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Gonzo
Gonzo

Apples to Apples - - - - Cheap parts-good parts-- is there a difference? Now, explain that to cost concerned customer.

Apples to Apples

 

 

 

Alternators, Starters, Voltage Regulators, Window motor assemblies, Light Bulbs, Serpentine belts, the list goes on and on of the various cheaply made replacement parts out there. Being able to distinguish what parts are good or bad is part of being a professional in this crazy world of automotive repair.

 

A customer calls in wanting prices on a certain job, and more than likely this isn't the first phone call they've made today. The way I can tell this is by the way they answer certain questions I ask. This is in order to narrow down the options on that particular part or job. "What's the motor size, is it 2 or 4 door, automatic or manual?" If these questions aren't a hit and miss answer chances are they've been through this before, and have a pretty good idea what the cost is… or at least what they've found out from the auto parts cheapo depot.

 

"Yes, I need a price on an alternator for my car," the caller asks.

 

I give them a price for the brands I sell, and before I'm even finished they'll tell me how much the last guy would sell the part for. That's fine, I know everyone is looking for a bargain, and shopping around for prices is all part of it. However, let's compare apples to apples… not just prices to prices.

 

A perfect example of this is the common external regulator for a Ford product. The prices will range from just a few bucks to as much as 30 dollars. The difference is the quality, of course. You can tell the difference for yourself by just picking them up. The cheap regulator feels like a feather compared to the more expensive one. The question is... do they both work? Yes they do, but there's no doubt the cheaper one will not take any abuse, or a fluctuating signal, or load variations as well as the better made part. No doubt the cheaper one is going to need replaced sooner than you think.

 

From the professional side, it takes just as long to diagnose a problem and make the repair with a well manufactured part as it does to put on one of those bottom of the barrel parts. The big difference is you only have to do the job once, rather than over and over again. That eats up diagnostic time, shop time, and doesn't make for a very happy customer.

 

Over the years the number of times I've had someone bring a car in and tell me they have put five or six alternators on the car, and it still doesn't work is beyond comprehension. The unsuspecting customer will almost certainly have the same reaction on the phone or at the service counter.

 

"There has to be something electrically wrong with the car," they'll say.

 

Even though I haven't checked the car out yet, I'll still ask them, "Where are you buying your parts?"

 

Nine chances out of ten they are buying the cheap knock off brands because of the cost, and under certain applications these knock off brands fail constantly.

 

By the time I get the car in the shop and run the needed tests, I'm already stretching their pocket book just to give them the answer I already assumed it would be.

 

"It's a cheap part that's causing the problem," I'll tell them, and when I give them the price of the "quality" part I know I'm in for an argument.

 

"It shouldn't cost that much. I'll just go get another one myself," the now ticked off customer will tell me. It could be they really wanted me to find something else wrong with it, because they know it can't be the part. Then again, it could be because they don't want to change it again. Whichever the case may be... I'm the lucky guy taking the brunt of the customer's melt down at the front counter.

 

Why is it that the second largest purchase most people make in their life time is left to using cheap discount parts as a way to keep their family truckster on the road? You know, if the original manufacturer used some of these discount parts most of those cars wouldn't make it from the manufacturer to the show room floor without breaking down.

 

One morning when I arrived at the shop a customer was waiting for me with a rear main seal for me to see. I had just replaced the seal in his car a few weeks earlier. There wasn't a problem with the car, his problem was that he believed that I over charged him for the seal. While he was at one of those discount parts stores he purchased a rear seal himself, and after having some time to think about it he figured I should know just how ticked off he was. Needless to say, now he's thinking every bit of the labor cost must have been exaggerated as well.

 

There was only one way that I could think of to solve this problem. I called my supplier and had them send down another seal just like the original one I had purchased. With the customer standing in front of me, we took both of the seals out of their boxes and laid them on the counter.

 

"You see, they are actually the same," the aggravated customer tells me, "They're the same color, same design and obviously are identical, you over charged me!"

 

I'll admit they looked the same, and I was getting a little worried that I wouldn't find a difference between the two of them. I wanted to prove my point that not all parts are created equal, but how? As this anger management class dropout started to get even more steamed up, he started to make his point known how he felt about mechanics in general, parts stores, and the world at large. I picked the two seals up while he was standing on his soap box proudly putting down anyone who had anything to do with the car business. When I gently snapped the actual seal area that touches the crank shaft back and forth ... I had the answer... the difference was obvious.

 

"Sir, if you'll calm down a minute I'll show you the difference. The one you brought from the discount part store has fewer coils on the retaining spring. This spring is what keeps the rubber seal up against the crankshaft to prevent any leaks. Look at the one I just purchased, and you'll see it has twice as many coils on the spring," I calmly explained to him. (OK, I "tried" to say it calmly)

 

After a bit of scrutiny on his part he did see the difference between the two so called "exact" parts. He apologized for all his belligerent ranting, and said he would make good on his promise not to buy any more parts based on the dollar amount. I hope so... sure would make my day go a lot smoother.

