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Idiots & Bad Experiences

ddhix

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Apr 7, 2011
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I thought this would go best in the Clock Repair section. If a moderator doesn't approve of this post being in Clock Repair; I am sorry. I just thought this would be specific subject for the ones inclined for repairs/clockmaking.

Just to break up the monotony of all the subjects posted here. . . I think we should vent. I need to.

Most of my customers are great. Almost all of them are very agreeable, don't mind paying higher costs when I explain to them why it has to be higher, tip me on occasion, and are typically just awesome. I like my customers.

. . . But there are a few that have stuck with me, the bad ones, the ones I wonder why they even own a clock.

I started going to estate sales, leaving my cards in all the clocks. This always gets me good business, a lot of times within the same day. So this lady calls me and asks if I do clock repair, I sure do! She says 'I gotta mainspring you need to replace. CAN YOU DO THAT?!"

"Yes Mam, I sure can, no problem"

She then goes on to tell me she has the mainspring. She ordered it off eBay and it needs to go in the clock. I asked her if it was the right size, and she very loudly said "It's a MAINSPRING!."

I'm starting to get irritated.

I explained to her that there's hundreds of different mainsprings. She barely understood. I then asked her what type of clock it was. She said it's an old gingerbread type clock. I told her that with that type of movement, it'll need a disassembly to replace that spring, and that takes time. She asked what that would cost, and I told her "Well, I need to see the clock to give you something more exact, but as long as you have the right size mainspring, it'll probably be about $60-$70, maybe less, depending on how easy that thing is to get apart and back together."

"Well I think $20 is fair!"

I then explained to her that there is no way in hell I was going to replace that spring for $20. Finally, she agreed that $60 would be fine. Then she pulls out more demands.

"And you're gonna guarantee that clock is gonna run?"

Now I'm furious. This woman is a complete moron. She's a tightwad, she's rude, and she wants me to put my name behind crappy work, dictated by her. My response:

"No mam, I will not guarantee it. If you want my guarantee, you're gonna let me disassemble that movement, replace both springs, clean it 100%, rebush it, polish pivots, reassemble, and regulate it."

"WHAT'S THAT GONNA COST?"

"For you? About $250."

"I don't think so"

So I then refer her to my competitor. I informed her that his backlog is about 16 months, she is now pissed off, and hangs up on me.

One more story:

I'm out with my wife at a restaurant attached to the lobby of a hotel. I see a beautiful regulator hanging up on the wall, not running. After eating, I go to the receptionist and asked her about that clock. She says the owner wants it fixed. I give her my card, and she excitedly calls her boss over to the front desk. I explained to him that I repair clocks, and that I'd like to look at it for him. He asks how much, and I told him that since I'm already there, I won't charge a service call fee, I'll just take the movement back to my shop and look it over. I told him I'd look at it for a $10 diagnosis fee, plus whatever it takes to fix it. He said "Okay! Sounds Great!" He then shows me what he thinks is wrong with it. I cannot remember exactly what was wrong, but what was obvious was a lever that was bent out of place because someone messed with this movement while inside the case. I told him I'd reset that lever and see if it would run.

I get home, I fiddled with the lever for 5 minutes (I can't remember what lever it was, or why it was stopping the clock; I just remember it wasn't a big deal, just user error, no true damage). I also noticed that the movement was dirty, typical dirty, black grime around the pivots, little bit of dust here and there, a few worn bushings, nothing huge, just dirty, and typically worn; very typical. When I hung it up, it would not run. It was very obvious that this was a loss of power, and needed a servicing.

The next day, I was going by that hotel, so I brought the movement with me, and went back to show him what was going on with it. I get there, explained to him that I reset (or rebent) that lever that was jacked up, and it still wouldn't run. He acted confused. I showed him the grime, the wear on it, etc. He was flabbergasted. He looked at me like I shot his dog. He asked how much, I explained to him that since it was a two train, and fairly simple, it could be around $170-$200 or so, a little more or a little less. He then says "NO! That's not why it's not running. It's NOT dirty."

I'm immediately angry. My response:

"Oh. I didn't know you worked on clocks. I'm glad you figured it out."

He couldn't believe I was talking to him like this. His eyes got big, I don't think he has been talked to like that, since he was the hotel owner, used to people fearing him. My opinion.

