Finding a good and honest mechanic is a valuable find anywhere in the world.

But when you are a foreigner in a country far from home it is even more valuable.  We recently needed some extensive upkeep and repairs done on our little car.

The first couple of places I got quotes from were larger and more established “chain” shops.

They drew me in with the nice buildings and slick marketing, but the prices were way too high.  I had to find an alternative. I had seen a lot of “shade tree” shops around town but I didn’t know which one would be trustworthy.

When I asked my Thai friend for a good recommendation he sent me to a little shop down the road from our house.  I would have never found it on my own.  The price was much cheaper than the other places I went to on my own and the work was guaranteed. Everything was done in a day and we were back on the road.

Four new tires, ac compressor & fan, oil and power steering leaks fixed, and suspension repaired.  It was still expensive, but it would have been much worse if I hadn’t found this little shop.  These major repairs are those “budget crashers” in cross cultural life, but I guess they are also the normal expected part of owning an older car.

It helps to have friends who know where to go.  It’s also great if they are willing to take you by the hand and make sure you are taken care of too.  No one here cares what the shop looks like on the outside, they just want to know if the mechanic can get it done and what the cost will be.  I like being able to support the local hard working Thai mechanic too.  He takes care of me and I will take care of him and send my friends too!

Sometimes working with these shops can back fire.  A friend of mine told me of a recent situation where he caught his mechanic doing shoddy work.  He insisted the mechanic work on the car again and do it right, this time for a reduced price. The mechanic smiled that infamous Thai smile and agreed.  My friend got his car back after the “repairs” and noticed that it was running funny.  Later that day, it completely broke down.  His old friendly mechanic had poured sugar in the gas tank!

Cross cultural lesson for the day:  Getting a good, fair deal is important. But if you are going to confront your trusty Thai mechanic, make sure you do it in a way that he doesn’t lose face! Many times this means you will have to use a mediator and/or make him feel that he must have not been the one who did anything wrong, but something caused there to be a problem and it needs to be addressed.

This gives him a way to correct the problem without injuring his, super sensitive and all important Asian, “face.”

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