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You know I've been talking about this for years

Posted by john_g (My Page) on
Tue, Nov 4, 08 at 9:53

http://www.buffalonews.com/opinion/myview/story/480637.html

I'm composing a response to her and the paper right now. I'll post it this evening or tomorrow.

Imagine yourself having to overcome this type of ignorance on a daily basis in order to attempt to earn a living!

Here is a link that might be useful: It's all about Me


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years, My Response

Dear Lisa.
Seriously, the first question that I want to ask is does the school district that you worked for teach business management classes? If so, then while you have time off, maybe you could take some time and talk with who-ever teaches those classes and then revisit this issue. Small business should not have to apologize for needing to turn a profit. Auto Service especially today because if there is any, auto service is one small business that has in fact been seriously underpriced for a long time, and this is before we consider the demands that are being placed on shops and technicians because of the technology that is being incorporated into the cars. I want to take time to address each point in your "view". In many ways Im glad you wrote this. Youll see why as we go through this.

"Its tough to part ways with a good mechanic"

"My mechanic broke up with me. Then again, I did cheat on him. After 10 years of fidelity I started to stray, despite the fact that the garage was convenient, the mechanic and his employees were honest, friendly and reliable and the service was solid."
Do him/her a favor. While you cannot go back, other people are looking for just this kind of shop, and will gladly pay for service like that. They need him and he needs them.

"So why did I stray? I believe the adage "you get what you pay for" is a theorem bordering on fact: I paid a premium for such service."


Did you really pay a premium? Have you actually researched exactly what it would cost to open up and staff a shop today? I travel to the Buffalo area to instruct continuing education classes for auto technicians and shop owners in your area. Many times I find myself demonstrating diagnostic techniques with equipment that the shop owners and technicians do not presently own. The reason for this is that they feel that they cannot afford the expense that the equipment represents. In short, they are correct because having gotten to see their labor rates, they simply are not charging enough to have the cash flow required to add these additional expenses to their business.

"However, after making the decision to stay home with our daughter two years ago which slashed our family income in half my husband and I had to scrutinize our spending. This coincided with the surge in price of everything from gasoline to graham crackers, challenging our previously manageable budget and requiring further scrutiny."


All things considered, you were able to make the decision to stay home. As a teacher, you dont even risk losing your job while you do so. You should be thinking about how lucky you are to be able do something like that and write about that.


"Meanwhile, we were already acquainted with a mechanic who does a lot of side jobs to help offset his own family finances. He is honest, friendly and reliable, but unlike the garage, is also cheap. Naturally, we were tempted."


First question, why does this mechanic have to work on the side to help support his family? There is no reason to question how friendly he may be but as far as reliability goes thats got a limit to it based on the tools he owns, the equipment that he owns, or simply "borrows" from work with or without permission and continuing training that he may or may not be getting at work.
So that leaves the "honest" part. Honesty isnt relative, and there are many reasons that doing side work is anything but honest. What is he doing with the hazardous waste generated by his "business" that is operating in an area not zoned for such activity? What about the appropriate sales taxes, mercantile taxes, income taxes that he should be paying for providing such services as he does? Which by the way are the source of revenue that are paid by the legitimate businesses that ultimately pay your wages and benefits when you are working.

I asked early on in this portion of my response to you, why does this mechanic have to do side work to support his family? One of the first answers is obviously because he does not make enough money at work. Why does he not make enough money at work? He does not make enough money at work in part because of the unfair competition for the legitimate businesses that people doing side work create in the first place.

"It started with the occasional brake job and soon we were outsourcing everything but oil changes. I was aware that our roaming repairs might be sniffed out, but I never thought that the garage would become jealous. After all, isnt some business better than none? Did my mechanic expect exclusivity?"

