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Complaining as Sport

Complaining has become a national pastime – less about the automotive aftermarket and more about the OE side of the world.


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The Christmas season has just ended, and for that I am thankful. While I do like Christmas, there are parts of it I downright disdain.

Complaining, for one thing, seems to have become a sport during Christmas. There’s too much to do. Uncle Harry is a pain in the butt. The lines at the stores are too long. I ate too much. It’s too cold. (By the way, I fully see the irony in complaining about complaining.)

Just like people are used to seeing Christmas decorations come up the day after Halloween, most are pretty complacent when it comes to Christmas complaining. It’s just the thing to do.

Complaining about our industry has become a sport of sorts too. People love to do it. I challenge you to bring up auto repair to anyone. Watch their eyes roll and the horror stories spew out of their mouths. Even the media gets in on the fun. When news gets slow, that’s when a TV news department decides to unhook a vacuum hose and watch the technician overcharge. What great publicity for the aftermarket.

Thankfully, we’re not the worst when it comes to getting complaints. According to an annual survey conducted by the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA) and the Consumer Federation of America, automotive repair continued to hold the fourth-place rank in their consumer complaint survey. Home improvement, household goods and automotive sales took the top three spots in the survey.


We can take solace in the fact that we’re getting better, (or that the others are getting worse.) Automotive repair has held the fourth-place spot since 1999 when it fell from second place.

The survey said that most consumers complain about repairs that are not done correctly or are not done at all. The survey is based on 41 NACAA member responses to questions about their 2001 complaint records.

The Better Business Bureau paints an even rosier picture. Their most recent "Top 15" Ranking of Complaints puts auto repair in the seventh slot, behind such industries as (in order):

6. Credit Card Offers;

5. Computer Retailers;

4. Telephone Companies;

3. Home Furnishings;

2. Mail-Order Catalog Shopping;

1. Automobile Dealers (new and used).

It’s amusing to me that automobile dealers rank first in receiving formal complaints in both the NACAA survey and the Better Business Bureau data. These are the same dealers that want a greater share of the service and repair market, yet they can’t even satisfy the needs of new car buyers.

Changing the way consumers view our industry is something that should start at each store and shop. The payoff is not only that you’ll have less complaints, but that you’ll be helping to change consumers’ often tainted view of the industry.


On an unrelated note, check out a new monthly Counterman exclusive on page 10: Over the Counter, a new cartoon created by fellow parts pro Ron Cole. We hope you enjoy it.

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