Ritual Confessions

March 21, 2008

Mitch the mechanic

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 5:06 am

Mitch has been our mechanic since we moved to Portland. He specializes in Volvos. When we were about to buy our first Volvo, we drove it over to his shop and asked his hourly rate ($70). Since the guy selling us the car was, of course, a used car salesman, we didn’t believe that his assessment of the vehicle necessarily corresponded with the truth. So we were thinking of having an impartial expert give us a list of what was really wrong with it. Of course, if the list was too daunting and we decided against buying, we’d be out $70 (since he estimated that an inspection of this sort would take him about an hour). But, we reasoned, better to be out $70 than to be out thousands on an untenable car.

So we left the car with Mitch, and when we came back later that day, he basically told us the car would be a fine investment. When we tried to pay him for his time, he waved our money away. “Welcome to Portland,” he said.

So first and foremost, there is no one nicer than Mitch. For another, there’s no one more reasonable. Jim Fisher Volvo might charge, say, $1700 for what Mitch would do for around a third of that price. And finally, he is excellent at what he does. The man knows his Volvos. He’s competent and efficient and his work has been consistently first-rate.

There is just one problem with Mitch, and that is a lack of communication that borders on the pathological. The man will not pick up his telephone. We have never succeeded in actually speaking to him no matter how many times we’ve tried to call. We have left countless messages; he never returns them. I doubt he even listens to them. If you want to make an appointment with him or even just ask him a question, you literally need to drive to his shop. This was aggravating enough when we lived in Portland. It’s crazy-making from Vancouver.

This morning, we had an appointment — which I’d driven there weeks ago to set — for Nick’s car. So before dawn, we drove in separate cars to the shop, left Nick’s car there, and then continued together in my car to Nick’s workplace where I dropped him off. I then drove with the baby back to Vancouver just in time for school. Because there was a seminar at Montessori this evening (starting at 6:00) that both Nick and I wanted to attend, I drove straight back to his office right after picking Charlotte up (arriving there at about 4:00) so we could do the drill in reverse: we rode together to the shop, then Nick and I drove separately back to Vancouver. All told, for me, this involved about four hours of driving (it was rush hour traffic both times) and four gallons’ worth of gas. Only after we’d arrived at the seminar did Nick inform me that Mitch had been out sick today. His car hadn’t been touched. No one had bothered to let us know.

The last time I saw Mitch, I told him, “If you weren’t so good at what you do, coming to you would be unbearable.” I don’t know anymore whether it is bearable. We like the guy; we like his work; we like his price. But today was an infuriating and needless waste of a lot of time and money.  Charlotte spent four hours in her car seat because there was no reasonable alternative. The worst part isn’t even that we did all that for no purpose; the worst part is that, if we want the car’s issues to be addressed, we will need to do it all again sometime very soon. At what point will going to Mitch no longer be worth it? I don’t know the answer.



  1. How frustrating … I guess it will have to come down to whether your auto repair money or your time and sanity are worth more. Given the distance involved, and the upcoming change in your available time, it sounds to me as though your time and sanity are going to win. I think if it were me, I’d write to him, explain this, and tell him that if he wants my business back, he should call to tell me so,and then remember how to use the phone from here on out.

    Comment by davidrochester — March 21, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  2. I agree with David. I think you should wean yourself off of Mitch. See if you can find a place nearby and take the car there for something minor (maybe just a tune up or oil change) and see how you feel about the place. IF you don’t like it, try a different one. Oh, and ask around. Word of mouth is very powerful. That’s how we found our guy when we lived in Los Angeles. He was Kaloust and worked on my ex husband’s Volvo then on mine when I got one. He was priceless. After my husband left and I was all alone, he was even nicer, often not charging me for the work he did. But just like there is a Kaloust and Mitch, there is sure to be someone else near you that will work out better.

    Comment by Corina — March 21, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

  3. Mitch maybe a good mechanic, but he’s a lousy businessman. What happened to you today was rude and unreasonable. I’m with Corina. Ask around and see if you can’t find a good car guy nearer to you.

    Comment by Shawn W — March 22, 2008 @ 4:33 am

  4. I understand this, because we once bought a house at least in part because of its proximity to a reliable mechanic. And when I say reliable, I mean someone with phone skills–but who also, when I had a small accident nearby, and limped in, let me sit and pulled a piece of undercarriage away from my tire so it wouldn’t be damaged (they’re a mechanic, not a body shop). When the franchises of that original shop moved in near us here, we danced–and we’ve since discovered they do business the exact same way. Sadly, there are none of their franchises near you; I went and checked, first.

    Don’t leave Mitch without explaining why–but do leave him. Life is too short, and there ARE honest and excellent mechanics out there. Hey–ask him to recommend one. He just might.

    Comment by thelittlefluffycat — April 4, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  5. Are you still thinking of resuming blogging on the anniversary of your hiatus? Hmmmmm?

    Comment by davidrochester — February 10, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

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