The customers that shops deal with


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.


I have had a few wealthier people be crappy as well but it isn’t very common. They guy with his own private jet was a real pain in the ass. I don’t see a lot of people with this much money but have plenty of small business owners and such that are great but not multi-millionaires. The lower income people have routinely been my troublemakers.


I’ve never thought about it, but why don’t they put beer in plastic bottles? Other than the fact that in a clear bottle it would look like a urine sample, of course.


Spending a little time in the can industry, it doesn’t matter if the beer is in aluminum or steel, because they are coated anyway. The lead solder seams might have added something to the flavor but the coating covered it anyway.


Either or for me as I pour it into a glass. I don’t like excessive carbonation.


They do in some stadiums. Have you ever tasted beer from a plastic bottle? I think I just threw up a little…

Holy cow, you ARE old. They’ve been crimp sealed for as long as I can recall and even as far back as I can recall, they used a glue like adhesive around the seam before they perfected the crimp seal.


I was wondering about that. I guess you have more experience in that area than i do.


I lived in MA near the NH border. I bought many of my beverages in NH but not all. Going to the store to redeem bottles and cans was a pain as many would get rejected back and I’d have to take them home and put them out with recycling. Drove the scrapper guys nuts, rummaging through and thinking they found a gold mine in my driveway.

The deposit scheme is a cash cow for the state. I do not think it does anything to promote recycling. You still see cans littering the roads and most people just recycling them without redeeming. I lived in a state that did not have deposit but they did have a recycling center that paid cash by the pound and was simple and easy to do. That place did brisk business on a Saturday.


Old is relative. Can you remember back to 1972? A lot was happening back then if you weren’t there and a history lesson would help to understand today.


Why was 1972 so important?
Yes, I am quite a bit older than that.
I predate the pop top and we routinely used manual can openers when I was younger. Both the “poke a triangular hole” and lid cutting types. Sardine cans had the key…
Cut lots of tin cans apart for various reasons and never noticed any type of soldering.
Based on what you wrote, I went and looked and see that at least some manufacturers were still making some cans with lead seals up until 1991! I seem to recall you worked in a can factory so I trust your expertise on the subject.


I prefer cone top beer cans. This is what I drank beer from when I was a kid.


I developed my taste for beer drinking Falstaff long ago. It was served in cans and punched open with the twin punch bar top opener at the Legion Hut.

And what a coincidence about beer and cars. A local McParts store sent me one of their customers with a complaint about an engine he had installed. I found that the problem was due to poor work when installing and the customer was very unhappy. For a few minutes I thought there would be some blows passed but the customer stormed out and drove away despite my showing him the problem. A few minutes after going back to work I saw the unhappy customer at the shop door and heard him say I should check my refrigerator and when I did I found a six pack of beer. Obviously he regretted being a jerk but didn’t want to discuss the issue anymore.


Well because we were still soldering beer and beverage cans then. Pretty much all brands.


I drank a lot of warm Carling Black Label from rusty(steel) cans in 1969 and 1970. But that’s mostly a political issue.




cwatkin’s remark about being on a “fixed income” made me smile. I retired from truck driving before I was eligible for social security. After a tear I got bored and started driving school bus part time.
I was on a field trip with another driver I seldom saw. She drove the same bus I did, she in the morning, me in the afternoon. After we dropped our kids off we went for coffee, when she found out I had started on Social security. She said she was going to buy my coffee because I was on a fixed income now. I laughed and said “Yes it is, it is fixed at what I was making PLUS social security”


Heh heh. Recently my barber retired and sold his business to another guy that I’m going to now. When I asked him how much, he asked me what I paid the old barber and said he agreed to keep the rates the same for his old customers. I said I thought that was crazy and insisted I pay his regular rate. I said I’m on a fixed income but I can afford it. Then there is the senior citizen rate that just drives me up a wall. I see no reason I should pay less because I was born before 1950. If anything the poor working stiffs should get the discount.


I’ll turn this around to saying good things about business owners.

In our smallish town, there’s guy who sharpens saw blades and other tools. He picks up at various shops around town and does his work presumably in a home based shop. I suspect this is a common thing. I sometimes see his old Chevy pickup with his company name on the doors, but we’ve never met. I have sent a few things to him over the years, but I just don’t need much sharpening done since I quit doing carpentry full time.

On Monday, I dropped off my carbide table saw blade for sharpening at one of the shops on his route. Wednesday he calls to say that my blade would need 4 new carbide teeth, eight bucks extra, and do I want to spend for that. He says I could buy a new “cheapy” blade for about the same price. I ask if there’s anything about my blade that I should consider. He answers, in technical terms, that the steel in my blade is better grade, and the carbide teeth are better in a way that relates to dissipating heat (IIRC), than the cheapy blade. All the while I’m thinking that I already like this guy finding a way to make a living and be his own boss and that I prefer supporting small local businesses, so my decision is easy. And now he shows me courtesy and respect as well. It’s a no brainer: for the same price I end up with a better quality blade, I feel good about choosing a local business, and I learned something about a tool I use. It’s a win-win-win.


$8? The last saw blade I bought was about $25 for a cheapie and I passed on the $40 blade. What’s a really good one like Freud, $100? A guy used to do hand saw sharpening out of his garage here. About $10. He retired and I haven’t had the thing sharpened since.



$8 was the extra cost for replacing four carbide teeth. Ordinary sharpening is $6 for a blade with however many teeth are on that blade. I haven’t bought any new circular saw blades in a very long time, just sharpen the ones I have, so when he called me, I had no frame of reference to judge his price. Thus the question I asked him. But I’ll almost always pay to maintain something before buying a new item and discarding the old.

My main thought was how much I appreciated the call to let me “approve” his price before he proceeded.