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Thread: Am I going to Hell?

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    Supporting Member Randall's Avatar
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    Am I going to Hell?

    I just fixed a Mesa Walkabout that needed a TL072 op amp. I charged $50 for the repair and $10 for the part, and $5 for shipping since I didn't have one on hand. Is this out of line? Customer OK'd the estimate beforehand, and hasn't come to pick up yet.

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    It's weird, because it WAS working fine.....

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    If he OK'd the estimate, then there's nothing to worry about. IMO, he got a good deal. I do find that "what you can charge" is regionally based. Some shops can charge more- some less. It depends on competition, reputation, demographics, location, turn around time, etc., etc. What I can charge in SD may be quite bit different than what you can charge in FL, so it's difficult to say what's "right". As far as myself, if I'm going to hell, there are plenty of other offenses to choose from.

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    “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

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    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    You'll find out soon enough.

    If the next job that comes in is from an impatient and critical customer who is complaining of an intermittent fault that you cannot reproduce no matter what you do, then yes, you are in hell.

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    Last edited by nickb; 08-31-2016 at 09:02 AM.
    Experience is something you get, just after you really needed it.

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    ...... and he wants it done tomorrow.

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    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    I worked for a shop for years that was sold to new owners. The new owners saw a gold mine in parts. Usually a cheap IC there isn't a problem with an astronomical, especially if you use the supplier inventory number (and the circuit designation... IC 2, etc) and not the generic part number on the invoice. BUT... when you start charging $5-10 for a $.05 1/4 watt resistor and the customer knows what resistors cost then it's a nightmare. A lot of shops also have a misc fee for solder, solvents, etc. Some charge for an AC leakage test and a sticker it was done. If I had to use Chip Quick there was an additional charge. If a unit was extremely dirty, an extra charge. You get the picture. If the customers are happy and you can sleep at night, it's whatever the traffic will bare. What would piss me off was when the management would add parts to an invoice that were not installed. When you are doing thousands of repairs and you do it every out of warranty invoice, it adds up I guess.

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    You won't be going to hell. You'll be going to heaven for fixing the amp at a reasonable price but there will be a short stay in limbo for charging $10 for a TL072 when you should have charged $1 for it and added the $10 to the cost of the job. It's your skill they are paying for so charge for that. Don't mark up the parts.

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    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by olddawg View Post
    A lot of shops also have a misc fee for solder, solvents, etc.
    Local Firestone shop charges $2.50 for every squirt of WD-40. Crikeys, if I charged $2.50 for every squirt of D-5, F-5, solvent spray, $1 per inch of solder, $1 per inch of braid, I'd be sending this commo from my beachside villa in Maui. Hmmm, maybe it's time I did!

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  8. #8
    Supporting Member Randall's Avatar
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    I didn't used to mark up parts, only to the next nearest dollar, but these days I figure time goes into procuring and maintaining what little inventory I keep, so why shouldn't a shop make a few bucks on a part? After all, I knew what to get, and where to get it fast. And since this was Mouser, it's not wholesale, but I do have a wholesale account with CE Dist, I have no qualms about marking those parts up. I'm not going to lose sleep over this, but I do value the opinions of this group. BTW, the only other real option down here is a music store, and I seriously doubt the repair guy there would even have been able to diagnose this problem, let alone get it fixed faster or for less than I did. He is $75 just to tell you he can't fix it, and you get that answer in maybe 2 -3 months.

    And for the general record, I also charge a "chem charge" of $3 - 5 if I use a lot of solder or wick or DeOxit. In this case however, since it was merely an IC change, I did not add that. So far, no complaints.

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    It's weird, because it WAS working fine.....

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    As I've said in other threads, I see no reason not to mark up parts a reasonable amount. Sure the customer can (for instance) buy an op amp for $.50, but he'll pay 5 bucks shipping and he has no idea he needs one unless you tell him. How many automotive shops have the parts delivered to their shop by the local parts house and mark them up? It's part of doing business. Who doesn't mark up things they sell? IMO, you'd be silly not to.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randall View Post
    ...time goes into procuring and maintaining what little inventory I keep, so why shouldn't a shop make a few bucks on a part?
    Small inventory is definitely a pita. I mostly place orders when I have a custom project to build. I usually bump the order with stock inventory standard stuff I might be low on. But since I don't build many amps I don't always have a designated brand/model pre selected. That, combined with many products vanishing from manufacture in the long space between orders, not to mention that Mouser often has backorders when I need a parts fast. I often find myself researching just what I'm going to order before I can order it. Last time it was metal oxide resistors (and a few other things). Mouser was out of two of the three values I needed so I had to research an alternative. So when I place an order it's because I need the parts and backorders that can run for a month or more won't work. Not to mention that when I make a custom it often requires some stuff I don't regularly keep on hand. So by the time I work out what I need, how much regular inventory to add, what the alternatives are to the backorders and actually get it all worked out on the order form it's not uncommon for me to be three hours deep.

