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By Joe Marconi
The other day, one of my service advisors, Kristina, was speaking to a customer about worn control arm bushings on her Honda. The customer was in the waiting room, sitting and reading a magazine, while her car was being serviced along with a New York State annual safety inspection.
Kristina got half way through her explanation of the control arm bushings when the customer said, "Stop right there." She then opened up the magazine she was reading (a copy of March 2016 Issue Consumer Report), which was in our pile of magazines and said, "Look here, Honda control arm bushings are among the 5 Sneaky Mechanic Scams!" Kristina did not make the sale and Thank You Consumer Reports, a motorist is now driving a car with worn lower control arm bushings; a potentially unsafe condition.
The Consumer reports article was written by a so-called expert, and is slanted against the repair shop. No surprise there, we are easy targets. I don't know how that magazine got into my waiting area, but I will pay more attention to the magazines I offer to my customers.
I will also voice my opinion to Consumer Report Magazine and urge everyone to voice their opinions too.
PLEASE NOTE: I checked online and the March 2016 Issue is not on the web yet.
So its finally happening, I've found a business partner and we are hitting th e ground a week from today.
Idk how many of you have been on reddit before but they have a section of the forum for business startups to essentially blog each day throughout the process. I am curious is there a place for that on this forum? Would anyone be interested in following me as I go through the process??
By Joe Marconi
Many of you know that I write a monthly column in Ratchet + Wrench Magazine. The magazine feature articles on shop management and business related articles. In my opinion, as shop owners we need to read publications such as Ratchet + Wrench. I think too many of us tend to maintain our technical knowledge, but may fall short with regard to the business side of the of running a shop. Ratchet + Wrench has great articles and also feature actual shops across the country.
If you do not subscribe to the magazine, the link is below. And to be fair and balanced, there is another magazine, Shop Owner Magazine that is also dedicated to business, and is worth reading and subscribing to.
Here are the links:
Here is the background to my question:
I just graduated college with a 4-year business degree and am looking to start an automotive repair shop in central Kansas in the near future. I have always enjoyed mechanic work on my own vehicles and my friends and family's as well but I have no formal training, education or experience in the field. I chose to start a mechanic shop because I want to get into a service industry and I like the business model for an auto repair shop. I have done a little bit of my own education in automotive technology but not near enough to feel completely comfortable doing full-on mechanic work.
My business plan is set up in a way where I will be hiring a master mechanic to do the complex automotive work and I will run the business/customer side of things as well as doing some minor repairs/services such as oil changes, tire rotations, etc.
Here is my question:
Do I absolutely need to go back to school for a whole 2 years for an auto tech degree to be successful in running the business? Has anyone else started from my same position? did it work or not?
Please just give me some general opinions and advice in this area.
By Joe Marconi
First I want to start by saying, “When was the last time someone wrote a news article about a shop owner who stayed late into the night to make sure his customer had his car ready for vacation? When was the last time someone featured a shop owner, on the 6:00 news, who gave away a used car to the wife whose husband died on 9-11? When was the last time you read about a shop owner who held a fundraiser to help the local youth sports associations.” I could go on and on about all the good we do for our community and customers, but you get the point. The fact is the overwhelming majority of shop owners and mechanics are hard working people who go the extra mile for the motoring public day after day. We don’t ask for recognition, we do it because of who we are.
Ok, now on with Wallet Flushing. In 2006 Douglas Flint, the owner of Tune-Up Technology in Alexandria VA detailed his feeling about fluid services and started a firestorm of controversy over the legitimacy of fluid services and the practice of many shops. You can read his entire comments by going to the link below, but in short he stated that mechanics and shop owner’s, because it’s economically more profitable, push fluid services on their customers. He questions that validity of fluid services and says that when shops push fluid services on their customers, the only they are flushing is their wallet.
Because of Flint’s comments, the California Bureau of Automotive Repair began an investigation into the “questionable tactics” of selling fluid services. The results may affect many shops, not only in California but around the country. There is now an initiative in California and a brochure to “educate” consumers about fluid services. California states it will prosecute for Wallet Flush under the Automotive Repair Act of 1971 and the California Unfair Competition Law of Section 7200, which prohibits the unlawful, and unfair, deception, untrue or misleading advertising. PLEASE READ THE LAST SENTENCE AGAIN.
We sell fluid services all my shop. We are not deceptive, we are not unfair, we do not mislead and what we promote is not untrue. Our service programs and recommendations "flush" more money back to the customer through preventive maintenance, which lowers to total cost of owning a car over time.
The investigation makes comparisons to cars of yesterday and cars of today, basing the findings by comparing a 1940 Cadillac Series 60 to a 2007 Cadillac. Is this a true comparison? We all know that cars are better made today and last longer. In 1940, you were lucky to go 40,000 miles without major engine, transmission or other repairs. In the 1970s, when I started as a mechanic, we did a ton of transmission work and engine work on cars that had less than 50,000 mile! It’s not the same anymore. Today’s cars last longer and servicing fluids will help customers lower the odds of failures.
We do educate our consumers, we do explain the reasons why we are recommending a particular fluid service and we do explain that these recommendations may not be found in the owner’s manual. We also promote the BG Lifetime Protection Plan. Many of my customers keep their cars for 200,000 miles or more and I want to make sure they are protected. We don’t recommend fluid service based only on condition of the fluid, we base it on what WE feel is in the best interest of our customers. By the way, I can still do that in this country? Make recommendations based on my professional judgment, right? If the car maker states that you do not need to change a particular fluid, then why don’t they warranty that component for life???
I urge everyone to read the links below and please give me your thoughts and comments. I am not one to sit on the sidelines and prepared to go to bat for each and every one of you. So, please give me your honest thoughts and opinions.
Article on Wallet Flushing, National Oil & Lube News, June issue 2013
Article when story broke, AOL Auto, posted December 2006