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Voices From the Crisis: Auto care shop now sanitizes interiors for free

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Greg Buckley | Photo by Jenni Santos

Greg Buckley is taking the cleanliness guidelines to a whole different level.

Buckley, the owner of Buckley’s Auto Care in Newport, has taken a paid service – deep sanitizing of a car before or after the repair using an Environmental Protection Agency-approved solution – and made it a standard feature for no additional charge.

Buckley worked with a third party to create a coating that seals a car’s interior. There’s no odor, and it reportedly repels and kills spores. He even uses it on the heater and ventilation systems.

“We’ve completely adjusted our business for this environmental situation,” Buckley said. “We’ve set up a bunch of different practices and protocols to comply with [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance and ensure the health of our staff. You can’t go backward from a pandemic. Everyone is concerned. We’re in people’s cars. They may look clean, but you never know.”

Buckley’s has implemented a no-wait policy, roping off the area where customers used to hang out while their cars were being repaired. He’s observing social distancing through digital inspection, remote communications, and even remote payment. When clients drop off their keys, they go into a container and get sprayed. And he’s asking a lot more questions – How is your health? Have you been on vacation or gone out of town recently? Are you just back from Europe – and then making decisions from there.

“We would never do that before,” he said. “But we now have to interview clients we’ve never met before. I leave it up to my team to make the call for out-of-state cars and really dirty cars that have to be cleaned out before we start work. It’s making a difference with clients and with the attitude of the staff.”

Business at the shop is “not as robust as normal but that’s to be expected,” he said, noting that he’s “privileged to have the obligation” that comes with being considered an essential business by the state. But they do make time to run errands for clients who are shut in and Buckley hired a handyman who helped the mother of a good client and transported him both ways to the woman’s home.

“You can’t shutter a repair center,” he said. “Transportation can’t come to a stop. There are health care workers, Uber drivers, construction workers, fleet businesses that all have to get to work.”

Buckley also decided to revive his popular Shop Soup podcast, and live-streamed his first interview with local Realtor Tom Riccio on March 24. He hopes to do a new one on Facebook Live at 7 p.m. Tuesdays and then distribute it on platforms like iTunes within the next month or so.

“It’s my baby,” he said of the podcast. “I’ve had it since 2013, on and off but hadn’t been able to find a true cause. The new iteration focuses on small businesses and what we can do to survive.”

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