    Hell yeah you bump parts. Even disproportionate to their expense. No customer is going to scoff at $2 for a resistor even when it's one that knows it only cost a dime.
    If they do it's not hard to explain that the parts must be ordered, sometimes special for not inventoried items or values, then need to be stocked and then tracked or inventoried somewhat vigilantly in order for you to have it for THEM when THEY need it. JM2C on that.

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    "Never bet your life on somebody else doing their job." SoulFetish's good friend

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    Old Timer J M Fahey's Avatar
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    I do NOT charge (on a separate column or as detailed items) for parts, I´m not a parts dealer, not interested in that either and even if I wanted , can´t compete with real parts dealers of any kind, from Mouser to RS to local hardware store to GC or any MI store..
    Different line of work, period.
    Not even charge "by the hour" .

    When a repair is asked, I estimate time and what´s needed (parts /chemicals / tools / annoyance factor) for my own use, also estimate device repaired market value (add a certain % of that) and issue a "job price".

    As in: "repairing a Twin Reverb with a dead clean channel / burnt OT / dead reverb / poor condition (works but most controls scratch, switches fail, loses sound which is momentarily restored with an Enzo whack, etc.) will be XXX $$$$ "
    Customer answers: YES/NO . Period.

    They might argue "it´s too much/can buy a used one for that/ my cousin Vinnie charges less" , whatever.
    Fine,you just chose NO. Period.

    I will NOT go so low as to argue on a part price and be called thief because I charged $5 for a part with a list price of 50 cents ... 500 miles away ..... not even remind him that having it on my bench costs 50 cents + $10 postage + 30 minutes of my time which is worth WAY more than that, so based on the part alone I am LOSING money .

    So I never ever argue with customers with parts price, cost or markup, becaue I never ever bring it up-

    Agree with:

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave H View Post
    there will be a short stay in limbo for charging $10 for a TL072 when you should have charged $1 for it and added the $10 to the cost of the job. It's your skill they are paying for so charge for that. Don't mark up the parts.
    Also keeping estimate calculations to myself gives me flexibility: if business is slow (happens too often) I can charge somewhat less if I find it will bring the job in which helps in a moment of need .... WAY better than buying stuff on credit at the Supermarket, paying high interest on that and hoping a later job will help pay the bill, and on the other side, if too busy or customer is a PITA I can charge more to brush him away.

    Funny thing is that very often they accept the higher than normal price, go figure .

    To each his own, I know in USA charging by the hour (or minute) and detailing even minute parts is almost customary, personally charging for the job has worked very well, for ages.

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    Juan Manuel Fahey

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    Old Timer tedmich's Avatar
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    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J M Fahey View Post
    Funny thing is that very often they accept the higher than normal price, go figure .
    It's a mark of prestige. "I didn't just get my Belchfire 500 fixed, I got it FAHEY fixed!"

    I know in USA charging by the hour (or minute) and detailing even minute parts is almost customary
    We are a nation of shopkeepers. Who said that?

    And customers here are delighted to have a long list of inscrutable parts to be impressed with, or argue about. But in fact it's rare that I get any stick about parts prices.

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  14. #14
    Supporting Member Randall's Avatar
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    OK then, I turned this around in 10 days for a price customer agreed to, so in the end OK. I'll sleep well tonight. I'm sure there will be many more repairs that I give more time than I can bill for.

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    It's weird, because it WAS working fine.....

  15. #15
    Supporting Member Jazz P Bass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedmich View Post
    Say what you want.
    Think what you want.
    Those ic's from the '80's where 'different'.

