Ok, I’ll admit it, I indulge in a cigar now and then, usually on the golf course, mowing the lawn, or on one of those slow days at the shop. All the cigars come in some form of a wrapper, box, or tube, but for the most part, at first glance, you can’t tell them apart. They all look the same. Some are like fine wine, while others could be compared to a well done steak; then there are those skanky-worthless-should’ve never spent money on type that smell something like moldy grass clippings rolled in rotted onions. Ask my wife, she’ll tell you they all smell like old gym socks that caught fire. (Out of respect for my dear wife I’ll keep from lighting any of them when she’s around… good or bad ones.) One thing I tend to do with everything that I’m involved with is to compare it to the trade that I’m in, cigars are no exception. And, in a way, choosing a good cigar is like choosing good automotive parts. As with stogies and car parts, there are cheap ones, good ones, super expensive ones, and some that are moderately priced.
Cheap parts and quality parts look entirely the same in their box or wrapper. From the average consumer’s vantage point the cheaper components most certainly will do the job vs. the better brands. Why? Price obviously. Although asking a pro which one you should purchase might make all the difference in the world. Those discount brands might come in a nice neat package, but it’s what’s in the package that counts. An expert would know right off hand which is a good discount brand, and which isn’t. Obviously, we all don’t want to over pay for anything, but we want to get the best value for our dollar. Hey, I’m the same way. Just as the old saying implies, “You get what ya paid for” it’s as true as ever…and always will be.
I’ve spent decades explaining the virtues of quality parts and service vs. subpar parts and service to clients and prospective customers. And, a lot of what I know is from experience. Some understand it, or have already been down the cheap road and ended up with that second trip back to the service center. Others, even with the best explanations given to them, still have to make that journey before the results and their wallet notice the real issues at hand.
Of course the other side of the repair business is when I’m asked to look at a car with a problem, and I find the problem is related back to one of those cheap parts someone else installed. One particular part that is extremely common is the ICP on the Ford Taurus (Integrated Control Panel). Since the radio and the HVAC are combined into one unit, it’s not uncommon to find an aftermarket ICP with an aftermarket radio in it. The plastic is brittle, thin, and breaks with just a twitch. Then there are the starters, alternators, blower motors, brake pads, and suspension parts that all have their discount brand versions. And, from first glance…in or out of the box…they look the same.
After a few decades and quite a few failed attempts with some of these off brands (not to mention a few new offshore brands just now coming in), I can tell the difference either by brand name, where it was purchased, or just the condition of it. (Needless to say, I’m learning the same with the cigars too…slowly of course.) Now, if after giving my little disclaimer to the customer about a cheaper part, and they still insist on the lower quality part, I emphasize a written disclaimer to go along with the repair. (Better safe than sorry…Mainly because I don’t want to be the recipient of the butt end of the cigar when the ashes start to fall.)
So the next time you’re confronted with the decision of whether to purchase a brand name component or a discount brand, ask the expert… your mechanic, before you lay out your hard earned cash. They’ll know whether or not you’re buying a decent part at a decent price, and not just getting a whole lot of nasty smoke in your face from a cheap cigar.