At Long Last

When you see a headline in the newspaper or a teaser on TV news that talks about auto repair shops, what comes to mind first? After years of seeing "investigative reports" designed more for emotional appeal than for reporting information, I'd given up hope of the mass media ever presenting an accurate picture of our industry to the public. Today, I was pleasantly surprised to discover an article on that is genuinely informative about the auto repair industry.

Titled "Are You Using the Right Mechanic," it was written by Sam Foley of MSN Autos to inform readers about how to evaluate a repair shop. Readers are given a number of questions they should ask their mechanic, along with the "right" and "wrong" answers and a system for keeping score. High-scoring shops are called "a good bet," while others "should probably be avoided."

This is the first honest view of our industry I've seen outside of the trade press, not just because of the information it presents but also because it portrays mechanics as intelligent human beings and shop owners as business men. The shops and mechanics are described by the right and wrong answers, but there are no crooks here, no good-guy/bad-guy labels. What we see are people we're all familiar with and situations we've all be in at one time or another. That's because those descriptions were created by people who come from the field, not by journalists looking for a sensational story.

Foley consulted with Tony Molla, VP of communications for ASE, and with Ray Cox, a technician and consultant for AutoMD, a consumer website that offers advice on car repair and repair shops. Both men started their careers working in the field, and both are actively involved with people working in the shop today. The people and the situations they helped Foley describe are real, not a stereotyped image or a product of a writer's imagination.

Was Foley's article a perfect portrayal of the industry? How could it be? Just as we don't understand the daily challenges faced by our dentist, no one outside the shop can understand your professional life either. But it's at least an honest and, in my opinion, successful attempt at presenting real information about this industry. Mr. Foley has done a great service to the service industry, to pros working in the industry, and to journalism. Thank you, Sam Foley.

You can access the evaluation article online, by clicking here.