Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2010   by Tom Venetis, Editor

How much do we forego when working on a vehicle?

One of the consequences of shooting the technology videos with Jim Anderton (I'm the fellow behind the camera shooting the videos), are the unexpected issues that can arise. Jim and I were shooting a ...


One of the consequences of shooting the technology videos with Jim Anderton (I’m the fellow behind the camera shooting the videos), are the unexpected issues that can arise. Jim and I were shooting a piece that should have been pretty straightforward, taking no more than a couple of hours at most, factoring in the time needed to do the set-up and other preparations needed for an on-site video shoot.

There is an old saying in filmmaking: never film kids or animals. Both bring unexpected problems. Maybe we should add vehicle repairs when during the middle of one you find that you need some parts that are not on-hand right at that moment.

Not a problem. Jim and I would simply phone a local parts supplier and get what we needed — if it were only that simple. We soon discovered the parts were not available at one place and another was going to charge us an exorbitant amount for them. Because we were working under a time constraint we found ourselves driving to several different parts suppliers: one place only had one in stock, another had the other two. But all the parts were not exactly what were needed, but very close, and with some slight re-jigging we got them to fit. We managed to finish the job, but it took us much longer than what it should have, which made me ask: would I as a shop owner have charged the customer for the time needed to find the parts?

I’ve always argued in SSGM that as an industry we need to charge for the work done, from the labour needed to fix or maintain a vehicle to the diagnostic work. But what about such an unforeseen problem that Jim and I encountered, and the extra couple of hours it took us to drive about to get the parts? Certainly, we could have gone for the much higher-priced parts and got them sooner, but we were trying, like most people today, to keep costs down and in line with how today’s car owners are watching their dollars even while maintaining their vehicles. In the end, I might have decided that we would forego charging the extra hours in order to keep the customer happy.

That soon had me asking how much does the industry leave behind in uncharged labour and diagnostic work and what are the reasons for it. I know, I’ve argued that independents should not do so, but reality sometimes makes it difficult to do so. Yes, charging for the extra two hours of labour would be correct, but I would hate to be the one standing in front of the customer doing so. The other obvious lesson is to make sure you have everything you need before starting the job, which would have avoided all of the problems from the beginning; but we only discovered we needed these parts in the middle of the repair and that was because of an issue that cropped up while doing the work; something I suspect often happens to many technicians. Still, I would like to hear from our readers about some of the reasons why they had to undercharge for work and some solutions.

What do you think? Have your say and speak your mind! letterstotheeditor@ssgm.com


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