I then said "So. You want me to reinstall this movement?"

"... Yes"

So I go and reinstall the movement. I hang the pendulum. I hang the weights. I go around the front to write his receipt. As I'm writing this receipt, this moron goes and opens the case, and starts flicking the pendulum. Then he reaches up and grabs the movement mounting screws, starts unscrewing it, and tears that movement out, bending the exact same lever that was bent in the first place.

He looks it over, sees that lever out of place, and then brings it to me.

"Alright. You need to fix that."

"No. I already fixed that. You just broke it. Again. You need to fix that."

Now I think he realized he is stuck with a broken clock.

"Alright. How do I get this fixed?"

I then referred him to my same competitor, gave him the exact same "He has a 16 month backup. Good luck" advice. I even pulled my phone out, and got his phone number for him. Finally, I tore the receipt and said "That'll be $10" I got my money and left.

About 8 months later, I go back to the restaurant, and there's that clock. Not running. I guess he really likes it not running.
 

tom427cid

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Ya,
We've all had 'em. I had one that thought he could pull a fast one. Made a number of pieces for his very high end clocks,nearly had the job completed and he calls and demands that everything be finished within two or three days and he would be there at a specific time to pick them up. When he did show up he was three hours late. While I was civil I was not happy-presented him the bill and he has the gaul to say "How come I didn't get a discount?" I explained that first time customers NEVER get a discount. Then he thought he would play shrink and find out why I wasn't happy--I didn't play! His parting shot as he was leaving was "well, you charged me full price so I won't come back." To which I replied"is it working?" That was five years ago and I havn't seen him since.
About a week later he was at a friends shop complaining that I was really hard to get along with--my friend said"Gee that's strange he gets along with everybody."
 

Patch

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May 11, 2010
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Tom: Your friend shoved a huge helping of crow, into that person's mouth. I like that! We all get them. They're just as bad, in the painting biz. Clocks, are worse, though. Especially when they think a can of spray lube is, "the end all, cure all."
 

coldwar

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May 20, 2009
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What you have related sounds like a typical deal with collector/dealer/flipper customers, and describes what happens regardless of your reputation and willingness to try and help. These customers always know what is needed, how much it should cost, and how much time is involved both in backlog and process. When a long discussion of 'what' starts, I cut them off and apologize for not having sufficient resources to offer the help for which they ask. There is always someone local in the clock collecting scene who will accommodate this type of customer, so keep your list of such providers current who might not damage your good offices by their referral and send the customer to them (or in any event away from you). I was fortunate enough in the early days of professional repair to get wise to this dynamic and quickly direct them to repair more in their orbit of expectations. Anything else is a complete waste of professional time and ultimately your money. If repair and restoration is your living then cultivate a customer base who trust your skills and situation without the perceived need to haggle every detail.

BTW one piece of unsolicited advice: If your backlog is really sixteen months then raise your prices. Backlog is a liability, not a asset or worthwhile bragging point. Let competent work do the talking.
 

Albert Antonelli

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DD, you get all kinds of people that come into the shop, I have people come in with chime clocks and give them a estimate and say would cost x amount and they have the guts to say of "oh that much" and I say well what did you have in mind and they say about $100. I can't do a chime clock for that amount, I also have a estimate charge that if a person is serious about getting their clock fixed they have to pay the estimate charge, but you have those kind of people all over the place, and when we have a full moon I really want to run because the kooks come out of the woodwork. Well I have vented also and it feels good. Al
 

R. Croswell

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We all have them occasionally and we don't need their business. I politely invite them to take their business elsewhere. I do believe that there are a few things we can all do to help. Most important is to have a pricing policy and stick to it consistently. If you offer "discounts" to some because they are who they are then their friends, and their friends friends will expect discounts and word will quickly get around that your prices are negotiable. Likewise I don't let anyone tell me what my rates should be or what I will charge. I have a "basic service" charge schedule for the various clocks that I service that includes disassembly and cleaning, and an "extra services" charge schedule for the more common repairs and that's basically take it or leave it. Probably more difficult if one charges by the hour. Main thing as I see it is be consistent. Word will get around!

