Dear Tom and Ray:
When your auto mechanic offers to help sell your '97 Subaru, what percentage of the sale is appropriate to give him as a thank-you? If I ask him, I think he will decline, because he sees it as a favor to my husband, who recently passed away and who was a longtime customer of his. — Mary
Ray: Well, you have to be careful that he didn't handle it like my brother does. I once heard him telling a customer: "That fully restored '66 Mustang convertible is junk — I'll take it off your hands for 500 bucks."
Tom: It had a scratch on the door!
Ray: Assuming this guy really helped you and sold the car for what it's worth, and you think he would be uncomfortable taking cash, then buy him a gift.
Tom: Sure. Get him a new toilet seat. Most repair shops I've visited have cracked toilet seats. Ask his employees if he's got the standard bowl or the elongated one.
Ray: If you don't know what he likes, Mary, you can buy him a gift certificate. That way, he can go out to a nice restaurant (assuming he can ever get his fingernails clean) or buy something at an electronics store.
Tom: If the car sold for a few thousand dollars, I would imagine that a gift certificate of $150 or $250 would be very well received. As it should be. It's a generous thing for you to do, Mary.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)