Getting what you pay for…

From: http://www.buffalonews.com/opinion/myview/story/480637.html

“It’s tough to part ways with a good mechanic.

My mechanic broke up with me. Then again, I did cheat on him. After 10 years of fidelity I started to stray, despite the fact that the garage was convenient, the mechanic and his employees were honest, friendly and reliable and the service was solid.

So why did I stray? I believe the adage “you get what you pay for” is a theorem bordering on fact: I paid a premium for such service.

However, after making the decision to stay home with our daughter two years ago — which slashed our family income in half — my husband and I had to scrutinize our spending. This coincided with the surge in price of everything from gasoline to graham crackers, challenging our previously manageable budget and requiring further scrutiny.

Meanwhile, we were already acquainted with a mechanic who does a lot of side jobs to help offset his own family finances. He is honest, friendly and reliable, but unlike the garage, is also cheap. Naturally, we were tempted.

It started with the occasional brake job and soon we were outsourcing everything but oil changes. I was aware that our roaming repairs might be sniffed out, but I never thought that the garage would become jealous. After all, isn’t some business better than none? Did my mechanic expect exclusivity?

Apparently so. On the last routine oil change, he began an inspection and found that part of the gas delivery system was rusted out and leaking. We were looking at an easy $750. Since he had already diagnosed the problem, I truly felt compelled to let him finish the job. But the mechanic on the side? He could do it for less than half, including parts and labor.

Succumbing to the temptation again, I began to question my loyalties: Yes, I felt loyal to my mechanic, but I also have a loyalty — a responsibility — to my family and our financial limits. I felt guilty, but justified.

Since the car still needed to be inspected, I had to decide if I would sheepishly return to my mechanic or not. Would he be offended? Would he refuse to service the car? Yes and yes. His response was, “No, we’re done. I don’t need business like that.”

Gulp. He went on to say that it was “too bad” because I was “a good customer” but he simply couldn’t compete with some guy working out of his home garage. As he vented, he pointed to the bays in his own garage, ranting about the cost of doing business, his overhead, etc. Red-faced and rejected, I said I was sorry, turned and walked away.

Later, I thought about his reasoning. Overhead, utilities, employees — were these my responsibility? Am I expected to subsidize his overhead? As a customer, I assume that I am paying for services rendered, not the lease on the building, the insurance premiums or the electricity. I understand that these must be recovered, but by whom?

Yes, the cost of doing business cuts into your profit, but charging me accordingly cuts into my budget. He may have been offended, but I felt foolish. Perhaps you don’t always get what you pay for; in some cases, you may pay more for what you don’t get.

It’s too bad it had to end the way it did. Perhaps we could have made it work. But some relationships are all or nothing. This one was just too costly.”

I saw this article the other day and at first blush one would be enraged at the gall of this lady. Although she’s a columnist for a small market newspaper, one would expect someone who presumably is of some level of intelligence to exercise better judgment than feeding fuel to the fire of mechanic myths in an attempt to solicit contempt for a profession that deals with ignorance like this on a daily basis.

No doubt the column engaged her readers, providing ample commentary in the form of comments, written letters of “mechanic horror stories”, enflaming the passion of scorned consumers, ready with pitchfork, tar and feathers to pursue the sacred cause of protecting hapless individuals from the tyranny and oppression of the fascist regime of automotive repair dealers, hell bent on taking over the world by charging $19.95 for an oil change.

However, upon further analysis, the question of why she’s so ignorant, suggests the answer – we simply have a case of consumer ignoramus – another brow beating consumer claiming technicians do nothing but over charge customers in an attempt to line their pockets.

Before we anoint this particular columnist the next Joan of Ark, crusader of all things sacred, lets take a look at the column in a thoughtful analytical manner. . .

It’s tough to part ways with a good mechanic

The very first line of the column reveals her own contradiction – here she tells her readers she has parted ways with an admittedly good technician. I have trouble understanding the rationale behind someone who is disgruntled with the services of another, yet relents that they are in fact good at what they do.

A quick search reveals the dictionary definition of “good” can be surmised as follows: 1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man. 2. satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree: a good teacher; good health. 3. of high quality; excellent.

I digress, I suppose we should read a little more than the headline.

My mechanic broke up with me.

Whoa. . . were you guys dating?? I’m so confused right now.

Then again, I did cheat on him. After 10 years of fidelity I started to stray, despite the fact that the garage was convenient, the mechanic and his employees were honest, friendly and reliable and the service was solid.

So far all I’m seeing is the mechanic and his employees were honest, friendly and reliable, and the service was solid. I’m still waiting for the juicy details as to why they broke up.

