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Daily "Customer brought his own parts" story for the day, open for discussion!

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Customer walks in today (Thursday). Originally made an appointment for Monday for an oxygen sensor install. Had it diagnosed at the dealer. Obviously called us because he wanted a better price (and he was of Indian ethnicity, profiling!!!). Explained that it would be in his best interest for us to diagnose the problem so we can stand behind the repair. Of course customer didn't want to pay 2x for diag which is understandable. Told him I would scan the vehicle prior to the work being done and if we relatively confident we could do the work however we still were not responsible for the diag. Price was even given to him over the phone for the complete job with parts. Customer walks in with a box in hand. Something I can't stand is the audacity of people walking in like nothing is wrong after missing appointments. Either way I am still very polite when I speak to all my customers always. I mention to the customer. This is how our conversation went in a nut shell:



Me: "Can I ask you a question? Did we make an appointment for you on Monday?"


Customer: "Oh yes I'm so sorry I couldn't make it"


Me: "Oh ok thats not a problem. Next time we can always reschedule. I see you have a box in your hand, did you buy your own oxygen sensor?"


Customer: "Yes I bought it from the dealer"


Me: "Oh I'm sorry, we don't install outside parts"


Customer: "Oh I didn't know that"


Me: "I apologize if there was any miss communication however you received a price quote with parts. We do not sell parts and labor we sell service which includes both. It is also backed up by our 2 year 24,000 mile warranty. The only way we can ensure the integrity of the work and to provide warranty is to procure parts from our warehouses which allow us the ability to warranty and defective parts with no cost and minimal down time to you. We have this policy for the peace of mine and security of our customers"


Customer: "can't you make an exception for me this one time. This is my first time here"


Me: "No I'm sorry. We have our policies in place for the security of our customers. You could always return that part and we could perform the work for you. Besides that sir you had an appointment for Monday and I couldn't fit you in today"


Customer: "I just don't want to spend 2 hours to go return the part"



At this point I did one of these :-/ and he left annoyed/defeated.



Some of you may have handled the situation differently. I felt that even though the rules of the game were explained to the customer he had complete disregard for the way we do business. Even after it was explained to him again he wanted exceptions made. Don't get me wrong I bend over backwards, then forwards and I tie myself into a pretzel for my customers. I am very clear and concise when I answer questions and explain to potential customers what our processes are. It is unfair for the customers who booked appointments for me to jump this guy in front of them. It is also unfair to all the other customers who accept our business practices and become great customers that I make an exception for this guy and install his provided parts. I also think I avoided (although a SMALL chance) that the job could have blew up in my face with the wrong diag or faulty parts. I had a strong feeling that if exceptions were made both in scheduling and parts that it would not have made a difference with this customer. Asian cultures do not value customer service. Many times have I gave a complimentary inspection, explained to them the whole 9 yards only to have them go to another shop most likely ran by someone in their own ethnic community and for me to lose the sale and time. I know from experience as well, I am a Chinese American and my people do it to me too!!!



Anyway, feel free to call me an idiot for letting a $150 sale walk out the door. Believe it or not it would be nice to make some money this week. Down on sales this week, having a problem upselling probably due to everyone being tight from Christmas, loads of weird ass diag problems with the cars we have so even though my ARO is far greater than $150 any money is good money right now!

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Monday we were dead as could be so I give a guy a price for the labor to remove and re-install an alternator that he would take and have rebuilt. I wouldn't normally do this but $70 would help pay my lube tech. Anyway the car came in and we managed to sell the whole job plus a radiator he is coming back in for. Sometimes it works out that way.


However, usually people with their own parts are time wasters. They come in with 5W40 oil instead of 5W30 and don't know the difference. That happened this week on a stripped drain plug referral from Walmart. Drain plug was a little damaged because the kid was trying to change his own oil and using the wrong size SAE instead of metric. He didn't know the difference in the wrench or the oil. He was litterally TOO STUPID to be changing his own oil.


I would have done the same thing with your Indian customer. The Indians are always trying to beat you down. I once had an Indian woman come in and ask me to change her tail light bulbs which she had. I did it and then when I tried to charge her she wanted it for free. I went out and take the new bulbs out and put the old burnt out ones back in. I did it because I didn't want to see her again.



It is really horrible to resort to "profiling" since thats all we see on the news. I have been through this dance many times before though. Great customers either don't ask for price or respond well to the education process. When I receive a lot of push back I don't think I've ever had a good experience. Now I am accepting a job on their terms instead of mine. Doesn't usually work out well.

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The problem this guy had was a phone call to another shop that gave a price that was probably $100 too high for the repair. This scared him up and made him look for another route. When we doubled the part and charged book labor we were that much cheaper. I think someone screwed up on the look up which happens.



Thats why giving prices over the phone is horrible.

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I think there are multiple ways to handle your situation.

A ) The way you did it is perfectly fine!!! Don't beat yourself up! "Management has the right to refuse service" is a phrase far underused in this industry IMO.

B ) If you were truly slow and had time to fit him in, mark up your labour a bit, give him a new estimate including your own diagnosis, and if it was an O2 sensor problem, install it with no warranty. (Only because it was a dealer part - I wouldn't do this with aftermarket parts)


Could option B cause you some headaches? Possibly, but most of these problems would come from you not doing your own diag, so you've eliminated that as an issue. (You were already going to install it without diag, which could have been a big problem anyways)

But what if you found a broken wire or a loose connection that the dealer missed? You could actually SAVE the customer some money and make him really happy in the process - and make yourself look really good compared to your local dealer. (I think O2 sensors are changed WAY too often as a catch-all fix for air, fuel, CEL and emissions issues, when it's not the problem at all)

If the O2 sensor was the problem, the money he saved by buying his own part goes into your increased labour and he probably ends up paying the same amount as your original estimate anyways.


