I have been laying low the past few months in the composition department. Work has been tough. I came face-to-face with my mortality as an elderly parent and also a former business partner passed since the New Year began. I’ll be honest in saying that auto glass repair has done little to restore an optimistic attitude within me. In fact, when I read upbeat blogs, I wonder how close to the street the writers actually work. How many real customer calls do these people actively receive and quote? The tone and tenor of the marketplace has changed so significantly, at least to me, it has evolved into a noisy bazaar—a bizarre one at that. Almost every day I run into a rude shopper that is so self-absorbed almost to the point of ill-informed righteousness that dealing with the public has become almost a dreaded chore instead of the positive economic event it should be.
I like people. I grew up with the Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends…” book that was a permanent browsing fixture on the back of the family commode. As a proud Empire State native, I had the benefit of learning both urban and rural survival skills. My folks instilled in their three sons a strong sense of morality. “Treat people how you want to be treated” was practically a social law burned into our psyches.
Our culture has changed, in fact, it never has been stagnant. I understand that. In my lifetime, there have been many shifts and currents. My parents deplored the “hippy” freeloading lifestyle of the 60s. Not to worry Mom and Pop, you could accurately declare that the “Wolves of Wall Street” evolved from that same era. What did the “Woodstock Generation” spawn in both values and progeny? Well folks, it’s apparent that not too many people took to heart Marvin Gaye’s question of “What’s Going On?”
Advancements in technology always affect the surrounding culture. Consider in the past 50 years—what devices have changed our way of life? Huge, crude computers have shrunk into wireless devices giving the user so much data and the ability to seek even more. In fact, the word “wireless” was used more frequently years ago to describe an aspect of a women’s undergarment rather than am electronic communication instrument. So it goes.
Have people changed? I certainly have seen a seismic shift in consumer attitudes and the way a shopper does research. Online shopping or e-commerce has altered the landscape for so many retailers. Many in auto glass repair have responded to address the needs of a bathrobe-wearing, website-reading shopper by posting prices. What has that gained us? Are we in a race to the bottom or are just feeding the pig?
More and more, I get calls from people that shop on price alone and even worse, I get the “I want it now!” demand. I leave my cell phone on and will take calls from 6 a.m. through about 9 p.m. Just because they need to be at work 50 miles away at 8 a.m., doesn’t mean that replacing a smashed door glass before then is ever likely for a shop which is contacted at 7:15 a.m. There seems to be a sense of stunned disbelief from a caller that a mobile install for a ‘94 Integra windshield can’t take place within the hour on a Sunday afternoon.
Speaking of a Sunday call, this past one I heard a great new line. Around 7 p.m., I received a call from a woman seeking a price on a door glass for a 2005 Kia Forte. Since it was a fairly limited production vehicle and I had no idea of local part availability or internal cost, I punted, with the statement that I could call her back at 7 a.m. Monday morning with a firm price and, if amenable, a time that day for an install. When pressed for a price, I responded with the statement that I really did not know but oftentimes a door glass of that kind could run $25-plus or minus of $150 for an installed price. I was then hit with this great line, “Well I need it done right now but I am not prepared to pay for something in that price range.” The tone was not of pleading poverty but of assuredness that she had or could find something substantially cheaper. Please, be my guest.
This past Monday I had perhaps the worse contact ever with a consumer. A person broke the rear hatch glass of a 2014 Nissan Versa Note. The part was a dealer item and only available at the regional Nissan warehouse of which they had one in stock. List price was very low—$241. I quoted that along with my labor and was told to order the part for a next-day install. I verified that twice by text. At 7 p.m., I got a text saying to cancel job. I called the guy and was told that he had found someone to do the installation on Craigslist for $35. “What about the special order part?” I asked. The guy agreed to buy it. The next morning I got a text saying to cancel the part as well, as his new vendor can provide one. I called the guy and questioned him knowing that the 2014 Note is a new design and I have in my possession the only new hatch glass within 200 miles. He informs me that since his new vendor installs glass at an auto wreckers that he must be aware of the differences. I rolled my eyes and secretly wished that rats eat him in his sleep.
What also is occurring is the outright dishonesty of job-seeking glass concerns that will do or say anything in order to get an installation or poison the well for others. There is such a lack of ethics and technical ability in this industry that is astounding in its breadth and scope. I cannot tell you the number of times that a caller has told me that a competitor has quoted “an OE windshield” installed for less than $200. The list of lies and misstatements from glass vendors fueled by consumer ignorance derived from online posts and videos has created a maelstrom that drowns out truth and facts. This quagmire affects honest and competent shops negatively. Separating fact from fiction is something most consumers are not good at. They only want to hear favorable outcomes.
What also is distressing is the lack of respect for others that seems to be lost. Take our own AGRR forum. How many examples of snarky vitriol gets posted weekly, if not daily? We shout at, we condemn those we disagree with, usually within the anonymity of the Internet and user name. Courtesy is diminishing as quickly as glaciers recede. Rudeness in both word and deed is increasing. My freeways look more like a movie set for “Fast and Furious” as drivers weave in and out of traffic at breakneck speed. Is auto glass repair just reflecting the current social mindset?
There are times I feel so old. I always hated hearing from my folks phrases like, “When I was your age,” or “The good old days.” I really try to refrain from repeating clichés like that to my younger relatives or associates. Yet, I will always appreciate the honesty of a handshake agreement and a person’s affirmative promise.
We as an industry can use some retro concepts. Provide quality materials at a fair price and install them in a professional manner beneficial to every consumer. Consumers need to learn that you get what you pay for. Obesity is an unhealthy condition even in pigs and I wish this madness could stop. Sad to say, that’s wishful thinking.