A shop forum administrator writes:
“This is a true story sent to us from a member shop:
“‘Warning: With all the technology available these days—cameras, GPS systems, etc.—make sure your shop has a policy in place about where, when, how and why customer's cars are driven. I've always told my employees when you're driving a customer's car, you had better be able to explain to them as if they followed you around as to why you drove their car, where you drove it and what you did with it.
“‘We had a customer call us and tell us that one of our employees drove through a drive-through, ordered food and then pulled over in a parking lot and ate the food. The customer could see where the employee and his car was, could hear the employee put in the food order, heard the employee complain about how long it was taking and then heard the employee unwrapping and eating the food. All of this was done at about 9:30 a.m. when he was punched in on that customer's car.'”
One forum member responds:
“Good point. We even have in our policy manual that if the employee gets a ticket or in an accident on a road test they are responsible in whatever way the law decides. Two tickets and/or accidents and it's goodbye.”
Another forum member replies:
“I know a garage owner who was asked to fix a car and then drive the car until he was sure it was fixed. (There was an intermittent problem on a $75,000 car. It only happened every couple of months, but when it did it left him walking.)
“The customer just wanted it fixed. He had the car to several dealers up and down the east coast and nobody got it permanently fixed. Our friend fixed the car and for the test drive took it from North Carolina to Florida on a trip to Disney World. While standing in line to ride Space Mountain, they ran into the car owner and had to fess up. The customer wasn't mad—he just wondered if the car behaved, and when the answer was ‘yes' the guy was happy.
“More of the story: you never know who you will see or where, so be careful where you go in someone else's car.”
Another forum member writes:
“We have a procedure in place that states vehicles will only be driven for test-driving purposes. There will be no personal errands. Furthermore, there is a specific route to drive, which is two miles. If there are special circumstances regarding the vehicle, then we ask for authorization from the client before we deviate from the route.”
Anther forum member responds:
“Yep, test drives only, no joyrides or anything like that. My employees can joyride on their own time, in their own cars. When we get expensive, fine vehicles, I like to admire them as much as the young, ambitious guys that work for me, but it is a job, not a toy. That's what I tell them, and to date we haven't had any problems.”
The questions and responses are posted on the Automotive Management Network website, which is operated by Deb and Tom Ham, owners of Auto Centric (formerly Ham's Automotive) in Grand Rapids, Mich. The comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.