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An open letter to automotive customers about Christmas gifts (and tipping)

by | Dec 15, 2022

Dear Automotive Customer,

Over the years, I have become aware that some of you wish to do something extra for your friendly local automotive technician around the holidays. I’ve also overheard conversations about this topic hotly debated, oddly, by people who are not automotive technicians. Allow me to bring some clarity to this situation. This article is topical since we’re coming into the holiday season, but it is just as applicable year-round if you happen to be inclined to do something outside of an observed red-letter day.

We expect nothing from you. If you show up empty-handed, it’s no problem at all. We are paid a wage, and none of us rely on tips like a bartender or hair stylist might. This is our baseline, and we’ll never think a single cross thought about you if this is how you deal with us.

Christmas gifts on a toolbox.

The perfect gift isn’t hard to purchase—you just have to know what your mechanic wants. Image by Josh Seasholtz.

That said, if you do nice things for us, we LOVE you. If you are a Known Nice Customer, don’t be surprised if you get faster service, preferential treatment, and the occasional car wash and interior vacuum job.

At this point, you may be wondering what nice things I’m referencing. Almost all customers will bring things that fall into a few small buckets.

Cash

Good ol’ greenbacks do us just fine. There is literally no wrong number here. If I serviced your car and you hand me five bucks or five grand, I’m gonna be equally stoked, and so will every other mechanic. Remember—we expected nothing from you. It’s always appreciated.

Company freebies

We like swag and sample items as much as the next human being, and we feel comfortable taking these items because we know they usually don’t cost you directly. So if your company has some merch you’re allowed to hand out, like really nice hoodie sweatshirts or killer beer coolers, feel free to lay ‘em on us. I recall a former customer who was a tobacco rep. When he came by, he’d bring a few boxes of cigars and a few tubes of chewin’ tobacco. All the guys in the shop who dipped loved when he showed up.

Food

Homemade cookies? Those are fire. Tamales? Bring ‘em on. If you cook for us, we love you. If you’re all thumbs in the kitchen but still want to bring food, I have some advice: Bring something that lasts for a little bit, like a box of doughnuts, or call the shop a little before lunch and let ‘em know you’re coming with a couple of pizzas. There’s nothing sadder than a tech who’s just scarfed down leftovers and no longer has room for fresh, hot, unexpected lunch.

Intoxicant of choice

If you want to bring a tech (or a shop full of techs) a bottle or a six-pack/twelve-pack/case of beer, that’s almost always appreciated. If it’s common stuff, that’s just great, and if it’s a real special bottle of something high-end, well, that’s just icing on the cake, so to speak. Even if a tech doesn’t drink, he’ll pass it off to another friend in the shop or regift it, saving him having to buy a present.

There’s no need to do anything for us during Christmastime—or the rest of the year. But if you do, you can pick something off this short list and be assured most any tech, service writer, or porter will light up. We like seeing you and we appreciate you for letting us serve you and being patient with us if we don’t get it right the first time. We’ll never expect a thing from you—but if you beat our expectations, you’ll win a spot in our hearts.

Love,
Your Mechanic

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