A customer asked me, are you competetive?

john_gMarch 3, 2006

Pretty simple situation. The car was in for a state inspection, and one tire failed, another was close to failing, and the last two were poor but with as little as he drives, he could get away with them on the back for a while. He readily accepted the advice of replacing the tire, but suprised me when he immeadiately figured to go elsewhere to buy them. Maybe suprised isn't the right word, dissapointed might be a better fit. So I asked him would you like us to get you some prices? Which was then when he came back with the are you competetive question.

It took me a couple minutes to phrase my response. I asked him if he remembered a year and a half ago when his car would randomly not start. He has a Mercury Mystique with a 2.5l V-6. When he called me, I dropped what I was doing and left the shop with what I needed to diagnose the car right in his driveway. It was a bad crank sensor. I asked him if the tire store could compete with that? He smiled and replied, well no. Plus he told me he was thinking about his dad's Dodge Caravan that was hard to re-start after driving hot, but started fine cold. That was a fuel pressure regulator that was leaking.

The bottom line is, the tire store, or WalMart, etc. could not, would not, have done what I did to take care of them. Sure they will sell tires to him cheaper, but overall what does he really need?

We ordered his tires for Monday......

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You really did answer his question. You are competitive. The products you sell may cost some more than Cheapo Tire or Wally World, but you do offer a level of knowledge and service that they cannot match. And that is worth something. Obviously, he agreed.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 9:29AM
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Wow! I wish I could find someone like you where I live. I'd be loyal for life.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 12:59PM
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A loyal customer that is.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 1:00PM
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I'm with you, westranch...if I had a mechanic who'd come rigt out to my driveway to fix my car, I'd be a true blue customer!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 1:49PM
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Westranch, you sound like a good guy. I've been fortunate to never have a car fail to start in the past 20 years. We have a mechanic who does routine work for us (that's all our cars ever need). We ask him about everything, and what he doesn't do on his own, he recommends someone. So far so good, except that his costs seem higher than even the dealer.

So, can you answer why that might be? I've checked with other local independents and it seems the same story with them. How come our local independent mechanics charge more than the dealers? Not in terms of $$ per hour, but they levy a higher number of hours on the same routine maintenance? Ex: Honda dealer charges 3.8 hours for a t-belt/water pump/engine mount/valve lash adjust for my '97 Civic and all the local independents charge 6 hours for the same work. In the end the local independents actually end up costing more than the dealer. I prefer to not support dealers, but every added dollar into the car is a dollar less that I can spend on the family vacation, or saving for retirement or - well the stuff that you'd probably like to spend your money on instead of car maintenance!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 9:12PM
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westcoast, your story isn't typical. For your usual repairs most if not all shops use a parts time guide. That spells out how many hours to charge for a particular repair regardless of the time it takes. Specialty shops like those that do only tires, brakes, exhaust ect, are an exception. A dealership parts time guide has two different figures for time. One for warranty, the other for out of warranty. Warranty work gets charged less. Odd ball repairs just get charged the actual time and material. Dealerships are usually more expensive if you have to pay. Their focus is on warranty work on newer cars. If you have an older car a dealership shop is one to stay away from. jmo

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 1:37AM
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The biggest Catch 22 of them all. The facts are the local dealers can do some things cheaper than I can. If you want a top gun automotive technician in your town, you have to pay to support him/her.

While the Ford Dealer has the tools and equipment to service Fords, he does not have to buy stuff for any other manufacturer. I do. The same goes for a GM dealer, and a Chrysler, a Toyota, a Honda, and on and on. The cost for scan tools, and supporting software for me, a single tech working all by myself is more than I made a year, just ten years ago. Thats a number that is going to get bigger in the future, unless I start cutting certain cars out of my list of the ones I'll service.

Case in point. The Snap-on tool man showed up yesterday with another new "essential" tool. Many cars are coming out with those radio style tire pressure monitors in the wheels. If you want to rotate the tires, you have to go through a proceedure to tell the car which wheel is at which corner of the car. There are no independents that have purchased this tool from him yet, including everyone of the tire stores. I have not needed this tool, and looking at my customer base don't anticipate needing it in the near future. So as of yet I did not buy it. Oh, it's $700.00. The thing is, none of the other independents have the corresponding factory scan tools to access the computer system on the car that they need to have in order to monitor the communication from the wheel transmitters. I do. Sometime in the next year or two, this will be yet another tool I'll have to purchase. I have to pass those costs on somehow.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 8:56AM
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