Sunday, 9 November 2014

The daily slyness

Went to a nearby garage yesterday to have my tyres changed for winter ones…

Here a succinct interleaf – Poles are masters of procrastination. The example of tyre change is spot-on. Garages where tyres can be changed are chock full of clients desperately trying to make an arrangement for a service when the first snow falls. Before the first whiff of winter makes itself felt, tyre change is being put back. Collective lack of foresight repeats every year…

Yesterday I my vehicle was the first in the queue, scheduled for 9 a.m. and despite Saturday time, convenient for many drivers who, like me, suffer from deficiency of spare time during the working week, I learnt the list of clients was very short. Even nearing middle of November has not prompted most drivers to see the back of this duty. Who cares that winter tyres prove superior in temperatures below +7C? I prefer to have a comfort of being prepared for the winter conditions.

Back to my experience – the car was dealt with by one guy (usually this garages hires more staff in peak season, but since there were few clients signed up, sharing the same price for changing tyres among more guys was not economically sound) and while I was reading a newspaper in the waiting room (EHS first and foremost), the owner of the garage showed up. He glanced at the car, looked something up and called me in. “Rear brakes need to be replaced badly. Not today, but let’s arrange for a change next week”, he muttered. I was kind of stunned. Back in June, some 3,500 kilometres back, brake system was thoroughly inspected at Renault garage and said to have been is very good condition (had it not been, they would not have passed up the opportunity to mend it in exchange for appropriate payment). I immediately asked whether he had looked at front brake blocks and disks, since their wear and tear is for obvious reasons greater, but the garage owner fobbed me off. “Never mind the front brakes, look at the rear axis, they need to be replaced, just look at the disk”. He pointed his finger not at the face of the disk against which the block rubs, but at its rim, part which has little to do with efficacy of brakes. This smelled a rat already, but I carried on the conversation, inquiring how he had come to the conclusion blocks were also in need of immediate replacement without taking them off. “They’re damn thin, much too thin”, he said and walked away adding he had some capacity in the evenings the coming week. Had I been as assertive as I wish I were, I would have told him what I thought of his method of fleecing clients, but I have only reached the stage of being assertive enough to firmly turn down such proposals…

To avert wasting money on needless repairs, I have found a way to get to grips with dishonest mechanics. Last year, while having my car serviced with the car producer’s authorised garage, I paid extra for longer labour charges of mechanics and together they showed me around the car, so that a sly mechanic does not wheedle money out of me. The only way not to be deceived is to be equipped at least in basic knowledge. Otherwise the ignorant and his money are soon parted.

Why in Poland pecking order is too often set by measuring one’s ability to fleece, dupe or outwit a fellow man? What the hell drives the desire to exploit someone else’s inexperience or ignorance to unduly grow rich? Such behaviours undermine the social trust whose level is disturbingly low in Poland anyway.

Actually there are professions whose representatives which stand out in disgraceful ranking of cons hoodwinking their clients. Car mechanics are one of them. Many of their customers, especially women, have little notion about how a car works, plus when the mechanics repair a vehicle, they often come across (or make up) other defects that need to be repaired. Then a totally unaware client hears a story about a breakdown which can potentially threat their safety or cause the car to pack up in the middle of the road and, scared away, forks out money for a repair which not always is necessary or could be deferred. In extreme cases there is no breakdown at all. With such low level of integrity, many people as a matter of principle refuse to pay for additional service which means when a mechanic detects a serious problem which needs to be fixed, the defect might be disregarded. I wonder whether the mistrust can be quantified in terms of casualties and fatalities being aftermath of such state of affairs in Polish garages.

The other professions I am particularly mistrustful of are:
1. Builders and akin “professionals”. It looks like a perfect moment to underline the linguistic difference, between the English word “professional” which refers to lawyers, doctors and other well-respected specialists who have earned university degree and can boast about many years’ experience, and the Polish word fachowiec, the term coined to name a self-possessed dab hand. Whenever you need to rely on a builder, electrician, plumber, tile-layer or any other fachowiec you’d better beware and in advance take advice of somebody having notion of construction, or even better ask such person to look after the fachowiec. A typical Polish fachowiec cuts corners, does his job quickly and carelessly, leaves a mess when he finishes and at the end of the day overcharges you.
2. Taxi drivers. It is easiest to fall victim of them if you show you do not know a city where you take a taxi. For some reason the more estranged a passenger looks, the more a taxi driver is likely a sub-optimal, i.e. not the shortest, nor the fastest route. My way with taxi drivers if I pay for a ride with my own money is to tell them which streets to drive, not the destination. If the corpo pays, I don’t care (then the weaker once stands a chance to fleece the stronger).
3. So-called financial advisers. By dint of working in a financial services industry, it is hard to foist upon me a “product” which does not suit me needs. However, ordinary people who are not versed in finance can easily fall prey to hard-sellers chasing their sales targets.
4. Used car traders. Rolled back odometers and vehicles after serious accidents beaten up and sold as low-mileage non-accident cars are said to be the order of the day. Bearing in mind the market is plagued by negative selection (why I don’t sell my car) and finding a reliable car in decent condition is a challenge, I hope I will never be pressurised by buy a second-hand car.

The struggle to move higher in the pecking order thus goes on. A banker is tricked by a fachowiec who finishes banker’s new apartment and pays over the odds for servicing his car. A builder fools his starry-eyed clients, but when his rickety car breaks down he is ripped-off by a mechanic. A taxi driver knows his onions when it comes to his car, but will be ripped of by a guy refurbishing his flat. And at the bottom of this idiotic system are humanists who lack technical and financial expertise and are duped by everyone.

1 comment:

Michael Dembinski said...

Classic stuff!

"Why in Poland pecking order is too often set by measuring one’s ability to fleece, dupe or outwit a fellow man? What the hell drives the desire to exploit someone else’s inexperience or ignorance to unduly grow rich? Such behaviours undermine the social trust whose level is disturbingly low in Poland anyway."

Good to know we live in the same country and campaign on the same issues!