The Value of Honesty in Auto Repairs

The Value of Honesty in Auto Repairs

Discover how a simple act of returning found money led to a radio story, highlighting the significance of honesty.

I was always taught that just because you find something, it doesn’t mean it’s yours. I must have taken it to heart. Many years ago, I was working on a car that required the center console be removed. At some point during the process, I found a $100 bill.

I still wouldn’t scoff at $100 today, but back then, it was a lot of money. It would never have been found without disassembly, so it was a safe bet that it had been lost. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d found things that had been presumably lost, but usually it was a driver’s license or credit card, pocket change, jewelry or small kid’s toys.

Either way it didn’t matter. Instead of leaving things I found where they were, I’d always put them in a small box and put them on the passenger seat or somewhere they could be easily seen, then let the service writer know to inform the customer. The only exception was French Fries and apple cores. Those I’d throw away.

The most important thing was they weren’t mine and they belonged to the owner of the vehicle. Even when it seemed trivial like a couple coins that were undoubtedly long gone from known existence and nobody would have been the wiser, they still weren’t mine.

In this case, since $100 was a lot of money, instead of leaving it visible for fear someone else may steal it, I gave it to the service writer to return to the vehicle owner. A couple days later, as strange coincidence would have it, the DJ on the radio was asking people to call in and tell stories of things they had found. I had no intention of calling in, that is until someone who did happen to be an auto mechanic (what we were back then) called first.

Their story was that they found money in cars “all the time,” and had recently found $20. The DJ asked what they did with it, and they said they always kept all the money they found. That bothered me, but primarily because it gave mechanics a bad name. The thing with the radio was that back then, everyone listened to it, and if you were one of the lucky ones to actually get through and talk to the DJ, you felt pretty special. It gave you sort of bragging rights. It was your five minutes of fame.

Like I said, it was a while ago. So, I called. And I got through and talked to the DJ. And they played it on the air! I said, “I’m an auto mechanic and I just found $100 the other day in a car.” The DJ asked me what I did with it and I replied, “I always return everything I find, including all money to the customer, no matter the amount.”

The DJ thought that was pretty cool, and so did I. At least my five minutes of fame allowed me to give a good impression of our industry. Did that pay off in any other way? I like to think so, but if nothing else, I’m always honest with customers, and I think they can tell. It’s the reason they bring their car back to you.

The funny thing is today, if you’re not honest in matters such as this, it’s going to catch up with you. If there’s one thing that you can count on it’s being caught on tape, somehow, somewhere. Let them film all they want. If you’re honest, you’ve got nothing to worry about. TS

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