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Article > Mitch’s World

Auto Repair Shops Want Parts, Supplies The Way They Want Them


1/13/2010
By Mitch Schneider

Mitch thinks repair shops should be able to buy products the way they want.
 
Mitch Schneider
I know I’m not the sharpest knife in the silverware drawer. It’s a fact of life.

I just have to accept it.

There are lots of folks smarter than I am, just like there are lots who have more money than I do.

There are some people who are taller; some who are faster and stronger. All of this is consistent with reality as I know it and kind of makes sense most of the time.

What doesn’t make sense are the things that are not consistent with that reality, things that are counter-intuitive. The things I seem to have the most trouble with are the decisions some people make and the actions they sometimes take that aren’t consistent with what they are trying to accomplish with their goals and objectives.

It’s hard to question the people you are doing business with, especially when they are running companies that are much larger than yours. But that  doesn’t always make it any easier to  understand those decisions or actions.

Case in point, some time ago I discovered I could purchase thread-locking compound in individual packets. That may not sound like a big deal to some of you, because the amount of thread-lock I purchase isn’t likely to move your financials much in one direction or another. But it was a big deal to me. Thread-locking compound should be a staple when it comes to mechanical work. It is here. We still do a lot of mechanical work. Consequently, we use a lot of it.

Without these individual packets, it is virtually impossible to accurately measure the amount of thread-lock you are using. Because it is not easily measured, most shops are either charging too much or too little for it. Or they are not charging for it at all.

For most shops outside California this isn’t a problem. Things like thread-lock are dropped into the “Shop Supplies” bucket, treated as a general expense and then passed through to the vehicle owner as either a percentage of labor or on a flat fee basis. But I’m not operating outside California.

I live and work here where the cost of many of these shop supplies, “stuff” like thread-locker, are absorbed and not recovered. Something as small as these little packets of thread-locker turned a cost, possibly even a loss, into a potential profit.

Naturally, I was frustrated and upset when I called to re-order and was told they were no longer available. I’d have to go back to the “old way” of purchasing the larger containers. And that’s what I did, until the manufacturer’s representative who just happens to be a client of mine came in with a car  problem.

While he was telling me his tale of woe, I started telling him mine. When I was finished he just looked at me, shook his head and told me the individual packets I was looking for were still available. They had never been discontinued. They were just being packaged and sold in larger quantities ... much larger quantities!

Where my supplier could once purchase this stuff — 36 individual packets to a box, they were now forced to purchase these packets in lots of 480!

I don’t want to purchase 480 packets of thread-lock at a time even though I know I will eventually use them. The packets are little and shrinkage and inventory control would more than likely become problematic. What I don’t understand is why someone at the warehouse can’t purchase a box of 480 and then break that box up into eight little bags of 60 packets in a bag.

What I don’t understand is how or why a company would not approach this particular circumstance as an opportunity rather than as a problem. After all, isn’t the purpose of business to sell stuff and win customers, to increase your share of the market and make a profit?

Isn’t it easier to do that with small items that have little or no price resistance, small items whose cost can easily be passed along? Wouldn’t it make sense to raise the price of each individual packet incrementally, enough to

reflect the extra costs associated with repackaging, and then pass that cost along, especially on something I want, need and would be more than willing to spend a little extra to get?

What we’re talking about is recognizing customer wants, needs and expectations, and then responding. Or worse yet, not responding.

What we are talking about is the difference between problems and opportunities; profit and loss; success and failure. Do you think that’s a little over the top?

Do you think I’m being a little melodramatic? What happens if you don’t respond or won’t respond and one of your competitors reads this and responds before you do? What happens if someone else decides that breaking up the “big box” makes sense when you won’t?

I can tell you what I think might happen. I just might buy that little bag filled with 30 or 60 or maybe even 80 packets of thread-lock in it. I might even pay a few cents more for it because it makes my life easier, a lot easier. And it solves a very real problem.

And, if I buy that little bag filled with individual packets of thread-lock, I’ll bet there is no telling what else I might buy from that supplier. And, that my friend is how “Third Calls” become “Second Calls,” and “Second Calls” become “First Calls.”

Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at mschneider@babcox.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Previous Comments
avatar   rick   star   4/24/2010   3:52 PM

Can I just Get mine to GO?



avatar   Sergey   star   3/25/2010   7:34 PM

Looking through comments i was kinda surprised to see how a "shop owner" is being told that - Hey, it is OK that we want you to buy our package BEFORE you sure that it'll pay back. So if i need some thread locker, SOME, and i have 10 jobs scheduled/planned, it is totally OK for me to buy 1000 jobs worth of it, yeah? Because warehouse does not have/want to loose time/money on repack? Guess what, i look at it the same way, you want me to make YOU money and hopefully i make some money too. Is warehouse going to sent me more jobs to justify my over expense? I doubt it. Then Mr. Warehouse, you can suck it up, and i'll call somewhere else. If you don't want to be told how to do business, then shut up and don't tell me why is better to do my business your way. I think it's fare enough. Corporate thinking is what killed our industry. Peace



avatar   Tad   star   3/10/2010   12:42 AM

I know exactly one shop owner that bills for every scrap of extra chemical supply used on a job. One. And he basically fails at operating a shop properly (for other reasons).



Things like that get incorporated into shop expenses. If you're not turning a profit due to small things like that, you need to recalculate your labor rate to take them into account. I understand that the shop needs to make money, but there are things that you simply can't keep track of and bill the customer for. Really, are you going to bill the customer for the 8oz of brake cleaner that you used? Not to mention, even the small (1/2oz?) threadlocker lasts quite a long time. Maybe suggest that your techs use it properly, a couple drops per fastener, rather than dripping it all over the shop?




avatar   Gabe   star   2/14/2010   3:48 PM

Oops typo. Yeah we will them for that. We sue the jedi mind trick, wave our hand, and say, "Your going to buy thread locker." I meant Bill.



avatar   Gabe   star   2/14/2010   3:46 PM

Take a bottle of thread locker break it down into ounces! Add a new part number in your work order system sell by the ounce. That's how we did refrigerant! 30 lb bottle mechanics wrote how many ounces they used. We will them for that! Easy!!!



avatar   Tom   star   2/9/2010   2:47 PM

To me the vendor is at fault. Kinda goes along with help line items IMO. Used to get just what you wanted, know you get 1 clip you need and 4 you don't. Heaven help us if you need 2 clips. Warehouse could care less it seems. If you need 1 bottle you get the case. They don't want a broken case but it's alright for you to have it collecting dust in your store.



avatar   Buzz Killington   star   2/9/2010   11:37 AM

Ed, you can blame it on California law and CARB if you want, but somebody voted that travesty in. If business owners don't band together and protect their interests, then you get problems just like this. California and CARB sucks!



avatar   Ed   star   2/6/2010   8:06 AM

Chris, we selling dime bags of threadlocker? Joe, it is not Mitch's fault he has to identify each individual shop supply and bill for it individually, that is California state law.



avatar   Gabe   star   2/5/2010   4:30 PM

YEAH!! On bread even!



avatar   Chris   star   2/5/2010   4:27 PM

Simple solution: buy the big box of threadlocker, take ten minutes, and divide it up into some sandwich bags yourself. The guys at the warehouse don't have time for that; they have to get the merchandise out of there, and they have to do it NOW. It would take a warehouse guy forever to get that done, but it would take you or one of your techs no time at all.



avatar   joe materotz   star   2/5/2010   3:18 PM

I have to agree with kay. You actually charge for those little packets of threadlock? sounds like a crook to me.Most shops put all of the brake clean, shop rags, etc. under one shop supply charge. Hell make your techs buy the threadlocker since you seem so happy on using it on everything. How is it on bread?



avatar   l. kay   star   2/5/2010   2:27 PM

mitch.. you sound like the parts pro's worst nightmare. All for you at all cost. Nevermind the fact we at the parts store clean up your messes every day without bitching, but you can order parts from multiple suppliers, return whatever you want and expect us to take it in the a... I wonder if you have the slightest idea what we do for you every hour of every day? I don't think so, if you did, you would appreicate us and not bitch at us.By the way, do you ever make a mistake in vehicle information? or are you so perfect?



