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Appliance Repair: A Dying Trade


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35 replies to this topic

#21 kdog

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 07:58 PM

i suspect that if the world were perfect,there would be no people inhabiting it.
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#22 kdog

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 08:00 PM

this also begs the question:  "why didn't noah just swat one of those mosquito's??"
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#23 shadow460

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 08:58 AM

I've been in industrial maintenance for ten years.  I have some exeprience with repairing my own appliances, but if I knew it all, I wouldn't be here.

Given that I started out as an electrician, I gained respect for high voltages, capacitors, moving parts, sharp edges, and whatever other hazards were found in a $50K plus machine.

Still, though, I've had to deal with the people who runs the machines eight hours a day.  It's pretty frightening to see an operator come to work with a crescent wrench in his pocket "in case his machine breaks".  Nine times out of ten, it's an operator error that causes the machine to "break down."  You can't explain this to the operator.  They know how to run the machine, and they can fix it if it breaks.  Well, if they can fix it, why did they call me?

OK, so maybe it is the machine's fault.  Maybe a conveyor chain has worn out.  Guess what...the operator wants just the broken link replaced, just as little done to it as possible so it's up and running faster.  Then they wonder why it's broke again when another link fails.  Didn't I fix it?  Of course I did!  Why didn't they let me complete the repair instead of halfway doing it?  See, unlkie you guys' customers, the operator here isn't paying me by the hour to fix something.  When I'm working on their machine, they can't seem to grasp that it's a good time for them to take a break!

Here's the scariest part, though.  It's when a production supervisor says "let me see your tools for a minute".  One of the signatures here mentions a monkey, Sears, and a machine gun.  That's exactly the result you get when the production boss decides to take your tools and "fix" a half million dollar machine.  The only gurantee is that the boss won't be hurt.  You never know what else is going to happen, and it's usually the poor machine that suffers the most.

I'm lucky--I've got an open minded supervisor who is willing to learn basic repairs when I perform them.  But I've worked for some in the past who weren't so perceptive.

As a mainetnance fellow, I'm less oriented to dealing with people.  Gimme a machine that's busted, and I'll haul my stuff over and start fixin' away.  A while later, it's right as rain.  However, when I've got two supervisors, an operator, and (worst of all) two other maintenance guys who know oh so much better than me how to fix it, I have just a little reason to start throwing rather large wrenches around.  Well, wrenches, tools, motors, bearings--whatever I can get my hands on.

I feel for you guys dealing with defective customers.  Really, I do.  If I was the repair person and I was fixing these microwaves for someone like the people I've worked for, I'd have already busted the microwave over their heads and shoved the internal parts down their throat.

I wanna let some of these know it all customers stick their arms elbow deep into a Crown beer can filler.  I wanna see 'em come outta the filler room covered up to their necks in food grade grease, with a brewski in each hand proudly proclaiming the suds are once again flowing.  Won't happen, though.  Most of the non mechanical types that try to "fix" the filler are going to chicken out the first time they get a little smear on their hands.

I know that's not all appliance related, but I had to rant about my experiences, which are vaguely similar to some of those listed above. *realizes it nearly time to go back and fix the leaf brake*

Keep fixin', and just maybe one day you'll meet a guy with a beer can filler. The one hundred fifty 12 ounce brews a minute it makes ain't too shabby!

#24 Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 12:15 PM

Great rant, Shadow, and very interesting. I used to work at a Michelin plant, cranking out tires all day. I'm very familiar with the financial production incentives that the operators have and how that often conflicts with the mission of the maintenance crew. Your story brought back lots of vivid and unpleasant) memories.

#25 shadow460

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 06:24 PM

Sometimes I wonder how I survived a couple of places.  Coca cola was the worst about that.  To top that off, none of the beverages were alcoholic.

I don't drink nowadays, but back then I'd have to unwind with a swig of Everclear directly from the bottle.

Some people just don't need to be fixing stuff, period.  They're great managers, salespeople, ya know, the folks we really can't do without, but their mechanical skills just plain stink.

What really makes the difference, I think, between a good repair person and a wanna be is that the guy who's good at what he does knows his ability and his limits.  He's not going to tell someone he can fix something unless he really can.  The wanna be is gonna have to brag "aww, I can fix anything", whereas the good guy, if he can fix it, will do so without a word.  If he can't, he'll send it to someone who can, and their customer will have a working product returned to them, provided said customer is willing to wait for the job to be done right.

I always say "You can either do it fast or do it right--take your pick."

#26 Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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Posted 22 March 2006 - 02:45 AM

[user=7258]shadow460[/user] wrote:

What really makes the difference, I think, between a good repair person and a wanna be is that the guy who's good at what he does knows his ability and his limits.  He's not going to tell someone he can fix something unless he really can.  The wanna be is gonna have to brag "aww, I can fix anything", whereas the good guy, if he can fix it, will do so without a word.  If he can't, he'll send it to someone who can, and their customer will have a working product returned to them, provided said customer is willing to wait for the job to be done right.

