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Hello from Rhode Island


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Hi Everyone,


I am not a shop owner, though, until recently it was a long term goal of mine. I graduated last year from a technical trade school (local school not one of those diploma factories that you always see advertising for techs and making big promises). I am 28, almost 29 years old, this is a career change for me, since I was laid off from banking in 2010. I have a wife and a kid.


I am here for one last desperate attempt to convince myself to stay in this industry. I have 6 months in, almost 7 at my current dealership, I have completed all but 3 of the factory training courses, and while I do not have enough experience and time under my belt to be a master diagnostician, I am not afraid to try any diagnostic line on any RO handed to me. I use to love working on cars. I have my state inspection certification in both safety and emissions, my EPA 609, a certificate in an RMA approved tire repair course. A very nice collection of professional level tools for someone with my experience, and a box to put them in.


As of today, I don't want to do this anymore. I am making 11.00 flat rate hourly, I was hired in at 10.00 flat rate hourly, with only the first 2 weeks guaranteed at 40. It took me nearly 6 months to get that 1.00 raise, and everyone in the industry tells me that I am being screwed, with the exception of the service manager of course. I can and have turned 40+ hours, I do everything shy of major overhauls, timing belts and head gaskets already. I do not need to be babysat and I am not.


There is not enough work coming in to flag 40 for most guys in my dealership (and the other dealerships in the area). I average 32-38, with my best week being 46.5 and my worst was 14.2. I can't support my family. Flat rate is a bull crap scheme designed to skate labor laws. I am required to be there for 50 hours a week, but don't get paid close to that as there is no work to really make that off of. My service manager doesn't care that I am drowning, trying to hold 3 jobs and getting 4 hours of sleep on average a day. I sat down with him and told him that I felt 13.00 to 14.00 flat rate would be fair for my level of experience and he came back and gave me just a dollar.


Other dealerships want guys with 2-3 years experience and the independent shops don't want to touch new guys. No one wants to properly train up techs. And since I am being forced to try to make 40 by doing all the waiter oil changes, state inspections or rotates, I cannot even help out senior techs and learn from them. I feel like my learning opportunities are downright stalled.


I have contemplated, seriously, just pushing my tool box over to the tool man and telling him to just have it all to wipe out my tool box debt (I own all the tools) and just going into retail or to a call center or hell even manage a fast food joint, because it all pays better.


So, I ask you, auto shop owners, what do I do to find one of you who cares enough to know I need to support my family and doesn't make me sit on a stool making 0.00 3 days in a row because no work came in. One who wants to turn me into a driveability tech, someone who can diagnose with the best of them. Heck, I am not even afraid to get into automatic transmission work and diagnostics.


I know I an rambling and probably a little whiny, but I seriously need perspective from the people who pay the checks and not the masses of grumpy and grumbling techs on forums like FlatRateTech.com.


Thanks in advance.


- A Fed Up Soon to be Ex-Technician

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I must be missing something and don't quite understand? They only pay you $11 per billable hour? What is your minimum salary?

What do you mean, minimum salary? I get paid 11.00 per billable hour, and my paycheck is however many hours I flagged x 11.00. There is no minimum salary. If I flag 20 hours I make 220.00 that week and if I flag 30, 330.00, and so on and so forth.

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I have not worked at a dealer in about 15 years. But if you are doing oil changes, tires, and cleaning up the shop, I would normally expect a minimum salary, although this work is not well paid. Shops don't make a big profit doing this type of work.


If you are doing brakes, timing belts, water pumps and other light to medium duty work, I would expect a much better salary.


If you are a master tech and diagnostician that helps sell the work, run the shop and train junior techs, I would expect a base and billable hour premium.


The bottom line is everything is negotiable, and as long as you help the shop make a profit you can be sure to have a job and a decent salary if you negotiate for it.

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Welcome to the reason why I left the dealership and why I won't pay my guys a straight flat rape scale. As a shop owner I don't mind training "new" comers to the business. I have two of them myself right now. The nice thing about training my guys is I don't have to break too many bad habits :) I will warn you though, the jump from tech to business owner is HUGE. I would strongly recommend getting business training as well if you haven't done so already before you leap into it. I wouldn't have been so quick to do it myself if I had someone tell me that.

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Thanks for all the comments.


I do light repair work, but they won't kick me timing belt, head gasket, engine R&R and transmission R&R jobs yet. Everything else I do, suspension work, alignments, minor and major services, warranty work, brakes, interior, electrical, and some diagnostics. I am by no means master tech level when it comes to diag work, but I understand enough of the basics to know how to search out proper procedures and then complete them, interpret the data and if needed, make model specific alterations to my methods to get a good clear diagnosis. I don't know if that makes me a C or B level tech. In September I become eligible to take ASEs, that's 1 year experience for school and will be 1 year experience in the field. I already have my P2 from working at an AutoZone part time and I guess I could get my C1 anytime I want.


As for business, that's my long term goal, if I stay with this field. From my previous life (career) I have a finance degree, and a series 7 and 63 certification for investment banking work I did. I have managed most of my working life (call centers and retail) since I was 19 and got my first management promotion (I will be 29 in April).


Independent shops around here specifically state in their jobs advertisements that they want 5 years minimum with so many ASEs, they don't even call me back on my resume. I have another dealer wanting to interview me, but I don't see things improving too much by jumping around. I don't want to swap parts or use the shotgun method to fix something, I want to know things to the core, understand the science behind it all and use that to confidently fix it right and fix it the first time.

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Our lowest paid guy makes $18 and we guarantee a minimum of 25 hours as a base.


Supposedly I have a 30 hour guarantee for 3 months starting back on 2-26 when they finally bumped me to 11.00, but I haven't turned under 30 since then.


Problem is, I can't pay the minimum bills off this kind of money.


I average, we will say 32 hours, so that's 352.00 a week, even with the bare minimum of taxes taken out that is still around 310.00 take home. My rent alone is 775.00. I have to work for 2.5 out of 4 weeks just to cover rent. Nevermind electricity, gas, food, insurance. Maybe if I was 18 and just fresh out of school and living at home with my parents I could do it. I think the writing is on the wall, time to leave the field. I was making 16.50 an hour answering phones for the lottery.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My 3 techs average 27 years tenure with me. I pay them way too much but they're kinda like family.

I pay them $36.00 per billed hour or $21.60 per hour whichever is greater. They work 44 hours per week so their minimum is 40x21.60 + 4x32.40 = $993.60. So, if they bill over 27.6 hours, they get paid for the hours they bill, under 27.6 hours they get the minimum. Until the 3rd quarter of 2011 they rarely ever got paid the minimum. Since then, it's been happening a lot as business has slowed down.

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