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The Man in the Orange Jumpsuit

Autosphere » Mechanical » The Man in the Orange Jumpsuit

Why is our industry judged “guilty,” more often than not?

I was reading the paper this morning, and an article came up about some rapper in the U.S. accused of shooting a competitor. I don’t know if he’s guilty or not, but what struck me is the fact that the accused showed up in court dressed in prisoner clothing—a bright orange jumpsuit. His lawyer, standing beside him, was wearing a suit and tie, while the accused looked like a typical prisoner.

What struck me is how prejudicial the fact that the accused was not wearing his normal everyday clothing in court actually is. Like I said, I don’t know if he’s guilty or not, but the impression I got was that he is more guilty than not. The image was that prejudicial.

At this point in his legal issue, he has been found guilty of nothing. He’s presumed innocent ‘til proven otherwise. Isn’t that correct? Therefore, he should not be subject to this degradation and libeling of his character by being forced to wear prison clothing.

The image gap

So why would I bring up this subject? After all, this is an automotive aftermarket magazine.

Well, we suffer from the same image gap in our industry.

To be fair, having to spend money to repair a vehicle is a grudge purchase. No one budgets for car maintenance, let alone large repair bills. What’s worse is that a feeling of complete helplessness typically overwhelms the owner of the vehicle.

The average consumer is really out of his or her comfort zone, and in many cases, is not mentally, or financially, prepared to accept the cost of the repair.

Clients are forced to trust the guy on the other side of the counter, and no matter what the diagnostics reveal, you know the skeptical owner is going to run it by his friends, seeking advice. After all, mechanics are known to rip everyone off, right?

What adds fuel to the fire is the plethora of YouTube videos where some 18-year-old is more than happy to show consumers how to fix their own vehicle on the cheap while explaining how the industry is ripping them off.

The crooked mechanic

Granted, this scenario doesn’t happen that often, but it does happen.

The truth is, most repairs are conducted by independent shops that have a healthy relationship with their clients. The shop has built up a trust with the owner, the needed service has been explained, and everything goes well.

However, the image of the crooked mechanic persists. Undercover stings always seem to find the bad apples in not just our industry, but in all industries. Hidden cameras record work not done, parts not installed, or just plain shoddy workmanship.

We live in a world of what I call “newsertainment.” The more bizarre, the more views it gets.

All of which is bad for us. We’re seen as wearing the orange jumpsuits even before we say hello. We’re judged guilty before we even have a chance to allow the evidence to speak for itself, and on our behalf. What a shame!

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