Some business isnt better than none, especially if the only business the shop is seeing is one of the ones that is underpriced the way oil changes usually are. These services are called loss leaders. They are similar to the grocery store that puts an item on sale at a low price to get you in the door. If you only buy the item on the sale the store may actually lose money, but most people pick up a few other items while they are in the store so it works out for the grocery store. But vehicle service is more about the people performing it than it is about the parts that they install.

"Apparently so. On the last routine oil change, he began an inspection and found that part of the gas delivery system was rusted out and leaking. We were looking at an easy $750. Since he had already diagnosed the problem, I truly felt compelled to let him finish the job. But the mechanic on the side? He could do it for less than half, including parts and labor."

There is a difference between price and cost. So far you are comparing the price from the professional shop, to a person you are referring to as a mechanic that is cheating. What you are not considering at all is the cost to keep both of these businesses operating. While you havent seen this laid out in an excel spreadsheet format, it actually costs you more to support the back yard bob business. The professional business needs to be there for you on the day that back yard bob ultimately fails to fill your vehicle needs. To do that, the pros have to charge more for what they still get to do in order to make up for the missing easy work stolen by back yard bob. This is the Wal-Mart effect, except Wal-Mart is a legitimate business, back yard bob is not.

"Succumbing to the temptation again, I began to question my loyalties: Yes, I felt loyal to my mechanic, but I also have a loyalty a responsibility to my family and our financial limits. I felt guilty, but justified."

At least you felt guilty, even though it didnt deter you from doing something that felt wrong.

"Since the car still needed to be inspected, I had to decide if I would sheepishly return to my mechanic or not. Would he be offended? Would he refuse to service the car? Yes and yes. His response was, "No, were done. I dont need business like that."

Good for him. Now you get to go to back yard bob, and for him to actually be able to service your car correctly now he can pony up and buy or lease a real building in a properly zoned area. Deal with the hazardous waste issues with the DEP, pay the appropriate taxes, insurances, electric, workmans comp, training, equipment, etc. Do you suppose this might have an impact on his price to you in the future? At least then you will be comparing apples to apples.

"Gulp. He went on to say that it was "too bad" because I was "a good customer" but he simply couldnt compete with some guy working out of his home garage. As he vented, he pointed to the bays in his own garage, ranting about the cost of doing business, his overhead, etc. Red-faced and rejected, I said I was sorry, turned and walked away.
Later, I thought about his reasoning. Overhead, utilities, employees were these my responsibility? Am I expected to subsidize his overhead? As a customer, I assume that I am paying for services rendered, not the lease on the building, the insurance premiums or the electricity. I understand that these must be recovered, but by whom? "

Yes, these normal business expenses all get passed on in part to each customer. Just like the expense related to you getting to take a leave of absence, and have a job waiting for you is carried by everyone that pays their fair share of their taxes. Taxes, that are not being paid fairly by the back yard bob on the work he does for you, and for others.

"Yes, the cost of doing business cuts into your profit, but charging me accordingly cuts into my budget. He may have been offended, but I felt foolish. Perhaps you dont always get what you pay for; in some cases, you may pay more for what you dont get."


Thats a simple distortion to a complex problem. You tried to be witty, and make your case for being cheap, and in essence you have in fact labeled the shop as dishonest with their pricing based on what someone that is stealing from the system chooses to do.

"Its too bad it had to end the way it did. Perhaps we could have made it work. But some relationships are all or nothing. This one was just too costly."

How could you make this work? Seriously, the first thing that should happen is the mechanic who is working on the side should go and either open up a legitimate shop, or else stop operating an illegal business. Many states have licensing laws that if they were properly enforced would shut down such operations. You do realize that if something would go wrong, he does not have insurance that would cover you and your family in the event of an accident?

