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Profiling for dummies

Stereotyping can hurt your business, relationships
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 00:00
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Arizona has led the way in a precedent-setting decision to allow authorities the ability to question anyone they want about citizenship. The largely ethnic population is up in arms and justifiably so. I feel that this legislation violates some civil rights of the individuals questioned, but only if they are legal residents. The illegal residents do not share in the same protections and liberties that citizenship guarantees. The real question is found in this much simpler query. Does the end justify the means?

The sea of public opinion will undoubtedly affect the staying power of this legislation unlike the affect the same public opinion has had on Homeland Security and invasion of privacy. I pose that the Arizona authorities are indeed profiling, but how else do can you attack their problem of
rampant illegal immigration? Well, acting like a bunch of Nazi's working at Stalag 13 may not be the answer. We all profile. All the time, and about everything in life.

Well, I thought it would be interesting to apply the 'profiling' principle in all things automotive. In the process of doing this, we will explore oft used terminology and phrases common within this industry to see what each really means, how it 'profiles' and sterotypes, and how our industry uses tactical profiling. In simpler terms, what the hell is really going on.


Profile: All mechanics are grease monkeys. Well, I for one, am sick of hearing this. Today's modern shop is staffed by highly trained and educated technicians. The mechanic of olden days is just that — a thing of the past. Now if your customer base is full of shops staffed by slippery apes, I bet they all owe you money and abuse you at every turn. By lumping all of them into one category, you might miss out on developing a few business relationships that you will profit from for years. I resolve this is impractical, unprofitable, and borders on animal cruelty.

Profile: The customer is always right. This little bit of nostalgic retail training feeds on the perception that we are always wrong, sell the wrong parts, quote the wrong price, and never give refunds. This false sense of security instilled by using this logic gives the customer a superiority complex, causing us to stress out, and make knee-jerk poor decisions. There is only one automotive segment that has profited from this 'profiled' principle. Emission system suppliers, because all customers know that when the 'check engine' light comes on, it's the oxygen sensor. Don't even try to talk them out of it, but be prepared for the battle that will ensue when they try to return it as a defect. Again, impractical, unprofitable, and unrealistic to think that every customer of ours is an automotive savant.

Profile: Dealership parts are better than aftermarket. A common misconception among professional shops. Actually, better parts are better parts. Most traditional full-line aftermarket manufacturers incorporate enhancements or improvements that correct O/E deficiencies for less money and with a better warranty. When I read survey results that elude to mechanics liking the 'form and fit' of O/E parts vs. aftermarket, I often gag. Do you want to know what the tech is really saying? It's not the same color as the old one, does not look exactly like the old one, and I never read the instructions included with the part. Also, I give the dealership the VIN#, but don't feel the need to do this when I call my auto parts store. This is something I face everyday with my own technicians, so it's personal. Years and years of automotive technicians bullying auto parts jobbers, and then 'cowing' to the dealerships costs our industry millions in 'defects' and 'wrong parts.' This profile is annoying, insulting, arrogant, and just plain stupid. Independent repair shops take notice that your arrogance and ignorance is supporting your competition with this philosophy. I'd send all of my repair shops a note about this, but they'd never read it. Moving on.

Profile: All retailers price match. This profile may actually be true, but why do people have to beg for a lower price? Shouldn't they already have the lower price? Do the retailers realize that we have caller I.D.? I propose that all retailers cease and desist all price matching. It makes you guys look really lame, and cheapens the whole industry. Any retailer that needs help with price structure and merchandising should just call me, and for $10,000 per hour, I'll help you to improve your self image. And as an added bonus, all of us jobbers won't have to field hundreds of 'imposter' phone calls. For crying out loud, you guys are worse than a bunch of telemarketers. While this profile has an element of truth, it is a gross waste of manpower. A better 'profiling' tactic may be for the giant retailers to 'smart match.'

Profile: They are all the same. Wow. This is something that Arizona and many automotive aftermarket customers have in common. Just because our customer and Arizona officials don't have all the information they need (i.e. year, make, model or country of origin), don't show enough concern for the real problem (i.e. blown head gasket or abstract poverty), and suffer from an arrogant position of authority (i.e I've been a mechanic all my life or I'm a US citizen and you're not), does that mean that you get to lump everything together to simplify your life to the point of matching your mentality?

Has the automotive aftermarket as well as our immigration policy failed to evolve beyond the standard of 'Big Me and Little You'? The independent jobber has much in common with our prospective citizens from the south. We are often abused, mistreated, ill thought of, and lumped into a category of being sub-standard peons. Well, let me be the first to say that the automotive aftermarket was built by us, has been reliant on us, and will always need us to clean up the messes made by catering to one class of customer over the others. Arizona has a rich heritage and they would be wise to not forget where they came from. That goes for us too. Viva la partes independientes!

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