A Local Auto Repair Shop Comes to the Aid of a Groundhog Reporter

Outside, rain poured and heavy whispers of cold air blew against my car. I was running low on gas and decided to drive to the CITGO gas station located on Parker Avenue to fill up my gas tank. Unfortunately, after filling up my tank, I turned the ignition of my car to start the engine and it started but then quickly failed. Frustration glazed over both the passenger, my housemate Valentina Ballas, and myself as we concluded what we should do. Luckily for us, connected to the gas station was a mechanic shop called Seif’s Auto Repair. Generously, they offered to look at my car to determine the issue. Within minutes, they were able to find the problem and it was only a matter of hours before they would fix it and, I should add, at a reasonable price.

Seif’s Auto Repair business started in 1996 and since then, the family business has been operative for 18 years. The Qaqish family, who are originally from Jordan, has always had a history and interest in working with cars. Seif Qaqish II, the son of the owner of the shop, expressed that for himself it wasn’t just about following in the first steps of his father.

“I was always interested in cars since I was a teenager,” he said. “It was a way for me to keep driving different cars and to keep working on them. It’s interesting because it’s challenging. There’s a different problem every day.”

Customers come into the shop with various problems ranging from flat tires to engine problems. For me, my issue was that I had a bad fuel pump that according to them had burned out as a result of driving on low gas. The worker who inspected my car was called Ben. He preferred not to use a last name for personal reasons. He popped open the hood of my car and began taking parts out and inserting it back into my car. Myself nor my housemate could tell you the name of any of the car parts Ben fiddled with even if our lives depended on it — our knowledge about cars is very low so one could only imagine how nervous we were when things were being taken apart.

It was my first time handling a situation like this, usually my boyfriend would be the one to take care of any car issues at his regular mechanic so I was never burdened with this responsibility. The only person that’s ever done work on my car has been my boyfriend’s mechanic but when that mechanic works in Brooklyn, New York, one’s options are very much limited.

I had to risk it and hope that these men would not only take good care of my car but that they would also not try to con me. Fortunately for me, this wasn’t the case.

Chris, the owner of the CITGO gas station that is connected to the auto repair shop, felt that it was unnecessary to give his last name because everyone in the neighborhood automatically knew him. “All my cars are fixed here,” he said. “I only let them fix my cars.”

Chris added that his connection to the auto shop business was that they were his in-laws but assured me that his choice to only let them do work on his cars wasn’t a result of his bias. In comparison to other shops Chris has visited he felt that Seif’s Auto Repair was “very professional and safe and charged reasonably.”

He acknowledged that Poughkeepsie was a very small community where everyone talks to everyone. So if a shop’s price was too high people would only come once; however people continue to come back specifically to this business because they “provide great customer service at a good price.”

And from my first experience, I could adhere to that statement. My biggest fear about going to a new mechanic shop was that they would over-price me. As a college student on a college student budget, I couldn’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars. Reasonably, I was charged $300, $150 dollars for the fuel pump part, $125 for the labor and plus tax.

Though I preferred to be charged no money, after consulting with my boyfriend and my housemate’s brother they both had confirmed that $300 dollars was in fact a fair price.

Though he mainly handles the sales aspect of the business, the younger Seif also participates in mechanical work alongside his father and other workers at the shop,

“The most challenging issue when fixing any car is when there’s an electrical problem. They’re hard to find and sometimes you have to rely on the dealership where you bought the car to figure it out, but 90% of the time they don’t know,” explained the younger Seif.

He went on to say that repairs could end up being very costly especially if the problem can’t be detected right away. The shop prided themselves on having their own in house car service for those people that prefer to buy their cars locally. It makes it much better for the shop to work on cars that they sell to someone because “we know the car, we know if it had any prior problems.”

Honesty is the best policy and it is one that the shop embraces. “A lot of mechanical businesses are lacking honesty and they’re losing customers,” expressed the younger Seif. He explained that some shops are overcharging customers or not being direct about the damages or parts needed for their cars and that it bad for business.

“My father is straightforward and honest. He tells you straight up what the problem is. What parts you need…There’s no shortcuts. That’s why we’re still in business, that’s why we still have customers,” said Seif.

He also made an effort to stress how much they valued their customers and their wellbeing. A lot of the people that come to the shop are regulars which means that they share a history together and know each other’s families. Seif explained that at the shop they want to make sure that it is safe especially for kids, so it’s important for him to test drive any car he sells.

Before I left Ben assured me that I had a good car but he also informed me that there were other minor things to be fixed. He brought me to the opened hood of my car and pointed at the part he had replaced: the fuel pump. I nodded in agreement as if I understood whatever car lingo he was saying, but at least I felt at ease knowing exactly what he had done to my car.

It was an experience, but at least now I have a reliable place to fix my car!

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