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Joe’s Business Tips For Shop Owners

Tips from Joe Marconi, co-founder of AutoShopOwner. His tips are shared to help you in your day to day shop operations, sales, customer service, marketing, advertising, and more!

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    • Last week I was at a resort with family and the grandkids.  We had a great time and it was a much-needed vacaction.  For one day, I did it....I left my cell phone in the hotel room safe.  It was not easy, and we all know how addicted we all are to our phones and laptops. The day passed and guess what?  Nothing urgent happened.  And if it did, I need to put trust in the people I employ that all will be taken care of. So, the question is: Can shop owners truly ever unplug from the outside world?       
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    • There are days I want to set the place on fire (sometimes just customers cars) ok just kidding. I seem to be getting a streak of problematic parts lately. I am so tired of reps telling me about quality, oem specs, warranty blah blah. My main supplier is AAP. Here are some examples below. - 2000 wrangler needing rear axles due to bearing failure. Ordered Dorman axles and both had fitment issues where once installed the differential pin wouldn't fit in due to improper clearances on the axle. Ordered another brand online Yukon Axles. - 1995 Lexus SC300 (mint cond, low miles) Felpro valve cover gasket was manufactured too thick and didn't fit in the groove on the valve cover. Ordered from Lexus and fit fine. - Forgot the year (Chrysler van) water pump with a pulley that wobbled and even the online reviews had the same issue.  - 1993 Wrangler water pump machined incorrectly where once bolted to the block, the ears of the pump where the ps pump bracket bolts to was not machined correctly and if you tried to bolt it on it would bend the water pump. Ordered AC Delco (i think) from Cold air distributors and worked fine. - 1999 Lexus ES300 front left brake hose manufactured incorrectly. Ordered another brand, probably Raybestos from Cold Air Distributors, and all is well. - 2003 Taurus 3.0 OHV timing cover from Dorman 635-117. Online reviews had some issues but the oem unit was expensive. I ordered 3 before I found one that was machined good enough then installed. Came back a while later leaking. I ordered a replacement under warranty and the quality control was horrible. Just ended up getting the ford one and looked and seemed to work great. Time will tell - 2005 Honda Element Monroe struts all the way around (these are the ones) in the front like the civics where the strut has the bracket where the tie rod bolts to. Left front was fine. Right front couldn't get aligned properly as the bracket for the tie rod was welded on at the wrong angle. Went through a couple from the local parts store then I think Monroe sent me a strut that was tested to be ok on their manufacturing/ quality control/ measurement jig and it still failed. They paid to have the old Honda part sent back for inspection. I think i ordered KYB for the front and all was well.  I use the AAP Wearever Platinum which have been great brake pad material and braking, but lately they don't fit properly and I have taken video to show the reps and I believe when the backing plate is cut, there are imperfections where it wont fit into the caliper bracket without me grinding the backing plate on the edges. The actual manufacturing company for them sent a rep to a local AAP BBQ event and I talked to him and he is very aware and they supposedly changed the manufacturing process to address this issue but recently I did a brake job and had the same issue then installed Akebono and all was well. I am considering switching to the Wagner TQ which they stock as well. They give me an across the board pricing on the Platinum pads of $34.99 on most vehicles. Has anybody got a good pricing structure on the Wagners? AAP gives a 3 month parts and labor warranty on pretty much everything they sell. The labor is reimbursed on my parts account at 1/2 my shop labor rate times the book time. The problem is I still have to write up an invoice showing that I replaced the part and didn't charge the customer, and spend time calling their hotline and explain what happened, then fax or scan and email the original invoice, warranty invoice, original parts invoice with the claim numbers and I still have to call and check in to make sure the claims have been processed and paid out. This takes time and is not very encouraging. Otherwise the parts themselves have the standard warranties, 2 year, 3 year, lifetime, etc. though this still requires me to redo the repair that should have been successful the first time. I am the owner and mechanic and I waste so much time in the office dealing with parts, Calling manufacturers tech support lines, taking measurements, sending pictures of parts problems. Then if I cannot get it resolved having to research another part. The Dorman timing covers were terrible. the metal was porous and i sent them a screenshot of their website talking about "High quality plastic or metal construction resists warping, cracking and porousness". I am surprised that these companies don't look at the reviews of their own products and correct the issues. I do need another technician so I don't have to wear so many hats but in the meantime how do you folks deal with these types of issues.  The other issue is because I am not a high volume purchaser, although it is getting better as I grow, I have to purchase the majority of my parts from AAP to keep myself on a reasonable tier level. If I spread my purchases around then I can fall off the tier level in a short time. I like AAP and they have a warehouse near me and have a vast inventory available locally as opposed to other suppliers. Most of the stuff I get is name brand stuff to avoid junk parts. I like Moog, National, Motorcraft, Delco, Etc so its not like I am trying to be cheap on everything, I just seem to get burned a lot. When the commercial reps come by, it is usually to check up on business and try to sell me something or a service or a package deal, however when I show them the issues I am having, they really don't or cannot do anything other than listen and tell me about their "quality parts". I ask for the numbers to the engineering departments to try and at least get some of these issues resolved and I cannot get through. How do ya'll deal with these situations?
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