleaning a red car Monday?'
Me: 'I don't remember what cars I cleaned this morning.'
AM: 'Well, a customer said she found a pill under the driver's seat and she said she's suing because she could have been stopped by police and arrested if they searched the car.'
And with my response, the assistant manager turned and walked away without another word and I went back to vacuuming."
"I work for a car dealership on the service side. We often get people ringing shouting because they've been with us for 12 years with the same car and now it has an issue and we should fix it for free. Obviously, I can sympathize and we help people out (unless they're really rude), but then there are the people who have never used us. The people who turn up one day with a broken down car screaming because although they've never been to you before you should drop what you're doing and fix it.
Alas this story comes from a phone call I had and this is how the conversation went. We'll call him angry car guy, AGC for short.
ME: 'Good morning, you're through to [CAR DEALER]. How can I help?'
AGC: 'Umm hi, I have an [INSERT CAR BRAND] and it has a problem.'
ME: 'Okay, can you tell me a little more about the issue?'
AGC: 'Well, it has a problem with the brakes. When I'm braking, it judders and it's obviously not safe to drive.'
ME: 'Have we seen the vehicle before? I'll just bring it up on my syste-'
AGC: 'No? Don't see why that matters.'
ME: 'Okay. Before we go on then, can I take your registration number, so I can have a look at the vehicle?'
AGC: 'Excuse me, but I need to know is this something you're going to fix for free?'
ME: 'Well, do you have any manufacturer's warranty?'
AGC: 'No, it's 5 years old.'
ME: 'Okay, do you have any extended warranty from another dealer?'
AGC: 'I don't see why you're asking me all these questions, but no, I've had it since it was new.'
ME: 'Then if you have no warranty, you will have to pay for it to be fixed. We can book it in for an investigation and find the problem and then proceed from there.'
AGC: 'Oh, just get bent. If you're not going to fix a problem that's your fault, then why would I come to you? You're just desperate to make money out of me, you know my dad used to be a mechanic, so I'm not stupid. I'll be making a complaint about this to your head office and I will never be using you in the future.'
And he hung up because I wouldn't fix his 5 year old car for free. That had never been in to us. And most likely needed work doing that was down to wear and tear."
"I work in a car parts chain store that has a few thousand locations across Canada. Each one shares the same name, but each store is individually owned and operated. This being said, products and services may vary.
One day, I was at the desk when an old man walked in. He looked around for a few minutes and eventually came up to me and asked for a few keys to be copied. I always look at the keys beforehand, to ensure that I can actually duplicate them, because some keys we can't. I noticed that one of the ones he wanted was one for a government issued mailbox.
Now, until a few years ago, it was illegal to duplicate these, and you had to go to the post office to get a copy. However, even though it's not illegal anymore, our store never got blanks to copy them. I then told the old man that I was unable to make this copy.
Me: 'I'm sorry, I unfortunately can't cut this mailbox key.'
Old Man: 'Well, you should be able to, they aren't illegal anymore.'
Me: 'Yes, I know, but we never got the key blanks to copy them. Would you like me to do the rest of these?'
Old Man: 'Well, no I want the mailbox one done too. The store in (other town) did it for me no problem.'
Me: 'Well, each store is individually owned and operated, so the selection may vary. Unfortunately, our store owner has decided not to do these.'
Old Man: 'Well, I don't believe that. I think you're either stupid or lying to me.'
Me: 'I'm not stupid or lying to you. Why would I lie about that? If you're going to keep talking to me like that though, I'm going to stop serving you.'
The old man angrily picked up his keys off counter and stormed off yelling, 'Oh, now I know, you're a flipping idiot. I don't want your help anyway!'
Jeez. Just over keys. I can understand you're frustrated, but really?"
"I have been in and out of the automotive retail industry for the past seven years. This one comes from a time at a big chain automotive aftermarket parts store. I have many stories of disgruntled customers but I like to tell this one particularly.
The customer came in and was obviously irritated that he has to even speak to a person.
Customer: 'I need wipers for my car. I don't think you will have them, it's a BMW.'
Me: 'We probably do we have adapters for all sorts of cars, what year make and model is it?'
Customer: 'It's a BMW.'
Me: 'We have a couple of different brands that will fit that car. Do you want to take a look at your options?'
Customer: 'No, just give me the best ones.'
Me: 'Ok, the Rain-X latitudes are the best we have, would you like me to install them for you.'
Customer: 'I can put my wipers on myself, I'm not an idiot.'
Me: 'Ok, that will be $54.95.'
Customer: '$54.95 for a set of wipers?'
Me: 'You said you wanted the best ones.'
The customer went out to his car, installed the wipers himself, and honestly, he installed them correctly. Then he came back into store.
Customer: 'I just paid $50 for these wipers and they suck. You recommended them and I want a refund.'
Me: 'Can you show me what the problem with them is? Most people are really happy with those.'
We walked out to his car and noticed that he had failed to remove the plastic cover on the actual wiper blades before he tried them out. He showed me how bad they were with his washer fluid. I walked to the side of his car and pulled the covers off.
He was speechless."