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WON'T HOLD YA TO IT ----- ------ ----- Really? ya won't hold me to it? then why ask?


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Being a specialty shop I'm usually not the first place most people will stop at for repairs. More than likely they'll have gone to their "regular" mechanic to try and solve a problem, or checked around with people they know as to where to try and get their car repaired. Sooner or later somebody will mention my name and they'll make it over to my shop.


The only problem I run into now is the fact they have already spent so much money on repairs, and their budget is so tight they want me to go as easy as possible on the cost of the repair. But, before they came to my shop a budget wasn't a problem, but now with all their money spent… they want me to hold to a certain price. This next price shopper was no different.


A guy comes into the office with a dash gauge problem on his Ford pickup. He starts out with the same old introduction line I've heard a zillion times before: "I've been here, I've been there and nobody can find out what's wrong… everyone I've talked to says you're the man to see who can find it."


The story goes that it will blow the 10 amp gauge fuse as soon as you install one, but he's found that if he puts a 25 amp fuse in it will last a day or two. (Good Grief… this is already sounding bad.) A lot of parts have been changed and a lot of things have been tried. It's been to several other shops but nothing has ever solved the problem. All of them eventually recommended that he stop by my shop. (I'm thinking to myself, "Gee dude? After you went to the first shop and they told you to come here, then you went to the next shop and they told you the same thing, then a third, and… seriously dude…how many shops did ya actually go to before you showed up here?")


Needless to say, he was out of cash, out of patience, and still without working gauges in his truck. Now it's my turn to tackle the problem, or … is it……


"I need and estimate on how much it will cost to repair it," he asked me.


"Well, sir, without knowing where the problem is, or what is causing the problem, I'll have to check a few things to be able to pinpoint what the cause is."


"You've obviously done these before, so how much did those cost?"


"Your results may not be the same as the last one I did, because I'm pretty sure the last couple of them that I've done didn't try a 25 amp fuse in place of a 10 amp. So, you might be in for a little more work than the usual repair."


"How can that make the problem worse, it's just a fuse?"


I explained, (as best as I could) why an oversize fuse was not a good idea… but it wasn't getting thru to him. He didn't or wouldn't except an explanation that didn't include a dollar amount in the answer.


"Just give me a range of what it could cost," he insistently asked.


"Ok, well, how about 1 dollar to a thousand," I said, getting a little chapped at his badgering questions.


"Oh, you can give me a closer guess than that. I won't hold ya to it of course."


(The classic "won't hold ya to it" line… sure, you won't.)


"Ok then, it usually runs between 200 to 500 but, it could run a lot less, or it could run a lot more depending on the actual damage I find."


"So you think it will cost around 500.00 bucks then?"


Apparently I have lost my ability to explain things in English, and apparently when I give a variable of two numbers the "won't hold ya to it" number is the higher one, and not a penny more. I guess I didn't make myself clear… oh, I forgot… he's not going to hold me to it so it's safe to say 500.00 bucks is a good number. Awesome, now I won't have to worry about the inevitable argument I'll have once (if ever) I finish the job. Because you know… the actual price may vary.


"Ok, what would be the worst case scenario?" he asks.


By this time I've pretty much figured out that this guy isn't about to leave the truck with me. Either because of the cost or the fact he's not getting the answers he wants. To me, when someone starts asking all these questions it's a sign that they don't trust you… they are really only trying to find a number that they can use to compare at the next shop they'll be stopping at. All the references in the world don't help a bit when the old wallet is doing the talking. Because it still comes down to who's the cheapest. References, quality of repair, and answering all their questions, still doesn't add up to a job in the shop, plain and simply… it's cost. At this point, I know I've lost the job, his trust and my trust of him isn't there. I might as well end this with a little flare of my own.


"Well, let's see… how much did ya pay for the truck?" I asked.


"I paid over 10 grand for it, but what does that have to do with it?


"Let's think about this for a second… If you have ruined the wiring to the point that the overall cost of repairs will exceed the value of the truck then I would say the worst case scenario would be… replace the truck. It's just a harmless joke sir, not that it would happen to your truck, however, I've had a few that it was actually possible with the amount of damage I've found."