As for the "profiling" issue, I think each one of us has to rely on our own personal experiences and make a decision in each situation.

Is it the same as someone else's decision? No. Does it work for us? Yes. Is it fair? No. But we all learn from a young age that life isn't fair.

If you were to refuse someone service based solely on their race, that would be plain wrong, but refuse them based on their bad attitude and actions? That is perfectly fine, and not "profiling" at all.

Anyone of any race, colour, creed, etc can be a jackass. It's how you deal (or not deal) with them that counts.

Edited by bstewart
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Good points all around. Mspecperformance stood his ground and that is awesome. No one should come into your shops and start running the show. Many shop horror stories begin with the shop bending the rules to "save money" for the client. The client has selective memory about all the free diagnosis, and his provided parts, but has clarity about his dis-satisfaction with the repair. Well done!!

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Agreed xrac, in my industry I deal with a lot of east indians as well, the classic "is that your best price bro?" types.

It's part of their culture to inflate the initial price, then move down so the customer feels like he's getting a deal - and that the vender is actually working to help the customer out.


When I went to school for my Parts apprenticeship, one of my teachers said his best way of dealing with bargain hunters (on the phone, mind you) is:

- Inflate the price of whatever you're selling by a bit, $10 or 20 works

- When they ask for a better deal, you say please hold, but you don't put them on hold, you put the phone down near your keyboard (or an adding machine is even better because it's loud)

- Hit a bunch of keys like you're doing math so they can hear it

- Then give them your original price but make sure it ends in a weird number, not 0 or 5! Like if your original price was 79.95 you tell them 89.95 the go down to 79.63 or something like that.

Nine times out of ten, they are super appreciative, because they feel they saved money, also because you make them feel a little more at home and you're going out of your way to try and help them out a little - regardless of whether you actually did or not.


It can work with estimates as well - it usually doesn't hurt to over estimate your prices a bit, then when they come to pay you tell them that we were able to do it under the estimated price and you're able to pass on the savings.

Customers love it when you come in under the estimate!

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Thanks shopcat! Although I feel a certain pain in my side any time I let a sale walk out of the door. When things are going good I couldn't care less because we are flowing with big tickets and I am concerned with servicing my great customers that value our work. When things are a bit slow which isnt too often it really stings even to let $150 bucks out the door :(

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Thanks shopcat! Although I feel a certain pain in my side any time I let a sale walk out of the door. When things are going good I couldn't care less because we are flowing with big tickets and I am concerned with servicing my great customers that value our work. When things are a bit slow which isnt too often it really stings even to let $150 bucks out the door :(

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Thanks shopcat! Although I feel a certain pain in my side any time I let a sale walk out of the door. When things are going good I couldn't care less because we are flowing with big tickets and I am concerned with servicing my great customers that value our work. When things are a bit slow which isnt too often it really stings even to let $150 bucks out the door :(

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I would have just gave him my best price and moved on. A lot of the foreigners (I know from plenty of experience) are only going to pay so much anyways, and they are not going to be sucked into buying based on value vs price.


I deal with a lot of foreigners, many from my church. The rest of the world for the most part has their minds tuned a different way then ours in terms of paying for an item or service. I just give them a price, I don't break down parts or labor. If they like it fine, if they don't, oh well. You may have to knock a few bucks here and there to make the sale, but if a few bucks is going to make or break your business then there are more issues at hand.


They are in a pain in the neck to deal with, but they do seem big on referrals and send their family and friends. BTW most of the foreigners I deal with are Macedonians or Serbians. It doesn't matter Macedonian, Serbian, Arab or Indian, they all purchase the same and like to chip away at the price to feel like they are getting a deal. They are generally decent customers once you get a relationship they feel comfortable with going. A lot of them have more cash at hand to spend then you can imagine. They rarely finance anything, pay cash, and work a lot of deals so they are normally sitting on a good cushion of cash.

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Mario, I've been there and I have a lot of very nice customers from my old ways of doing business. I have however since looked at my numbers and I was not making the Gross Profit Margins I wanted. Referrals from these customers are fine and good however from my experience a lot of these referrals can bring on customers just like them. We have since weeded out some of our customers and focused on the great ones. My car count has gone down however my ARO and Gross sales monthly has seen a BIG jump. I have not had to deal with a lot of annoying phone shoppers in the last 6 months but these past 2 weeks have been atrocious.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple?
      The first step in achieving your required gross and net profit is understanding your numbers and establishing the correct labor and part margins. The next step is to find your business's inefficiencies that impact high production levels.
      Here are a few things to consider. First, do you have the workflow processes in place that is conducive to high production? What about your shop layout? Do you have all the right tools and equipment? Do you have a continuous training program in place? Are technicians waiting to use a particular scanner or waiting to access information from the shop's workstation computer?
      And lastly, are all the estimates written correctly? Is the labor correct for each job? Are you allowing extra time for rust, older vehicles, labor jobs with no parts included, and the fact that many published labor times are wrong? Let's not forget that perhaps the most significant labor loss is not charging enough labor time for testing, electrical work, and other complicated repairs.  
      Once you have determined the correct labor rate and pricing, review your entire operation. Then, tighten up on all those labor leaks and inefficiencies. Improving production and paying close attention to the labor on each job will add much-needed dollars to your bottom line.
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