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

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

Mitch thinks repair shops should be able to buy products the way they want.

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 [email protected].









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