Friday, February 26, 2016

Honesty is always the best policy

This post first appeared in the Herald Weekly at

Few shows in the history of television have ingrained more anecdotes and sayings into our psyche than Seinfeld.  The long running comedy ended its reign over prime time nearly 18 years ago, but to this day, still on a regular basis one comes across situations that bring reminders of the show that was famously about “nothing”.

One of those reminders happened to yours truly a few weeks ago on what I thought would be a routine trip to the auto repair shop.  Instead, I felt like I’d been dropped onto the set of an episode from 1995 with this famous exchange about auto mechanics.

Jerry: “Twenty-eight hundred dollars?!! That's the estimate on my car?!! No, don't even do anything. I'm gonna think about it. Okay, bye.”

George: “What's to think about? If Putty says it's what it is, it's what it is. He's not gonna cheat you.” Jerry: “Except that it's not Putty.” George: “What happened to Putty?” Jerry: “Eh…I went to this other place. I think they might be trying to screw me.”

George: “Well, of course they're trying to screw you. What do you think?  That's what they do. They can make up anything. Nobody knows. ‘By the way, you need a new Johnson rod in there." "Oh, a Johnson rod. Yeah, well, you better put one of those on.’”

Just substitute me for Jerry in the above exchange and you get the picture?  I’d taken my truck to a new place and instead of great service, I got the “Johnson rod.”  Or more specifically, I got someone trying to sell me a $1,300 break job when the breaks felt fine.

It was time to go to “Putty’s”,  or in my case since I’m here in North Mecklenburg and not New York City, that place would be C.A.R.’s in Huntersville at the intersection of Mt Holly-Huntersville Rd and 115.

If you are looking for an honest mechanic, a place that won't steer you wrong, and somewhere you’ll be treated fairly, Jim Neitzke’s shop is the place to go.

Those are descriptors I've heard from everyone who I've ever run into who has gone to C.A.R.’s – including folks at the Herald. Weekly whose offices used to be right next door.  My own personal experience also bares this out.  On more than one occasion Neitzke (pronounced “night ski”) has given me  advice on why something didn't need to be done – rather than trying to sell work just to make a quick buck.

And it's not just Neitzke himself who has this attitude towards high quality customer service. On this recent trip one of the shop mechanics, Francisco, explained in detail why my breaks looked fine for at least a few thousand more miles.  He even showed me why some recent work that I'd actually paid for as part of the “Johnson rod incident” might not have even been done.  After taking the time to show me under the vehicle what it should have looked like, it was pretty clear that was very likely the case.

Neitzke like many in the region is a transplant.  He bought the shop in 2005 after well over two decades as an airplane mechanic working for United Airlines based out of Chicago.  After 35 months straight in the early 2000s commuting betweeen the Queen City to the Windy City and with the airline industry in constant, he jumped at the chance to own his own business.

In his eleven year run at the helm, he’s built up a loyal following of customers, and after my own recent mistake of trying someplace new out of a misguided sense if convenience, I can say he's added another in myself.

If you are like me, I've always wondered what C.A.R.’s stood for.  Was it some cleaver acronym like Carolina Auto Repair?  Or maybe the “C” stood for Certified?  No.  It's neither of those.  C.A.R.’s is the initials of the shop’s original owner – Charles Archibald Reid.

That was a name just too good to change for one of the best  auto repair places around.

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