Now the real question is just whom was this relationship too costly for? You have tried to make the argument that it was too costly for you and your family to have your vehicle repaired by a professional shop, and in a professional manner. Take notice that it was the shop that fired you and your car. Lets take one single business expense and examine it. That shop owner has to provide healthcare for his technicians along with the many other benefits, just like the ones you would expect to get from the school district for your job as a teacher, or that your husband gets from his job. Are you prepared to insist that in order for you to do business with any other shop that they should stop providing just such benefits for their employees so that you can get a cheaper price? Does that sound extreme? I use that single example, because as it is just one of the many expenses that go towards operating my small auto repair business, it stands alone as the single greatest expense we face each month. It actually costs close to $1500.00 for just my wife and I to have healthcare each month. Something Im going to guess you dont have to pay out for, and is likely provided for back yard bob by his employer. Now thats just for two of us, imagine what that same expense is for the shop owner who was operating in a professional manner that you willingly turned your back on. If his shop employs four to five people, it may take 25-30 thousand dollars of profit before he even begins to make any money at all for himself each month.

Heres a challenge for you. Go and get some business education. Work out the expenses with real numbers, and see just what it would cost for you to open a shop, a real shop. Then re-work the numbers to see not only what it would cost you to own and run a shop, but to get to make a decent living doing so. Make sure that you account for the training expenses and for re-investment in new equipment so that you keep up with todays technology. Thats probably something your old shop is actually struggling to do, so make sure that you are prepared to make sure that the customers truly get what they are paying for. Dont be surprised when your prices work out to be higher than you used to pay at your old shop.

Now imagine catching one of your employees taking work from your business and doing it on the side, undercutting your price to your customers. How would you feel about that, and what would you do about it?


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

John_G:

I looked at the link that you posted. A statement was made that caught my eye and I have copied it below:

Quote:

"Later, I thought about his reasoning. Overhead, utilities, employees were these my responsibility? Am I expected to subsidize his overhead? As a customer, I assume that I am paying for services rendered, not the lease on the building, the insurance premiums or the electricity. I understand that these must be recovered, but by whom?"

Unquote.

Well, yah! Where does the money come from for providing the facilities and crew to support these services? Isn't it the billing to the customer. Isn't that fair? The customer is paying for not only parts and labor, but for the cost of delivering these goods to him.

My background is manufacturing of electrical devices. The cost to a customer of one of our popular switches varied greatly depending on the circumstances. The lowest cost goes to the distributor who buy not a few at a time, but thoudands wrapped to pallet. At this point, we are relieved of futher costs. The distributor now has the job of marketing, delivering, and smooting out the supply at various places over the country.

I followed one of our products to a local parts house for appliances. His markup was seemingly huge until one considers his cost. As asembly which we made for $6 factory cost might be listed as high as $30 or more on his shelf. First of all, it was an assembly that had a long life and the call for its replacement was low, but,the parts house carried it just in case one of his builder customers found a bad part on installtion, or more likely ruined the part on transporting and installing.

If a part sits on the supplier's shelf for one year, he must markup it up about 2:1 to stay in business. For one thing, he's in a city that charges inventory tax; for another, he has money tied up in that inventory that isn't making a dime until the part is sold, and in many cases, it is money borrowed by the business.


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

People just don't stop and think! Along a similar story line---Last week in the Washington Post someone wrote in complaining about the cost of wine at a restaurant. They paid $60 for this bottle of wine which they loved, so much they went looking for it at the store and they were dumbfounded that the bottle was only $30 in the store! People now a days just want cheap cheap cheap and dont really care about anyone else.


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

Hmmm, they were at a resturant in which they bought a bottle of wine for $60.

My wife and I celebrated her 50th last week at the Texas Roadhouse. We spent a little under $40 for the whole meal, and the tip........For us that was a very expensive night out.


