Becky Witt: What’s the catch? Learn to smile & take the money

Becky Witt

So, a strange person shows up at your shop and offers you 50 bucks extra to do something that only takes 15 minutes. It is a simple task. Actually it’s within the realm of stuff you do every day. They are willing to pay you 200 bucks an hour, cash money for just a little job.

You step back.

For 200 bucks an hour, there has to be a catch.

‘Too good to be true?’

Remember the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true…?”

No, there has to be a catch.

“Am I on Candid Camera?” you ask, head cocked to one side.

I’d be willing to bet that we have all been in this situation, yet we failed to realize that there was no trap. I’d further wager that many of us have refused the money. Despite being reassured that it is no trap, there are no GOTCHAs lurking off camera, we may have walked away, thinking we have done the right thing.

Yes, we puffed out our chest and felt great about saving the world.

Yes, some consumer had the nerve to walk into our shop and ask us to replace some part for them and was willing to pay us to do it.

It may have been new spark plugs, perhaps a battery, yet we decided to try to talk them out of it. We believed that we were acting in the customer’s best interest. We might have even speculated in our own mind that we would be held accountable for some future happening because we did replace the part and it didn’t fix something.

‘What’s the catch?’

There has to be a catch. Yet, many of these same people would gladly sell some worthless wallet flush because they’ve been convinced that it really was a good thing. They’ve been trained to do it this way.

For the good of our industry, we have to STOP believing that OUR values are the only things that matter. We have to understand that it doesn’t matter what WE think. It only matters how the customer views things. No person should need a permit to spend money at an auto service business. If they want to buy a battery once a year, shut up about it. Put in the battery, take the money and thank them.

Every woman knows that, if her car fails to start, that it may become a life-threatening situation. For many men, this may just be another adventure. As car mechanics, many of us see this as a challenge that we revel in solving.

We have tested every battery on every car for several years. We have accumulated data on battery failures over many years and put that data through scientific formulas to determine mathematical probabilities of failure.

In our city, battery failures ramp up dramatically at 39 to 42 months. Therefore, we recommend battery replacement at 36 months as way to help prevent a no-start condition. It’s routine maintenance, like changing oil before it fails.

Proven method

This method has proven to be far more accurate at preventing breakdowns than the “replace when testing indicates” method.

I have had far too many of my customers move out of town, then go to a new service provider asking to buy a battery.

“We’ll test it for you” is the response.

They didn’t ask for a test. They simply want to buy a battery. Period. They want to make a purchase and they don’t care about test results. They didn’t walk on to the set of Monty Python, asking to buy an argument.

I’ve had too many phone calls.

Ask why

It’s perfectly fine to ask why a person wants to buy something. Fine, a single bit of information to be sure of what they want is OK. But, please, for heaven sake, take the money and sell them what they ask to buy. I’ve sold spark plugs at 10,000 miles when I knew their plugs were good for a 100k. It’s not my car, it’s not my money. Make the sale.


People don’t need a permit to make a purchase. You are not selling AR-15s. You’re selling parts and labor.

Here are some phrases you are NEVER to say. “It’s not worth fixing”. It may have tremendous sentimental value. It may have been Grampas car. I was told about a situation where a shop owner told the purchaser of an old Suburban that needed $5,000 worth of work, then used that very phrase. The customer thanked them and left. Later, this same vehicle was seen at a competing shop down the street. Guess what? No permit required there.

‘Take the money’

Make your presentation. Make your recommendation for repairs. Then shut up.

If they say yes, take the money.

It’s also just fine to say that the vehicle isn’t safe to drive and the frame is rusted completely away. That is a statement of fact. It is not a value judgment.

We have to learn the difference. We have to be careful. We have to understand that not everyone shares our values. We have to learn that our values are not the same as other people’s values.

Learn to smile and take the money.

After all, if you had a pizza place, you would never consider refusing to sell a triple meat pizza to someone who appears to be overweight.

No, some decisions are not yours to make.