Rant and Rave

The Book

Guest Rant by Bill Daniels

It's time for a new rant-n-rave. This has been a long time coming, and it's about time someone spoke up on this hallowed boat-payment guarantee--whoops, I meant to say mechanic's tradition. I refer to, of course, THE BOOK. You know which one I mean...the one that the trusty, crusty mechanic looks in to tell you how much a car repair is going to cost you. He looks up, say alternator replacement (for example), and states, "The book says it takes 0.9 hour to perform this, and at a basic rate of $50 per hour (less parts), it is going to cost you $45 for me to put this in." Of course, it takes about 6 minutes, which is 0.1 hour, and you should spend $5 for the mechanic's hourly wage, and the ape then either does 10 other repairs (and gets paid for them) or drinks another cuppa coffee while perusing the latest Bayliner catalogue. I remember some years ago when waiting to pick up my car at the dealer (for a warranty repair--sunshine variety...but that's another rant...or is it???); the guy ahead of me was picking up his heap. The clerk blithely stated, "That's $120 for an hour and a half repair time." The guy blew up. "I left my car here 45 minutes ago! How dare you charge me for an hour and a half!"

The argument all dealers, mechanics and others use for going by THE BOOK is usually, "It protects the customer from an excessive shop charge." Hunh????? ROADAPPLES!!! I understand that the times are computed for an average mechanic USING HAND TOOLS EXCLUSIVELY, following the step-by-step factory-established procedure, taking no shortcuts. BUT NOBODY DOES THIS!!!.

There's something basically wrong with charging clients excessively for work that may (or may not) be needed. I understand that in today's world "shade tree" mechanicism is not applicable to cars, and a mechanic is supposed to be a well-paid technician. That's OK (knuckle-draggers need not apply). But to blatantly overcharge your customers is fundamentally dishonest. (Yeah, I know that everyone even remotely connected with the automobile industry is a sleaze.) Everyone is equally guilty...from the dealer who charges you $75 an hour but probably pays his top mechanics about $15 an hour and pockets the rest (nice work if you can get it...$60 per hour for supplying an empty bay--mechanics supply their own tools--based on exaggerated charges to boot) to the local mechanic who works out of his own garage.

The whole system is broken and needs to be fixed. God knows it's expensive enough to live these days. We don't need to be ripped off.

[ Back to the Rant and Rave Archive ]