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    I'm with Juan - you shouldn't specify the cost of parts in this case. The reason why you couldn't sleep the previous night was that you charged $15 for a part that costed $0.1. The problem is that in some cases you should specify the cost of the parts used (e.g. when replacing output transformer in a tube amp, or a speaker) but in other cases you shouldn't do it. And you have to judge yourself in which cases you do it, and in which you don't. For example, lately I was fixing Apogee Duet recording interface with very common problem (hum on the output), which I found out that no one in the world (except Appogee service in the US) managed to fix. It took me 3 days to find out that the reason for the failure were several 0402 SMD resistors that were open. The cost of the resistors was something like $0.03 but in that case it wouldn't make sense to specify the cost of the parts to the customer. It's because I had to order 100 pcs of the resistor and I spent few days finding the problem. Additionally, I had to replace several 0402 resistors in a very tight space (not everyone can do it). The alternative was to send the interface to the US but this was so expensive that buying a new interface would be cheaper.
    The conclusion is that specifying the cost of the parts in all possible cases is a bad habit. Sometimes the cost of the part is $0.01 but you work on the amp 3 days and you are the only one who knows which part out of thousands needs to be replaced. And you charge the customer for that knowledge and not for the part.

    Mark

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkusBass View Post
    Additionally, I had to replace several 0402 resistors in a very tight space (not everyone can do it).
    You can say that again! I've just soldered in about 80 x 0603 parts. That's the last time I volunteer to assemble any boards with parts that small (I can't imagine working with quantum sized 0402). You have to order hundreds to allow for the ones that flirt out of the tweezers never to be seen again.

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    Supporting Member eschertron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedmich View Post
    If the USED chips go for that, imagine what the asking price could be for a NOS dual op amp.

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    If it still won't get loud enough, it's probably broken. - Steve Conner
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedmich View Post


    Ha, one customer/friend/collector freaked when I told I have a bunch of those.

    I gave him one for his TS I fixed.

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    I try to have a pretty detailed invoice so people can think what they want, but at least know all that was done, what parts and how many. It usually means nothing to them since they don't know anything about electronics but it makes them feel good because it seems honest.

    ANyway, what's funny is when people pay the estimate. Happens every once in a while and kind of makes me laugh -- it means they never even looked at the invoice I emailed them. I say something like, "hey, this is about $70 to make it work, about $150 for new tubes to work good and put out full power." The invoice is $157 or something, they come to pick it up with a big grin and hand me $150 and thank me a few times for helping them.

    I dont' mind. I get tipped way more often than someone paying the estimate and usually shortchanging me a few dollars.

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  21. #21
    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    I itemized parts, because the State of Michigan requires me to charge sales tax on parts. I COULD not charge for parts and consider them part of the repair, in which case the State of Michigan requires me to pay use tax on the parts I buy. The exception is when I buy my parts at retail and pay tax on them then.

    No one ever asks me what I paid for the parts I marked up. On the other hand, when I pay $150 for some Marshall transformer, I do point out to the customer that this is a $300 transformer, but I gave them a discount at $200 or whatever.

    If you invest in company by buying their stock, I imagine you want some return on that investment. You don't buy a $100 stock hoping to sell it next year for $100. My parts are no different. I invest in my parts supply, expecting them to turn a profit for me.

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    Old Timer J M Fahey's Avatar
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    Nah , used is better

    Our friend Dumb ass bob bought an old war torn "house amp" from Chinese Theater or some similar iconic 60´s Rock place in or near LA, payed a fortune for it and then spent extra U$6500 having it (unsuccessfully) restored to its former glory with Guru "GW" , all because the shady night watchman or whatever who sold it said in a creepy voice and rising his eyebrows: "kiddo, you know WHO used this amp, don´t you?".
    He left "who" unfilled, so anybody adds (imagines) his wildest dreams.

    By the way, a similar technique was used successfully by HP Lovecraft, who never clearly describes his monsters, but lets you imagine them.
    Good trick

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    Juan Manuel Fahey

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    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    I itemized parts, because the State of Michigan requires me to charge sales tax on parts. I COULD not charge for parts and consider them part of the repair, in which case the State of Michigan requires me to pay use tax on the parts I buy. The exception is when I buy my parts at retail and pay tax on them then.

    No one ever asks me what I paid for the parts I marked up. On the other hand, when I pay $150 for some Marshall transformer, I do point out to the customer that this is a $300 transformer, but I gave them a discount at $200 or whatever.

