Being Thankful

As the holidays rapidly approach, there is a lot of marketing of the idea of ‘being thankful’. It usually is accompanied by pictures of family, Christmas events and turkeys. Sometimes in the rush of all of this, we forget to be thankful. We forget that, for some people, the holidays are not a happy time. Whether it is the loss of a family member this year which changes the dynamics of the family gathering, or the lack of funds to celebrate the holidays the way we would like, it is harder to be thankful. We see Martha Stewart-type celebrations or spend some time on Pinterest and feel the pressure of thinking every item for the holidays should be handmade. Most studies show that we can increase our happiness level by doing something for someone else. It doesn’t have to cost money. It can simply be doing something for someone. Make cookies for a neighbor or rake leaves for someone who is not able to. You will walk away feeling better and you will realize, you have a lot to be thankful for ... read more

Death Valley

Jeff and I had the opportunity to spend two days in Death Valley. We wanted to visit someplace different. It fit the bill for sure -- rattlesnakes, no water and long stretches with no sightings of other human beings. We read up on the do’s and don’ts of hiking in Death Valley National Park. Having your vehicle well maintained and your fuel tank full was strongly recommended. Did I mention there is no cell service? GPS also doesn’t work well, if at all. I realized how much we rely on our technology. We had planned ahead and had maps. Well, we actually took pictures of the map with our phones. We made sure our phones were charged at all times, but they were really only useful for the maps and for taking pictures. We couldn’t even Google the snake we saw and couldn’t identify! We had a rental car and were completely at the mercy of whoever maintains the vehicles. That is an unusual feeling for both of us, but also a good reminder of how dependent our customers are on our technicians’ skil ... read more

Moving on to the next stage

When I started working here sixteen years ago, our kids were young. As with many small, family-owned business’, the kids did a lot of the behind the scenes things. Take out trash, clean floors, stock shelves, etc. As they got older, they still did these things but they also worked in the office and helped with customer service. Then they started college and their own careers. Two of them are in totally different businesses and, as many of you know, our youngest, Cameron, is one of the service advisors in the front office. Just when we were trying to figure out what our next step was to fill the now open position, we found out that Luke was looking for a job. He attended the same high school our kids did and we knew his parents. He started working for us a couple of years ago and left at the beginning of this summer for a full-time position elsewhere. His job description we joking referred to as our ‘minion’. He painted walls, cleaned bays, helped me clean out storage spaces and had to ... read more

Auto Repair Shops and Trust

Some people think that auto repair and trust don't belong in a title together. I was reading an article about a survey performed by AAA. AAA stated that according to their survey, ‘75 million drivers don't have a trusted auto repair facility and ⅔ of drivers don't trust auto repair shops in general’. Some people have had bad experiences or there's always that reputation that seems to persist for centuries. Mechanics! Argh! They're always out to get people! I'm going with my 17 years of experience in this industry and saying that 10%, probably the same in other service industries, of shops are…….less honest than they should be. The less honest ones aggravate everyone. We get the customers they've mislead and have to work to earn their trust. But that's OK. I understand. Technology is changing so fast and the average car owner isn't going to understand when your technicians says you have, “excessive noise on bit serial data line causing no communication with multiple modules”, you're put ... read more

Merry Christmas

Working in auto repair during the holidays is busy because many people travel and need their cars to be ready for a road trip. While we try to remind people to plan ahead and get their vehicles in early, break downs occur and need to be taken care of so the trip out of town isn’t delayed. Our goal is to reduce the stress of car repair, but accomplishing this during the holidays can be a challenge. In the midst of all this busyness, there are moments that remind us of the goodness of so many people. Customers waiting in our reception area and chatting about family and holiday plans with people they’ve just met. Watching our Toys for Tots box fill up with donations from customers who give to positively impact a child they don’t know. Watching a Kentwood police officer carry in toys, and finding out that the Kentwood Police Department officers purchased gifts for some young children that tragically lost their mother last week. Attending events for causes that we believe in and watching th ... read more

