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Gonzo

Article: Doctor's Orders - an actual letter from a dentist...

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Doctor's Orders
 
tp.gifThe field of automotive repair and body work has always 
been plagued with a few unscrupulous individuals.  But, I 
would say that every trade has their share of them as well.  
I pride myself on doing the best that can be done for my 
customers and I don't take kindly to anyone who thinks 
this job is anything but a professional.  This is not a job 
that can be mastered overnight; it takes years of experience 
and understanding.  
 
tp.gifEven though I carry the title “ASE Master Technician” I 
don't consider myself a “Master” of the automotive field.  
I may have “mastered” the trade but not the technology that 
continually changes.  That's an ongoing education which each 
and every mechanic deals with.  But, with that said, there are 
still some individuals that still look down upon the automotive 
trade as some sort of second class job. Recently I received an 
email from one of those type of individuals.  
 
tp.gifSeveral years ago I wrote an article titled, “Diagnostics Fee or Diagnostics Free” which was published in a variety of magazines.  The article was primarily about the issues of a diagnostic fee for testing and evaluating a vehicle.  A copy of one of the magazines was in a waiting room at a repair shop where this guy was getting his car to be repaired. He happens to be a dentist, which I consider as much a professional field as mine.  However, this guy... doesn't see it that way.  His email went something like this:
 
tp.gif I read through your 'two cents' on engine diagnostics and I could not agree more.  However, I do have a bone to pick.  Charging for a diagnostic is fine but where do you draw the line?
 
tp.gifI am a general dentist.  For a new patient I charge $39 for an exam (cleanings from a hygienist are $60).  I take roughly 25 minutes to complete an exam on a patient.  Some patients take longer as they have a more difficult case and sometimes they just have more questions.  
 
tp.gifI have spent 9 years in college, at a cost of over 200k, and roughly 600K on my practice (I have lots of fancy equipment too, even more expensive than the 'diagnostic computer') AND I am dealing with the actual health and well-being of mankind (screenings for head neck cancer, dental caries, oral path., etc., etc.)  If I used your kind of math I guess I should charge more in the neighborhood of $500 for an exam (my education alone was probably more than 20 times yours so the math is still WAY low).  
 
tp.gifBut I don't charge that much.  A true professional would realize when a charge is ridiculous and when it is not.  A diagnostic charge from a mechanic should be in the neighborhood of $20. If you are charging in the near $100 range I would consider removing the self-titled "professional" from your website. Which I found funny that you brought it up anyway.
 
tp.gifYour computer is a one-time purchase. You don't throw it away when you are done so quit trying to factor in the computer cost like it is a consumable.  A
mechanic's pay at best is $35 an hour.  A $20 diagnostic over 5 minutes is more than enough for that and even overhead.  
 
tp.gifActually, you just gave me an idea.  I am going to tell my patients I now have a "parts, labor, and supplies" fee.  That would be great.  Imagine the next time you come into my office and I say that my labor fee is over $500 an hour.  My patients would leave.  I can't believe a mechanic thinks charging $100 an hour or labor is reasonable when everything else is also marked up 300% PLUS!!!! ... It is laughable.  
 
tp.gifAnyway, I agree....but let’s get realistic.  
 
tp.gifThis is a junk email and address, no need in trying to contact me with your response. 
 
 
tp.gifHe agrees?  Realistically, I find that hard to believe.  These are the typical misguided perceptions that still linger in some peoples conceptions of the auto mechanic.  Apparently, according to this guy... I'm not worthy of calling myself a professional because I'm “just” a mechanic.
 
tp.gifIt's sad to say that there are still people out there that take this dim view of the automotive mechanic world.  It could be this guy is only retaliating from a previous experience with his car that didn't go right, or it could be he was at one of those “unprofessional” shops that tried to tackle a job they shouldn't have been taking on.  Maybe he thinks all mechanics alike, and not one of us is a true professional in our trade.  
 
tp.gifObviously, after reading this, I have come to realize that all dentists are not alike.  I know my personal dentist respects my profession... and has a great amount of appreciation for my trade, just as much as I do for his skills and abilities.
 
tp.gifEven though in the email he stated there was no need in a response, well, there is a way to respond.  Here it is.  
 
tp.gifThose years you spent in college almost equals my years of training... your investment into your field is acknowledged and is definitely a part of both our trades.  Mind you, the countless changes and improvements in the equipment and procedures in the auto industry (and dentistry as well) doesn't offset the cost of doing business in any shape or form.  You'd think it would, but, as fast as the auto manufacturers introduce new systems so does the equipment to diagnostic them change.
 
tp.gifHonestly, I feel sorry for this guy.  He seems kind of bitter.  As a mechanic, I work on everything from the front bumper to the rear-end of the car.  This guy... using a car as the comparison... only works on the shiny grill that everyone first sees.   I mean really... he only has two models to work on and the last time I looked both models have the same 32 components to deal with. But, let's not reduce ourselves to his level of explaining the differences between the two professions. Oh wait… I already did.  My bad… I guess it’s a lot easier to be condescending than it is to pull teeth, huh, Doc.?
 
tp.gifSorry Mr. Dentist, I don't think I'll be following “Doctor's Orders” as you clearly state them in your email. I think this time you should take my advice and try to be more respectful to the guys and gals that keep your cherished ride on the road. There's no set fee for diagnostics, there's no 300% mark-up on parts, and there definitely isn't any magic one time purchased machine that will diagnose a car.   Maybe you should try to be a little more understanding and a bit more professional, because right now... you're not!  
 

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