When is “evidence” evidence enough?

My trust of cashiers and servers is no lower now than in 2021. This point surfaced for me after hearing Rich Roll suggest we note that our everyday interactions likely don’t reflect the level of contention seen in the media and social media. It’s an interesting observation.

Charting trust for over two decades, The Edelman Trust Barometer indicated year over year downward trends in trust across the board in 2022 – media, government, business leaders, and multinational organizations. Institutional distrust may be undeniable, yet I’m not skeptical of the intentions of individuals I encounter in business or in daily transactions regardless which organizations they represent. If anything, I’m likely to give people the benefit of the doubt, feeling as if we’re all trying to do our best in these challenging times.

Still, the call for “evidence” seems to be on the rise. Evidence of what’s behind charts. Evidence of what was removed from social media. Evidence that evidence exists or doesn’t exist. It begs the question of who would be qualified to review the evidence, and what you’d have to do to get reliable evidence.

A recent check-engine light on my dashboard prompted me to consider how I choose trust, trust-but-verify, or outright distrust, and the role evidence may play along the way. The way I saw it, there were two possible responses:

  • Option A: the check engine light is a reliable indicator of a problem; I better get this checked out, or
  • Option B: the car manufacturer applied a variable algorithm triggering engine lights in hopes of getting parts-related income; the company believes that unethical mechanics, in an attempt to get labor fees, will purchase OEM parts to fix even non-existent issues; my work here is done.

Call me naive, but I choose Option A. I bring it to our local service station for a $150 assessment. Imagine the service manager says, “Ms. Vitalie, there are fairies that run on a treadmill just above the engine. Their shoes are wearing out, and we’re going to need to replace those shoes. Also, it’s winter, so we suggest you let the car warm up more before you start driving. You need to give their little legs a chance to get going before you get to those high speeds.” At that point I would say, “Frank, pop the hood. This I gotta see.”

Instead, Frank recommends $1,000 of corrective work to fix both the engine light issue and a squealing belt I’ve noticed. Should I ask for evidence? I think not. I know very little about how my car works. I do not ask that they bring me into the bay to show me that the valve is in fact stuck in the open position, or that the tensioner assembly isn’t running optimally.

I generally trust the service station. Trust in this context includes both believing they give me honest estimates, and a believe in their competency and ability to execute repairs. Still, the service station has already performed $2,000 in repairs in the past two months. I go home to think about it. As if on queue, the car’s remote start also stops working. Now I have a new diagnostic issue, and it relates to something that the dealer is probably best positioned to address.

At the dealership a week later, I fork over another $150 diagnostic fee. It confirms the original diagnosis from the service station, and I learn that the remote start simply doesn’t work when there’s a check engine warning. Seeking similar information independently from a different source was really the only evidence that was helpful. But it cost me a lot of time, effort, and hard dollars to get this evidence.

The service manager tells me there is also some additional work recommended. He says my coolant is dirty and should be flushed, and my spark plugs aren’t firing quite as they should. Alarms begin to sound as they do when additional unexpected recommendations arise. A soft whisper at the back of my head urges, “Don’t. Don’t.” I ignore them. Why? I seem to be in a trusting mood given they did not exploit my suspected remote start issue. I give the green light for the repairs.

I’m feeling pretty good, thanks to my high supply of trust. The repairs progress quickly. As I prepare to leave, I hear an interesting exchange between the dealership’s service manager and another customer.

The service manager explains to the man that his tire is beyond repair. The car will need four new tires, which the service manager doesn’t even have in stock. Also, he notes for the customer, “You really need a coolant flush and new spark plugs.”

Really? What are the chances? Now that’s evidence I wish I’d had earlier. *sigh*.

2 thoughts on “When is “evidence” evidence enough?

  1. Donna, you focused (in very readable fashion) on a major issue in today’s world: to trust or not to trust.

    Re cars, specifically, I hear your frustration. My personal experience is that dealerships suggest more repairs than are necessary. Fortunately, I found a very honest local independent mechanic for my latest car.

    Liked by 1 person

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