02 Dec

Labor Philosophy – Something You May Not Know

Most automotive repair companies (especially new car dealers) pay their technicians on a commission basis. Beck’s European is not a proponent of this practice. Here’s how it works: A particular job has a Flat Rate time of 8 hours. In other words, that job, if properly executed, should take 8 hours to complete according to industry averages. If a mechanic gets the job done in 5 hours, he is still paid for 8 hours of work. The capitalists out there are saying “So what’s wrong with that; if he’s faster and more efficient than a fellow mechanic, he should be rewarded for it.” We are huge fans of capitalism but here’s the problem: it encourages sloppy work and tempts the mechanic to take shortcuts. Do you really think a mechanic on commission is going to take the extra time to clean all of your parts before he re-installs them if it’s going to adversely affect his paycheck? In essence, the mechanic is rewarded to speed through the job as quickly as possible. Quality becomes a secondary objective rather than the primary one.

Please don’t get me wrong, there are exceptions out there, and I believe that a few commission-based mechanics may take the time to do it right (I know some of them), but again, they are the exception. (Unfortunately these conscientious mechanics may take heat from management for not maximizing profits for the company.) Honestly, in our current self-absorbed culture, don’t you think that if given a choice, many mechanics will put their monetary wants and needs above the customers? Not to a degree that necessarily compromises safety, but to the point where they will let something go if they believe that it won’t “hurt anything” or compromise quality “too much”.

Here’s the proof that this situation has gotten completely out of control: There are mechanics out there billing out 80-90 hours of work in a 40-45 hour period (What if your attorney did that?) Believe it or not, there are guys making upwards of $130k annually for working on cars! (In some parts of the country, even more!) If someone can tell me how on earth you can save that much time on a job without compromising quality, I would like to hear about it.

The practice of commissioned flat rate dates way back but really started catching on in the ‘60’s (Humorously, about the time the industry began calling mechanics “technicians”). The argument for it is that without motivating employees with high wages, you will not attract the best and the brightest to the industry. We see it differently. What it has done is create Prima Donnas who have become very entitled and unmanageable. While auto repair is a noble field which we are very proud to be part of, it was never meant to be “glamorous”. These super high commissioned wages have made some guys believe that they are something greater than an auto mechanic.

At Beck’s European we don’t believe in a commission pay structure for our mechanics. For almost 40 years we have been doing it this way because we never wanted our employees to be distracted from our first priority: Do the job to the highest possible standard and focus on quality, no matter how long it takes. At Beck’s, you won’t have to worry that someone is cutting corners on your vehicle so that they can make more money. Our policy certainly goes against industry standards but unfortunately, the goal in the U.S. auto repair business has become making money instead of making satisfied customers. Putting profits ahead of people is never a good trade off.

Take a survey: While shopping for a European car specialist, ask them: Are your mechanics paid on a commission basis or salary? The obvious answer as to why so many shops use commission is that the more hours that the technician can bill for himself, the more he bills for the company.

Make no mistake about it; the practice of commissioned flat rate does nothing to favor the customer. It is solely to benefit the shop and the technician. We, at Beck’s, believe it’s time for reform in this area of the industry so that automobile owners get what they deserve.

 
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