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Flat Rate/Flag Hours

Truth be known, the OP making 500 a week pre-tax is really not that bad for this part of the country and being comparatively new to the field. It’s very easy to want more now and there is always a struggle on the way up.

My concern with car dealers (and it doesn’t include me anymore Thank God) is that it seems over the past dozen or so years they’re in a race to the bottom. They all seem to want to adopt a 30 dollar oil change Jiffy Lube business model except they’re throwing in a 100 point inspection and free tire rotations on top of it.

I agree with Rod Knox about the techs percentage of the door rate getting lower and lower.

About 10 years ago the local Chrysler dealer ran an ad showing all of the techs in their service dept and touting the total years experience. Almost every guy was 40 to 50 years old.
Five years went by and they did a redeux of the same ad. This time every tech looked like they just got out of high school.

The kicker besides the usual boilerplate BS about plenty of work, etc was the addendum to their ad. It was stated that “We have other great benefits for the technicians such as a soda machine”.
Wow; if someone was on the fence about filling out an application that soda machine (and it’s not a free one) should be what swings the deal…

What particularly irked me was when the service manager decided to do the customer a huge favor by turning what SHOULD have been a customer-pay ticket into a warranty/goodwill repair . . . which suddenly meant the mechanic is getting paid a LOT less for the job

And they NEVER made it up to the mechanic. This was sometimes after the customer had agreed to pay the bill, sometimes ever after the job was completed, but before the bill was paid.

some of these jobs were on vehicles that were way out of warranty, by time and mileage both. I know part of the rationale is that if the dealership bends over backwards for the customer, they will tell all their friends, churchgoers, neighbors and relatives what a great place he dealership is, and maybe some of them will buy their next car there. I can tell you one thing . . . I never bought a car at a particular dealership because of word of mouth

The problem with not paying piecework is that it’s simply not fair. It’s in my nature to always be doing my best. And I’m sure it’s in your nature too. Let’s say you and I get jobs at the widget factory and the job pays $20/hr. We both work our hardest, and I make 12 widgets a day and you make 15. Why do I get the same pay you do despite producing less? Now I understand that this system is limited to production settings like factories and mechanics, and that hourly wages can be adjusted to compensate for ability. But there is an elegant simplicity in paying a worker for what he produces, no more, no less.

I agree and that is a struggle in this business. I go to management seminars where I they tell us that we have to have our techs do inspections on every car because it’s good for the business. And it is good for the business, it’s stupid not to do it, but the techs need to get paid for it. I have some say in procedures where I work now, and I have the techs spend 6 minutes doing a basic inspection and they are paid the .1 hour accordingly.

Work done under the factory warranty pays warranty time because it’s easier and faster to do. It’s easier to replace a water pump on a 2 year old car with 18,000 miles than a 12 year old one with 180,000 miles.

Way back when, when I was 23 and finally made the position of general service auto tech, the pay at that shop was 100% commission. I made 25% of parts sales and 33% of labor. If I made that kind of money now I would be thrilled.

Yeah but it would depend on if it was a Pepsi or a Coke machine. I just couldn’t work at a place that just had Pepsi. Oh wait, I guess I did come to think of it until I found that cricket in the bottle, then switched to root beer.

I get the impression it’s quite a bit more difficult to get up and running financially these days for most young people. Starting pay/minimum wage today compared to 40 years ago is not enough to live on for even a hard nosed cheapskate. And because it’s been so bad for so long those who want to keep wages low can find all manner of rationalizations to justify doing so. I was sacking groceries when JFK raised the minimum wage to $1.25 and thought I was rich. Gasoline was 20c, a hamburger was 20c, a soda was 5c + 1c bottle deposit and cigarettes went to 25c a pack and back then everyone smoked. Life had seemed to be pretty good but things began to get sour for a great many beginning in the early 70s and it has been slipping down ever since. I found it much more worthwhile to work for myself in the mid 70s and continued doing so until I retired. But I can’t imagine getting started as a shop owner these days. A young newly trained mechanic faces low flat rate pay offering little opportunity to save and become independent as the cost to step over the cliff to ‘sink or swim’ independence continues to grow. Will Pep Boys, Midas and Meineke rule the world of auto repair soon paying day labor rates?

