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Serviceman's Log

Beauty may only be skin deep but it takes machines (and a whole industry) to maintain it. Too hairy? Zap! ? problem fixed. But who fixes the machines when they stop working?

My first story this month comes from G. M. of Pukekohe, NZ. He’s generally involved with A/V gear but doesn’t hesitate to take on other service jobs in order to make a dollar. Here’s his story . . .

While most of my work is related to audio/video servicing, I am also often asked to look at other items. I usually quite enjoy doing this as it keeps me interested and challenged and it is amazing how it can broaden your knowledge base. Some of what you learn on one item can lead to a “light bulb” moment on a completely unrelated item.

Click for larger image

Apart from the usual DVDs, VCRs and hifi equipment, I have also repaired electric fences, wheel balancers, carrot packers, spray robots and forklift drives and chargers – plus many other items related to the automotive and light industry sectors. Some of the equipment is worth tens of thousands of dollars to replace, so the owners are usually grateful to have the item fixed, almost regardless of the cost of the repair.

It’s also often just as important for industrial customers to be back in production relatively quickly. Getting the job done by a local repairman is certainly quicker and cheaper than waiting for an expert to arrive from an overseas factory.

Of course, not all jobs have a fairy-tale ending. Sometimes, I simply cannot get access to the necessary information or spare parts to repair specialised equipment. Fortunately, over the years, I have honed my instincts so that I can usually spot a “don’t-bother-going-there” job before getting in too deep. I also make it very clear that there will be a minimum charge of $50-100 regardless of the outcome and there is rarely a quibble from the customer.

This allows me to spend enough time with the gear to determine whether I should become further involved or not.

I also ask for a $50 non-refundable deposit for every job that comes into my workshop. This helps to sort the wheat from the chaff, not only in respect of the faulty item but also the owner. It is amazing how many people expect you to “just take a look at it” for nothing. I learned long ago that if you get a monetary commitment at the beginning, they are more likely to say yes to an estimate and after the repair, they are more likely to collect it and pay the balance.

It’s all about making the business viable. Getting an up-front fee sure beats spending my precious time for no return and avoids the added insult of being out of pocket when it comes time to dump their junk at the local tip if it isn’t repaired. In fact, I’ve been doing this for so long now that most of my customers now expect it.

Electrocuting hairs

One of my more unusual jobs over the past few years has involved the repair of several electrolysis machines for a local beauty therapist. These devices send a user-variable voltage down a lead which is connected to a very sharp needle. The latter is used to pierce a hair root and the voltage kills it.

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