Anyone else here deal with customers on "fixed income" or who have already diagnosed the problem?

Anyone here have to deal with customers claiming to be on a “fixed income” wanting something for nothing at their repair shops? I don’t work on cars but have done work for repair shops and hear some of the stories they tell. The funny thing is that these people will be driving a nice car and talking on an iPhone 6 but don’t have any money. I work on computers and see it all the time. We are all on a fixed income unless you are Bill Gates or Warren Buffet so I see anyone making this comment as a major red flag. These customers tend to be more problematic than anything from my experience and make no concessions to them.

Also, how about the people who already know what is wrong and bring in a new or used part and ONLY want that part replaced because they are absolutely 100% sure that is the problem? They insist on not paying extra for any type of diagnostic. Then you replace the part they request but that wasn’t the real problem so then they are angry at you when the issue isn’t fixed.

I have lots and lots of stories to tell about these types of people and most are not good. I am sure it is much the same everywhere.

I’ve not worked in the repair industry but I’ve experienced the “friend” who wants you to replace his xxxx 'cause he’s just sure that’s what the problem is and “you work on your cars don’t you? How 'bout we grab a 12 pack and (you can) replace it?” THAT happens all the time.

I’m more than happy to help an actual friend or someone I know is on a tight budget. I tell the cheapskates I’ll charge 'em only $75 an hour, less than the local shops, and that usually deters them.

Yep! I get that with computers too. Friends and family want you to do repairs for free or very cheap. They need to understand that doesn’t pay the bills so no one gets a discount.

One thing I have noticed is that the cheaper the product you are selling, the more demanding the potential buyer. I had someone call to see if I would look at their computers and made sure to tell me they were on a “fixed income”. I told them I charge $35 upfront per computer and this applies to the final repair as long as it is picked up within a week. They then asked if I could just come by their house and look at it. I then explained that I would also charge a service call on top of the $35 per computer cost so that would be the more expensive way to do it. Then they said they would think about it and that was the last I heard. This is all too common.

Well I have relatives and friends who are on a fixed income. But they are usually the last to ask for help.

I worked in trucking for 40 year and retired on a Teamster Pension at age 55 1/2. I did nothing for a year and then started driving school bus. When I turned 62 I started taking social security and mentioned it to another school bus driver that I was on a field trip with.

She told me she would buy lunch because I was on “fixed income” now. I laughed and said, yes, it is fixed at what I was already making PLUS social security. I bought lunch.

Funny how folks don’t think they’ll do the mechanic/shopowner a favor and pay an EXTRA 10%…why is the favor always expected to go to them? I can think of few careers more difficult than running a small business.

Whether it is because of somebody’s (alleged) income situation, or because of any other factor, it always amazes me when people try to “play that card” to their own advantage.

About 35 years ago, I had a second job as a sales clerk in a large department store in Central NJ. It was the closest store of its kind to nearby Staten Island, NY. On several occasions when I had a long line of customers at my cash register, people actually walked to the front of the line and said, “I have to drive all the way back to Staten Island. Is it okay if I go to the front of the line?”

My standard response was, “It’s up to those other 6 people in line. What do you say, folks? Is it okay for this person to get in front of all of you?”

The chorus of discontent was…amusing…to say the least.

My late brother had a tire business and he had to deal with those guys all the time. He often had to tell them politely to take their business elsewhere when they wanted a cheap tire that would not really do the job!

It might amaze some people to hear the stories thrown at me by the public to justify my doing work for them at a loss. And the fixed income angle was one of the most common. I sometimes asked them to leave their phone number so I could call them on a slow day. If they weren’t easily discouraged demanding an up front deposit before even looking at the car would almost always end the discussion.

And, BTW, why does the term “fixed income” supposedly carry some sort of worthiness? I have known a few people who lived on variously funded fixed oncomes in excess of $100,000/yr.

OK, I’ll be the jerk here…

Telling me you’re on a fixed income has absolutely no bearing on anything else. The condition of your bank account and the condition of your car have nothing to do with each other. I go to work every day to make money, not to make friends. How many people would walk into a restaurant and ask for a meal they couldn’t pay for? Or walk into a store to buy a TV they couldn’t pay for and ask for a reduced price because of their income?

I think the term “fixed income” should be replaced with “low income.” My wife is on a fixed income. Her salary is $6500/month no matter what. But no one would consider giving her a discount on anything because of it.

I’ve run into multiple instances of both of those types of situations.

On a vaguely related note, I remember a guy on the phone once was complaining about his Toyota pickup running poorly with a rough idle and bucking.
He wanted to know what was wrong with it so I started going through a laundry list of what it could be to which his response was, “I have to watch the money and you’re saying I need all of that? No way”.

I tried to get him to understand that the things I mentioned were only possibilities with the operative word being “could”. He was told that the problem with his truck could very well be something minor but I was going to have to see it first and that I’d gladly take a quick look at it out in the lot for nothing as it was near going home time.
He then mumbled something about being ripped off and hung up… sigh

Can’t even make a Good Samaritan offer without an accusation involved.

If your business is auto repair, and you don’t want to deal with this sort of nonsense, then be right up front and just say so. No need to apologize or make excuses. It’s your business so you make the rules. I’ll bet you lose no good business and you live a less stressful life.

I deal with every day people that are just cheap, simple prognosis, you need an alignment.

Facts, Tires wearing unevenly, had to buy new tires, and cr handles like an ice skate in snow.

You need to get your alignment checked.

Reply, I had an alignment done, I am not paying for another.

How long ago?

I don’t know, Id have to look it up, a few years maybe.

You should get the alignment checked.

2 months later still handles like an ice skate, no work done.

