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By Jonathan Ganther
Hey guys. I'm new to the forum and was looking for this subject but couldn't find it. Sorry If I'm posted something that's already been discussed. I own a brake shop in Austin, TX. We do anywhere from 10-20 brake jobs a day. We only do brakes so I don't know how much full service auto shops deal with this problem but... Customers are constantly calling in claiming they've bought the best parts or they want to provide their own parts because they've done research and know what is best. This drives me crazy. First of all they don't know whats best. Then after being told no they get offended and act like tons of shops allow this. What is the best way to handle these customers? Just send them away? I'll quote them a price using our parts and they act as though its a rip off. What shops are doing this for their customers? I feel like I'm letting jobs get away from me. Any experience with this?
By [email protected]
I'm hoping some experts can help me out. I'm buying an existing full-service shop and need to polish a transition business plan not only for my lender and partners, but also to help give us some focus and direction. I'm certainly not coming into this empty handed, but would love to see what others might have used so I can be as successful as possible. HELP!
Doctor's Orders The 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. Even 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. Several 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: 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? I 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. I 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). But 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. Your 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. Actually, 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. Anyway, I agree....but let’s get realistic. This is a junk email and address, no need in trying to contact me with your response. He 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. It'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. Obviously, 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. Even though in the email he stated there was no need in a response, well, there is a way to respond. Here it is. Those 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. Honestly, 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.? Sorry 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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By Andrew Cutler
This is a rant, pure and simple, but I hope that it can serve as a cautionary tale for others. Unifirst came in with a proposal as the "AAA preferred uniform vendor". As we are a AAA approved shop we qualified for special pricing, almost 30% less than what we were paying at that time. We gave them our business and it has been a cluster since. It took almost 6 months for them to deliver, and when they did the sizes were all over the map. About half of my employees (and myself) had to have size changes. They embroidered all our dark shirts with dark logos and had to re-do them which took months. They actually embroidered them wrong TWICE before they got it right. My tech's shirts came back with with huge oil and rust stains after their first washing and have never been clean since. The towels are usually oily and sometimes have metal shavings in them. They routinely mis-deliver and fail to deliver uniforms, leaving techs short for the week. I've had the service manager, plant manager, and regional manager all in my office to tell me that this would all be corrected, to no avail. We have a new service starting in December and I anticipate threats to sue on the three year agreement they require. I've been cataloging, photographing and corresponding with them over the past 8 months and I am confident that we can prove that they are unable to provide anything close to the level of service they promised. I have learned, yet again, that you get what you pay for. Don't let Unifirst in the door.
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