A review of a book about tipping offered at North Jersey included some guidelines about how to treat your mechanic. This brought up the subject of auto repair facility etiquette, and a question: do you tip your mechanic?
I’m not going to try to be Miss Manners of the service bay, but there are some common courtesy items which when not observed, are deemed to be rude by the wrenching crowd.
The main entrance of a car repair place is like the entrance point of a theater. Just as you would never walk right in to hear Renee Fleming without presenting your ticket, don’t just pull up in front of a service bay without checking in with staff first unless your car is an emergency on wheels. Then it becomes safety first for all concerned.
Be conscious that the technician will be making not just under the hood of your 2009 Chevy Malibu his home, but possibly the passengers’ compartment as well. Depending on your repair issue, he may have to lay face up on the floor to access the underneath of the dashboard, so you may want to remove trash from the front floor of your vehicle.
Unless you are unable to exit your car due to a disability, don’t resort to finger gesturing or blowing your horn for service. If you were seeking service at a hardware store or a dry cleaner, you wouldn’t expect the staff to respond to such non-verbal cues, so why at an auto repair shop?
Bear with me on this next one because it is something where the area is very gray. Some technicians find it disturbing for a customer to raise the hood of their car to inspect the job prior to paying for it. There is no justification for this because it is no different than counting the cash the bank teller gives you when you cash a check.
A possible alternative is to request that a staff person point out the parts that were replaced on your car, if they are conveniently visible. In the end it’s your car and your repair and you have every right to do inspect it anywhere you wish.
As for the gratuity guru’s treatment of a mechanic, he suggests tipping this type of craftsman in hopes of receiving preferential treatment the next time you break down – something he calls an advance tip. Personally I think that it should reflect appreciation for a job well done, which is referred to as a reward tip in the book “Keep the Change.”