Probably the worst flat rate job I refused to do happened with a small town Subaru dealer I worked for. Friday nights were reserved for me as I would take the wife out to dinner and so on.
The service manager came out at 4 o’clock on a Friday and said a buddy of the dealership owner was broken down in Waynoka, OK; a small town just north of the Little Sahara desert in NW OK.
They said he had an extra fuel filter but no one at the farmer’s coop could find it. I told them it was on the bottom of the car in front of the left rear wheel.Still they couldn’t find it.

So what did they want me to do? Head to Waynoka (70 miles of back road away) with a new filter on a Friday evening. Fine, no problem. However, how am I going to get paid on this job I asked.
You will get the standard .2 hours for a filter change. That’s it. Plus I was expected to use my car and my gas to do it with along with wasting an entire Friday evening.

I told them to pound sand and let the tow truck haul it in over the weekend. That is exactly what happened and the first job on Monday morning. Fuel filter right in front of the LR wheel of course…

It just stuns me to no end that someone could ask a mechanic to do a job like that under those terms and keep a straight face about it. Total insanity.


My real surprise was that the dealer has turned oil changes into a flat-rate job, then doesn’t (apparently) follow book rates. I’m familiar with shops simply paying fairly low hourly wages to (what we called) “swampers”. This explains why my dealer’s service has gone down… and making me rethink taking it back to them for service.

Flat rate is good for mechs on bigger jobs. I didn’t know a good mech who couldn’t beat book on a regular basis. Still, .4 for an oil change and inspection? It explains why they check the inspection boxes w/o checking the car. It takes that long to get thru Oil Can Henry’s, with half a dozen dudes looking at the car.

I worked as a swamper in a mill, where the term had meaning. Some was lube and oil work, but I went home some days with soggy feet, after running the pressure washer a few hours. (Maybe the term was from working in the grease pit… or “swamp”?)

It’s good that you put your foot down and refused to do the job. It’s even better that you got to keep your job!

I have refused to do many jobs that I though were unsafe or unethical, and sometimes paid the price of being fired as a result. Similarly, I have worked for companies which claimed to be “24 hour companies” and would expect me to do service calls at all hours of the night. This was not financially profitable for me, and was a huge drain on my health and my ability to stay awake during the next workday, especially while driving.

I eventually made the decision that regardless of company policy, and regardless of any disciplinary action I might face, I will accept any calls which come in while the sun is up, even if the actual work must be done after dark. However, once the sun is down, I will not entertain any further service calls that day. I paid the price of being written up, and eventually fired from one company when I refused to do a call which came in at night, and the customer complained to the owner and canceled their maintenance contract with the company. Whatever, I got another job within a matter of days for pretty much the same pay.

Exactly, the hours are just made up on the spot and very low, not to mention we don’t get a spif/sale bonus if what we find wrong is covered by warranty, but we’ll immediately be written up for not noticing some small problem by mistake so we have to do a through inspection everytime to save ourselves

And now I’ve developed pretty bad carpal tunnel and arthritis mainly in wrists from working but it is what it is. Thank you all for the amazing suggestions, hopefully things will work out and can get a better path for my future

I know my dealer isn’t checking; lots of little things like
recommending changing an air filter 4 times in a row, after they
replaced it. (I later found they gave everyone that line. We’d had
fore$t fire$, $o probably old hundred of filter$.)

  I suppose, while the oil is draining, you could check a few

items? I can understand on the warranty items. They don’t earn
full pay for those, either. A person could starve on a slow work

Heads up . . .

You WILL damage your hearing in the long run . . .

hearing loss and/or tinnitus . . . I’ve got both

You will get cut, burnt, bruised, etc., probably on a weekly basis, in spite of taking precautions. You might break a few bones, as well.

your knees, shoulders and back will also take a beating

tool advice . . .

ebay is a great place to pick up snap on socket sets, wrench sets, etc. at a low price. But you must be patient, it could take weeks or months. If some fool wants to overbid, let him have it

if somebody is getting out of the business, make an offer to buy their snap on tool box for pennies on the dollar. What’s the worst thing that can happen?