So why did I stray? I believe the adage “you get what you pay for” is a theorem bordering on fact: I paid a premium for such service.

Stop the presses. So this columnist is telling me she is offended by a theorem bordering on fact, not grounded in fact mind you, that in this world you pay good money for good service.

Someone call the committee for the Pulitzer prize for explanatory reporting—for a distinguished example of explanatory newspaper reporting that illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing, and clear presentation. I think they can call off their search for the 2009 winner.

It’s phenomenal – you actually pay for good service, yet somehow this offends her for some reason, lets continue on.

However, after making the decision to stay home with our daughter two years ago — which slashed our family income in half — my husband and I had to scrutinize our spending. This coincided with the surge in price of everything from gasoline to graham crackers, challenging our previously manageable budget and requiring further scrutiny.

I have no qualms with this statement; after all, I think we can all agree current economic conditions and circumstances have affected our families’ bottom line.

A few notes – you decided to quit your job to become a homemaker, so please spare us the violinesque pity of some sordid circumstances, as you were not fired, but quit whatever job you had before the good fortune to grace your readers pages with the unrequited character assassination of blue collar workers in the name explaining why you’d have a fuel part of all things, installed by someone in his driveway that your two year old daughter presumably travels in. I’m sure your families’ safety appreciates your frugality.

Meanwhile, we were already acquainted with a mechanic who does a lot of side jobs to help offset his own family finances. He is honest, friendly and reliable, but unlike the garage, is also cheap. Naturally, we were tempted.

I’m tempted as well – there’s a word we can all relate to – cheap! Everyone likes cheap, right? I mean, the less you pay, the better it is for your cash conscious budget – we’re all on board with that! But wait. . .

What happened to “you get what you pay for”? How is this new development and temptation going to sync with our theorem bordering on fact that you get what you pay for?

Either we like cheap or you get what you pay for. We must decide – lets see where this takes us.

It started with the occasional brake job and soon we were outsourcing everything but oil changes. I was aware that our roaming repairs might be sniffed out, but I never thought that the garage would become jealous. After all, isn’t some business better than none? Did my mechanic expect exclusivity?

Outsourcing! It’s the American Way! Oh wait, everything but oil changes. . . I’m just going to let that one go – too much to deal with and not enough room.

As far as the garage being jealous, I’m still trying to figure out how we personified an inanimate object attributing personality characteristics that encompass human emotion to a building structure that may or may not be referred to as a “garage”. What I think you meant to say is that you thought the garage owner, the technician, became jealous.

I’m going to clue you in to a little secret – he wasn’t jealous. Like me, he was enraged at your ignorance of the industry and what you were willing to risk (see below) to save some money.

Apparently so. On the last routine oil change, he began an inspection and found that part of the gas delivery system was rusted out and leaking. We were looking at an easy $750. Since he had already diagnosed the problem, I truly felt compelled to let him finish the job. But the mechanic on the side? He could do it for less than half, including parts and labor.

So far the original technician is my hero. He had the good sense to notice that a fuel part had been leaking and do the right thing recommending she fix it immediately.

Now then, I don’t know the year, make, or model, but it’s safe to say that a leaking fuel part is a dangerous thing.

Was it around exhaust? How much was it leaking? Did she drive the car from the original mechanic back to the driveway mechanic to inspect it? Was her two year old daughter in the car while fuel was leaking from her vehicle near exhaust parts? Does she understand the toxic effects of ambient gasoline into the air we breathe or the fuel entering the water supply through normal drainage?

Now, here’s this second mechanic again. I sure would like to know more about this guy. Why exactly do you think he’s able to do things on the cheap? Well, lets see, I bet he doesn’t have the proper tooling to perform the jobs, using improper methods of removal of parts, nuts, bolts, clips, specialty fittings and lines, including fuel line fitting, which is why he can keep his “overhead” so low.

He probably has little or no training, considering he does things on the side and not as his profession, suggesting the lack of certification(s). approvals, and licenses, another way to keep his “overhead” low – I wonder if he goes the extra mile to replace factory squeeze clamps with proper replacements as most of these clips lose their clamping force after prying on them to get hoses off.

I doubt he has proper facilities, with no rack, no proper fuel or other fluid draining systems – I wonder where all these fluid go. . In the trash? Trickling down the driveway? I’m sure the lack of compliance with environmental protection agency mandates reduces his “overhead”.

I wonder what happens if he gets hurt working on your car, you have supplemental workers compensation insurance for the hiring of an independent contractor to work on your property right? If the car fails due to faulty repair, he has insurance for negligence, a bond registered with the state or some other form of liability coverage per automotive repair dealer rules right?

