The Japanese have a saying, “In the US the customer is king, but in Japan the customer is God”. Here, I suspect it may be “The customer is (unprintable)”.
One of the challenges of taking your vehicle to a garage is not knowing the terminology used by mechanics, especially as they are notorious for using customers' ignorance to charge as much as they like. But the challenge becomes doubly daunting when it's not your language. So, since I bought a second-hand scooter 18 months ago I'd been deliberately cultivating a relationship with a nearby garage in order to avoid situations like the one below.
I had the back tyre replaced in late December because the garage said it was worn and might not pass its February MOT, or ITV. Come the day of the MOT, however, the scooter fails due to having the wrong type of tyre on it.
Back at the garage, I'm told they're going to have to charge me for a new tyre. “No, you put the wrong tyre on, it's your fault,” I counter. “But we replaced it with exactly the same type of tyre that was on it before,” the mechanic argues. Then I remember they had also put the previous tyre on when I first bought the scooter. I duly point this out. “Well, you took it to the wrong MOT place”, comes the reply. Now, I hadn't been prepared for any argument at all, let alone this particular doozie. The wrong MOT place? The mechanic continues, “If you'd gone to the MOT place de tota la vida on Diputació (which is where, attentive readers will remember, my car recently failed its MOT due to having the wrong tyres!), they'd have passed it. But you took it to the place on Còrsega, i allà fan coses d'aquestes”. What, like checking you have the right tyres on your bike? Another mechanic suddenly appears from nowhere to assure me I'm wrong and they're right. Realising they aren't going to back down and that I need to get to work, I negotiate a deal whereby I only pay for the discounted tyre without labour costs, and leave with the promise the scooter will be ready by the evening. I spend the rest of the day thoroughly perplexed that they are willing to risk losing a good customer and their reputation over a €50 tyre. After all, one negative - coherently written - comment on a website is enough to put future customers off.
When I return later, it takes me a full five minutes of non-stop talking before I finally hit on the magic words that make them hand over the keys without charging me: “legally obliged”. Perhaps I should have tried “Llibre de reclamacions” as well. I was a good customer, not just a walk-in, so here's my question: are garages the same everywhere, or is this an example of how customers are treated in my adopted culture? The Japanese have a saying, “In the US the customer is king, but in Japan the customer is God”. Here, I suspect it may be “The customer is (unprintable)”. That's my answer for you. And no, I won't be going back.