avatar   Crystals worst enemy   star   2/4/2010   3:36 PM

Loyalty? Hah! When i was the only guy in town that would price match and even beat pricing on everyone they would buy from me. I got a better job opportunity, and moved 15 min. away and none of the old shops call. Why? It's too far they say. I call Bullshite.



avatar   Luke   star   2/4/2010   2:16 PM

I'm with Ed on this one. Customers of all types, retail or otherwise, remember the little things just as easily as the big things. Just because it's a little packet of thread-locker doesn't mean it isn't important to them. Sure it isn't important to you now, but it will be later.



avatar   CRYSTAL   star   2/4/2010   1:39 PM

GOOD POINT GABE..I HAVE CUSTOMERS WHO ORDER THE SAME PART FROM BOTH US AND ABC WHOEVER GETS THERE FIRST THATS WHO THEY BUY FROM..THEY JUST WANT TO GET THE CAR OFF THE RACK AND OUTTA THERE. IF WE SHOW UP AT SAME TIME ITS WHOEVER HAS THE CHEAPEST PRICE THEY BUY FROM.



avatar   mchester   star   2/3/2010   9:08 PM

CD that is great! i am so glad i am not the only one who caught what that was all about. but let me tell you that is what sets us apart in good customer service.



avatar   G. Lizzard   star   2/3/2010   11:30 AM

So easy a caveman can do it.



avatar   Gabe   star   2/1/2010   1:36 PM

You know what!? Good point BIGFOOT I see how this can all come together



avatar   BIGFOOT   star   2/1/2010   10:49 AM

THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO THIS FELLAS, ON ONE HAND GABE AND ED ARE RIGHT. JUST BECAUSE YOU BEN OVER BACKWARDS AND BECOME THE FIRST CALL DOES NOT MEAN THAT HE IS BUYING FROM ONLY YOU, ALL BETS ARE OFF WHEN A LIFT IS TIED UP. ON THE OTHER HAND, WHAT MITCH IS TRYING TO SAY IS THAT WE ALL NEED TO HAVE THE DRIVE TO "WIN" THAT CUSTOMER TO USE US FOR THE FIRST CALL. IF WE HAVE THE PART ON HAND AND YOU GET THE FIRST CALL GUESS WHERE THEY BUY THE PART. AND IF YOU GO THE EXTRA MILE FOR A PACK OF GREASE, YOU MAY MISS THE OCCASIONAL SMALL ORDER THATS IN A HURRY, BUT IMAGINE THE LARGER SALES YOU COULD EARN. THE ONES THAT REALLY COUNT.



avatar   Jay Taylor   star   1/31/2010   8:08 PM

I agree with Mitch BUT the Manufacture is who should be asked to lower the quantities. I have a lot of one to three person shops that can't use big quantities. I have broken down some but always get stuck when something better comes alone and have problems keeping it correct in the computer's inventory and pricing modes.



avatar   Gabe   star   1/31/2010   3:49 PM

Exactly what I was trying to say Ed! I have worked in shops for years. This article makes it sound like if you had the packets in your store. Then you would be his first call. What a crock of sh*t that is! When I was a service writer I knew who I liked, but I had a mission to accomplish. I may like your crew, your store, but it doesn't change the fact that I need this part now, and I am going to get it from whoever has it. I have customers needing their vehicle.



avatar   Ed   star   1/31/2010   2:44 PM

C.D. I think you missed the point, which is in the very last sentence of the article. Sure you become first call, now when he calls, the most critical part is not a packet of thread locker, it is an exhaust manifold with all of its bolts or a brand name radiator and if you don't have it in stock, it doesn't matter if you can get it within two hours from now. As soon as you hang up, he is going to pick right back up and start calling everyone else. All bets are off when a lift is tied up. There is no loyalty left in this business, just the haves and have nots. As a former shop manager, my call list was topped by a jobber who didn't have the best customer service, didn't go the extra mile on finding rare parts, but they sure as hell had everything no one else stocked.



