Monday, 15 July 2024

SHOP TALK: The first rule for finding a shop

Forrest Garrett offers advice in his "Shop Talk" column.


Mr. Ken O'Neal from Sacramento writes: "I am retiring within a few months and I am looking to purchase a house on the lake near Lakeport. I love it there and come up almost every weekend and will be settling in the area soon. While I was looking up Lake County information on the Internet I came across your Web site. I had not really thought about it before but I will need to get a new shop to take care of my Harley and other vehicles too. How do you know how to choose the best shop for repairs?"

I have asked Mr. O'Neal from Sacramento to follow my "Ten Rules Of Thumb" in order for him to find what he believes is the best shop in the area for his needs. We will take each rule one by one and apply in a practical application to see what an unbiased objector's result will be.

I have asked Mr. O'Neal, since Lakeport Garage/Ironhorse Creations will hopefully be one of the shops for his evaluation, that he be brutally honest about all his comments. He has advised me, "That's no problem, that's the only way I will be." I have also promised Mr. O'Neal that I will post his findings positive or negative about my own shop. This experiment should be fun and I hope you, like myself, look forward to the results.

Rule No. 1 for finding the right shop the first time

There are a number of factors that can be considered when choosing a repair shop, but with that said I first would tell you there are exceptions to every rule.

No. 1 Rule Of Thumb: Word of mouth, especially in a small community. Keep in mind that you need to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. The shop with the best repair record will be the most mentioned. If you're looking for the best price only then the best repair shop may or may not be on that list. Asking about the best shop or the best prices can have different answers.

Also consider whom you ask. If you ask someone who never takes their vehicle in for routine maintenance, chances are that person has vehicle breakdowns resulting from neglect. The result: repair costs can be a lot higher and they may have a skewed perception of that repair facility.

When I hear people say, "Brand X shop does great work, but they’re expensive," you should consider that if the job is done wrong the first time, then what is it going to cost you to do again? What else can a bad repair job damage on my vehicle and what harms can be caused to driver, rider, passenger or innocent bystander? A breakdown with our very busy business and family schedules can also be very inconvenient and even costly.

The exception to the rule applied here is if the shop has been in business three to five years or less. Three-plus years is usually what it takes for people to try the new shop, have a bad experience, realize their mistake, be greeted with a cold shoulder or even denied for warranty work. If the customer has a bad repair the first time then how will they feel having to do it over again? Then there’s the added amount of time for that information to be assimilated throughout the community.

O'Neal's comments and/or findings:

As far as I could determine there are six motorcycle shops in Lakeport, two in Nice, and a dealership in the next county with a couple of independent shops there. I decided to only concentrate on the shops in Lake County first. Two of the shops in Lakeport were mostly metric. One shop listed could not be found and no new phone number was listed. The word of mouth about your shop Lakeport Garage / Ironhorse Creations was an overwhelming good response in all aspects, I understand you have "We Will Beat Any Price Anywhere" policy but I did hear on occasion that the cost of repairs were higher, but they did add that they thought you have the best repair shop. I also heard you were into helping to raise money for local charities and that was a plus.

The other shops too had some mixed results, and as you asked I will not mention any other shop by name. One had every part you could ever want or need but no one was sure if they had a service department. Other shops had generally cheaper repair rates but a couple had comebacks and unhappy customers. These types of shops as I understand, falls into your category of a newly established shop (exception to the rule). A couple of comments that did disturb of two shops were that they are a bike gang outfit or club hangout. I'm not into that gang mentality and I am moving to Lake County to get away from all that, so if that is true than that's a minus for those shops.

My Comments on Mr. O'Neal's Findings:

There are a lot of riders these days with patches and group affiliation, and a lot in Lake County. Most of these groups like the ones I mention on my Web site are great people trying to do good things for our community. I would not judge a shop on a patch or club association alone.

About my shop policy "We Will Beat Any Price Any Where" some may have restrictions just as my disclaimer on my Web site says. Those restrictions are because some parts are discontinued for one reason or another and are no longer available. While brand X shop still has 12 of those items in his shop, I cannot beat a price of a part I cannot get.

There may also be parts manufactures or new manufacturers on the market that I am not set up with as a dealer. If time is not an issue I can set up a dealership status with these manufacturers and get that part you want at the price you need. Sometimes these dealer setups can be as simple as a fax of my information and be set up the same day and others go through a company's check list and sign offs and can take up to four weeks or longer. Most shops will honor this policy if they are smart, been in the business for a while and of course asked by the customer.

My policy is in effect not to undersell my competitors but for two reasons only. One: I don't believe that my customers and the people living in a small community should have to drive out of Lake County just to get that part they want at a price they can afford. Two: I don't want a customer bringing in a part for me to install on their vehicle that I would not recommend or that is inferior. In a case of a breakdown it creates a recipe for disaster between you and your relationship with your customer.

It is hard to explain that a new part can have a premature failure or that the new part can be bad right out of the box.

About my shop and pricing, I try to yearly evaluate my prices from other local sources and nearby dealerships. I try to price my labor in accordance to the standards and principles of the industry. I do appreciate you telling me that someone mentioned my shop being higher priced and I will look into my pricing.

Forrest Garrett is owner/operator of Ironhorse Creations and Lakeport Garage, family-owned and operated since 1968. E-mail him your questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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