Independent garage service without a smile


Why go to an independent garage?

At times I wonder why anyone would take a car to an independent garage to have it fixed.

A strong statement perhaps – but after you have read this blog, you might understand why I make it.

Before I go on, though, I should point out that I have always used independents, without exception, on my own motors.

On balance I have found them cheaper, more accommodating and more educational (In my experience, a good independent technician is more likely to explain what’s going on under the bonnet than a dealership techie).

But my latest experience with an indie garage, left me realising that one bad experience can unfairly taint the public’s view of all independents for the worse.

ABS packs up

So there I was the other day driving down the M3 when the ABS on my BMW 3-series packs in.

With 80,000 miles on the clock, my 51-plate Beemer is far from new, but what a motor it has proved to be.

I bought it 5 years ago and this, I thought at the time, was the most serious thing to have gone wrong with it.

Now I am no technician, but when your ABS packs up you think the worst.

So I took it down to a local, independent garage last week – one I had yet to use owing to the reliability of my motor up until now – and lo and behold, I was far from impressed with the service I received.

The alarm bells rang when, on dropping the car off, a lady – complete with kid in buggy and toddler in hand – turned up to pick up her Saab.

She was served by the head technician and owner, I assume.

Sorry Love…

“Sorry love, spare part hasn’t arrived yet – not my fault though, bloke that said he was going to deliver it yesterday didn’t.

“Should be here tomorrow, though. Come back then I can fit it while you have a cup of tea,” he said.

At this point, junior technician appears on the scene.

“Here are your keys love, car’s parked down the road, bit of a walk away,” he said. Despite her kids and the difficulty she was having, no help was offered.

Typical 3-series, just like mine...
Typical 3-series, just like mine...


I was staggered. Talk about totally crap customer service. I wondered the following:

  • Why didn’t they call her first to say the part hadn’t arrived?
  • Why didn’t they then have the car waiting for her?
  • If no parking was available, junior technician should have gone to get the car for her, surely?

I should have driven off then and there. But I didn’t.

After he had ‘seen’ to the lady, he turned to me.

“Yes mate?” he asked. (Polite, hey…)

“My BMW’s booked in, ABS problem,” I replied.

He replied that it was, so I said that all I wanted was a diagnostic test to find out what was wrong with the ABS. That was it.

I also told him I worked in the trade for Car and Accessory Trader magazine (which he hadn’t heard of) and could get spare parts if needed.

I left him to it.

At lunchtime, I got the call.

“Mr Foster, the problem is a faulty speed sensor on the rear offside wheel,” said the hitherto unhelpful bloke.

“Cool,” I replied, relieved that it wasn’t anything more serious. “How much will a new sensor cost?”

“I thought you were getting it,” he replied curtly. Why couldn’t he just answer my question rather than being obnoxious?

I couldn’t be bothered pursuing the conversation any more and went to pick up the car that afternoon.

All sound normal to you? Or is this another example, with the way the lady was treated too, of yet another independent garage giving our industry a bad name?

Before you think this is an easy piece of independent garage baiting, let me say the following: I am an absolutely staunch supporter of independent garages and technicians.

I have always used indie garages as opposed franchised dealers.  I always will.

In the past, my favoured garage was A&S Refinishing in Daventry, which offered superb service – but since moving down south, I haven’t found somewhere I am happy with.

Perhaps I should look at Motor Codes or Forte’s Good Garage Scheme to see where there’s a local outlet that’s accredited.

I don’t believe Mr Grumpy is… and therein lies a lesson!

No wonder the public – like the lady with the Saab treated so badly – have such a bad perception of this trade. What a shame they don’t realise that there are plenty out there who are a joy to do business with.


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