    If you invest in company by buying their stock, I imagine you want some return on that investment. You don't buy a $100 stock hoping to sell it next year for $100. My parts are no different. I invest in my parts supply, expecting them to turn a profit for me.
    CA always required us to itemize parts AND we were required by law to return the bad parts to the customer. Nowadays the powers that be aren't well staffed so it's kind of moot. I haven't heard of a shop being shut down by the bureau for a while. Back in the height of the VCR/TV days it happened left and right. My old employer did lots of crazy stuff. Double billing by adding parts to warranty invoices that they already billed once for an out of warranty repair. Padding invoices with parts that techs blew up. Lots of games. Sometimes the billing invoice was entirely different than my work invoice. I never noticed until I got a callback and saw the billing invoice. I quit after a while. Bothered me.

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  24. #24
    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by olddawg View Post
    CA always required us to itemize parts AND we were required by law to return the bad parts to the customer. Nowadays the powers that be aren't well staffed so it's kind of moot. I haven't heard of a shop being shut down by the bureau for a while. Back in the height of the VCR/TV days it happened left and right. My old employer did lots of crazy stuff. Double billing by adding parts to warranty invoices that they already billed once for an out of warranty repair. Padding invoices with parts that techs blew up. Lots of games. Sometimes the billing invoice was entirely different than my work invoice. I never noticed until I got a callback and saw the billing invoice. I quit after a while. Bothered me.
    You know, components that get blown up are paid for by the customer somehow or another. If it's done via the hourly rate then all customers are paying, even if the component was not used on their job - is that fair? Sometimes it is part of the diagnostic process. An example might be a FET on a SMPS where original one failed as the snubber cap was bad. You only go looking further when the replacement fails. It's a tricky area with no good answers.

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    Last edited by nickb; 08-31-2016 at 10:48 PM.
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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    Sometimes you have to risk new parts to find out if more is wrong. I have no trouble charging a customer for all the parts it took to get it running, even if all of them do not wind up in the amp when he leaves. I still had to use those parts in his amp.

    You are going to get a bill from the ambulance whether grandpa dies in the ER or not.

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    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    One advantage of the itemized bills, I have a record (on hard drive and on paper) of all the parts that went into a repair. Should I see the same equipment again, can easily call up a reminder of what it was I did last time, plus any observations I may have recorded on the invoice.

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    Don't forget the joker g1's Avatar
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    For little stuff that I don't have, I use a minimum parts charge that includes the flat rate shipping charge from mouser or digikey. Itemized as "minimum parts charge (incl. shipping)". Here that flat rate is $8, so $10 minimum will cover a simple IC or several resistors etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo_Gnardo View Post
    One advantage of the itemized bills, I have a record (on hard drive and on paper) of all the parts that went into a repair. Should I see the same equipment again, can easily call up a reminder of what it was I did last time, plus any observations I may have recorded on the invoice.
    The other reason to record parts is if a similar but different parts fails later (i.e. you replaced a dead power transformer, a few months later the customer runs the amp without a speaker connected and fries the output transformer... brings it in and when you tell them it needs a transformer "but you just changed that! etc.") Having a written record the customer sees will give you something to base your explanation on about how this is a different part, how it's an unrelated part of the amp etc. Of course, that depends on how sophisticated the customer is and how good you are at explaining the scenario on their technical level. The other option is to just charge a ridiculous amount at the outset and offer a "bumper-to-bumper" warranty, planning your pricing so that on average you make a solid profit, even if the occasional warranty come back (even for a fault totally unrelated to the original repair) is a big money loser.

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    Quiet the discussion. Think I have seen some of this before. My opinion for what it is worth (not anything). I live in a rural area and it cost me min of $45 to ship an amp one way to the closest authorized repair center. I have built several amps over the years and there are a lot of players around here that will bring me an amp to repair. Some I do, some I don't according to what they are. I say all of this to show that I know a little about amps, repair and component cost. If I sent out an amp for repair and was charged $15 ($10 for the part and $5 for shipping) for a part that sells for $1.50 I would be a very unhappy customer. Now to be charged up to $100 min for inspection and labor I would live with. Most repair folks that I have had this discussion with state that they make their $ off of their labor, they don't make it off of parts..A 2 or 3 times mark up(for a low cost item) ok, but no 10X. JMO

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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    It depends on the part. I charge a minimum of $4 for an IC. Some cost me 50 cents, others cost me $2. But I have drawers I bought, and shelves I bought to keep them in, and the time to shop for those parts, and the time my money was tied up in them before I made money. So $4 for a 50 cent part is an 8x markup, and I don;t apologize. Transistors are a dollar minimum. I pay as little as 4 cents for a transistor when I buy them by the hundred. Now $4 is not a lot of money, but at A-mark (double the cost) I have to sell half of that hundred to break even. And now expand that to the 50 other types of transistor sharing that drawer unit... I got 4 cent transistors, and I have 60 cent transistors, all selling for a dollar. If they cost more, then the price rises as well. I pay $4.50 for MJ15024 maybe. I might sell one or two for $8 each If I sell a set of ten I might not charge $80, maybe I charge only $60. I am considering the rest of the repair, what I make on ALL the parts in it, and how much labor is involved.