I call this "knowing what you don't know." The true mark of an educated or a wise person is not that they know everything or even how much they know, it's that they know what they don't know. It's the ignoramuses that don't know what they don't know but think they know it all.

#27 kdog

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Posted 22 March 2006 - 06:31 AM

my beloved father(god rest his soul) provided me with these word of wisdom at a very young age- "better to remain quiet and allow folks to assume you're an idiot,than to open your mouth and remove all doubt". i know plenty of techs that talk a great show, and often have time to reflect on this when i am there fixing their mistakes. talk is cheap,but it takes money to buy whiskey.
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#28 Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 03:49 PM

Waxing nostalgic for a moment... I remember my Dad taught me how to tell time on a watch that his Dad had given him. Yeah, he never took the watch out of his pocket but, hey, that's a story for another time. :P

#29 SuperTec

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 07:07 AM

in 17 years I have, to my knowledge, had a customer that would call me and not remember me... either they like me or they do not call...

 

I have been known to walk into a house, see living conditions and explain to the customer I can not work in the conditions and walk back out. If I have to walk down a narrow path or deal with bugs, I am out the door.... No charge for coming, do not call me again... cya, bye...

 

Had one that I did that to that moved. When they got into thier new house they called me back to fix sometheng... I remembered the name, but the computer did not flag the address... Nice clean house... Got there, remembered customer... Did the repair, no problems... Just as I was leaving they mentioned the old place they lived... Told me the one that owned the house would never do repairs or nothing so they sold everything that was in the house and moved. Buying new furnature and everything... They did not blame me for not servicing them before... This was about 8 years ago... Still to this day they call me for service...
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#30 appliance repair tech

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 05:09 PM

hello, this is a message to the "samurai repair man" in response to a posting I had read, in one of your paragraphs you had mentioned that you had brought your children with you on service calls, i was surprised that you had stated this, I know that you may feel that this may be a learning experience for them, or a way to show your children how their father provides for them or maybe just an extra hand but from a customers perspective it's not very professional. When you arrive at a customers location and they open their door to you they are expecting to see a presentable skilled professional, not a person with a child that the owner might have to worry in their mind what the child may be getting into in or out of the home while their father is performing a service, thats not to say that your children are like this but you have to understand that from a customers perspective. Its possible that this maybe a new customer, and the only thing that they know about you is your few minutes conversation that took place on the phone and they are about to let a total stranger into their home, so for this alone in the begining they need to be put in a "feel at ease mode", not on a "worrying defensive mode", I have been to your sight several times and find your site very interesting, you presentations a full of knowledge and valuable information, this message is not meant to be disrespectable in any way, its just two service repair techs communicating

#31 Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 04:01 AM

I take one of my kids along with me to help me-- I have a bad back and I need one of my kids to carry my toolbag and fetch tools and parts for me from the van. They're there to work, not to be babysat. I've even taken my two boys to a Dacor tech training class. No one has ever expressed a concern about this... until now. ;)

#32 Kiwi-nadian

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Posted 02 July 2006 - 06:25 AM

I can see ART's point. The first impression to the customer is very important, and providing professional, efficient service at all times must be the aim.  If you were bringing a 3 yr old, face covered in snot and peanut butter as many 3 yr olds are, or a screaming baby, who you have to spend 1/2 the call consoling them, saying to the customer "I don't know whats wrong with her now:crybaby:........ She’s only just been fed!!”

But if they are well presented, polite and respect the situation they are walking into, then there should be no problem.  And if there is a problem, it is with the customer.

I have taken my then 6 yr old son on a couple of weekend callouts. He sat quietly, asking me about what I was doing and answered the customers questions politely, stating he "didn't want to do what Dad does, as it would interfere with his plans to be 'Buzz Lightyear'", or something to that effect.

My oldest girl (15, but looks younger) comes with me 2 days a week, as she wants to learn the trade.  We have a hugely diverse customer base, from downtown high rise penthouses with $120,000 worth of appliances, to the rundown rancher with the 35yr old Kenmore dryer with burnt-out wiring.  All have been okay with her as she is well spoken and tidy, and most are supportive.  A few customers have said to her face “a girl can’t do this job; you would never be able to shift my fridge!”  She replies” It’s more awkward than heavy, and I usually don’t need to move it as most repairs are done on the inside of the cabinet.” This shuts them up fairly quickly.  

Children are a part of life too.  I realize many, if not most, people like to shut them away with their peers until they are deemed old enough to join society, but if you can provide the same level of service with them there, there shouldn't be an issue.
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#33 Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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Posted 02 July 2006 - 06:32 PM

[user=904]Kiwi-nadian[/user] wrote:

]But if they are well presented, polite and respect the situation they are walking into, then there should be no problem.  And if there is a problem, it is with the customer.

