Let me start by saying this - I am no hater of profit or targeting a high end market and charging as such. What I do hate is when businesses lean on that to implement unreasonable and shading tactics to pad their bottom line.
When I owned my 2014 911, I took it into the local Porsche dealership because I wanted to ensure it kept all it’s service intervals regular and tracked. They told me it was $800 when I called them the first time and I agreed. And when I left, they charged me the price they quoted. Now, I don’t love paying $800 for what is essentially $80 worth of oil and a cabin filter, but that’s the cost of playing with luxury cars.
My experience with Luxury Auto Works Austin, however, was very different. I walked in with a request to change a headlamp and to check the AC. They are all very friendly early on which is great. Easy to find and a quick dropoff.
Fast forward to the afternoon and I’m sent a quote for $7,800 . Ok fine. It’s a 2014 Maserati Ghibli and it’s got a few things going on. They’re just trying to be ‘helpful’ by pointing those out.
Supply charges fee: actually a fee on materials? Or just an extra charge?
Where it all goes wrong for me though is their ‘supply charges’ fee. It’s a fee that has been talked about a lot with reference to mechanics as it’s often tacked on at the end with no reference to it when quoting. Often it’s some fraction of labor charges to ensure the shop doesn’t lose money on extra equipment.
For the $7,800 service quote the ‘supply charges’ fee is $99.
Hm, $99 worth of gloves, lubricants, etc? Doubtful but fine. It comes out to ~4% of the total labor.
When I decline all but the services I actually requested, the total labor comes to about $750. Yet the ‘supply charges’ fee is still $99! Now it’s a whopping 13.2% of the total labor cost . We’re not even going to talk about the fact that they charge $322.50 in labor to recharge the AC freon.
I was originally told that the AC check would cost some $180 just for them to take a look and I agreed. While I ended up just doing some of the services, had I not, that $180 would have actually been $279 with the flat rate supply charges fee.
Considering the example above, the ‘supply charges’ fee is 55% of the total cost of labor!
Adding 55% to a charge without mentioning it borders on predatory
If it’s a flat fee added to every purchase, that’s no longer a sliding scale item and should be mentioned whenever quoting.
My normal response to this would be to jump on the phone and use my very often helpful skills of applying a little technical pressure on them to credit me back the fraction of supply charge that applied to my actual labor cost. The problem is that I didn’t particularly care about my $78, I care about the principle of it .
Luxury Auto Works - The Example of What Not to Do as a Mechanic
This is a business that operates in a way they know to be questionable, yet do it because it helps them make more money. It is a shining and perfect example of why people distrust mechanics so severely, which is unfortunate given how many great ones there are out there.
When I fly on a plane, I always buy a bottle of water from the stores in the airport before takeoff. They cost an astronomical $4.50-$5 for what you could get for free by bringing a canteen and filling it up at a fountain. I prefer filtered water and so I eat the cost. I’m sure many of you do the same for random things you put value on.
What Luxury Auto Works is doing has nothing to do with it being a high end shop that just happens to be expensive.
People significantly more wealthy than me shop at places all over and spend countless dollars on things they want. Yet, I would expect even they would agree that having someone lie to your face and obscure what is an obvious truth while pretending to be friendly is hugely annoying.
It always amazes me when businesses operate in this way because it doesn’t make long-term sense. I was already a bit taken aback by their pricing across the board, but certainly would not have been any more surprised if they just added $50 more to each of the services they already charged me for.
Had they just stuck that fee in the price they actually quoted, I would have gone on my merry way. A fine experience, just a generally expensive one. Great.
Nope. Not enough for this mechanic shop. Gotta tack on the extra fee.
Ok, fine. Tack on the fee, but just let me know up front and I’ll be totally fine with it.
Nope. Won’t tell you about it.
Ok, well shit at this point what do you really want anyone to say about it? There are so many ways to make this not a big deal except for the exact one they chose.
It’s not the money. It’s not the service. It’s not the experience. It’s that Luxury Auto Works is a shop that puts money over relationships from the very start.
If they are willing to do that to me so happily from the first interaction, I’m afraid to think of what else they would be willing to do throughout the rest of it…
I want to be able to trust the people working on my car, no matter how much it costs. The fact that they destroy that immediately means I’ll always be questioning their intentions and I really don’t have the time or energy to deal with that.
My opinion? Go find an indy shop with a solid owner and mechanics you can trust.