There’s a state agency that regulates him, making sure he is properly licensed, equipped, trained, etc., to make sure he is not putting the health or safety of your family at risk. . . .right?

We’ll get back to this.

Succumbing to the temptation again, I began to question my loyalties: Yes, I felt loyal to my mechanic, but I also have a loyalty — a responsibility — to my family and our financial limits. I felt guilty, but justified.

I love the ability of people to delude themselves into just about anything. Lets recap – “you get what you pay for. . . [or] cheap? Naturally, we were tempted. . . . But the mechanic on the side? He could do it for less than half, including parts and labor.”

And now – I also have a loyalty — a responsibility — to my family.

OK, I’m on board – you have a responsibility to your family. Great.

Lets review how you’ve handled that responsibility.

You just sent your vehicle to someone who is probably under-tooled, unlicensed, untrained, and uninsured, most likely leaking dangerous fluids into our atmosphere, our water supply, and our land fills, who probably cuts corners, is uninsured against possible severe damages as most fuel lines run the length of the car near to exhaust materials running at 1400 degrees, exposing you to liability because for this situation, you hired him as an independent contractor, and thus he is your employee for the purposes of performing this work, which incidentally means if he’s out of work for 6 months because your car fell on him, your state workers compensation board would like to have a conversation with you, not to mention the IRS would like to know why you have not prepared a 1099 tax return for him as he was your independent contractor working on your personal property, because I’m sure Mr. driveway mechanic reports every cent of that income, how does an audit and investigation into tax evasion sound my dear, not to mention that if he performed this job on your property, as an licensee, coming onto the property for your benefit, means you have a duty to inspect the premises for known dangers, including that crack in your driveway that he places the jackstand under, by the way, see that line of fuel leaking from your driveway to the city’s drinking water, to which the city would also like to have a conversation with you, never mind you’ve just authorized someone to fix a fuel part on your vehicle that your family, including your 2 year old daughter, rides in.

This gets better.

Since the car still needed to be inspected, I had to decide if I would sheepishly return to my mechanic or not. Would he be offended? Would he refuse to service the car? Yes and yes. His response was, “No, we’re done. I don’t need business like that.”

This is the first thing I thought of. . .

“Hi, I just sent my car to a guy working in his driveway, do you mind inspecting it, certifying it as good work, making sure he did a good job, having no knowledge what parts were removed, replaced, what booby traps he set up to “make it work” in his driveway cost saving measures, and oh, by the way, I didn’t tell you this, but by certifying this vehicle repair as solid, you have just entered into a little part of the legal world we call legal liability – because if it fails and my car burns in a fiery inferno, guess who the estate is coming after, not the guy who did the work – he doesn’t have insurance, assets, or a business to go after, but you do! – since you inspected the work as done correctly, my estate will ravage your business, place a lien on your house, till tap your automotive repair business, make you uninsurable because you’re a liability now, all because you “inspected” his work – thanks for your help!”

Gulp.

He went on to say that it was “too bad” because I was “a good customer” but he simply couldn’t compete with some guy working out of his home garage. As he vented, he pointed to the bays in his own garage, ranting about the cost of doing business, his overhead, etc. Red-faced and rejected, I said I was sorry, turned and walked away.

The original mechanic is my hero. Way to let her know where you stand. Way to draw that line in the sand and let her know her kind of business is not appreciated. I know what you were trying to tell her, lets see how she responds.

Later, I thought about his reasoning. Overhead, utilities, employees — were these my responsibility? Am I expected to subsidize his overhead? As a customer, I assume that I am paying for services rendered, not the lease on the building, the insurance premiums or the electricity. I understand that these must be recovered, but by whom?

The idiocy of this woman astounds me.

Overhead is a part of every business. Overhead is integrated into the price of every service or product purchased. Perhaps if she had more than five minutes in the working world and some sense of elementary business principles, she wouldn’t be so. . . offended?

Your salary is paid mostly by advertisers who pay to place ads in your paper, online next to your columns, etc., so that they reach their target audience – presumably other stay at home idiot retards who like to expose their families to fires, criminal and civil liabilities, placing the environment at risk, while creating sensationalist stories ignoring the basics of business administration and commerce in an effort to drum up readership.

So the advertisers pay a fee for this service, the placement of ads near your semi-lucid stories. Guess what? This fee they pay, covers your. . .wait for it. . . overhead! The cost of printing the paper, the paper, the ink, the lights in the factory, the electricity to run the press, the editors who decide where to place your column, the paper boys who deliver the paper, the tech gurus who place your column on the website, manage it, host it, your salary, etc., are all paid by the advertisements in or around the paper and or online content.