Yes, I have found that trying to help these people out just gets you into more trouble. The best option is not to make any concessions and head them off before you become involved with them at all. Do they not realize people need to make a living? I saw a post on FB today about how some woman was pissed that the local animal shelter charges $75 to adopt animals. This includes spaying/neuter, all the shots, and a bag of cat food. There were a lot of responses about how you shouldn’t own an animal if you are not willing to pay $75 for $150 or more worth of services.

The other one is that they will call you with a problem and want a binding estimate over the phone. I tell them I will pick a random number out of a hat and that will be a very non-binding estimate because the real one has the same odds as a random number from the information they have given me.

I had an unusual one from some years back. A guy wanted to know how much labor to swap out a Subaru engine. I explained that labor was under warranty but I make no guarantees on a salvage yard engine and he was fine with it. He left and said he would have the yard deliver the engine; which they did 2 days later. He has personally picked this engine off the rack.

I installed it and for some reason unclear to me this engine ran exceptionally well to the point where it was easily noticed as compared to others. He picked the car up and headed the 80 miles back to KS. He called the next day to let me know that he was thrilled with the way the car ran.

Two weeks later he calls and is ticked off but not at me. While not known to me, apparently he had written the serial number down on the engine he had selected while at the salvage and noticed afterwards that the engine I put in was not it. This was all news to me and my premise was so what; the engine runs like a Swiss watch and you couldn’t possibly do any better.

He brought it in a few days later insisting that I swap the engine out with the one he had originally selected at the yard and refused to consider keeping what he had.
He then started with the “you should do this job for half price” routine.
“Because you’ve done it before and it will be easier the second time around”.
No; it’s the same procedure even if I do it a 1000 times. I installed the engine you said they were going to deliver and this is the first mention I’ve heard of engine serial numbers.

He was still arguing when I asked him if he (being a rural mail carrier) would work for half wages because he knows the mail route he runs 6 days a week blindfolded. That ended that.

The yard brought the originally selected engine by and I swapped them out again. You guessed it; the engine he wanted originally did not run nearly as well as the first and had abnormally low oil pressure when warmed up along with an extremely subtle center main bearing thump. Tough but it’s your baby now.

It is a shame that there are a great many shops that gouge the public by beginning their diagnosis of a missfire with an over the top tune up before recognizing a vacuum leak. But then for those who have a working relationship with a mechanic they trust such rip offs are very unlikely.

My take on those who want to preface their request for service with demands that the bill be ‘affordable’ for one reason or another is they are shopping for bargains and want a price quoted for the least expensive possible problem with the understanding that the bill won’t exceed that amount regardless what the actual problems is.

In my first months of business as a garage owner I nearly went broke low balling prices to get business and dealing with people who spent their lives bickering and dickering and nit picking to get more than they deserved for what they spent. When I decided to set my price 43c above the going price in town the bickering crowd quickly thinned out and I spent more time doing profitable work and less time discussing the price.

But back to that idea of having a working relationship with a good shop. Regardless of anyone’s income they would be far better off financially and have greater peace of mind doing so.

And like the shops that gouge customers there are customers who are intent on gouging the shop. I have done my best to see to it that those people find each other when the opportunity arrose.

I think folks on the low end of the income rung get a lot of grief from the vendors they do business with, so they’re used to it and probably don’t mind if their request for a discount is refused. They’re just asking is all. No harm done for them to ask, and no harm done for the vendor to refuse.

Reminds me of something that happened to me. One time I didn’t receive my credit card statement in the mail. It must have got lost. So I phoned up the credit card company trying to explain that I couldn’t mail them the check for the month until they told me the address to mail it to, and what the total was. Well, the lady on the other end, she wasn’t listening to what I was saying. She thought I was asking for a hand-out, some relief from paying the bill. Actually, she sort of went bezerk. She stated yelling at me “You have pay your bill! We accept no excuses! If you continue to be a deadbeat we’ll cancel your card and you’ll never get credit from us again!”

Eventually she figured out that I just wanted the mailing address and the total. But no apology at all for the screaming and threats.

True, true,
Reminds me of the time I wrote service for a dealer.
Anytime a guy came in and we talked what might be the issue he was always quick to say that that was not the problem. Eventually I asked one person why he brought the car in if he already had it figured.

I had another one where a person wanted a part cheap (ethernet cable). I told them what I had and they said that wasn’t long enough. Anyway, she decided she wanted it anyway because it was cheap. I told her that with me being mobile, I wasn’t really making anything off this part and couldn’t do returns but could exchange it for a longer cable but the price would be higher. She said that was fine and she would make the cable work for her needs. I found one and remember measuring it with a tape. It was like 6 inches longer than spec so I thought I was good to go. I headed off with it and met up with her. She paid me and we both went on our way.

I was like 40 miles away somewhere else and she immediately demanded I turn around and refund her money as the cable wasn’t long enough. I told her that I wouldn’t do that as I wasn’t really making any money on that part and had explained that to her from the start. I also let her know I had explained to her the length of this cable and that I had measured it and that is was actually slightly LONGER than I had told her. I told her that I would gladly exchange it for a longer one but for a slightly higher price next time I was back in her area which was only like 1-2 days from that time.

She blew up and went ballistic. I finally had to tell her to not call again, otherwise I would be getting the police involved. Eventually I got rid of her. There is now a line on the form I make everyone sign that reads “16. Service may be refused for any reason. Threatening, harassing, or abusive behavior or comments of any kind render all guarantees/obligations null and void. No further contact will be made with unreasonable customers and such customers may be subject to non-contact court order. Individuals are expected to be able to listen and follow basic troubleshooting directions over the phone. Service will be refused to irrational and irate individuals.”