Ezzzacly! Some people like to say, "The customer is always right." But this is only true if someone is truly your customer. The person who is not your customer is never right. And someone who has a problem with me showing up with a young helper/tool & parts caddy is simply not the right customer.

Interestingly, I find that people are much better behaved toward me when I have one of my kids present; if someone if going to pull a cheesedork show, it is always one of the rare times that I don't have one of my kids with me. :dude:

#34 Thom

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Posted 13 August 2006 - 07:33 AM

[user=10371]appliance repair tech[/user] wrote:

hello, this is a message to the "samurai repair man" in response to a posting I had read, in one of your paragraphs you had mentioned that you had brought your children with you on service calls, i was surprised that you had stated this, I know that you may feel that this may be a learning experience for them, or a way to show your children how their father provides for them or maybe just an extra hand but from a customers perspective it's not very professional. When you arrive at a customers location and they open their door to you they are expecting to see a presentable skilled professional, not a person with a child that the owner might have to worry in their mind what the child may be getting into in or out of the home while their father is performing a service, thats not to say that your children are like this but you have to understand that from a customers perspective. Its possible that this maybe a new customer, and the only thing that they know about you is your few minutes conversation that took place on the phone and they are about to let a total stranger into their home, so for this alone in the begining they need to be put in a "feel at ease mode", not on a "worrying defensive mode", I have been to your sight several times and find your site very interesting, you presentations a full of knowledge and valuable information, this message is not meant to be disrespectable in any way, its just two service repair techs communicating


This is a very interesting point.  I agree to an extent what you're saying, but sometimes it just can't be avoided.  There was a time a few months ago that I took my 14 yr old son with me on a dryer job that simply needed new glides.  He needed to be taken to a school function and I was the service tech on call and didn't have time to run back to my house to get him so I just took him along.  The complaint was a screeching noise and I replaced the glides. As a bonus, I had my son go out and get the shop vac to clean out the exhaust vent (at no extra charge) while I went to take a look at her refrigerator (also at no extra charge).  I collected her money after we had cleaned everything up (coils were packed with dog hair on the fridge) and the next day she called my office to complain that I charged her too much and that I had a kid with me and she thought that to be very unprofessional. 

My office backed me on the charges and everything turned out ok, but it makes me re-think about the next time I take a kid along with me whether I can help it or not.

#35 CERTIFIEDWINDSOR

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Posted 29 August 2006 - 12:32 PM

Here's the way I saw it all starting to fall apart, about 5 years ago. If a person has a 7-10 year old machine (let's say a washer), and it's not under warranty, why would they bother replacing a burnt out motor (for example), when they can go buy a brand new machine, WITH a warranty, for the same price, and they don't have to pay on it for like 3 years? It seems that the aftermarket parts costs are way out of line, unless you want to be nickeled and dimed to death. So, unless the person is totally in love with their old washer, nobody (in my city anyway) even wanted to pay the service call, and would rather just replace it. At one point, I was thinking of just closing my business all together. I was sick and tired of trying to compete with all the "mr. fix-its" who think they know what they're doing, but only wanted free advice over the phone when the job goes bad. Or, for THAT matter, all the fly-by-nighters who changed their company names every 3 months, because they ripped off too many customers, and had to keep ahead of the BBB (and Mr. Law). It also didn't help when the local parts supplier sold parts to walk-ins at the same price that I paid! So, how did I turn things around? I managed to become an Authorized Servicer for Whirlpool Canada. Things have never been better. I get work everyday, paid on time, and I don't have to put up with the crap that comes with C.O.D. calls. I only have to put up with the people that have been brainwashed into thinking that an expensive washer is "better" than a cheaper one, even though all the important things are the same! Damn salespeople. So, the ONLY way to really make a living at this trade now is to do warranty work. I started my business deep down hoping that one of my sons would continue it when I retired. I don't think THAT's going to happen, but, you never know. The really funny thing about it was that people complained about MY service call rate, but would gladly pay Whirlpool's rate - even though they're getting the same guy - ME, and MY rate was 25% less! So, to make things more equitable, I had to raise MY rate <sigh>.

#36 Ty2010

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 03:47 AM

America is a victim of brainwashed corporatism, people get their oil changed at Walmart by the 18 year old making 5.25 an hour and are happy with that but are leery of the small garage down the street doing it for 5 bucks less by experienced mechanics. Used appliance shops here are going that route too, people are buying from the guy downtown(has been there all of 3 years) for more money and no guarantee because he has a renovated building that looks all new, new delivery truck and inside is done up like a high end retail store. The guy that sells in their own neighborhood is in a plain older storefront, guarantees all work and has been there for over 30 years, almost his entire business any more is from low rent real estate managers. Everything is style and hype over any substance. I noticed this from the mid 80s to the mid 90s most sharply. In the mid 80s about half the people buying used wanted to see/hear it run, the other half were more into the appearance. By the mid 90s only one in ten were worried about operation, the other nine, appearance alone.




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