Leadership versus talkers, a lesson from AutoZone
Never underestimate a stubborn woman manager
Writer’s note: This post has been permanently moved and was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on January 3, 2021.
Years ago, I took an auto maintenance class. I really wanted to understand what was under the hood of a car. With a grandfather who is a master mechanic and a godfather who builds race cars, you would think I’d be more savvy with automobiles. I’m not. Somehow I managed to involuntarily memorize and execute some basic plumbing skills (from my grandfather), but cars are still a weak spot in my talent pool.
Outside of cleaning off snow, getting myself out of snow ditches, pumping gas and my father teaching me how to change a tire, that’s about where it ends with me. But when someone tells me a repair is needed, I’m on high alert and want it done. Why? Because I never want to be in a position where I’m stuck, specifically because I love to be in the driver’s seat on road trips.
So when I found out last night that one of my headlights was out, the only thing on my mind was getting to an auto parts store to get it fixed that night. I don’t know why I was so determined to have it replaced in less than 24 hours; I just don’t like anything to be wrong with my car if I can help it. I went to one shop, and the cashier shrugged and said the light couldn’t be replaced by him. My air filter was in the way. I went to another shop, same deal. But at the third shop, a female manager inside was adamant that it could be done without me taking it to a dealership or an expensive mechanic.
She asked one of the workers inside to help me. He stared off into space, wouldn’t make eye contact and started randomly checking customers out who came in after me. It was as if he refused to acknowledge what she’d requested nor that I was standing there waiting. At one point, he walked to the door, looking past me and just stood there fiddling with something on a shelf. I asked, “Are you too busy to do it?”
He finally acknowledged that there was a human being standing within a few feet of him and said he was helping “someone else” and would help me next if I wanted to wait outside. But mind you, this was after several minutes — in which he could’ve told me that immediately after a manager asked him to do it. Instead he just ignored her and me.
Just as I don’t take too well to car salesmen ignoring me or undervaluing me as a customer, I don’t respond kindly to any other auto professional doing it either. So I left without a word. I went to another shop to try to get this resolved. Air filter cap was once again the problem. I sighed. I called back. I talked to the same female manager as the last time who insisted that it could be done. She said, “If everyone else is busy, I’ll do it myself.” I drove back.