avatar   Gabe   star   1/30/2010   3:56 PM

Mitch why don't you just add one dollar to the price of a part for thread locker. Since you can't charge shop supplies. Because no one is going to bend over backwards for one guy who wants threadlocker. I have worked in shops, and I know even if they did! Yeah you might like that parts place more, for doing so. But next time they don't have a part you need. Your not going to bend over backwards with your customer to only get that part from them. So quit whining it is BS!



avatar   C.D.   star   1/29/2010   4:29 PM

Oh, and by the way, it is not too much to ask, Mitch.



avatar   C.D.   star   1/29/2010   4:27 PM

You know, I have been looking at the responses to this article by Mitch, and most of the respondents miss the whole point, namely that if you listen and take care of your customer, you'll keep him. Period. Just by selling a slightly larger amount of thread lock, and passing on the cost to him, he'll be happy, your bottom line increases and everyone is satisfied with the results. Listening is becoming a lost art, and Mitch reminds us of this.



avatar   howard gregory   star   1/29/2010   12:32 PM

Mitch the problem is simple. As the retailer does business we look at things like per ticket cost. If we sell you 40 packs of thread locker for 60 cents a piece we aren't making enough to turn on the lights and pay the help. In todays low price garuntee market we must make a certain amount of money on each ticket we run. Now I will gladly sell you the threadlocker for 1.25 pr pack at a quantity of ten or more. That is if you are willing to pay the ups charge to ship it from VA to CA. I didn't think so either but I was trying to help. If I put 480 in a box and charge you .75 cents a pack then I may be willing to pay the ups to get it there. But I would first have to see my cost on it before I can really extend that offer. We have to make sure we get enought to keep the phone ringing and the toilet flushing first it's not that we are trying to be difficult we just need to survive.



avatar   partsdude503   star   1/28/2010   11:11 PM

Is this Mitch guy for real? Why is he allowed to have his own feature in counterman. I here enough whining of this nature from my own customers everyday. I don't need to read more of it from this guy. If he can recoup a bottle of thread lock he is in the wrong line of work.



avatar   Dan   star   1/26/2010   7:19 PM

Guys need to lay off Mitch. He's obviously more intelligent than the California lawmakers. Even if he doesn't always know what it's like behind our parts counter, he shows us that he wants to know.



avatar   dave elliott   star   1/26/2010   2:06 PM

BTW, loved the peanut thing Bob. thats one I never heard.



avatar   dave elliott   star   1/26/2010   12:30 PM

Bob, I'm not from Cali. but I understand that it's a whole different ball game out there. There are more shop nazis out there just looking to haul some guy trying to make a living into court over $5 worth of threadlock than there are accountants trying to figure out how to charge the customer and remain compliant with all the regulations and requirements. I'm sure if it was that simple, we'd never have had this article. Give Mitchy a little more credit than that.....I'm just sayin.



avatar   Bob Dez   star   1/26/2010   10:53 AM

Maybe I'm not the brightest peanut in the turd, but why could you not buy a large bottle of threadlock and still itemize it as "THREADLOCK - $5.00". I'm sure you will still make a profit over several invoices and you are still in compliance with itemizing shop supplies. It is the moronic shop owners that can't use common sense that makes our jobs difficult. Get over it and roll with it. If you can't then maybe you should get out of it..



avatar   Will   star   1/25/2010   7:22 AM

Chris, you can't read minds? Are you married? If you are you should be able to. That's what shop guy expect. I just give HIGH side prices and tell them to call me with the correct info when/if the car arrives. Nothing worse than finding out the Montero is a Montero Sport and they quoted $200.00 in parts and now it's $450.00. Then we get blamed!



avatar   Chris   star   1/24/2010   2:03 PM

I agree with ARK. Communication is a two-way street if you want to get the right stuff the first time. If the car's a 96, and the mechanic calling the parts house doesn't know that, and just says "Uh...just put '99," there's an excellent chance the parts house is going to send something very different from the correct part. Then the parts guy gets yelled at for not being psychic and knowing what the part was supposed to be.



