Jun 14, 2024

What Do You Do With a Comeback Kid?

What Do You Do With a Comeback Kid?

Everyone loves a good comeback story

Maverick, for example, tells the stirring tale of a forgotten ace pilot who returns to the trenches (literally) to reclaim lost glory. It also showed up 36 years after the original, and…yes, reclaimed lost (or forgotten) glory.

That’s what a comeback is, right? An inspiring tale of someone (or something) that “comes back” and defeats the odds. Usually with a rousing soundtrack to help out.

This blog is not about that kind of heartwarming comeback.

No, friends, today we’re talking about the other comeback.

The vehicle you just sent off last week, or last month, or even yesterday—back in your shop, staring at you accusingly.

Why has it returned to you?

Has it come to exact vengeance?

What will this do to your shop’s bank account—and more importantly, to your shop’s reputation?

Remember, guys, reputation is everything.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that a comeback is a failed repair—you, or one of your techs fixed something…but it wasn’t really fixed. Or you/they did it wrong. How do you handle this potentially delicate matter? Who covers the cost, and what happens if it’s a habitual thing?

We were curious, and hey, we already had a survey going out about the 2023-2024 edition of the State of Heavy-Duty Repair, so we asked shop owners those questions and are sharing their answers with you here. Be warned: If you’re hoping for one tried-and-true approach to comebacks, well…there isn’t one.

Let’s take a look!


All of the responses we received were alike in one way: they stressed taking care of the customer above all else. If the tech/shop is at fault, then they’re absolutely re-doing it, whether it comes out of their paycheck or not. If it’s a rare or infrequent event, they may even ignore it.

If comebacks are happening more than once in a blue moon, though, then it warrants a closer look and—sometimes—action taken. Shop owners are split on exactly what action. Some embrace a firm three-strike policy, which we’ll go into below; others…well, others are having trouble finding good techs and don’t want to risk aggravating the ones they have.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” someone wrote on the survey. “If it’s under $1,000, it is a quick conversation and learning lesson. Shouldn’t happen very often. Under $5,000, it is a serious discussion and a write up. Over $5,000, and we need an action plan to ensure it never happens again. No sense firing a good employee over a mistake. Everyone makes them.”

“I believe that most experienced technicians make honest mistakes, so they should not be penalized for ‘comebacks,’” an owner agreed. “If one technician has a ‘bad run,’ he would be put on a probation of sorts.”


About 80% of the shops that responded said they look into each comeback and discuss the situation with the tech. Sometimes—especially with younger or newer techs—it’s a matter of showing them what went wrong.

“We talk to techs and explain to them what went wrong, so they know and try not to do it again,” one owner wrote.

Another said, “[We] ask what caused the comeback, and how they will prevent it from happening again in the future.”

“[I/we] just fix it and don’t do it again,” another tech (possibly a one-man shop) wrote, adding, “I’m a pushover.”


The hundreds of responses we sifted through produced a fairly common thread: heads will not roll if the occasional comeback occurs. However, if a tech is producing more than the occasional comeback, well, in many cases that’s unacceptable.

Some shops have a policy that looks at every comeback and disciplines the tech (or not) depending on the severity. Most shops that have such a policy employ some form of the “three strikes” rule, whether they refer to it that way or not. Basically, they start out with a conversation, then escalate to a warning, followed by write-ups and eventually termination.

(Someone else described “public shame-training” which I assume involves re-doing a repair while Septa Unella stands behind them, ringing a bell, saying “Shame.”)


The tech shortage continues to be a problem, but even we were surprised to see it show up in the responses. Granted, only a handful of owners wrote about the shortage specifically, but the staffing worries their fears convey suggests the industry hasn’t quite recovered yet (or possibly they’re in a staffing desert).

One owner said that they seem to let things go after “Basically a verbal communication. [I’m] too afraid to discipline as they [techs] are hard to come by.”

“For now, we have had so much turnover it is hard,” another owner agrees. “When there are comebacks, they are analyzed case by case. If the tech is at fault, we start with training and will create additional protocols if needed to try and avoid the failure in the future. Sometimes repeat offenders are fired.”

They were by far not the majority, but more than a handful of shops said they had no real consequences for techs that produced comeback work, besides hoping it didn’t happen again.


There’s one thing we haven’t looked at yet, and that’s the financial impact comeback repairs might have on a technician. A lot of shops choose not to implement any kind of financial consequence for comebacks—or if they do, they didn’t share them with us. Still, some are making sure technicians feel the sting when one of their jobs comes back to haunt them.

“It really depends on the tech and the situation,” one owner wrote. “If it is a recurring problem, then they lose their bonus for the week. If it is a one-off, then there is no discipline for that specific incident.”

“[They] lose their bonus for the month,” another wrote.

We also saw shops that trimmed (or cut entirely) year-end bonuses, and shops that postponed raises in response to comebacks. Still others required the tech to take a deduction from their paycheck (50% of the cost was the most frequent number we saw).


No one really likes a repair comeback, but they do happen. Having some idea in mind of how to handle them (or better yet, an actual plan) is going to go a long way in both placating a customer and making sure mistakes aren’t repeated.

While we didn’t get around to comeback information this year, you can check out all kinds of other data around other aspects of the repair industry by downloading our (free!) State of Heavy-Duty Repair report right here. Want to know how Fullbay can help you manage comeback repairs? Hey, we’ve got an article about that, too!

Last plug, we promise: if you like what you see in the report, check out Fullbay’s free demo. We’re here to help you run a more efficient shop—comebacks and all.

Suz Baldwin