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.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).
Sometimes you feel a situation developing and you know you are ready-physically, emotionally, spiritually-to cope with it.
It was a normal, busy, Monday afternoon, emergency appointments, missed appointments, phones ringing, customers waiting, the typical blur of an automotive shop. "Mark, service on line 1," came over the PA system for the 74th time. "Good Morning, this is Mark." "Hi," came a short ice breaker from my new female caller. "I have heard a lot about your garage and I would like to get a price for a part on my 1987 Nissan Stanza." "What part is it?" I asked? "A fuel injector, I need a price for a fuel injector," she said. I don't know about you, but when a customer calls requesting a price on a specific part, I hear Commander Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation, yell out, "Red Alert!" Generally, this type of question tells me that the customer, or someone else, has already made a diagnosis and/or the vehicle is currently in a shop and the customer has a price objection or is questioning the diagnosis. I knew my next statement would be crucial. So, I fired away. "What makes you think you need a fuel injector?" "Well, my car is at a garage now and my mechanic said I need a fuel injector. I want to know how much you would charge to put in a fuel injector." "Miss, I would rather not give you a price on a fuel injector over the phone because of several reasons," I explained. "If I give you the price and you bring your car in and have me install it, there is a chance you may still leave with the same problem you were trying to cure. Also, we never install or recommend a part unless we have performed the appropriate tests on the vehicle and the results of those tests point to a failed part. And besides, we'd rather not drag work out of other shops into our own. As the conversation went on, I advised the customer that if she wanted a second opinion we would accommodate her. However, she would have to pay for the time it would normally take us to diagnose the problem and that our diagnosis could point to the same problem, a different problem, or what we see so often now, more than one problem. I also said that her mechanic was probably right, and that if she had been happy with the work that he had done in the past, she should let him go ahead with his recommended repairs. Calling around to get a price is only a guess, at best. Your technician has diagnosed the car personally and has given you the cost, which is the actual amount you will need to invest in repairing your vehicle.
Whether or not the injector was stuck open, or whether it was being driven open by the computer because of bogus sensor input, I'll never know.
But I do know this: In the end I won. I didn't win a service job. I won one small victory for the automotive industry. One of, I hope, many more to come. It was a step in the right direction. Fifteen years of automotive experience, plus a lot of helpful articles from our industry mentors, Terry Greenhut and Mitch Schneider, came together to answer this customer's questions correctly. Whichever shop that was with that not-so-faithful customer . . . maybe they'll return the automotive industry a favor someday. Wouldn't you?