avatar   Outlaw Rex Kane   star   1/22/2010   11:43 AM

Yes there turpentine, I am a little negative. But, I do have my reasons. I have read "Let me count the ways" And I went back and re-read it. It is more like...there are problems, and I forgive you. Maybe Ive got the blinders on but most of the problems are not on my end. I have shops that call me and if I ask them a simple question, like a vin code, just to have half a chance to get them the right part, I get one of two answers. It's up on the rack, or the car's not here. The part is invaribly wrong, and the car that wasn't there, has become "You're killing me with these wrong parts." When you sent the part out immediately after the call. And you are very perceptive "Outlaw Rex Kane" is a great wrestler name. And if you hear Bon Jovi's "Wanted....Dead or Alive" playing somewhere in the background.....I'd watch my back. LOL



avatar   TIturpNE   star   1/22/2010   8:55 AM

outlaw rex kane, i see you like to be a little negative yourself. how could anyone be so unhappy with an awesome wrestler name like that. perhaps you should read Mitches article titled "LET ME COUNT THE WAYS" and you will change your tune a little about how he is always talking about the negative.



avatar   Buzz Killington   star   1/20/2010   1:26 PM

Chris, groin injuries can be pretty amusing. Have you ever seen America's Funniest Home videos? I rest my case. Personally, I would laugh uproariously if you had an injury to your groin, but that's just me.



avatar   Outlaw Rex Kane   star   1/19/2010   2:15 PM

Where do canteloupes go for vacation????????? That's right, John Cougar Melloncamp We are forever hearing about the bad things that happen from your suppliers Mitch. I can't believe you're still in business with such pitiful service...and it's someone else's fault. What a shame. Just once, Id like to hear you say something good about how one of your suppliers helped you out of a jam. I bet it's happened several times, but we conveniently don't remember these things. But the bad things stick in our craw. Why is that? If I could answer that, I'd be Dr. Phil, and not Outlaw Rex Kane.



avatar   Tom P   star   1/19/2010   1:43 PM

Just wouldnt be the same though without Micheal.



avatar   John Cougar Melloncamp   star   1/19/2010   1:03 PM

I say we pool our money and talents together to help struggling shop owners in California, a benefit will be setup where we can purchase and supply these individual packets of thread locker. Perhaps we can even get some other musicians together to perform a concert. We will call it MitchAid.



avatar   Dave Elliott   star   1/19/2010   10:56 AM

Seems to me that the problem lies in the State of California being anal about what goes on a customer's reciept. I do understand that people might want itemized statements, I sure want one from my doctor's office or hospital. But why can't the state limit non itemized shop supplies to 0.75 % or so? But on the other hand, Mitch, I must assume that your first call is in California also. All their customers are governed by the same rules. As a retailer, it would be to my advantage to push these one job paks to my customers. They all have to itemize shop supplies. Why shouldn't it be beneficial to the store to sell what they need? Of course here in KY, shops still have the right to charge a certain amount for shop supplies without itemizing. Of course we have the individuial packs....go figure....I'm just sayin.



avatar   Will   star   1/19/2010   8:51 AM

I work for a store here in the south and we keep the small packs also. Like Gabe said, most of people that buy those is retail. The shops I deal with just get the big containers. They just figure up $2 or $3 bucks into the "shop supplies" field of the RO and go on. They make the money back within a few days. However, a factory supplier should be able to order/sell whatever quantity you ask for.



avatar   DANIEL   star   1/18/2010   4:27 PM

MITCH TRY A MAJOR RETAILOR INSTEAD OF A JOBBER STORE I KNOW ALL OF THE BIG 3 CARRY THEM



avatar   Jay   star   1/16/2010   4:32 PM

Permatex makes them and you can get them. 24205 and 37105. medium strength and high strength. .05 oz



avatar   Gabe   star   1/16/2010   3:14 PM

I agree with ed on this one. Mitch your so worried about what you want, and what makes you happy at running your business. Well the parts suppliers are concerned about their business. My parts store has those individual packets, but no one ever buys them. Unless we suggest they need them. Like caliper lube grease with a brake job. Or dielectric grease for a tune up. So if people rarely buy them except retail customers in the store. Why would a major parts supplier go way out of their way just to make your life easier. That isn't how the world works. I would team up with shop owners all across California, and start a movement, petition, I would bug my congressman constantly to change that stupid rule about shop supplies. TO tell them to cathc up with the rest of the country, and pull their head out their you know!



