My frustration comes from the apparent disregard for the small service contractor, less than $500,000 per year total sales. We are the two- and three-truck shops that are trying to survive because we prefer to work for ourselves rather than one of the larger companies that we do battle with daily with respect to customers and service mechanics. We small “pimple” companies are the ones that take the applications of these new technicians. We are, by and large, the ones that hire them on and try to make mechanics of them. The instructors may be very knowledgeable when it comes to theory and book details. Most of these instructors are prohibited from teaching practical and applicable training because it would interfere with the “mandated” program set down by the state.

The small companies, five trucks or less, $500,000 and under, cannot afford to take on an individual who does not have the qualifications to perform simple maintenance. We have to make money off these individuals from the beginning in order to survive. These new technicians are ill-equipped from the beginning, and it requires that they ride around with another mechanic for six to eight weeks before we can start to get our investment back by putting them on maintenance. Then, of course, we find out how much they do not know and have to pay for their mistakes either in money, time, parts, or, in many cases, the customer.

I spend an average of four hours per day, two hours before the day starts copying and reading manuals and books on service in an attempt to augment what they are learning on the job, and then two hours after the day ends trying to pry questions out of these new technicians. Most of the time they do not believe what I am telling them because their instructor never covered it or doesn’t sound right. I tell them that they need to use their senses: sight, hearing, smell, and touch. They always want to run off in the most remote and technical of possibilities rather than the most obvious and commonly occurring problems. I could continue on the shortcomings of these new technicians. The point is that these new technicians are not worth the $15 per hour wage that the instructors and The News believe.

Your newspaper likes to do surveys; why not ask the “small shops” what their problems are with these new technicians. Additionally, I would like to suggest that The News devote a page just for the small shop owners. Give us some feedback as to where other small shops are. There are a whole host of questions I would like answers to that involve shops my size: How many days does the owner work? How many hours? What is his/her annual salary? What is the average markup on most parts? How much trouble do they have collecting? What is the average time they have to carry a customer? How do they get and keep new customers?

It’s for those rebellious, rugged individuals that refuse to bow down to the big companies and venture out on their own to take on the world that I write. With just a little bit of support and an enthusiastic “Go for it!” from a publication like The News, these courageous entrepreneurs won’t disappear like the dinosaurs.

John L. Stuart Stuart Refrigeration Westminster, CA

Publication date: 02/19/2001