    I do make my living off of labor. I might have a serious blown up thing, and get a large parts bill along with hefty labor, but most repairs wind up labor only or labor and a few small items. A dual 31 band graphic EQ needs one 7815. Some amp needs an op amp. How many amps have come in needing one new jack? Big parts bills are the exception, not the rule.

    Jacks, $4 each. Some cost me 75 cents, some cost $3. I lucked out a few years back and scores a bag of 100 of the little basic black Jalco jacks for $18. SO I am making a good markup from 18 cents to $4, but I bought that bag 15-20 years ago.


    And here is a trick of the trade:
    Don;t write $5 on your invoice. Write $4.92 or $5.06. If I write a nice round number, it invites someone being clever and thinking "This asshole charged me $5 for something cheap." But an odd number like $4.92 automatically looks more credible, looks like I looked it up somewhere. You can use the same trick in selling some concept. If you tell an audience for your idea that it will cost about $10,000 they think yeah yeah yeah. But if you tell them it should cost about $10,450, then it sounds like you used real actual thinking to come up with it.

    Ever shop at Wal Mart? They do that all the time. Price on soap is $2.82 rather than the common $2.89. Some other thing is $1.36. Makes you think they calculated some razor thin profit margin... Nah, it's marketing.

    I have had darn few people beef individual parts on a bill over the decades.

    And there is always this ploy:
    I charge a guy $100 for some speaker, and he gripes that he could order it online for $75. I tell him "OK, order it from them and give it to me, and I will refund your part price." They never do.

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    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

  31. #31
    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    BTW, if anyone here goes to hell, I'll be sitting at the bar with SGM (punishment). Please stop in, have a drink, and rescue me.

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    “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

  32. #32
    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    Hell? I'll be too busy shaking hands to notice the heat.

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    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

  33. #33
    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Well... I'll say this...

    Before I started tweaking amps and doing most of my own repairs I was using vintage Marshalls. I wrote "Marshalls" because I needed a brace of them to be sure I had one for a gig at any moment. Old amps break and I was spending some money on repairs occasionally. None of the repairs involved transformers and none were complicated, but always more than sixty five bucks and that was some twenty years ago!!! The shops my amps went to (and I'm frugal enough) usually had a minimum charge of $65 diagnosis applied to the repair if you accepted the estimate and signed the "what if" portion of the proposal (again, twenty years ago). This was in the SF bay area though. So keep it in perspective I suppose. My point is that I would have been happy with a $65 charge walking out with a working amp. So there's that.

    I (personally) don't upcharge parts because I'm not a repair technician. I do a few repairs for cheap or free for friends and acquaintances just to be in the game. Since the amps I make are usually custom designs there are the added expenses of prototyping. Like designing the damn thing from scratch, researching and sourcing parts and having a custom faceplate made. Sometimes even a chassis depending on the design. I may have to buy three reverb pans to get one that actually works like should and sounds acceptable (anyone else having this problem!?!) and I may need to try a couple of different speakers, having to buy at least one model "just to try" often as not. I make about five bucks an hour building an amp I certainly don't do it for the money , so parts expense is just presented as receipts (without charging for the extra reverb tanks and speakers I may, or may not use later). So...

    If I were doing repairs for a living I most certainly would charge whatever the parts cost me in money AND time. Since electronic repair isn't my business I don't concern myself with that aspect of it ONLY because it's not how I make my living, it's an aspect of how I make my fun.

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    "Never bet your life on somebody else doing their job." SoulFetish's good friend

    "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

    "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

    "Back to the amp. It makes horrible sounds when I play my guitar thru it... because I suck at playing guitar." Mike6158

  34. #34
    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    But, do you have good intentions?
    They say, "The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions" !
    T

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    It's only Rock and Roll, but I like it!

    Terry

  35. #35
    Supporting Member gbono's Avatar
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    By the way, a similar technique was used successfully by HP Lovecraft, who never clearly describes his monsters, but lets you imagine them.
    Good trick
    so true - my favorite Lovecraft: Herbert West — Reanimator

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