Shell Game

I’ll walk for miles on the beach looking for shells. They’re amazing creations that used to be the home of an animal, and they are usually beautiful colors and shapes. I have several that, when I first saw them, they appeared perfect. But when I pulled them out of the sand, I found either a large hole or they were broken. They are still beautiful but not what I was picturing. Used cars can be like that. You drive by and then stop, lured by the beautiful (insert your favorite car color here) exterior. You look inside and the interior looks like new. The seller tells you that it was only driven on Saturdays to the grocery store and has never seen a winter. You love this car so you drive it around the block once, then purchase it. This can have two outcomes. The first one is: the car is in pristine condition mechanically and was a terrific purchase. The second is: You’re standing at the repair shop staring at an estimate for the totally unexpected needed repairs. You can avoid the second ... read more

Making Car Memories

I had an interesting conversation with a customer and her husband. They're a younger couple with a two year old child. And they bought a sports car. Best of all, it fits a car seat. Kind of the best of both worlds. Like I've blogged about before, many people purchase vehicles for emotional reasons. Some people spend years searching for a specific car, even down to the color and engine size. The husband in this case was searching as a surprise for his wife. I love that he let her know one night he'd found this car and she said, “Why not?” Sometimes we think of sports cars as a ‘midlife crisis’ present to yourself. How about thinking of them as a fun family car that—while not incredibly practical—will make lots of memories. A mini-van is practical and convenient, a convertible is ‘wind in the hair’ fun. You may not be able to put all your kids in your sports car but you can always justify the purchase by creating individual time with your children on a beautiful Michigan road trip. This ... read more

Shopping for a “New” Car

A teenagers list of desirable car traits: Cool Not a minivan Awesome sound system A parent’s list of desirable traits for their teenage driver’s car: Safe Reliable No acceleration Looking for a used car can be stressful. Even more so when looking for one for a new driver in your household. It can be a good opportunity to teach them about research, test drives, and inspections. Firstly, do your research on the models you are interested in purchasing. Test drive with the radio OFF and listen for sounds that are not normal for a well-maintained vehicle. Finally, if you’ve found a vehicle you like and you think it would be a fair purchase, have it inspected by a licensed, certified technician at your favorite repair facility. It might seem like an unnecessary expense but it can be a great investment. You might find out that the beautiful vehicle that drives like a dream needs a thousand dollars worth of work to make it safe and reliable. Finding this out after you’ve already purchased i ... read more

I Saw the Sign

“I love your sign!” This is a sentence we hear a lot. And we love it! This is our own little piece of the world on the corner of 52nd and Eastern in Grand Rapids. We are fortunate to have a lot of traffic passing our business every day. From the standpoint of business visibility, etc, it's a great spot. When Arie Nol purchased the property in 1976, there wasn't much out here. It was the edge of Grand Rapids. The ’burbs. Having the ability to impact so many people every day is kind of fun. We made the decision 15 years ago, when we erected the new sign, to not put anything up but quotes, puns or something inspirational. At first it was tempting to place ‘specials’ on the sign. Where we missing a huge opportunity to reach potential customers? Maybe. As a small business owner, it's natural to revisit decisions to see if they were good ones. The unexpected aspect of our sign is how much enjoyment WE get out of it. Having someone that is not a customer come in or call and say, “You made ... read more

It's All Connected

We've all seen it, that one car driving down the highway as it hits a slight dip in the road. Suddenly, it's bouncing up and down and you think, “Wow! The ride on that car must be horrible!” What that actually indicates is bad shock absorbers. The shocks are not holding the tires to the road the way they should be and, as a result, the car rebounds from the dip in the road. This can make your vehicle much more difficult to control safely. As if that weren't enough, bad shock absorbers are also rarely an isolated issue. When your car's shocks start to wear, the parts surrounding them have to work double-time to make up for the issue. This can cause increased damage to your car and raise the repair cost. If your car is experiencing strange symptoms, bring it in to a trusted technician. Not only are technicians aware of what bad brakes, shocks, etc. mean for the safe control of your vehicle, they'll also be able to help identify worn parts before the problem spreads

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