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Tractorholic
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952 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I've been fixing power tools in my garage (in the summer) and basement (in the winter) for some extra cash for a couple of years. I don't do it much, and won't work on complicated things like compound mitre saws, but grinders, drills, circular saws and cordless tools are pretty quick and easy. I usually stick to one brand, since I used to work for them and am familiar with their products.

Estimates are free, but if it's not worth fixing you get it back in a box...I'm not reassembling it for nothing. That happens a lot because parts often exceed the price of a new tool. Mostly if something can't be fixed, people don't want it back. I separate the scrap metal from the plastic and take it to the scrap metal yard.

One of the places I do this for is a small manufacturer (maybe 100 employees) that works with a lot of aluminum and copper. Every grinder they bring in needs a switch because the filings get in there and short things out. Grinders always need new cords because Health and Safety won't tolerate taped cords here and grinder cords get nicked and cut. This place also run things to death, minimum wage employees being hard on tools. They give me a bunch of grinders at a time (all the same model), and I go through them and do what I can. If I can build one good grinder out of two or three trashed ones, I do. If there are good parts that I don't need at the time, I put them in a box under the bench with the company's name on it and use them later. They pay $20.00 for every working tool, plus any new parts I need. If all they need is a switch or a cord, I only charge $10.00 labour. I get to keep the scrap metal.

When they have a batch of tools, they send me an e-mail and I pick them up on the way home from work. When they are done, I drop them off after work. If there's an estimate that could go either way, I send an e-mail so they can decide. Each tool gets a hand-written bill without prices, and the batch gets a computer generated bill with prices and a total.

I set this all up with a guy I knew there when I first started doing this, and it's always worked well. There have been two other guys in charge of tool repair since (it's one of those jobs nobody there wants, so they keep passing it around) and never a problem. I do the repairs, type out a bill, and they send me a cheque at the end of the month.

Now there's a new guy there though. I got home on Friday to find an e-mail on my computer. He can't understand my billing system. He doesn't like the way I pick up the tools after office hours (shipping and receiving is open until 6:00 PM there, but the office closes at 4:00). He doesn't understand why they sent 15 grinders and only got eight back (if he understood the paperwork, it'd all make sense to him). He wants all of the old parts back. He thinks I should source a cheaper parts supplier (there is only one parts supplier...the manufacturer). He wants the cords repaired, not replaced. He's pretty sure I could just replace brushes instead of armatures (I do when appropriate...I make no money on parts). He would "greatly appreciate" it if I could show up during office hours so he could go through each repair with me instead of just getting bills. He's wondering if it wouldn't be cheaper to do the repairs in-house as necessary instead of sending them to me in batches.

So I went through his list. They set up the billing system, I just do what they ask. I work during the day, so have to do the pick-ups and drop-ofs after office hours. I combine multiple broken grinders into one. I use their good parts to fix their broken machines. You can't legally use nicked or taped cords and I'll have to charge more labour for repairs, so he won't save any money. I kept it polite and business-like and sent him an e-mail yesterday. I didn't expect a response until Monday, but I got one last night.

Yep, apparently this guy has nothing better to do on a Saturday night than check and respond to his office e-mails. I think he could perhaps use a cold case of beer and a warm woman, or a hobby of some sort. Maybe stamp collecting or something.

Anyway, he wants a face to face meeting during business hours. He also might be able to offer me "as much as" $12.00 an hour" to repair tools and "perform other duties" on a full-time basis. He would like advice on more reliable/economical tools. If we can't do that, he'd like a 50% reduction on labour costs.

Okay, I already told him I had a full-time job and wasn't available during office hours. A $12.00 an hour job would be a major pay cut for me and doesn't make any sense for them, since tool repair would only take up about one day a month there if you worked very slowly. I have no interest in sweeping floors and no experience fixing their other equipment, so no idea what these "other duties" might entail. Unless they move to air grinders, they are already using the best tools at the best price. There are better and there are cheaper, but the cheaper ones are garbage and the better ones would be broken just as quickly at that place.

They overall tone of his e-mails really peeves me off. They are quite accusatory, almost threatening, like I'm ripping him off or something.

The reality is that he's not going to get this service anywhere else. The tool repair places aren't going to mix and match parts from broken tools to build one working one. They aren't going to pick up and deliver for free. They charge more than I do and, for the small amount of parts required, are going to charge full retail for parts. I get a discount on most parts because I used to work there and pass that discount on.

