Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2004   by CARS Magazine

Greenwood Lights a Fire

SSGM readers react to Bob Greenwood and a plea for safer fuel tanks.

Bob Greenwood’s column last month generated an unprecedented response from SSGM readers, both agreeing and disagreeing with Bob. Here’s a sampler of the response.

Dear Jim:

As a reader of your magazine, I am some what disturbed by the story from Bob Greenwood. It is somewhat obvious to me that he has never operated a repair shop in an area where the average wage is around $10.00 per hour It would be nice if we all could have these ultra modern shops and pass the costs on to the customer, but it is not possible in some markets. Today’s customer wants his car fixed and he wants price. And if he is only working for $10.00 an hour he can’t afford Mr. Greenwood’s idea of an ideal shop. I take exception at what he calls cockroach shops because they are not lily white and have all brand new equipment. I own a shop where my customers are my neighbours and we provide them with just as good if not better service and quality than those so called modern shops…yep, my shop is not spotless clean and my equipment is not brand new, but I know that my work and price are right and I can go home at night knowing that I did a good job for a fair price. Not all of us have won the lottery or have a bank manager as a friend…maybe Mr. Greenwood should talk about how hard it is to get money to buy all that nice equipment without giving up your first born…I also note he makes the comment that there is something wrong with shopping suppliers…well I know from experience that suppliers could care less about my business…or why would they sell walk-in trade for the same price as me…or how come he doesn’t talk about the mechanic that tells the customer to see him after work and he will give him a better deal as well as all the unlicensed places (“backyarders”) that give all of us a bad name. He talks about the government getting involved in helping our trade but all I ever see from government is ways to tax us more…so Mr. Greenwood should maybe walk a mile in our shoes before speaking…not all garages that don’t fit his idea of how it should be are poorly run or deadbeat shops…he is doing the same thing that most people do by painting us all with the same brush…besides if he doesn’t think price buys…tell him to walk through a Wal-Mart and see how busy it is!

R Summers, Tiverton, Ontario

Dear Bob:

What happens when the shop owner commits to one jobber thinking about the long term business development: A strong business relationship has been developed. All goes well and then a shake up in management occurs. As a result, service drops, prices increase and a wonderful business relationship starts to crumble. Out of the respect of the business relationship the shop owner sits down with the jobber and his managers to discuss the problem. Some improvement is seen for a short period time, then it goes down the dumper again. After a period of time, we start calling around exploring the competition. To spend an average of $9,000/mth with a supplier and cut it to $1,500./mth and not receive a call to find out if there is a problem indicates a problem. Many times the large jobber corporations have a tendancy of dumping unqualified people in our area as managers. We are not a large shop. We make business decisions that will best help us provide the best quality service to our clientelle. When a supplier starts costing us money the business relationship has to be ended. Do we like it? No, absolutely not. The wasted time in switching services cuts into out net Profit. The jobbers in this area have a tendancy of putting us in a lose-lose situation. Am I bitter, sure am. However, in order that our business continues to thrive, we continue to pursue the jobber who can best serve our needs in THE LONG term and who cares.

Didn’t mean to bend your ear, but you really ticked me off with this article. What part of the picture don’t the jobbers understand. We need to know that their service and competitive pricing will be there for more than a 2-3 year period of time. I get tired of the lip service. It would be very refreshing to have them put their money where their mouth is.

An Ontario service business owner

Bob Greenwood replies:

I ticked you off!!!!

You are absolutely right on all your points and this is the message I am screaming at Jobbers. This relationship thing, and being responsible to their shop clientele is new to them and quite frankly they are scared. As one of the more progressive shops in your thinking you are ahead of the curve and I congratulate you. We have a lot of work to do to change the shop and Jobber side of this industry, but it appears you understand the math when the relationship is not in place and not working. I’m trying to get the rest of the industry to see what you see.

I am blunt in my article in SSGM … BUT you know I’m right. Too many shop owners won’t even try or entertain the idea. Jobbers are hearing it from me too. Go to and click on “shop education”. Read for the last 3 years the articles I have written monthly in Jobber News and you will see that between SSGM and Jobber News, the message is consistent. … both parties have got to get their act together.

You have got your act together and it appears you got screwed by a Jobber company for doing business the right way. That is no reason to drop the ball … find a Jobber!!!!

Send me your shop address and phone number and I will let you know if their is a Jobber in your area who “won’t let you down”.

Thanks for your time to send this e-mail to me. Scream at me some more if it makes you feel better!

Take Care,

Bob Greenwood

President & C.E.O.

E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. &

Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd.

At the other end of the spectrum, here’s an example of a supporting veiwpoint via E-mail from former SSGM Garage of the Year winner Bruce Eccles:

Although I know it won’t sink in to most shop owners, I couldn’t agree with Bob more. Our industry has enough hurdles without having to phone 12 different suppliers to put an estimate together. The most interesting fact is that the shop owners are acting like the very customers they hate the most. The price shopping “c” customer!!!!! Great article!

Bruce Eccles, Dundas, Ontario

Hans Bartsch of Bartsch Motors (Chase, B.C.) wrote through the Internet at

On “Jim’s Rant” in the December issue of SSGM he brought up the issue of the lack of fuel tank drain plugs in fuel tanks. This definitely is an industry problem. Why couldn’t there be an after market drain plug kit that could be installed by merely drilling a hole and installing this kit. I’m sure there would be a market for this device and it would surely make the tank removal faster and safer. I would be interested in hearing back from you regarding this question.

Thanks, Hans

Hans, I think it’s a great idea. I’d certainly install one in every vehicle I own and if the price could be kept reasonable, it could be built into the cost of a fuel pump or other tank-drop repair. I’ll bet consumers would pay a $30-$40 premium on a job costing $300-$400. The question is, could a kit be made that is safe to install on a used tank, given that the fuel vapours are more dangerous than the liquid gasoline itself. Soldering or brazing could be an explosion hazard, but maybe with the new “miracle” adhesives a plate with a drain plug could be epoxied on. Of course, if the lowest part of the tank is curved, it might get a little more complicated. There might be an issue with drilling a clean hole in a thin-wall metal tank, although the plastic ones should be easy. I’d like to see a drain mandated by Transport Canada on new and aftermarket tanks for safety reasons. I’ll bet it wouldn’t add much to the price, either.Jim

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