is it standard for a auto repair shop to charge a shop supplies fee for changing a headlight bulb?
At the shops owned by my former employer, shop supplies were added to all invoices as a percentage of the total invoice.
The reason I quit a local shop I used for a few years was bulbs. They overcharged me and the bulbs were rubbish. My new shop has changed a couple bulbs for me and said, “Just give me $10.” I hand him the ten. The bulbs then last forever. On larger jobs, he does a formal invoice and indeed does charge for recycling of liquids and also shop fees. But for a single bulb? No. These were simple inexpensive bulbs on a '07 Highalnder. Not the fancy-pants ones in pricier cars.
To go along with this- it depends on how involved the job is. On lots of newer cars, you have to remove the bumper to change headlight bulbs. Quite an involved task for something that used to be very easy to do.
Back to OP: Shop supplies is normal, and quite often a piece that the shops computer program will automatically add in to the invoice. “Shop supplies” covers rags, gloves, minor lubricants, use of tools, etc.
If you are unhappy with being charged this extra fee (that shouldn’t be but a small percentage of the total bill,) you can always change your own light bulb.
Cleaning of rags they may use to wipe down the lamp assembly, nitrile gloves so they don’t get finger grease on the lamp envelopes, dielectric grease on the connection, tool maintenance, disposal of your old lamps… hopefully you get the idea. None of that is free and in today’s competitive pricing schemes, everything is broken out that way. No different than the airlines charging for every little item to make the ticket price seem less, which is what comparison shoppers are keyed into…
Excellent points by you and by Twin Turbo. It totally depends on the job. My guy popped the hood, did a twist and pull of the headlight cover from the rear, then he opened the tiny box holding the normal bulb (not a halogen or anything fancy) pulled it out by the foamy paper surrounding it. Pulled the old bulb out with one hand, inserted the new one without ever touching it, push and twist, closed hood. While we discussed the Bruins game. It took him less than 2 minutes. Man I’m going to miss that Highlander some day when my next car has to have the roof removed to replace the $2,000 adamantium bulb in my next family thruster.