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

One thing that has been left out here, many people simply do not have the money and must seek out people like back yard Bob. On many jobs hours have been cut, prices higher for everything, this forces people to take the cheap route, while not always the wisest or best course if you don,t have it you simply don,t and must act accordingly. For example a friend owns a Japanese car a Nissan I think, the fuel pump control box went out, he was quoted something over 300 for a repair. A neighbor who does some back yard auto repair, said the relay in control box was probably bad and an external one could be installed to operate the fuel pump for around $60, he did it and car has been running fine for over 3 years. My friend has a large family and simply did not have the funds to do otherwise. I realize not all repairs made by other than pros work out this well. however sometimes there is simply no other course. I think the public should start taking car manufactuers to task about some of the uneccsarily complicated and useless features on todays cars. Many add nothing to performance or safety they are simply there to generate work for the dealers shop. I remember many years ago a professor in a lecture to budding mechanical engineers, stated simpler is always better, seems todays car makers have forgotten this


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

Iggie wrote

"One thing that has been left out here, many people simply do not have the money and must seek out people like back yard Bob."

Is there significance to the fact that this is a very similar excuse used by most of the people who have gotten caught stealing?

" For example a friend owns a Japanese car a Nissan I think, the fuel pump control box went out, he was quoted something over 300 for a repair. A neighbor who does some back yard auto repair, said the relay in control box was probably bad and an external one could be installed to operate the fuel pump for around $60, he did it and car has been running fine for over 3 years."

Now the first time that it does not work right, or even worse allows the pump to continue to run after an accident causing a fire, and bodily harm or death, who's fault will that be?

"My friend has a large family and simply did not have the funds to do otherwise."

Again, consider the idea that potentially this works to the point that in an accident it does not turn off like it should and he injures himself, or some of his family members, or a complete stranger. Who is at fault?

" I realize not all repairs made by other than pros work out this well. however sometimes there is simply no other course."

There is always another choice. ALWAYS.....

"I think the public should start taking car manufactuers to task about some of the uneccsarily complicated and useless features on todays cars."

Lets make sure to blame manufactures for all of the problems and not hold any individual accountable for his/her own actions. (sarc)


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

Price is everything to many people in a flat economy.

We have customers with very expensive homes that hire unlicensed, uninsured handymen to do light construction work, remodeling, plumbing, heating and electrical work without plans, permits, variances and inspections. They pay them in cash, don't get a receipt and don't seem to care about the substandard work, voided warranty, lack of guaranteed work and potentially dangerous code violations as long as the price is right.

We get a lot of calls from new customers when fly-by-night contractors, service techs and installers don't service, repair, stock parts for and guarantee what they sell.

Many of the hacks pull a bait & switch. They get their foot in the door with a low-ball estimate, then sell extras, upgrades and/or make money performing unnecessary repairs/replacements and charging customers for parts not replaced, services not performed, running for parts they should have on their service trucks etc. Many of them tell customers standard normally stocked parts are obsolete, proprietary or special order parts so they can charge for a second service call.

The kicker is that many of them make more money due to their incompetence since they charge the customers for callbacks. It's also an opportunity to sell the customers additional parts and services.


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

John G I have the utmost respect for you and no doubt you are a tech with fine ability. However, I must take issue with some of your statements. First there is not always another choice, if you know a way to turn 20 bucks into 200 Im sure everyone would love to have the formula. Some of the back yard mechanics do decent work, not all are hacks. Granted they do not have the overhead and trappings of a regular shop. The guy that repaired my friends Nissan did a good job he simply opened box cut wires to bad fuel pump relay and hooked another in its place. While not being an expert but having considerabl experience with electrical things, I would say any safety features to preventt a fie in case of a crash were left in tact. Being poor and short of cash is in no way related to stealing as you suggest. If you only have a limited income thats all you have and one must make do. This is like the man who wanted cavier and breast of pheasant for dinner but had to settle for hot dogs or go hungry. Now I am no way saying licensed shops staffed by certified techs should not be used if one has the means, however if he does not he must do the best he can with what resouces available. I think lots people are learning that the hardway.


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

Hi Iggie.

If I may.