So I sent him another polite and business-like e-mail this morning (copied to the guys who did his job previously and including his emails and my responses) saying that I couldn't meet his terms. I also suggested that he talk to his predecessors because I know at least two of them have looked at tool repair and replacement costs in the past.

He responded with his regrets that we couldn't do business, but wondered if I might be willing to train one of his present employees in my "shop". He'd be willing to pay me for that, of course. I believe I showed great restraint with my single-word answer of, "No," instead of the two word response I had originally typed. I again copied it to his predecessors.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Monday morning rolls around and I find out that I'm still fixing their tools the way I have been.

While all of this is going on, I have some friend of a friend who wants me to fix these Canadian Tire tools he bought used at a garage sale. They make a "burnt smell" when you try to use them. They aren't bad tools for the homeowner who doesn't use them much, but they are throw-aways. When they fail, you buy a new one. I don't even know if you can buy parts for them. They aren't designed to be repaired. You certainly don't buy used ones without trying them. I didn't build this world, but I've been living in it long enough to understand how things work.

I keep trying to tell him this, but he's sure they can be repaired. He keeps phoning with ideas. "It looks kind of like this, maybe those parts will work," and "Maybe there are parts on the internet." Maybe there are parts on the internet, but I don't have time to find out, and I kind of doubt that a $200 name brand tool has the same innards as a $50.00 Canadian Tire throw-away. Last call I suggested he have a look at some refurbished tools. That should keep him out of my hair until the middle of next week.

Then there's this house framer I know. I fix stuff for him a couple of times a year. He bought new stuff this spring though and now he wants to know if I can do the warranty work. No, that's what the factory service centre is for. "But can't you fix them and bill the repair centre?" Well, of course not. Guys who fix tools in their garages at night are generally not factory-authorized repair centres. "But I have the receipts." Good, the guys at the factory service centre are going to want to see those.

So how's everybody else's weekend going?
 

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Proud to be Deplorable
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29,904 Posts
I have had that before. New people have nearly given me ulcers. Every so many years, there is a big shake up at the area hospital and the purchasing is restructured.

It's funny how they try to nickle and dime, even bragging over finding what i quoted on for 5% less than I was bidding... until it shows up in the mail and they call me to ask how to assemble it.

Ummm. No.
But I will do a full priced service call and regular rates to come and put it together....

Shortly after having to explain all this to their supervisor, the new graduate see the light & learns the hard way that the meaning of "Best Value Procurement" is not "Cheapest"
 

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Freedom is not Free. Thank those in uniform for yo
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8,677 Posts
When I was in the Navy we would get a new officer in that wanted to make a name for himself and want to change things. Most of the time what he wanted to do had already been tried before. He will learn, hopefully the easy way.
 

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Tractorholic
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1,711 Posts
"Sure I can train your in house guy, $6000 should cover the 2 day course. Meals included, lodging isnt"

I had a local guy, that buys and sales used lab equipment, call me up 2 years ago. He said sales was down and he wanted to get into service. He wanted to know if I would train him. I told him to meet me and we would have a cup of coffee and talk about it. We did and he wasnt going to no for and answer. He has no expeirence in anything mechanical, doesnt even know how to change the oil in his car and he thinks he can learn to do this in just a few weeks. It only took him a about thousand dollars before he decided that I needed to be a partner/employee in his business. Then he found out he couldnt afford me as an employee, so then he shot for a subcontractor. Then he found out that my training rates were much different than my sub contractor rates. After about six months he left me alone.

I guess the moral of my story is, if they are dumb enough to ask something like that then they should be parted from their money quickly.
 

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Tinker Master
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7,917 Posts
Well, I'd just have to raise my rates for the tool repairs to that company. They've had a sweet deal going on for a very long time and you've spent valuable time and expertise/work helping them out and they value that but the $12/hour job offer is a slap in the face.. Give him one back..
 

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Procrastinators unite tomorrow
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1,417 Posts
Being self employed my favorite line when someone questions my price or wants a discount is,

I don't do this as a hobby, and I don't need any practice.
 

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Tractorholic
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952 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Sure I can train your in house guy, $6000 should cover the 2 day course. Meals included, lodging isnt
Thinking about that makes me laugh. It's winter, so we'd be working in my basement. If he's more than 5'2" or so, he's going to be hitting his head on the beam a lot. I still do, and I've been living here for 25 years. If he's over six feet, he'd be hitting the rafters. He'd be unfamiliar with the concept of the cat helping out. If he needed to use the vise, he'd have to head out to the unheated garage. Since it's my house, he might have to deal with the reality of a full-smoking workplace. Meals, when I'm working, tend to consist of leftovers...and the dogs expect you to share. Work starts sometime after Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends and stops at beer o'clock.
 

