Electronics troubleshooting and repair services
experienced the same sort of customer skepticism over honesty of diagnosis costs
and replacement part prices as most other similar services, including auto mechanics,
home appliances, even medical treatment. The mindset was and still is you pay a
high enough price for the initial product and/or service and that should be the
end of the cost of ownership. If you have read through some of the many articles
published in these vintage electronics magazines, you know a lot of ink was spilled
lamenting the existence of the problem, along with advice on how to deal with customers.
People didn't mind so much paying for replacement parts as long as they believed
the serviceman as not trying to sell components that were not really bad. What was
really balked at was the labor charge for diagnosing and repairing the product.
In the 1950s and 1960s, a house call to work on a TV or radio was typically only
a couple dollars, which even with the high value of the dollar back then still was
not very much. Common practice, in order to prevent gripes over service charges
was to keep that part of the bill as low as possible, then make money on price mark-ups
on replacement parts. Yes, there were plenty of unscrupulous servicemen, but it
really was hard to make a decent living when customers challenged every line item
on a bill, and often tried to bilk the company out of payment. It was not unusual
for someone to let a serviceman fix his set, then hand him a check and tell him
not to cash it until next week, then cancel it at the bank.
Take a look through the list of "Mac's
Radio Service Shop" episodes for titles about dealing with customers. Here is
another take on the subject in "TV
Service Can Be Successful."
Why have radio and TV service shops in San Francisco signed a contract with
the electrical workers union?
By William Leonard
After numerous fruitless and frustrating attempts to enlist the help of other
industry elements in some program that would cure the ills of the independent electronic
service industry in their cities, associations in Chicago and San Francisco have
turned to labor unions as providing a possible solution to their problems. The San
Francisco TV Service Guild recently signed a contract with Local 202 of the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. This contract, or labor-management agreement,
merely provides for wages and working conditions; however, more than this is expected
from the union. Some of the aims of the shops which have joined the union are municipal
licensing and the elimination of cut-rate service operators. These goals the union
will seek to attain.
The philosophy of union officials in working with independent service businesses
was summed up by Edward John Bird, business manager of the Radio and Television
Engineers Local 202 of the I.B.E.W.
"As business manager of a local union representing approximately a thousand television
servicemen in this area, one would think that my interest would stop there, namely
in the financial welfare of the people I represent. However, this is not so. I have
as much, if not a greater interest in the economic status of the industry as a whole
and the financial success of the individual employer whether he be big or small.
"The reasons, of course, are obvious. No employer can long endure if on the one
hand he has to afford his technicians the economic rewards their individual and
collective skills entitle them to, while on the other hand he is beset by every
kind of unscrupulous and unfair competition from every conceivable angle.
"Accordingly, we have dedicated ourselves to rid this area of the 'gimmick boys,'
and 'fly-by-nighters,' and their ilk and will use every fair and legitimate measure
to do so. We have approached every association in the eight Bay Area Counties and
asked their cooperation in this endeavor. To say the least, the response, though
at first on the slow side, is now assuming snowball proportions. As a union, we
are very encouraged and grateful for the confidence afforded us by the various city
and county associations and will leave no stone unturned to merit that confidence.
Together we have a big job to do, but rest assured we will do it."
Many of the service dealers on the West Coast and elsewhere seem to feel that
there are three main reasons why a healthy business climate does not exist for their
profession. The first reason is that the parts distributors from whom they buy replacement
tubes and parts, in many cases, also sell directly to the consumer at the same prices
as to the service dealer. The service dealers point out that once the customer has
bought a part or tube at the net price, he objects to paying a service technician
the list price for a part that has to be replaced.
Another contributing factor in the opinion of many service dealers is the unrealistic
price structure on replacement parts and tubes. The maintenance of list prices that
allow for discounts which are much higher than for other similar products has led,
they feel, to distrust on the part of the consumer. The average markup from net
to list prices for TV receiving tubes, for example, is about 100%. Because of this,
many service dealers are able to charge less than a realistic service charge for
a call because they will make up the amount on parts profits. This, service dealers
feel, has hindered the acceptance of realistic service charges by the public.
Ethical service dealers point out that the third big reason why the service industry
is not a healthy one is because of the existence of unethical "sharp" operators.
Often, these operators sell a set owner more tubes than the set really needs to
return it to proper operation. This he does by misadjusting the tube tester he uses
so that good tubes will read bad. The extra tubes he sells this way more than makes
up in profit for the low cost of the service call that he usually advertises. To
these activities should be added those of the gyp operator whose sole aim is to
pull sets for major overhaul jobs in the shop at exorbitant prices.
Members of the San Francisco Guild believe that unionization will help them overcome
The contract signed by the San Francisco TV Service Guild and Local 202 of the
I.B.E.W. provides for a $2.65 1/2 minimum hourly wage for technicians. They also
receive time and one-half for overtime past 40 hours per week. The contract makes
shop owners members of the union. The forty-two shops holding membership in the
Guild signed the contract and the immediate objective is to bring an additional
forty shops in the city into the Union. Although the provisions are not specified
in the contract, the Union has agreed to throw its full weight against part-timers
and cut-rate shops. They plan a cooperative management-union drive to bring about
city and county licensing of technicians and the passage of key zoning ordinances.
To relieve the shortage of trained technicians, the Guild and the Union are setting
up an apprenticeship education program for the purpose of creating a new corps of
qualified technicians. Under committee guidance, apprentices entering the trade
will be sent to city vocational schools two nights per week for four years. Upon
graduation, they will receive journeyman certificates. Also planned under joint
management-union sponsorship is a "finishing school" program for journeyman technicians
to get them ready for color.
Although other Bay Area associations have expressed an interest in the management-union
type of contract, Union officials do not plan to expand their organizational efforts
until the major goals have been reached in San Francisco.
In the opinion of Guild officers, if the objectives of their contract with the
Union are effectuated, they will be able to meet the growing competition of manufacturer-sponsored
centralized service successfully and keep the control of consumer service in the
hands of efficiently managed independent service businesses. They do not feel that
the contract will provide an umbrella for the inefficient service shop however ethical
its operations may be. But they are of the opinion that given a clean business atmosphere
in which to operate, the independently owned and managed service shops will provide
the most efficient service at fair prices.
Posted October 5, 2020