My Mechanic 19/09/21

Are you a Mediator who sees potential mediation cases everywhere you go?

Are you a Mediator who sees potential mediation cases everywhere you go? Well I certainly am I went to my local garage the other day to have my car serviced. It’s an old Mercedes SLK 3.5lt V6 and really not worth the high prices for servicing the main dealer charges. It’s been tuned a bit which they don’t like either! My mechanic runs his garage as a one man band. He’s Polish, about 6ft3, 20 stone, shaved head and always has a roll up on the go. Apart from the fact he is a fantastic mechanic and is always happy to look over a minor fault at short notice, he is a really nice chap and I always stop for a chat. Admin and tech are not his thing. He uses an A4 diary to keep track of his work, and paying via card is always a protracted fumbling exercise. I dropped my car off with him as requested at 8am and at 1030 I get a text ‘Car done £95’ The garage is a 10 min walk away (another reason I go there) so I reply, ‘ta, be there after lunch!’.

About 2pm I arrive at the garage to find my supersized mechanic in conversation with what I’m guessing is a new customer. He has a 10 year old Audi A6 and the brake sensor light keeps flickering.‘ Its been doing it for the last week, the dealership fitted new brake pads last week when it was serviced and now they want £50 just to look at it. If it needs a new sensor it’ll be £300 the dealer said’.

‘OK, come over first thing in the morning, I’ll take a look’

‘How much?’

‘Nothing just to look.’

The man looks very surprised and pleased that he can do it so quickly and for free.

‘Do you want my name?’ the man says.

‘No I don’t, see you in the morning!’ my mechanic says roughly.

Surprise again in the man's face and he gets back in his car and drives off.

The mechanic turns to me, removes the cigarette from his mouth and says ‘How are you paying?’

Damn! I’ve forgotten to go to the cash machine!

‘Card, is that OK?’ I say grimacing.

Without saying a word he walks into a wooden cubicle and picks up a small black greasy tablet connected to a card machine.

‘One minute’ he says.

We both know that’s a lie, it’s going to be at least 5 minutes.

‘So how’s everything then?’ I say, open question, tick! I think to myself…. Dale Carnegie and my Mediation mentors would all be proud of me!

The mechanic takes a deep breath...

‘See that car there?’ he says, pauses, points and stares at it. Its white, 20 feet from me and the only car in the well lit garage.

‘Yep’ I say, confident the question doesn’t really deserve a response.

‘Guy brought it in this morning. I serviced it 3 weeks ago, yesterday he calls me and says the back doors don’t unlock with the central locking and he says it’s something I did!’

He shrugs, shakes his head and stares back at his tablet.

‘Surely, it can’t be anything you did?’ I say.

‘No, why would it be?’ he says, ‘it happens all the time. Can’t be anything I did.’ He shrugs again. ‘Ah, put your card in’.

‘That was quick’ I say smiling

‘Put in your pin’ he says, in a way that gives the impression he can’t really believe it’s working

I put my pin in and to everyone’s surprise it works first time. He passes me my typically detailed paid invoice which only reads ‘Oil Service x1 £95’

‘Ta’ I say.

He makes his way out of the wooden cubicle and puts his roll up back in his mouth.

‘You say this happens a lot?’ I ask. Well talk about ‘opening the floodgate.

My mechanic then starts telling me like a man possessed, tale after tale of customers blaming him unfairly for something they think he broke on their cars. One chap had blamed him when his engine had ‘blown up’ 3 months after it was replaced; it was a second hand engine the customer had bought himself from Ebay. Another customer had accused him after his exhaust had come off a week after his car had been in the garage to replace his brake pads. On and on the stories came, until finally a pause...

‘What about your insurance?’ I asked.

‘Not worth it’ he says. ‘I have a £500 excess and then I know the premium will go up next year’

I know my mechanic knows what I do for a living, or at least he knows what my job title is.

‘Have you ever considered mediation?’ I say. ‘Not thought about it’ he says. ‘Is this something you would do?’

‘Yes, look at my website’ and I passed him one of my cards. ‘It’ll explain the process and has our prices on, but I think it might well be worth exploring for some issues.’

Now obviously I can’t possibly mediate a dispute between my mechanic who I’ve known for 10 years and one of his customers. However, this short casual exchange is yet another example how quickly disputes can arise in every aspect of life, and these types of dispute are perfect for mediation resolution.

This kind of dispute could cost my mechanic a valued customer, increase his insurance premiums and potentially unfairly damage his reputation in a small city. His client could end up paying through the nose for costly and lengthy litigation with little success, and still be stuck with a broken car, paying through the nose at a dealership to get it fixed. With the help of a mediator, my mechanic would have an opportunity to explain why it was not his fault, the car could be repaired promptly and at a reasonable cost, and both parties walk away with the relationship intact, for less than the cost of the insurance premium. I’m now resolved to spending more time as I walk through life getting to know people’s problems; who knows many people might have regular issues that would benefit from mediation?