Being a specialty shop I’m usually not the
first place most people will stop at for repairs. 
More than likely they’ll have gone to their
“regular” mechanic to try and solve a
problem, or checked around with people
they know as to where to try and get their
car repaired.  Sooner or later somebody
will mention my name and they’ll make it
over to my shop.

The only problem I run into now is the fact they have already spent so much money on repairs, and their budget is so tight they want me to go as easy as possible on the cost of the repair.  But, before they came to my shop a budget wasn’t a problem, but now with all their money spent… they want me to hold to a certain price.  This next price shopper was no different.

A guy comes into the office with a dash gauge problem on his Ford pickup. He starts out with the same old introduction line I’ve heard a zillion times before: “I’ve been here, I’ve been there and nobody can find out what’s wrong… everyone I’ve talked to says you’re the man to see who can find it.” 

The story goes that it will blow the 10 amp gauge fuse as soon as you install one, but he’s found that if he puts a 25 amp fuse in it will last a day or two.  (Good Grief… this is already sounding bad.) A lot of parts have been changed and a lot of things have been tried. It’s been to several other shops but nothing has ever solved the problem.  All of them eventually recommended that he stop by my shop.  (I’m thinking to myself, “Gee dude?  After you went to the first shop and they told you to come here, then you went to the next shop and they told you the same thing, then a third, and… seriously dude…how many shops did ya actually go to before you showed up here?”)

Needless to say, he was out of cash, out of patience, and still without working gauges in his truck.  Now it’s my turn to tackle the problem, or … is it…… 

“I need and estimate on how much it will cost to repair it,” he asked me.

“Well, sir, without knowing where the problem is, or what is causing the problem, I’ll have to check a few things to be able to pinpoint what the cause is.”

“You’ve obviously done these before, so how much did those cost?”

“Your results may not be the same as the last one I did, because I’m pretty sure the last couple of them that I’ve done didn’t try a 25 amp fuse in place of a 10 amp.  So, you might be in for a little more work than the usual repair.”

“How can that make the problem worse, it’s just a fuse?”

I explained, (as best as I could) why an oversize fuse was not a good idea… but it wasn’t getting thru to him.  He didn’t or wouldn’t except an explanation that didn’t include a dollar amount in the answer.

“Just give me a range of what it could cost,” he insistently asked.

“Ok, well, how about 1 dollar to a thousand,” I said, getting a little chapped at his badgering questions.

“Oh, you can give me a closer guess than that.  I won’t hold ya to it of course.”
(The classic “won’t hold ya to it” line… sure, you won’t.)

“Ok then, it usually runs between 200 to 500 but, it could run a lot less, or it could run a lot more depending on the actual damage I find.”

“So you think it will cost around 500.00 bucks then?”

Apparently I have lost my ability to explain things in English, and apparently when I give a variable of two numbers the “won’t hold ya to it” number is the higher one, and not a penny more.  I guess I didn’t make myself clear… oh, I forgot… he’s not going to hold me to it so it’s safe to say 500.00 bucks is a good number. Awesome, now I won’t have to worry about the inevitable argument I’ll have once (if ever) I finish the job.  Because you know… the actual price may vary.

“Ok, what would be the worst case scenario?” he asks.

By this time I’ve pretty much figured out that this guy isn’t about to leave the truck with me.  Either because of the cost or the fact he’s not getting the answers he wants.  To me, when someone starts asking all these questions it’s a sign that they don’t trust you… they are really only trying to find a number that they can use to compare at the next shop they’ll be stopping at.  All the references in the world don’t help a bit when the old wallet is doing the talking. Because it still comes down to who’s the cheapest.   References, quality of repair, and answering all their questions, still doesn’t add up to a job in the shop, plain and simply… it’s cost.  At this point, I know I’ve lost the job, his trust and my trust of him isn’t there.  I might as well end this with a little flare of my own.

“Well, let’s see… how much did ya pay for the truck?” I asked.

“I paid over 10 grand for it, but what does that have to do with it?

“Let’s think about this for a second… If you have ruined the wiring to the point that the overall cost of repairs will exceed the value of the truck then I would say the worst case scenario would be… replace the truck.  It’s just a harmless joke sir, not that it would happen to your truck, however, I’ve had a few that it was actually possible with the amount of damage I’ve found.”

Well that pretty much sealed the deal.  That little answer snapped his last fuse.  This guy is heading out the door.  There’s no doubt about it.  Even with all the referrals, the detailed diagnostics procedures that I explained to him, the fact that I knew that more damage could be done by changing to a higher amperage fuse, still didn’t bring the job into the shop. I guess trying to hold my feet over the fire with a “I won’t hold ya to it price” was still out of his budget.

There’s no doubt I didn’t hit it off with this guy, and quite frankly sometimes that’s a good thing, I’m not trying to win them all.  Man, it would have been a good paying job too if I could have only found a price that this guy could afford.  Next time I run across another situation like this I’m going to ask them this question,”Ok, what can you afford? I realize you have spent a ton of money with all these other shops and nothing has been done. 
So why don’t you give me a number that will work… … … … Oh and don’t worry… … … …  I won’t hold ya to it.”