Tire dealers who played sports may have heard a frustrated coach admonish his underachieving team, ``Don't stink out the joint tonight.'' I urge owners and managers at every dealership to take this advice figuratively and literally. Show motorists how good you are by doing your best, day in and day out.
Equally important, don't make customers' vehicles smell any worse than they already do! Just because we're in an arguably smelly business doesn't mean the vehicle interior has to smell awful.
Based on my field experiences, some service personnel don't grasp this simple concept: If the interior didn't smell like cigarettes, chemicals, food etc. coming into the shop, it shouldn't smell like that leaving.
Bear in mind that more than half the people purchasing tires, maintenance and repairs from your dealership or service shop are women. Accept the fact that women are much more likely to sense an unusual odor and complain about it than many men are.
Also recognize that many people in the automotive repair field understandably have become desensitized to the smell of gasoline, fried foods, cleaning solvents, carburetor cleaner, shop chemicals etc. When I was turning wrenches, I remember all too well getting scolded when I got home. ``How can you come home smelling like that?'' my astonished parents would ask.
I had become so used to the stench of parts-cleaning solvent (usually mineral spirits or a similar substance) that I didn't even notice an odor when I splashed some on my uniform.
Owners and managers who take simple preventive measures can avert customer crises due to offended olfactory senses. First, explain to your crew at the next staff meeting that new shop procedures forbid road-testing vehicles in clothing tainted with gasoline, solvent or other chemicals.
Second, where necessary, make extra uniforms available so workers can easily and quickly change into fresh clothing when those inevitable spills occur. Most bosses I know agree that having clean clothing available stifles the potential objection, ``I didn't have a clean uniform to change into.''
Some shop owners are so emphatic about clean uniforms, wiper cloths and cloth fender covers that they've purchased good, used washing machines and dryers for their businesses.
Third, implement a new rule that forbids workers from smoking or eating inside customers' vehicles—even if all the windows are down. Talk about desensitivity!
Many smokers don't understand how easily some non-smokers can detect the presence of a lighted cigar or cigarette. Long before smoking was so widely damned, I worked the service desk. I learned firsthand how hell hath no fury like a non-smoker scorned by a smoking technician!
Take whatever steps are needed to prevent techs from picking up lunch during a road test in a customer's vehicle. Unless you've experienced it, you can't believe how badly pizza, fast foods and, particularly, fried foods can make a vehicle smell. Just hope the car owner enjoys the same foods your crew does!
Fourth, invest in an inexpensive pedestal fan. A steady blast of fresh air through a smelly interior is invaluable when you're trying to de-stench a car before the owner picks it up.
Search out an effective but not overwhelming air freshener for emergencies. Beware of deodorizers—especially those little hang-up jobs (``smelly trees'' to some)—that are so powerful and pervasive they taint the driver's clothing. When the car owner steps out for the next sales call, he or she reeks of pine needles or pungent flowers!
Some service personnel kill odors by dusting the carpeting with carpet deodorizer, letting it stand for 30 minutes and then vacuuming it up. You're welcome to contact me about your favorite product.
But overall, the most effective product I've found for combating odors without sickening the driver is an inexpensive spray called Febreze. You'll find it in the carpet-and cleaning-chemicals section of a good supermarket.
Spray Febreze on the vehicle's carpeting and allow 20-35 minutes for it to dry thoroughly. It kills foul odors but leaves just a barely noticeable, inoffensive scent. Try it because you won't believe how well it works.