Boy I could go on about this topic for days! I deal with the general public on a daily basis servicing computers and electronics. Boy I sure have some stories and don’t have the time to get into them all right now. I hear the same types of stuff from any service business ranging from auto repair to HVAC, plumbers, and such.
99% of the commercial customers are great. On average about 1/3 of the general public are crap but I have figured out ways to filter these out. I used to have an office but also provided onsite service. I started noticing a pattern. The people who walked in off the street never wanted to pay and wanted everything cheap. I did free estimates at first and that was an unmitigated disaster. People would authorize a repair and then not want to pay when the jobs were done. Some would simply abandon the product and then I was left to figure out what to do with it. I usually ended up taking a loss. Then you ended up with those who got downright threatening. I had to call the police several times. I ended up filtering out most of the real bad ones by charging money upfront but some still sneak through. I think this class of people has told their friends that I don’t put up with their BS so that has worked in my favor.
The people who were willing to pay me extra for the onsite service were generally a much better class of people. These were the businesses and the higher end consumers. Within a few months I could tell that the office was becoming more and more of an afterthought. I ended up closing it down even though I still had 6 months to pay on the contract. I don’t regret doing this because I was more than making up for this by keeping myself free for onsite jobs that pay more and produce a lot less stress. Sitting around waiting for people to come in who don’t want to pay for your services just doesn’t make a lot of sense… I still pickup computers from people when it is convenient for me or if they are not able to get them to me during normal working hours. I still have to worry more about these customers pulling crap but I do charge upfront.
I used to charge the same upfront fee but than also began to see certain devices were much higher risk. Gaming consoles are probably #1. I have gotten to where I don’t even want to work on them anymore so charge a very high upfront fee. Since doing this I haven’t had any serious problems with these people. Before, 9/10 of them were unemployed, on drugs, and/or crazy lunatics! You would open up their devices and find 5 lbs of dead and LIVING roaches, cigarette smoke, dust, and just general filth! Cell phones are kinda the same way. Everyone has one. Everyone can get their $1000 iPhone financed so anyone can get one. The problem is they don’t have the money to repair it! And of course they are very demanding and want it back ASAP but are not willing to pay extra to put their job first.
The days when many of the government benefits come out are always a hoot as well. You get some of the rudest and most demanding people calling on those days. Poor people seem to demand the most and be willing to pay the least! It is a really annoying situation. One didn’t want to pay me the $50 upfront fee for me to evaluate their device. They wanted me to come out to their house and “just give it a look.” I had to explain to them that they would pay considerably more for an onsite service as I charge by the hour plus have a service charge. They didn’t seem to understand and then went on to tell me how they “are on a fixed income” and proceed to tell some sob story. This is just typical of this type of person. The comment “I am on a fixed income” is like the biggest red flag for potentially problematic customers. I find that these poor people are often dressed nicer, have a nicer car, and a newer phone than I do so they must not be too bad off. I also find that if you don’t get the device right back to these people, they will have spent all their money and then complain about having to pay you. It is like they have no concept of how to save money. You can tell them how much the repair will cost and that it will be done in a couple days but then they have spent all the money by then. I even had one woman tell me to finish her job up sooner because she would have spent all her money by the time I got it done. Somehow the concept of setting that money aside just doesn’t exist for some people.
You also get people wanting a fixed bid job without me ever seeing what is wrong with the device. I understand this is just the same with any service business. Anytime I am doing computer work at an auto-repair shop about half their calls are of this type. I overhear some of the calls they get and realize that i am not alone in having to deal with these people. I have been telling people who insist on an estimate over the phone to simply go buy a lottery ticket and add up the numbers. That is my price estimate. I did a few fixed bid jobs and then would get there and find there was a lot more to do than just the job they described over the phone. After several horror stories I do everything by the hour with no guaranteed price set in stone. This policy has also run off a lot of potential troublemakers.
I market my company in places that expose me to more educated and higher income customers and avoid the places that get me lots of the bad customers. I have people tell me that I am probably leaving money on the table by avoiding these types of people but I don’t see it that way at all. I don’t end up wasting tons of time on jobs that don’t pay and such. This frees me up to service the good paying customers. I don’t have to deal with lots and lots of stress either. The only way to make money on these lower end people is to basically rip them off as discussed in the “Buy here, pay here” discussions on this site so I choose just to not cater to this demographic.
I had some young strong looking man who was “100% disabled” and couldn’t work once. He was doing scrap metal recycling because he got paid in cash for the metal. He wanted some of the junk computers in my car that i had picked up that day. We went around to his side yard where junk was piled. Apparently people knew him and would just throw out old appliances and such for him to recycle. There was a stripped down hulk of a car body that someone had left. It had nothing on it. All the doors were missing as were the drivetrain components. He was unaware this had been left until we went around to drop off my computers but was happy to see it. I watched this guy who is “100% disabled” and cannot work push that car body onto a flatbed trailer that he used to haul junk.
As for scrap, I try to recycle all the junk computers and such that get left behind. I also have a farm and my car projects so that generates scrap as well. Steel is about as good as worthless. It would cost me more to haul that in than it is worth but the other stuff makes it worthwhile, plus I need a way to get rid of it all and I don’t have to pay. You see some real winners at scrap yards. Some are working people like plumbers and electricians recycling brass and copper from their jobs. Others are twitching agitated tweakers missing most of their teeth selling a truckload of stolen air conditioner coils or alloy rims where the tires have been cut off with a sawzall. I can only imagine what scrap yards must have to deal with. I was talking to the people once and they said you always know a druggie when they bring in a Wal-Mart bag of aluminum cans. They spend more than $2 in gas to drive their crappy car out there but the gas is paid for. The $2 is what it takes to get them enough money to buy their next fix.