 

These days with even more parts coming in from different parts of the world, and at different quality levels, the tech has to be on his toes to make sure what they are installing on a customer's car is actually a decent component. Even today, I'll do my best to sway the customer into buying quality parts rather than going the cheap route. If they insist on using a cheaper part, I'll be the first to tell them what the results will be.

 

Comparing apples to apples is still a good method of explaining things to someone who might have a difference of opinion. One bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch, even good parts fail sometimes. But I'd put my money on a quality part any day of the week. Service is the name of the game in the automotive repair business; knowing which "apple" is the right one for your car is just another part of the service good shops provide. There are plenty of apples out there in the orchard, and sorting out the bad ones aren't about who has the best TV commercial or newspaper ad. Ask a mechanic, he'll know the difference between good parts and bad ones. As the old saying goes; "Ya get what ya paid for."

 

 

Cheap parts are so common these days, with the economy on the low ... seems everyone is going low with the parts and labor prices. It's to bad more people won't listen to the mechanic vs listening to the guy behind the parts counter. Some do... some don't.

Keep those comments coming!

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A few months ago one of our fairly faithful customers needed two hub bearing assemblies on his Chevy truck. THis is a 4x4 with big mud grip tires on it. We quoted him somewhere around $700-800 for Timken bearings. He told us his dad could get it done for him in his small hometown 70 miles away for about $500. I had the conversation with him about first line bearings and second line bearings and how on these heavy pickups a guy wants to use first line stuff. He told me this price was for the good stuff. and I left it at that. This same truck got towed in on Wednesday needing a fuel pump. When the job was sold and we put the truck on a lift to remove the gas tank my technician noticed the right front wheel drop 2-3 inches when we raised it up. What we found found was that the right front hub bearing was about to fall off of the truck. The customer later told me that the guy who did the bearings told him they were "Moog". I told my customer that as far as our area I have not saw any "Moog" hub bearing assemblies and don't know that Moog sells them but the well known brands are BCA, National, Timken, etc.

 

Later the same day my service manager and I discussed how AZ and the other discounters have ruined this business for everyone. They have:

 

1)Destroyed the difference between counter price, dealer price, and jobber price.

2)Caused even the NAPAs and Carquest to have poorer quality in some lines then in the past. My general opinion is all parts quality has suffered. I don't think brands like AC Delco are what they once were.

3)Removed old parts stores that were staffed with pros who knew their stuff from A-Z and knew how to help you. Instead they gave us counter help that doesn't know how to even look things up properly.

4)Made it harder to maintain properly parts margins when dealing with our customers.

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This is sad. Has our business been reduced to selling commodity items? Gonzo, you went out of your way to show the difference in the rear main seal; the truth is there are people out there that will never go back to their mechanics to express their feelings. How do we reach them, when there’s always a brother-in-law, cousin or friend who can get a cheaper part either on line, at an AutoZone, or another shop willing to do a subpar job?

 

We are headed down the wrong path if we cannot position our business on quality. If the motoring public cannot see a difference in what we do as compared to other low pirced shops and price-positioned parts houses, then we have reduced what we do to no more than a consumer going to the grocery store to buy a carton of eggs or a gallon of milk. “It’s all the same, so why are we charging more”, will be the rally call for the future consumer.

 

In this ever-increasing price sensitive time in history, where the entire world is a few mouse clicks ways from checking prices, we need to come up with an answer. To go engage in battle to justify our price is not only insulting, but’s it’s a big waste of time. Does Morton Steak House justify its prices as compare to the Outback? Does Mercedes justify its price as compare to KIA? No. So why in the world do we need to justify our prices? I find myself in the same position more and more and it’s starting to concern me.

 

Tomorrow I plan on have a meeting with my staff and we are getting back to basics. We are going to make sure we market and position our shop not on price, but on quality. We will cater to those people who respect what we do. I urge everyone in the automotive repair and service business to take a long hard look and see how we can improve the image of our companies and not engage in a foolish price war. Too many shops, due to the economic climate are looking for ways to increase business. Too many of them are willing to reduce prices, find the cheapest parts and lower the price on the repair or service because they assume this is what the world wants. No one wins in this scenario.

 

When the day comes that Morton Steak House or Ruth Chris Steak House lowers their prices because the consumer sees no difference in their steak dinners than a steak dinner at Outback, is the day I go selling apples on the street corner. Then this truly will be a world where will not be able to say, “Please compare apples to apples”

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Without even reading the whole article I feel where you come from. When i have a customer in the store or on the phone, they want the cheapest one. They dont care about the warranty, the cost (or hassle in DIY) of replacing the part, possible tire wear, possible realignment costs (60-80 here).