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Connoisseur of Rusty Junk
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5,623 Posts
I occasionally do electrical work for friends and family. The closest friends and family get the "free" rate. Everyone else gets the $?? / Hr. + parts / supplies rate. So far no one has complained about it, but if they ever should, I'll just tell them to call around and get some quotes!
 

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Anything Red . . .
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12,054 Posts
I wouldn't be at all surprised if Monday morning rolls around and I find out that I'm still fixing their tools the way I have been.
I believe if I were in your place, when he comes back with his hat in his hand, I would explain that I have had a substantial rate increase, just to rub his nose in it.
 

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10,147 Posts
My condolences. You're probably better off saying good bye to the company. If they put that kind of person into the position they will probably consider suing you if one of their minimum wage workers hurts themselves with a tool you looked at. If you value your tools, dont let strangers near them(Even family don't think they need to be cleaned and put away).

I had a business years ago. I had low overhead and offered the lowest prices. I also did the work correctly unlike many of my competitors. People were constantly trying to nickel and dime me. Many times they'd go to my competitors if they didn't like my price or solution to their problem. Later the'd complain to me that the competitor had raised the price half way through the project when they were trapped(as I had warned them about). Most of my competitors did that routinely. All I could say was I had given them the best solution and a fair price. They'd be mad at me for pointing out their stupidity. I decided it wasn't worth it and closed up.

You may be better off collecting up broken tools, fixing them at home and selling them at a flea market or tag sale.
 

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Freedom is not Free. Thank those in uniform for yo
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8,677 Posts
Like Steve, I do some computer work and for a few family I don't charge. Others depending on how well I know them I will charge a nominal fee to if I don't know you the basic rate for computer work. I only charge what ever the part's cost me and if they want to order and get them then that is fine.

I thing at this point if the company comes back and wants to renew business I would tell them like LD the price just went up and then let him explain to his boss why it is costing more to get the tools replaced. Tough lesson.
 

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Tractorholic
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952 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I believe if I were in your place, when he comes back with his hat in his hand, I would explain that I have had a substantial rate increase, just to rub his nose in it.
I'm thinking that since nobody wants the job there, it'll likely belong to somebody more reasonable if/when they come back to me. If so, I'm quite happy with my rates the way they are. If it's the same guy though, the answer is a simple, "No." I do this for spare cash, not to induce migraines.
 

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Tractorholic
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3,907 Posts
I can think of no way your rates would not have to inncrease. Accounting for each unit means that you can no longer use parts from 2-3 units to make one working unit. Therefore it will require new parts for each unit. His demand for a detailed repair invoice for each unit is going to mean a good bit more paperwork. Not to mention time spent, determining specifically what he expects in the invoiceing and drafting satisfactory invoices. There are times you cant cut someone a break and in those cases charge for it.

True story example: An oldsmobile pulled up in front of my house boiling over. An older man his son and two granchildren got out and was debating how they could get back to Knoxville about 30 miles away. I told him I would take them home and all I would ask is that they replace the fuel I burnt. I guesed $2.00 would cover it. The old man got kind of beligerent and said he wanted no surprizes.
So I told him i would take him home for $20. I was just tryiing to help, not make money off their unfortunate situation. Sometimes you cant help people and have to charge @ their percieved value.
 

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Tractorholic
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1,545 Posts
The problem is this guy has no idea what anything cost I have heard this over the years I have a job in the salvage industry {Auto's}
we buy and sell, you need to make money to make it all work out {if you don't make money you don't have a job long }.So many think the auto's are just given to you
so all you do is money made and that is far from the thruth.He doesn't know how good he has it your working with low overhead not no overhead just low overhead.
All you need to do is take a small vacation so he can buy some new tools and pay a fulltime toolman to fix some things.

Good luck with what ever you do
 

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Live long and prosper
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6,791 Posts
I'm quite happy with my rates the way they are. I do this for spare cash, not to induce migraines.
I say they will have lost a valuable resource if they don't continue with you. It sounds like all the trust the others had in you is not present in the new guy. He seems to have no trust, probably in anything.

If you don't need the job, you won't miss the headaches this guy makes.
 
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