If the use of Back Yard Bob, reaches a point where the professional shop is forced to cut back on tooling, training, and maybe even personnel to the point that say they are no longer equipped to deal with your transmission question (which is actually already happening, one MUST have the $9000.00 factory scan tool for ONLY Chrysler to operate at the level required) then what is anyone going to do, with or without the financial resources? Back Yard Bob would never go anywhere near this level of an investment, we can only do it when we price correctly, and are fully utilized by our customers.

There is a difference between price and cost. You can get a cheap price by going around us, but how do you really measure the cost of doing that?

I had a customer who took her Honda Odyssey to a back yard bob to have a timing belt job done. She came back here a month later thinking she had a transmission problem, that he discovered right after doing the belt. The transmission was fine, he missed the timing marks when he did the belt. What if she totally lost the chance to ever bring her car back here because we weren't doing enough business to keep our doors open? Don't be too sure there will always be someone else, the cars got way too complicated in too short of a time. The tools are not being widely purchased and very few technicians are attending sufficient training to keep up with today's technology. The best part, is its all because most shops are actually priced to low already to afford those expenses. Now with many other people losing their jobs, and thinking they are capable of, and attempting to work at home and grab some/most of the easier work, we are getting hit with all kinds of problems when we are the second person in, (sometimes the third) with cars that have lots of parts thrown at them, that they easily may not have needed.

In many cases, if someone else does a job like that timing belt in the back yard, we are faced with either turning the customer away, or completely re-doing the repair. You see, once we touch it, we are expected to stand behind the repair, fully. Meanwhile Back Yard Bob can sit back and still say he did everything right, and act like we don't know what we are doing. The Honda owner I referred to, once the car was diagnosed, was handed her keys and sent back to the person that did the work. As far as we are concerned, she does not ever have to come back. If her Back Yard Bob can't handle everything her car needs, she can take it to the nearest dealer, a sixty mile round trip. That's a real cost associated to the cheap price she got. BTW, like that Chrysler tool, I'm the only independent that has the Honda Factory tool, I won't bother going into detail right here what that means that I and the dealer can do, that no other shop, or especially anyone working at home in their garage cannot. Seriously it would take way too much time to try and look it all up and type it out. BTW, I know it sounds arrogant to turn her away, but its more about preserving the shop in one of the toughest business climates ever. We are all in, customers that don't understand that can't help us, and for the sake of the customers that do understand we have to make choices. "Nothing personal, its just business"



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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

Hi John I must tell you Marcel and many of the others agree 100% with your post. Marcel is an a retired auto repair shop owner who sometimes post here. First I must say after reading many of your postings I have the utmost respect for your knowledge and expertise. But if I may let me point out a couple of things. The person that did work on the ladys Honda Oddesy was simply careless and it would not have mattered had he been working in an ASE certified smancy shop with space age diagnostic equipment the results would have been the same. The person replacing the timming belt was simply careless and no amount of equipment and training would have prevented the goof up. Nothing more than a little time and and patience are required to make sure that belt or timming chain marks are in the correct position, most timing bets and chains come with clear illustrated installation instructions. Now I agree there are lots of repairs and diaganostic problems that cannot be handled without expensive expensive equipment. Many part time and back yard mechanics realize this and pass on these type jobs when they are presented. I think there is room for both the pro and the back yard guys. Marcel and the coffe bunch here all agree with John G. However, I have a different take. I don,t think I should have to help pay to keep a 30K machine in a shop if I don,t need it. Next I think many people are born hacks and not careful when they do things and it doesn,t matter where they work the results will be the same. There are others who are meticilous and careful and whatever job they the undertake they do it well. They are also smart enough to pass on things they do not have the know how or equipment to handle. I think there,s room for both. Sometimes one must take the cheaper way whether he wants to or not. I have learned in my years that a lot of this stuff depends of the luck of the draw. You can either get a hack or a meticilous careful craftsman, regardless of where you go. Always good to read your posts John G, Marcel, I and the gang all applaud you and hope you have continued success.