If this is true, and it’s a verifiable medical condition that your doctor has found, then I suggest an alternate career path for you. I love being an automotive technician, but it is not for the faint of heart and not for the physically encumbered.

I’m 49 years old, been in this business all my life, and have no aches or pains or physical limitations. I can bust out ball joints on an F350 and wriggle under the dash of a Honda Civic. Ask 10 guys my age if they can say the same and 9 will say no. Every day I’m grateful I can do all that and am fully aware that soon I might not be able to. Any health issues you have now will only get worse the longer you stay in this industry.

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Wow… if they are real Snap-on tools on eBay, then either the industry has changed or those tools were lifted. IIRC, we used to be able to sell them back to the dealer at 60%, and he’d sell used at 80%.

That’s why I stopped shopping eBay. So much is stolen, duplicated, or outright fake. A friend contacted about a replacement part. They said the part was sold, but they would contact him when they got another. An email, texted from a phone, arrived at 3AM, saying they had a replacement and would take better pictures in the morning.

There’s a lot of pawn shops selling snap on tools on ebay

I said there was a lot of turn-over in this industry . . . probably 1/2 the guys I started off with back in the day are no longer in the automotive industry in any way, shape or form

I haven’t run across any fake snap on tools on ebay

Now if something is stolen, I have no way to know . . . hand tools don’t have a serial number, but electronic tools do

there are many reasons why mechanic tools would wind up at a pawn shop which sells on ebay, but I won’t go into any details, because it would serve no purpose

Thanks. I’ll seriously take a look at pawn shops. 1995 was the last time I was in one (ironically looking for company micrometers). I loved when the Snap-on dude arrived. Shops had different policies, but some had a tool allowance. Myself, I enjoyed it like my wife enjoyed Tupperware parties. (Except I didn’t end up with a drawer full of unidentifiable doohickeys.)

I have a large set of 1/4" Craftsman sockets/ratchet, I bought from a friend, who bought from eBay. He didn’t need them, but they were new and “buy now” was half the Sears cost. They work fine. Inside the lid it reads “Craftsmen”. Sears could have made a typo, I suppose. Non-tool items, too embarrassing to mention them all. eBay is simply a very successful fence and when I was poor, I didn’t care.

Oh… I showed the box to a Sears employee. He said, “If you break it, take the tool out of the box.” Wise advice.

I didn’t mean to literally walk into a pawn shop

All I said was it’s okay to buy used snap on tools off pawn shops that sell on ebay

In other words, if you’re searching for snap on tools on ebay, and the vendor happens to be a pawn shop, don’t let that bother you. It’s not your job to wonder about how the mechanic tools got to be there in the first place

speaking of Sears . . . I went there this weekend to buy a few tools for around the house. near as I can tell, the only Craftsman tools still made in USA are some of the hammers.

I was wondering about that. If those tools are bogus, they look as good and work as well… might come off the same press. The name doesn’t impress me, if it works well (and the local Sears closed).

How does a person transfer money to eBay these years? I signed with ebay & Paypal and they didn’t require my bank numbers (like in the old days). There have been a few parts that looked interesting. Fiat Mexico sells in China, so imported parts are becoming common on there.

I wonder if the OP (considering carpal tunnel and arthritis at such a young age) might consider going into an automotive related job such as a service writer. The OP has some mechanical knowledge so he’s already ahead of most of them.

I have no idea how much of a “people person” the OP is but being a service writer is a possibility.

Db4690 is right about the hearing. I’ve got 60% hearing loss with severe tinnitus along with a number of other issues; as in 7 major and 4 minor sugeries. My hearing is bad enough and for such a long period of time I’ve learned to diagnose some problems by feel.

The physical issues IMO are not as bad as the mental ones. Dealing with idiocy day in and day out will have you asking yourself repeatedly why in the hxxx did I get involved in this.
The problem is usually management. Over the years I can’t even count the number of times that things went smooth as silk when the service manager went on vacation.