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Customer Impressions Can Last a Lifetime

It always amazes me how one experience leads to another, including my shot at 15 minutes of fame’”

Editor’s note: Paul E. Grech owned the former San Franciso shop, Allied Engine & Auto Repair, before retiring. In this column series, Grech shares his experiences as a shop owner.

I received an e-mail from a former customer who had moved to Southern California. My last contact with her was in 2012, nine years ago. She has a 1957 Thunderbird just like mine — white with a manual overdrive transmission.

She went on about how she had thoroughly enjoyed doing business with us and she really missed my wife and me. She found me on the online and said she had a problem with her car and was moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Paul Grech

Her transmission was stuck in reverse. I told her maybe the transmission linkage was probably misaligned, so she wanted to have the car shipped up to San Francisco and looked at here, but I told her that they may not be able to ship the car with it stuck in reverse. As a retired member of ASCCA, I said I would try to find a garage to look at it for her in Victorville where the car was stuck — just one of the many benefits of belonging to a trade association.

I called a listed member, explained the situation and asked if he could look at it for her and gave her his number. This is an example of how long a good impression can last with a customer. I always tried to be good-natured in all of my interactions with my customers — makes them feel good on top of good service and repair.

That should be your goal in interacting with your customers — making a lasting impression. That call really made my day, and as the old saying goes, “As you sow so shall you reap.”

My ‘15 Minutes of Fame’

In a few months, I expect to be on a national TV program as a direct result of a former customer. Though I have been retired for about four years now, I still have an old customer who owns more than 50 cars, and I go down regularly and start them up and drive them around for him. He also owns an old hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf, where he keeps about 20 old cars in a building behind his hotel, and parks a couple of them in front every day. European tourists just love them. But he had to shut down due to Covid, then he subsequently decided to retire.

So he called up the television program American Pickers to see if they were interested in buying some of vehicles. When they came and did a show about the whole operation, I was asked to be in it. I got to demonstrate how to start an old car with a propane set up, which reduces the chance of starting a fire with spilled gas in the engine compartment.

I love working on old cars and bringing them back to life. This experience and others always just amazes me where one thing leads to another. But, then, that’s the story of my life. I never had to go look for opportunity, opportunity always found me.

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