It is hard to get people to spend money on good parts.

people will buy the cheapest oil and air filters they can, cheapest wipers possible.

 

 

 

 

Fed Mogul has changed (at aap atleast) the National name to MOOG. Same part (well same stampings on them), new box.

 

 

What we found found was that the right front hub bearing was about to fall off of the truck. The customer later told me that the guy who did the bearings told him they were "Moog". I told my customer that as far as our area I have not saw any "Moog" hub bearing assemblies and don't know that Moog sells them but the well known brands are BCA, National, Timken, etc.

/quote]

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Without even reading the whole article I feel where you come from. When i have a customer in the store or on the phone, they want the cheapest one. They dont care about the warranty, the cost (or hassle in DIY) of replacing the part, possible tire wear, possible realignment costs (60-80 here).

It is hard to get people to spend money on good parts. people will buy the cheapest oil and air filters they can, cheapest wipers possible.

 

Fed Mogul has changed (at aap atleast) the National name to MOOG. Same part (well same stampings on them), new box.

 

When did this occur?

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Sounds like thsi thread needs to be a brain storming session to come up with an answer of how to deal with the "cheap" price shoppers. I agree that we should concentrate on the quality of work, people are more willing to spend for quality as long as they can see or at least understand it. Our business is basically selling the invisible to people and most of these people are probally the "i have to see it to believe it" We also can't wait around for everyone to have failures form cheap parts to learn the hardway.

 

Has anyone started any process or come up with a script of what to tell these people in as few words as possible? Maby a simple phrase like "you get what you pay for" is our secret weapon?

 

I will think about this and see if I cna come up with anything.

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Good subject.

We are having more and more issues with the quality of parts. Last week we replaced a clutch on a Neon. Next day customer was back with a miss at idle that he did not experience prior to our working on it. After compression test and checking what we had done I felt like we were going the wrong direction. Iit felt more like a vibration to me. So I had my tech pull it back apart and just for grins went ahead and installed another clutch. That took care of the problem and hopefully we salvaged a customer.

 

Prior to redoing the clutch I had called the manufacturer technical help line to see if they had ever heard of this problem with this application. I really had not run into this problem before. Of course all I got was "no" never had the first one come back. OBTW this clutch is the integeral type that the flywheel is with the unit and its all riveted together. No way to bolt in wrong...only goes one way. I guess they figure that that a balance of the unit would drive the cost up too much and really is not nessary. Well only if you want it done correctly.

 

So I called the manufacturer back to tell them they may be seeing a problem with their clutch products. I also asked them about all the "made in China" markings on there product. Asked them if they even make clutches in this country anymore. The anwser was a matter of fact ...NO..Borg Warner no longer makes clutches. They just import the clutches and put it their boxes. Not much different from the other used to be big names. No.... I did not get a sorry you had a problem or any offer of help with that labor. No all I got was.... where did you buy that unit? Couldn't wait to get me off their phone.

 

So the next time a Neon comes in for a clutch and we quote a O.E. from the dealer and the customer decines the repair and goes down the street to competitor .......at least I will have not lost my labor cost.

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Good subject.

We are having more and more issues with the quality of parts. Last week we replaced a clutch on a Neon. Next day customer was back with a miss at idle that he did not experience prior to our working on it. After compression test and checking what we had done I felt like we were going the wrong direction. Iit felt more like a vibration to me. So I had my tech pull it back apart and just for grins went ahead and installed another clutch. That took care of the problem and hopefully we salvaged a customer.

 

Prior to redoing the clutch I had called the manufacturer technical help line to see if they had ever heard of this problem with this application. I really had not run into this problem before. Of course all I got was "no" never had the first one come back. OBTW this clutch is the integeral type that the flywheel is with the unit and its all riveted together. No way to bolt in wrong...only goes one way. I guess they figure that that a balance of the unit would drive the cost up too much and really is not nessary. Well only if you want it done correctly.

 

So I called the manufacturer back to tell them they may be seeing a problem with their clutch products. I also asked them about all the "made in China" markings on there product. Asked them if they even make clutches in this country anymore. The anwser was a matter of fact ...NO..Borg Warner no longer makes clutches. They just import the clutches and put it their boxes. Not much different from the other used to be big names. No.... I did not get a sorry you had a problem or any offer of help with that labor. No all I got was.... where did you buy that unit? Couldn't wait to get me off their phone.

 

So the next time a Neon comes in for a clutch and we quote a O.E. from the dealer and the customer decines the repair and goes down the street to competitor .......at least I will have not lost my labor cost.

 

 

does your supplier not offer warranty labor reimbursement?

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