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Cheap, Good,Fast Those three little words....


If you're in the auto repair business like I am, you know there are certain times and events throughout the year that dictate how business is going to flow in the shop. Sometimes it's a good thing; sometimes the shop moves really fast, other times it's so slow you have enough spare time to build a canoe and wait for the rain to come.


For me, I can just about plan my year by the calendar. School starts, shop goes dead. Holidays, shop goes dead. Tax season, shop goes dead, change political parties, shop goes dead. Any long stretch of mid-70 degree days with no need for air conditioning, heater, or the wipers, shop goes dead. Pretty much anything that upsets the balance of the space-time-continuum, the shop goes dead. However, through all the usual up and down cycles I manage to keep the doors open.


There are so many different things that can get in the way of maintaining a full shop. Of course, in the midst of all this chaos I have to find time to keep up with the current technology, and at the same time, purchase any new equipment to go along with this new technology.


I try not to buy the cheapest scanner or tool out there. I've seen the results of poor judgment when it comes to that. Fast service to the customer is a plus. However, too fast and you may over look things. I'd like to think I am doing the best I can with every job that comes into the shop. Hopefully, keeping in mind to not go too fast, not use cheap parts, and always give good service.


There's no doubt that the electronic age has affected every part of our daily lives. I see it even more when it comes to car maintenance and general repairs. Even with all of this technology they haven't been able to get rid of the technician and a toolbox. There's still a need for a trained technician to be under the hood doing the hands-on work to get the car back out on the road.


I hear so much talk about "Weeding" out the cheap shops, and promoting the good ones in the automotive repair trade. I believe that's a good thing, a really good thing; it puts all of us in the business on the fast track to success, and hopefully gives more credibility to the automotive repair shops out there. Although, as it is in the real world, for some people, all they really want is cheap. Cheap enough that their pocketbook doesn't dry up after a car repair. Let's face it, as long as there are those "Bottom-feeder" shops out there, and people willing to go to them, little is going to change.


That's where one of my favorite little quotes comes into play. It goes like this: "There are three things you can have in auto repair or any business for that matter… and that's--- "Good, Cheap, and Fast". The only problem is that you can only choose two of these. Choose wisely, because the one you did "not" pick, you must use it to finish this sentence: "It's not going to be very _____." I've heard this quote from a lot of different sources. It's nothing new. I wouldn't doubt it's been around for a hundred years or more, but it's still true even today.


To bring it into some modern terms let's take this example: "Temporary battery clamps."


You know the ones you find on about 50% of the cars that come into the shop? Hmm… they're not called "Replacement Clamps," now are they? No, the common term I've heard for years for them is: "Temporary Clamps." (Call the parts store and ask for temporary clamps, see what they send you.) So, why are so many of them installed and then left on the car? Well, let's see, they're cheap, and they can be installed pretty fast. Would I say they are good, well, good for a while… they're only temporary right? Thus, the answer to this one is "Cheap and Fast" and the results are: It's not going to be very – Good.


Maybe I'm just a little crazy, but wouldn't it make more sense to invest in a battery clamp crimping tool, some good replacement clamps, a few sections of color-coded shrink tubing to seal the ends, and take the time to repair them correctly? Hmmm, problem here….. if I was using the quote as a guideline, it would read: "It's not going to be very "Cheap". Again, those three little words come into play again.


For me, the real funny part, is how-in-the-world did you end up needing a new clamp in the first place? Oh, that's right, the maintenance was neglected, or should I say… somebody was too cheap to get regular maintenance done. There are always other reasons you know; I could go on about those… Am I moving too fast for ya? I'm not? Good.


I guess it all goes back to that "Good, Cheap, and Fast thing". It's amazing how it seems to always end up with those three little words to explain it all. I don't think it really matters whether it's something for the house, or that awful hotel room you stayed in, or even a battery clamp. Some way or another things can or will go wrong if poor choices are made on just about anything in life.


So keep this little quote handy and see how often it works out there in the real world. I have it posted in the front office area, and when someone asks I'll tell them, while pointing to the little sign: "If you want it cheap, and you want it fast"…


"It's not going to be very… Good."


Hope you enjoy the stories, leave a comment if you'd like. These stories are here before final editing and publication. Always love to hear from everyone. Don't forget to stop by my website www.gonzostoolbox.com Gonzo

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Gonzo, great article, (as usual) and a great saying...I use it myself quite often.


Truth is, things are probably not going to change, although I fight to improve the industry everyday, that's the main goal of ASO. You hit the nail on the head when you said there are bottom feeder shops out there, that’s the real issue. We too often point to the motoring public, when we need to look at our industry. The only saving grace is that the overwhelming majority of shop owners and techs truly are professional and want to do a professional job.


Keep writing Gonzo, we need to keep up the fight!

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I couldn't agree more Joe. I could sit here and write ten pages of what I think of the whole thing... but I might as well save that for another story. Gonzo

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"Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the Government take care of him, better take a closer look at the American Indian." --- Henry Ford

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