I usually do not solicit repair work when I see a non-working clock. The owner probably isn't sure he/she really wants to have the clock fixed, and/or has likely already looked into the cost, so the stage is already set to have to better some other offer plus convincing the owner to have the clock fixed. I would prefer the owner come to me.

RC
 

Willie X

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Feb 9, 2008
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I agree with others. Be cool and stand your ground. If they walk, that's not necessary a bad thing.

I never mention a dollar amount, on an estimate, until I have checked a clock over good. I am always clear, when I take the clock in, that there will be a charge, if they think the estimate is to much.

I would also recommend that you never mention another shop. Not good for you and not good for whoever you recommend.

My 2, Willie X
 

lpbp

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Well number one to replace a mainspring no way I'm doing it for $60. In fact 90% of the clocks that come in I will not work on without a complete tear down, clean, bush, and oil. When you start doing piece meal work on a clock, and it stops working in a short while, they hold you responsible. If I do a complete overhaul, I stand behind my work. And I have been told that I work too cheap, but making two trips to the hotel, fixing the problem once, taking it back for an overhaul, your estimate of $200., seems more than fair. Besides he'll get his hands in it again and blame you.
 

ddhix

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Apr 7, 2011
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I'm glad I'm not the only one that's had some unique problems.

As far as discounts, I only give Active Duty Military discount, 10% which is the standard in most military towns. I'm Active Duty Air Force, I really like the 10% discount, so I figured I should extend the favor there.

Also, the other guy here in town, his 16 month backlog, it's really because he's never in his shop, never answers the phone, and puts off people's clocks. Occasionally I'll need a part or something, and like to call the people around here to see if they have one, and when his answering machine hits, it always says he's out sick.

Albert, I can't imagine doing a chime clock for $100. Some of these people are such tightwads I wonder how they pay their bills.

I have been getting more consistent with my prices.

Willie X, I like your method. Do you mind if I ask what your basic charge is to look a clock over?

lpbp, I understand about the $60. When this happened I was fairly new to opening up for business for other people, so my prices were lower. I've been steadily raising my prices as I gain more experience, and become faster with getting things done. The $200 estimate for the hotel owner, I thought it was a pretty good deal, too, but he thought I was insane. It's like when you start looking at forums where people yell and scream about their broken Rolex, how much the certified Rolex Tech said the service was. . . It's a Rolex, what did you think he would say?
 

harold bain

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I had a customer like yours. I gave him a quote of $175 for clean and bushings in a Korean clock. When I brought it back, he said, "here's $140, that's all I'm paying." I took it figuring better than nothing. When he called to say he was still having problems with it, I told him he didn't pay me enough to cover any warranty, and to call someone else to help him. Never heard back from him.
 

Jay Fortner

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Feb 5, 2011
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"OATS"
Having work done here is like buying oats
If you want fresh,clean oats you will pay a fair price
On the other hand if you want oats that have already been through the horse
the price will be considerably less

 

tom427cid

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I had a customer like yours. I gave him a quote of $175 for clean and bushings in a Korean clock. When I brought it back, he said, "here's $140, that's all I'm paying." I took it figuring better than nothing. When he called to say he was still having problems with it, I told him he didn't pay me enough to cover any warranty, and to call someone else to help him. Never heard back from him.
Now that's funny!!!!!!!
I shall remember that. Kudos
tom
 

Willie X

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Feb 9, 2008
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Willie X, I like your method. Do you mind if I ask what your basic charge is to look a clock over?
My minimum is $15 bucks. I pretty much base everything on a $60 per hour labor charge. I roughly base my hourly rates on what auto, appliance, HVAC, plumbers charge, etc. I'm a little out of date on my labor rate but I am hesitant about going higher because the clock repair business is, and has been, in decline for about 10 years here. This is the overall trend but some folks on this list have a better view of the trade for there area.

Willie X
 

shutterbug

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When asked for estimates non an unseen movement, I always give them an average for a typical repair for the same type of movement. If that scares them off, it's OK with me. I never offer to do partial repairs, like mainspring replacements. I explain that splitting the plates is the expensive part, and as long as I'm in there it would be wise to do all the other work as well. If they don't want full service when I determine that it's needed, I won't touch it. The only exception to that is work done for another repairman or fellow NAWCC member.
 
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