There are a thousand things I love about Canada and Canadians, but on the other side of the ledger, there is one trait that drives me crazy. It's our 'discount mentality". Allow me to elaborate: At a party recently (not industry related) another g...
There are a thousand things I love about Canada and Canadians, but on the other side of the ledger, there is one trait that drives me crazy. It’s our ‘discount mentality”. Allow me to elaborate: At a party recently (not industry related) another guest mentioned two “facts” about driving in Canada. One was that cars used to be well-built, but now are poor quality. The second was that you can’t find an honest local mechanic to service your car anymore. I managed to not break the Pilsener glass I was holding. I related two stories, both from the floor of the annual SEMA/AAPEX show in Las Vegas. One was related by a very old attendee, who owned a Chevrolet dealership in the ‘Fifties and ‘Sixties. ‘I guess they got the fuel pump problem licked’, he said as we admired a pristine ’57 Bel Air on a giant turntable. He stated that about ten percent of those classic Chevy’s were delivered with defective fuel pumps that would strand the owners within a week of delivery. Sometimes they couldn’t start the cars to get them off the trailer. And replacements were on national back order. Creative solutions were found, as you can imagine.
The other was from industry legend Vic Edelbrock, who, when I asked him about those beautiful early hot rods based on ‘Thirties Ford parts, replied, “those were the only cars we could afford. We bought them for ten, twenty bucks”. Another myth shattered.
And the disappearing ‘honest mechanic’? Turns out the guest had just spent about a grand on brake work and wasn’t sure if he was getting a good deal. I asked him if there once was a local shop in his neighborhood. He said there was, and that he used to buy gas there as well as the occasional winterization service. ‘Where did you buy your last set of tires?” I asked. ‘Wal-Mart.” A Battery? “Sears”. Windshield wipers? “Canadian Tire”. I patiently explained the way the business used to operate: “In the old days, when you paid five percent more than the discount joint for your tires, batteries and accessories, you in effect subsidized the local shop to keep them profitable enough so that when the transmission blew, they were there to help you. Cherry picking the flyer specials saves you a little money, but forces you into the arms of a complete stranger when the big-bucks repairs are on the line.” You could see the light bulb going on over his head. I explained that my wife drives 20 kilometers out of her way to go to her hairdresser because “he knows what I like”. There are places where you can get a haircut for ten bucks, but there’s no way that I’m going to suggest that to my wife!
It seems we can’t extend that logic toward the second biggest investment in most households, the family car. Many Canadians will drive 100 kilometers to save ten bucks on a battery. It’s an aspect of our psyche that drives me crazy. If anybody knows how to shake off our discount-shopping mentality please let me know.
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