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The Heroes of 2020
By Brian Turner
I recently had a heart-to-heart with a great tech who owns his own shop and specializes in transmission repairs. He, like many in almost all sectors of business, had a rough 2020 due to the pandemic.
The year left a lot of his customers in rough financial shape too, and looking for bargains where they never looked before. He told me about a conversation he had with a good client after he’d shown the estimate for his vehicle’s transmission overhaul. The car owner asked if there was anywhere to cut some costs and lower the final bill.
My tech/owner answered that things could be a little cheaper, but he needed some monetary cushion to be able to keep the doors open, and to cover any issues that might come up during the warranty period on the repairs. The tech closed with the comment, “Yes, I can lower this bill, but I might not be here next year when you need me. Are you prepared for that cost?”
Maybe this seems a little like a high-pressure sales tactic, but it’s often true, especially for small independent operators. You might not think about this type of interaction with a larger facility, possibly backed by a nationwide chain or corporation — but then again, these larger stores are less likely to even entertain such a discussion. Shoppers in every market are more price-conscious than ever, and some lockdown time has given them the opportunity to reverse the auto-maintenance purchasing trend of valuing time over money. Now it seems everyone is on the hunt for a deal but, before settling for a low price, take time to consider the difference between price and cost.
A low price isn’t necessarily cheaper
Price is what you pay, and cost is the consequence of your choice. For example, brake linings — one of the most common maintenance items — come in a wide variety of quality and price-points for just about anything on the road today. Opt instead for a bargain-basement line, and you may be rewarded with excessive noise and/or brake dust. You got a cheap deal, but now you’ll have to live with an audible reminder of that lower price until you give up and have a better set installed, while paying twice for labour fees and parts costs.
Most credible shops will balk and even refuse to do substandard work with low-quality parts, as they know they’ll have to deal with complaints afterwards. But it’s not just lower cost requests that compound the problem. Time is also a major factor. That’s showing up frequently after a year of automotive plant shutdowns and the subsequent run of backordered parts. Vehicle owners desperate to get their rides back on the road, and shop owners equally keen to get sitting vehicles repaired, combine to create alternatives that might not be in anyone’s best interests. Fortunately, the backorders are starting to clear, and reduced travel demands have reduced some of the headaches.
When the question of price versus cost comes up, perhaps it’s best to remember the golden rule of vehicle repairs. You have a choice of cheap, right, or fast, and unfortunately, you can really only get two out of three.