Friday 28 March 2014

Adventures in Sexist Mechanic Land

I've had a fun experience lately. My car needed its Warrant of Fitness (WoF) and also its registration renewed as they ran out at about the same time. Fortunately, I thought, a deal came up on New Zealand's website for a $15 WoF at a particular mechanics'. I won't say which one.
A WoF is usually about $50, so it was a good deal, although I was wary of going to a mechanic for a WoF rather than the VTNZ like I usually do. VTNZ only do WoFs, so they are very honest about what might be wrong with your car, because they aren't going to try selling you anything else.

Anyway, I went out to this mechanics', who failed my car because it had a cracked tail light, and rust near the back window. I asked what it might cost to fix. "Oh," said the chap, "about $40 for a new tail light". This was fine I said. "The rust," he went on, "is going to need fixed up, blah blah it could be worse underneath etc." "How much?" I asked, "Just a ballpark figure." "Oh" said the chap, "about $400-500".

This was upsetting news and I pointed out that I couldn't afford such repairs. When I said that I didn't live locally, and that there was a mechanic very near my house that I would go to for the repairs, he seemed to change his mind. "You could go see a panelbeater for another opinion," said the chap, "and they might say it's fine. If they say it is, come back and I'll pass it."
This is... atypical, to be asked to do this.

I cried all the way home. I'm struggling financially as it is, and failing to save up for the wedding, so this was a distressing prospect. But I had a feeling that the guy was just trying to get money out of me. The rust actually didn't look bad at all, and it felt like he had more or less said, "Your car needs expensive repairs, conveniently we can do that for you!". Oftentimes mechanics will assume their customers, especially women, know nothing about cars and try to sell them new parts and things they don't really need. Some mechanics will do this, but definitely not all.

This has happened to me before.

In the past when I was selling my old car, I visited my usual mechanic to make it ready to sell. He gave it an oil change, welded something, then assured me that it was good as gold and ready to go, here's a piece of paper saying so. Some people were interested in buying my car, they said they wanted a mechanic to look at it before they would buy it. I waved my piece of paper at them and reassured them that I had just done so. They wanted to have their usual mechanic look at it too. This guy of theirs drove my car around the block once, and literally looked under the bonnet for 10 seconds, then said, "Nah. Needs a new x, y, and z. I can sort that out for you. Maybe $700 worth of work needed." LOL LOL FUCK RIGHT OFF. Trying to get money out of me, you see.

Anyway, back to my story. I visited the mechanics/panelbeaters near my house, and two very nice gents had a look for me, and said that they would pass it, and that the other guys were being way too harsh on me. They reckoned they had been trying to get money from me. They said the tail light would need replaced though, which fair enough that's fine. They said they'd feel more confident if I stopped in to see their friend at VTNZ for another unbiased opinion.

This I did, and this guy was great. Very friendly, helpful and honest. He told me that it would definitely pass, and that the rust was in such a place that it would not affect the WoF. He agreed that the tail light needed seeing to, but aside from that. He said they were probably trying to get money out of me, and that it was unfortunate that some mechanics can be a bit sexist and assume that women know nothing about cars, will pick on them, and convince them they need expensive repairs that they really don't. It's shitty but it happens.

I don't know nothing about cars, I don't know much, but I know enough to realise when I'm having the wool pulled over my eyes and/or the piss taken.

Anyway, I went to an auto shop and bought a roll of red translucent tape and used it to patch up the cracked tail light. The problem was that white light was shining through it, so after I taped it up, it was not. Problem solved right? I didn't really think so but I figured it was worth a try. I emailed the original mechanics, and told them that I had got the second (and third) opinions that they had very weirdly asked for, and had patched up the tail light myself. I arranged a time to go back to them.

I've just come back. My Dad had recommended bringing my boyfriend in future to prevent this situation from happening again, due to the woman-car-bias thing, so he came along with me. I told the chap there who I had spoken to, and that both parties had said that no repairs were needed, and that they would personally pass the WoF. He was grumpy that I didn't have this in writing, but I showed him their business cards and said he was welcome to call them. He didn't though.
I handed him back the original sheet with the list of repairs needed (rust, tail light). He still tried convincing me I should have them repair the rust, that it could be worse than it looks, that I'll be sorry if I don't, and that he would if he were me. I said I wasn't going to so there.

So he went out to my car, didn't even look at the tail light, and put a 'Pass' sticker on the window. He had the air of one who realised he wasn't getting any money out of me, and please could I fuck off now.

So I'm stoked that I got my car's WoF and won this ridiculous little battle, but it was a stupid experience, and I'll certainly never be going there again. Advice to women going to unfamiliar mechanics: bring a man, it's bullshit and unfair but it could save a lot of strife. I know it's not how things should be, but it's a fact that it does sometimes happen. -____-;

1 comment:

  1. I'm Italian, I'm glad to know that the mechanics are sexist everywhere... :/