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

"The person that did work on the ladys Honda Oddesy was simply careless and it would not have mattered had he been working in an ASE certified smancy shop with space age diagnostic equipment the results would have been the same."

Really? The result of a real shop doing that service, is seriously questioning why it didn't run the same after the repair, as it did prior to it. Mistakes happen, nothing is ever going to change that, its what one does under that circumstance that makes all of the difference. A real shop, and tech would not have sent that out the door, and blamed the transmission for how the car was running. Without knowing the belt had been done, a road test was all that was required for me to sense the problem was engine related, not transmission related.

"Nothing more than a little time and and patience are required to make sure that belt or timming chain marks are in the correct position,"

There is a down side to working as a pro. We price according to how fast other technicians do a particular repair. That means we don't get all the time in the world to do something. We must get it right the first time or else we are on the losing end of the equation.

" Now I agree there are lots of repairs and diaganostic problems that cannot be handled without expensive expensive equipment. Many part time and back yard mechanics realize this and pass on these type jobs when they are presented. I think there is room for both the pro and the back yard guys."

And if you are in fact wrong????

"Marcel and the coffe bunch here all agree with John G. However, I have a different take. I don,t think I should have to help pay to keep a 30K machine in a shop if I don,t need it."

And the lady with the Honda doesn't think she should be paying for the Chrysler equipment if she doesn't need it. While a person with a GM vehicle doesn't think they should have to help pay for either of you if they don't need the Honda, nor the Chrysler equipment,,, and on,, and on..

"You can either get a hack or a meticilous careful craftsman, regardless of where you go. Always good to read your posts John G, Marcel, I and the gang all applaud you and hope you have continued success."

I hope you always find the craftsman, and support him/her with all of your business.


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

I'm new to this forum but when I read this thread I felt I should share what happened last year due to the work of back yard joes.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in the thread is the value one places on their life and their family.
I'll try to make this short: My DM lives in a small town and uses 2-3 different back yard joes to work on her car. I visit (live across the country) once a year and try each time to get her to have a diagnostic check on the car by her dealer.
My last visit I was using her car tooling down the freeway at 65+ mph, took an exit ramp and 1/4 mile down the main street lost control of the car. Somehow I stopped safely in the center lane and missed oncoming cars and those to my right.
Two guys that stopped and helped looked under the car.........yep, the tie rod had broken.

DM had the car towed to one of her regular guys & I flew home 2 days later. Turns out the tie rod isn't broken, but the nut/bolt that held it had sheared. He replaces the tie rod and returns the car 2 days later. I began to worry when she told me he showed up one morning and checked under the car to make sure he had tightened a certain bolt!
Two months later she had a neighbor wash the car and he notices her tires are badly worn. Yes, you guessed it, no one ever checked the tires after I skidded sideways across 3 lanes with a broken tie rod!
She took the car to a small shop in her town and they discover the new tie rod had no lubrication, the tires were unbalanced and both were useless.

I know all this is a little off the main discussion, but I feel my safety and that of anyone riding in my car comes first..........and I'm willing to pay qualified craftsmen with the necessary diagnostic tools in order to have some peace of mind.
All anyone has to do is imagine going down the road at 65 mph and suddenly all control is taken away. I was very lucky that day!

DM has yet to have the car checked so I will take it in myself during my next visit. I'll also be renting a car...............


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

Wow annz. Scary story, glad you handled it when the need arose.

Which BTW, brings another point to ponder. If this happens (God forbid) and a real shop is involved, we have insurance that protects YOU. Imagine if you would, Back Yard Bob is road testing the car he just worked on, and he has an accident. Who's insurance is liable? Who's insurance would have been on the hook had you of actually wrecked because of the failure?


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RE: You know I've been talking about this for years

b-4 long its going to be cheaper just to build sealed cars, buy it drive it 150k, and dipose of it. one of the reasons i lease, its under warranty for the 3 yrs i have it, then i get rid of it get another one.


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