The amount collected by the sale of the papers is negligible.

So the advertisers pay for a service, reaching consumers offering their products, which covers the cost of printing the paper, either online or in print form, and adds a little so the owner of the paper has something added to his bottom line. If it doesn’t cover the cost of printing the paper, your paper is whats called “loosing money” or “operating in the red”. If the paper does not increase income, either by increasing circulation, thereby increasing the audience for ads, allowing the paper to charge more for ads, the paper will eventually fold.

I hope this economic lesson sheds light on this whole strange thing called “overhead” and how every service encompasses overhead.

Every business has overhead. Its not magically recovered – its recovered through the price of services offered.

So who’s responsibility is it to pay for your overhead – the advertisers? Yes!

Why?

Because they understand the tangible benefit associated with the paper’s service.

They reach consumers, with the ability to advertise their products and services, thereby hopefully increasing their revenue, creating a positive ROI (which is what’s called a return on investment) meaning whatever they spend, they expect to get back in addition to more to justify the expense.

They don’t pay because they like seeing your column or because they have a sense of civic duty to keep a local paper in business – its because they’ve decided it was the best way to increase their revenue, understanding that rates are determined by circulation numbers (how many people they can reach) deciding to advertise in a section of the newspaper that their demographic appears in.

For instance, if I were an online education program trying to increase enrollment into my basic business principles, etiquette, including how to deal with chronic infidelity, and common sense program, I would advertise right next to your column.

Now then, what on earth is tangible benefit of paying the overhead of a mechanic who has as you say “Overhead, utilities, employees?” I understand that “I am paying for services rendered” but you have to understand these services rendered implicitly include those costs.

If the rent, insurance, electricity, etc., isn’t paid, his shop doesn’t remain open. Furthermore, don’t you think if the job was so easy, your next door neighbor could do it in his driveway, then wouldn’t all car repair be done this way? There’s a reason people take their cars to shops – see a few paragraphs up if you are still confused.

By your logic, if I’m an advertiser, I should only have to pay the cost of the ink and time to place my advertisement in the paper or next to online content. I should only have to pay the cost of the paper where my ad appears. Your salary, the cost of the electricity, insurance costs do not concern me as an advertiser, they are not my problem – all I want is my ad printed. What responsibility is it of mine to subsidize your overhead? “Am I expected to subsidize [your] overhead?. . . I understand that these must be recovered, but by whom?”

Yes, the cost of doing business cuts into your profit, but charging me accordingly cuts into my budget. He may have been offended, but I felt foolish.

I’d like to meet a consumer who doesn’t think a technician pockets his labor hour charge.

I wish they would understand they don’t even have one iota of knowledge of the overhead shops go through.

Insurance, electricity, and building costs are the least of their worries. Do they have any idea about the cost of tools, updates on scanners, new smog machines, new technology training they have to go to, student loan payments, outlay of cash for classes, etc.? Of course not, that’s why we have consumer ignoramus’s like you to enlighten us to the “gall” of your mechanic to send you on your way.

Perhaps you don’t always get what you pay for; in some cases, you may pay more for what you don’t get.

If this has demonstrated anything, I hope you understand that your theorem bordering on fact [sic] that “you get what you pay for” has been aptly demonstrated. You received exactly what you paid for.

I hope you now realize what you didn’t “get” by taking your car to your local side job artist. I hope he did a good job. I hope he disposes of fluids properly, I hope he used the right tools, I hope he purchased quality parts, not using used or junkyard parts (do you ever wonder why his parts costs are so cheap?), I hope he replaced all necessary parts, including gaskets, hoses that should not be reused, clamps, fittings, or other essential materials, I hope he had the knowledge and training to do this job the right way, knowing specific things to look for when changing a fuel part, I hope he had the proper equipment to do this the right way, I hope he has some form of insurance for himself and his workmanship, I hope he didn’t get hurt while working on your vehicle, I hope he reported the income and you don’t run into problems with the IRS, I hope nothing goes wrong. . . .

Personally, my family’s safety – and avoiding civil and/or criminal liability – is worth more than $350.

It’s too bad it had to end the way it did. Perhaps we could have made it work. But some relationships are all or nothing. This one was just too costly.

But if he did all of the above, carried insurance, had the proper tooling, proper fluid removal systems, wouldn’t he have a lot more overhead? Wouldn’t he have to raise his costs to cover these costs? Wouldn’t this mean you would have to pay good money for an honest, convenient, friendly, reliable, and solid service from an morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man, satisfactory in quality, quantity, high quality technician?

And you know where you’d be?

Back at your original technician.

Let that be a lesson to you.

-William Ferreira

Getting what you pay for…
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