avatar   Chris   star   1/16/2010   10:30 AM

Buzz, you're about as amusing as a groin injury.



avatar   Jody   star   1/14/2010   10:32 AM

Mitch, I don't think its too much to ask. It is a matter of customer service. Taking care of the customer is the key to great business. I want to be the first call...and have been doing this long enough to know that no customer should be taken for granted. That means if it takes several phone calls or even several hours, we need to make that extra effort. Those small packets of thread lock will lead to much larger sales down the road....Its easy to get lost in our busy days, and those small lost sales don't seem like much,until you realize the guy down the street now supplies, your once really good customers needs



avatar   Ed   star   1/14/2010   7:36 AM

Again, the core of Mitch's problem does not lie in his supplier, it lies in the state of California preventing Mitch from buying the larger, MORE cost effective tubes, and prevents him from being able to bill for that without charging the customer for a whole tube of it. This is also the same state that brought us Zero Emissions Vehicle laws (Which were repealed three years later, leaving Chrysler, Ford and Toyota in huge debt over their pure electric vehicles) and the child-proof gas cans that are now a federal mandate.



avatar   DeWayne Demland   star   1/14/2010   1:15 AM

Clay are you working for a large program distributor, NAPA, Carquest something like that? If that is the case then your buyers have done their job and negotiated a deal like that. If you are in a non program distributorship then my hat is off you. You have finally understood the intricacy of marketing. Our biggest problem in this industry has always been for the little guy to compete with the large ones. The way you do that is just by doing what you did, it is called customer service. Here is the problem with it for the little guy, we can not buy like the bigger guy and it will cost a little more for our customers to buy from us. So it comes down to the customer, you want price or service?



avatar   CLAY C.   star   1/13/2010   5:14 PM

ED. THE COMPANY I CURRENTLY WORK FOR SHIPS INDIVIDUAL PACKETS OF BULB GREASE, CALIPER GREASE, ETC. TO STORES AND I CAN HONESTLY SAY THE SHRINK IS VERY LITTLE IF ANY AT ALL. THE DC GETS A LARGE QTY. OF THE CHEMICLE AND THEN REPACKS IT AT THE DC LEVEL TO SEND TO STORES. THEY HAVE DONE SO FOR ABOUT 5 OF THE 7 YEARS I HAVE BEEN HERE AND CONTINUE TO DO SO. IF THE SHRINK WAS AS BAD AS YOU SAY, I DON'T THINK THEY WOULD KEEP IT UP...



avatar   Ed   star   1/13/2010   4:41 PM

"The packets are little and shrinkage and inventory control would more than likely become problematic. What I don’t understand is why someone at the warehouse can’t purchase a box of 480 and then break that box up into eight little bags of 60 packets in a bag." - You answered your own question before you asked it, Mitch. My former employer used to ship them in individual quantities to the stores, and that method caused shrink on both sides, the store and the DC. Your problem lies in the state of California and it's Bizzaro-world laws. My suggestion is to get involved with CARB and contact SEMA and their lawyers to get those laws repealed.



avatar   CLAY C.   star   1/13/2010   4:16 PM

MITCH, IF I WAS IN YOUR AREA AND YOU WANTED THOSE BAGS OF 20,30, OR 80 LIKE YOU SAID, YOU COULD BE SURE IT WOULD HAPPEN. FOR YOUR SUPPLIER TO FEED YOU THAT KIND OF B.S.(IF I CAN SAY THAT) AND LIE TO YOU TO AVOID A LITTLE EXTRA WORK THEY SHOULD BE THE 3RD OR 4TH CALL NOW. THE POINT OF SELLING PARTS IS TO SELL PARTS. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO DO THE JOB, QUIT. IF YOUR CONSUMER WANTS A PRODUCT A CERTAAIN WAY, DON'T YOU THINK YOU SHOULD TRY TO GET IT FOR THEM...

















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