...goes a long way, especially when I'm thinking about brands, brand management and the power of brands to build successful organizations and careers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Brand ownership moment in a garage

In no other business, in my humble opinion, is brand more clearly defined as a reputation than in the auto repair business.

That's a sensitive subject today because I took our 2000 Town and Country Van in for an oil change and a brake inspection and found out that I need new brakes. If I really do need brakes, it's better to know now than as we roll down a mountain in Colorado next week. If I don't really need brakes, it's par for the course for an industry that carries plenty of dubious baggage.

I say this because I've been spoiled. We had a great mechanic: Randy was trustworthy, neighborly, and fair. He would tell us when we didn't need to do anything to the car. He was typical small-town America and we never once questioned his judgement or his estimate of what was needed to keep our family vehicles safe. He closed up his shop a month or so ago, and went to work repairing a company's fleet vehicles, much to the dismay of his loyal customer base, of which we were one household. Now, we're back at the mercy of an industry that gets intself on 60 Minutes about every two or three years because it performs so poorly and instills such little trust in its customers.

Today, I took the van to the local Tuffy franchise near my office. The owner was cordial, and several in our office had experienced good service from them in the past, but I still had more than a little trepidation when I heard the estimate.

Just last week, I took our 98 Lumina in for an oil change and the manager tried to upsell me on several fluid system flushes that would cost about $250. Now, I've never changed those other fluids and it was entirely believable that they needed flushed, but he'd never mentioned that during previous oil changes. And those services are on sale this month! One coworker said they almost always find $300 worth of work that needs to be done, and always say you need a serpentine belt. The estimate from fixing my brakes was $372. And the 129,000-mile Lumina would soon need a serpentine belt, he told me last week.

I really don't think they're taking me, but I just don't know for sure. I just think it's an unfortunate coincindence: My brakes need work and Randy's not there to take care of it. And the industry's brand got in the way. I hope this place proves me wrong.

Flickr photo from Jon Haynes

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