Well, actually...it's a cookie alert. Thanks to D & J (you know who you are) for the amazing oatmeal raisin cookies. And a special thanks from Craig for sharing the recipe.
The auto repair industry tends to take a beating when it comes to pricing. You hear people complain that it's "highway robbery" or "they've got you" when a repair seems excessively expensive. Some people even think we just add money to pad the bill. Well, that just isn't true here at Integrity.
For starters, ethics is about choices. When you're being robbed, or strong-armed, or tricked, it is usually because someone has limited your choices. Being robbed with a gun to the head is about limiting your choices. A deceptive sales person will limit your options to trick you into picking their product. So ethics is only about putting all options on the table and letting the customer pick.
Pricing in only one part of those options. The other parts are longevity, convenience, comfort, and quality. For example, I could do $5 oil changes.
Would that be ethical?
Well, it depends on what is included. If I used corn oil from my kitchen then the answer is no. I could also do $200 oil changes.
Would that be ethical?
Well, it depends on what is included. If I used a 200,000 mile oil with a super duper life long reusable oil filter the answer is yes.
So ethics is not pricing. It is what you get and your ability to choose what you get.
Here's what I want you to think about when you are choosing a repair shop to take care of you car or truck; if you pick a shop that doesn't tell you everything that is wrong with your car, then do you actually have all of your choices in front of you? It's hard to choose to fix something you don't know is broken. And, if a repair shop chooses to use cheap parts because they are afraid you might not fix your car due to the expense, then they aren't even giving you the option to use better parts. Once again your choices have been limited. Is that ethical?
Ethical shops give you the truth, that your car is broken and there are some great parts out there than will last for a long time if you fix it. Unethical shops limit your choices to what they want, your money, even if they have to put in chintzy parts and hide known issues from you so they can fix it when it breaks later. Now that's unethical. Don't be confused and substitute prices for ethics.
Diagnosing vehicles can be a challenge. Some vehicles in particular are extremely challenging. However, over the years we've noticed that certain circumstances almost always result in an unhappy customer and there is usually not much we can do about it - try as we might. When I look back at customers who have become upset with us, I've noticed that they all fall under a few simple patterns.
1) Poorly maintained vehicles
Poorly maintained vehicles present a few challenges to auto repair shops. First, they often have multiple issues that can show up as one symptom. This means that even if we find one of the issues, it won't fix the problem until we find the second or sometimes third issue. From a customer's perspective this can be infuriating because it looks like we didn't find the problem the first time. In reality there are numerous problems. Sometimes we can't diagnose one problem without fixing something else in the system. The best hedge against this is to maintain your vehicle. It makes diagnosis faster and less expensive when you do have a problem.
2) Non-professional repair history
Often times we see vehicles that have been diagnosed and repaired by non-professionals. We find duct taped parts, zip ties, glued brake lines, bad electrical work, and parts installed backwards. Really, it's amazing what we see sometimes. Inevitably, this type of repair history gives a repair shop no base line to rely on. Instead of being able to count on expected measurements and well-performing components, we not have nothing to rely on. Literally anything/everything could be wrong and diagnostics become time-consuming and expensive. This rarely makes customers happy because it usually ends up being more expensive than the estimate. It also means that we might have to replace a part just to get a baseline measurement to make the diagnostic.
3) Modified vehicles
Vehicles with performance chips, and engine modifications or upgrades can also be challenging to diagnose efficiently. Performance chips change the values we expect to see when diagnosing a car. That can mask what is happening and provides us with no way to determine if what the data we are seeing is from a failure or from the chip.
Modifications such as aftermarket intake/filter systems, turbos, etc... change the expected values in the vehicle as well. It can make the car run rich or lean, it can give ruin spark plugs, it can cause catalytic converter issues and O2 sensor issues. The problem once again is that the normal way to diagnose these problems becomes tainted because the modification is changing the expected data that the computer is reading. Instead of comparing readings and noting the differences we now have a more difficult task of figuring out what we should even be expecting.
After writing this blog post, it has become apparent to me that each time we've had an extremely challenging vehicle or a bewildered customer, it comes down to the presence of 2 of the 3 items above.
We aren't magicians. Our work is somewhat dependent on what we have to work with. I can promise you this however, we will be honest and straightforward with you throughout the whole process and you will always be able to authorize any charges before we move forward.
Can you? Here at Integrity sometimes we get grilled about our estimates. Sometimes customers know of a "guy" who can do it for much less. Well, here's how we look at it.
I know which parts come back for warranties frequently because I track everything. So, I avoid selling those brands, or those parts. For example, we only use original equipment seals. If you have a leaky seal on your Ford we will only install a Ford seal. Why? Because in our experience aftermarket seals leak and Ford seals don't. Sometimes this means it will cost more for a repair here at Integrity. However, I know other part brands that are less expensive that are also better quality. We only install those parts as well. So sometimes we are less expensive. Over time, we are in the middle.
The overall theme is that we install the most reliable parts regardless of cost. Isn't that the right thing to do? To fix it right the first time? I think it's rather shady to put a bad part in a customer's car if you know it's a bad part. It causes my customers headaches because they have to come back for warranty work and it causes me headaches because now I have to fix it again for free. Bad parts are bad for everyone.
So how can you avoid bad parts?
1) Find a shop with a great warranty. Our warranty is 3 years 36,000 miles because we know which parts will last and we will only use those parts. Why will some shops only offer a 24 month 24,000 warranty? Well, it probably has to do with the quality of their work.
2) Be wary of inexpensive estimates at shops. Are they using bad parts (usually very cheap)? Will they be able to afford to warranty the part if it fails (they might just blame it on normal wear and tear if they can't afford the warranty) Will they even be in business when you need the warranty (if they don't charge enough they might be gone soon)?
3) Ask the service writer why or how they pick their parts. The answer should be something along the lines of "we've never had trouble with that brand" or "we've had trouble with other brands."
4) Avoid shops who compete on price only. In the auto repair industry, this is a death sentence for the business. It means the business is not attracting customers because of quality so they have to lower their prices to try to snag customers. Why do they do have to do this? Because their quality is bad. Be it cheap parts, poor repairs, grumpy service or short warranties, something is bad. You just won't find out until later.
So yes, the truth is that sometimes auto parts are expensive. And, that's good for me but it's only good for me because it's even better for you. That's why we use good parts. Because it's best for you.