The work order

I saw this article in Popular Mechanics the other day and it reminded me of what a pain the work order can be – especially in California. This article uses a New York invoice, but the principles are the same.

You must have a check box if they want the old parts back, you must separate the state charged environmental fees for waste disposal, you must separate parts and labor, tax is separate, you must place to odometer reading at the time of service, and the name of the customer’s first born child must be present on the first page. . .

I understand the principles behind the requirement for each section – in theory. It prevents fraud, complies with requirements, etc. – however, in practice, it can be a pain.

The work order has been the bane of a shop’s existence at times, and at others, a life saver. It works both ways. It’s pretty hard for the customer to complain they never authorized a certain amount of work when their signature is clearly on the work order, along with notations describing phone conversations post diagnostic authorizing further repair – however, the problem is upkeep.

It’s a pain to make those notations, it’s a pain to separate every little detail. We’re technicians – our job is in the shop, in the bays, under the hood, and underneath the lift – not filling out paperwork.

To ignore the work orders would be the epitome of foolishness – it’s your only protection against claims of fraud – and the only thing standing between you and your hard earned money, not to mention the Bureau of Automotive Repair and your license.

Sure it takes 5 extra minutes to do the job. If you run your shop as a solo, it can take away from your labor hours – but don’t overlook it.

When a client asks about the validity of their work order, i.e., contract, and whether or not we can collect, the first thing I ask them is whether or not they did it right – it could be the difference between an ironclad mechanics lien that’s relatively painless to foreclose, with the ability to hold their car as leverage, and having to sue a customer under unjust enrichment in civil court 6 months later after you’re forced to release the car.

It goes without saying that one should never overlook the work order. Consumers, including the bureau, may think its for their protection – creating requirements to force techs and shops to engage in full disclosure, but its not for the customers –

It’s for the shop.

The work order is proof of work that was done, its proof of compliance with statutes and legislation creating contractual on the part of the vehicle owner, and in the legal world, when you need to collect, either by foreclosing on a mechanics lien or suing on your behalf – the work order is exactly what you need.

Make sure you use the work order to protect yourself.

William Ferreira


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