Well that pretty much sealed the deal. That little answer snapped his last fuse. This guy is heading out the door. There's no doubt about it. Even with all the referrals, the detailed diagnostics procedures that I explained to him, the fact that I knew that more damage could be done by changing to a higher amperage fuse, still didn't bring the job into the shop. I guess trying to hold my feet over the fire with a "I won't hold ya to it price" was still out of his budget.


There's no doubt I didn't hit it off with this guy, and quite frankly sometimes that's a good thing, I'm not trying to win them all. Man, it would have been a good paying job too if I could have only found a price that this guy could afford. Next time I run across another situation like this I'm going to ask them this question,"Ok, what can you afford? I realize you have spent a ton of money with all these other shops and nothing has been done. So why don't you give me a number that will work… … … … Oh and don't worry… … … … I won't hold ya to it." :)


People never cease to amaze me. After a while you need to just learn to take it all in stride... you're not going to win every battle or make every customer a long life friend. At least after reading a few of my stories you'll get a smile and figure out you're not the only one that has seen somebody like this. Have a Great day!

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I think you're right... but... I won't hold ya to it... LOL



Gonzo, the second I read the title, I went running for the meds. What a story. All too familiar for shop owners. I just love when someone says, "Hey, I just spent a lot of money at other shops and they could not fix it, so don't charge me a lot to fix it correctly". Do they realize what they are saying?


Funny and sad at the same time, I think many shop owners will pop a fuse reading this one!

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And I thought it was just my shop that the wacky ones come too. You hit this one on the nail, when something like this happens to me and they walk out I KNOW I am better off. We all know how these type of things can take that ugly turn. Not worth it to deal with.

By the way I got your book in the mail this week, "loose nut" is a great read every shop owner can relate too for sure. Now if you can get Joe Blow to read it maybe our lives will be a little better. LOL.

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Thanks for your comments Gary. I hate to repeat myself, but then.... that's pretty much what my stories and articles do. (Re-tell shop encounters)


When I started my shop I thought I was the only one who ran across all these wacky people, it wasn't til' years later and after talking to other shop owners that it wasn't true... EVERYBODY gets them.

The biggest stress relief I ever had in business was finding that out. So writing the stories and situations down provide not only a little entertainment for everyone else but I'm hoping the same sort of stress relief that I discovered after talking to other shop owners.


I hope it's working, and I'm glad ya like the book.

To comment another reader, "Everone from the tech to the customer should read this book, there's a lesson in there for all of us." How true...


And I thought it was just my shop that the wacky ones come too. You hit this one on the nail, when something like this happens to me and they walk out I KNOW I am better off. We all know how these type of things can take that ugly turn. Not worth it to deal with.

By the way I got your book in the mail this week, "loose nut" is a great read every shop owner can relate too for sure. Now if you can get Joe Blow to read it maybe our lives will be a little better. LOL.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
      At a recent industry event, a shop owner from the Midwest boasted about his flat-rate techs and insisted that this pay plan should be adopted by all shops across the country. When I informed him that in states like New York, you cannot pay flat-rate, he was shocked. “Then how do you motivate your techs” he asked me.
      I remember the day in 1986 when I hired the best technician who ever worked for me in my 41 years as an automotive shop owner. We’ll call him Hal. When Hal reviewed my pay plan for him, and the incentive bonus document, he stared at it for a minute, looked up, and said, “Joe, this looks good, but here’s what I want.” He then wrote on top of the document the weekly salary he wanted. It was a BIG number. He went on to say, “Joe, I need to take home a certain amount of money. I have a home, a wife, two kids, and my Harly Davidson. I will work hard and produce for you. I don’t need an incentive bonus to do my work.” And he did, for the next 30 years, until the day he retired.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, here’s mine. Money is a motivator, but not the only motivator, and not the best motivator either. We have all heard this scenario, “She quit ABC Auto Center, to get a job at XYZ Auto Repair, and she’s making less money now at XYZ!” We all know that people don’t leave companies, they leave the people they work for or work with.
      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
      Rather than looking for that elusive perfect pay plan, sit down with your technician. Find out what motivates them. What their goals are. Why do they get out of bed in the morning? When you tie their goals with your goals, you will have one powerful pay plan.
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