Every summer, we see one customer after another walk into our shop with their trimmer in their hands. They have that mildly inconvenienced expression that tells me that we are about to go through something difficult together.
They’ll lay that trimmer across our counter and tell me that it just won’t start. Or it starts, but dies. Or it starts but runs poorly and then dies. Or it screams like a banshee and small animals will no longer come near their yard. Or – I think you get it.
They’re going to want it diagnosed right there on the spot and I’m going to tell them that it’s probably related to the fuel but I can’t be sure unless we take a look at it.
They’ll insist that the fuel is new. Their idea of “new” is “new to the machine”. What they mean is that they just poured it into the machine… from the fuel can in the garage…that’s been sitting there since last spring.
They’ll tell me that they replaced the trimmer line and they had their son in law replace the spark plug and they know the air filter is good. They will insist that they just bought the thing and it worked just fine the last time they used it (which was last summer).
They’ll express frustration at that darned contraption.
“I just couldn’t keep it going. I don’t understand. That’s never happened to me before.”
I will nod understandingly and tell them that we’ll be happy to have our technician take a look at it if they would like to leave it here with us.
They will look surprised and suspicious.
“I didn’t realize this was going to be a hassle”, their frowny frowner will say. “Surely you can just install a new thing and I’ll be on my way. I have family coming over in an hour and I really need to get this done.”
I will give them the “I’m sorry, but If I tear into your trimmer right here on the counter… right now, then the ten customers standing in line behind you are going to lynch me.” grimace and we’ll go through the dance until the music crescendos and they finally pop the big question.
“Fine. How much is this going to cost me?”
I can fire off a loose quote. A ballpark estimate, really. I’ll try to high ball them a little, but not too much. I honestly don’t know what it’s going to cost in the end.
They will pick up their trimmer in indignation and walk out muttering something about the questionable nature of my lineage, and in that moment we will have discovered a very valuable and time saving reality.
Usually the cost of fixing the trimmer will exceed the cost of replacing it.
“But, how can you say that, Bill? You don’t know what trimmer I have!”
You’re right. I don’t. Who knows? Maybe your great-great-great-great-great grandpa trimmed weeds with it at Valley Forge and the sentimental value alone warrants dropping a couple of hundred into it.
But here’s a couple of things I do know:
One…I do know that we as a nation are still reeling from a recession. Without getting all political, very few of us have a lot of cash to just toss around. And given the fact that most of us see a weed trimmer (or a blower, or a chainsaw or a hedge trimmer) as a luxury; dropping a few hundred bucks on a top-of-the-line unit is fairly rare.
Two…I know that you are the one who has to answer the question “Is it worth it to fix it?”
Looking at that shiny little green and yellow curved-shaft corpse lying across my counter, I would probably guess that; just like most of your neighbors, you probably went to the “Biglawnhomemartdepot Store” didn’t you? The place probably had six automatic doors and a ceiling so high they needed a lift to take merchandise off of the top shelf.
Like a responsible consumer, you probably looked at their very reasonably priced variety of trimmers; all boxed up and stacked on the four story high shelving and you picked out a nice little jobber with the extended warranty and the little metal ring to hang it on the wall in your shed.
And why not?
“There’s no reason to blow a bunch of cash on a trimmer. Plus the warranty will cover most of everything and I can always take it back if there’s a problem.”
What the kid at the “Biglawnhomemartdepot Store” told you, straight to your face that this trimmer was “Real good”. Sure, he didn’t really know much about that brand, but “We sell a bunch of them.” Good enough!
Sure, he may have skipped past that whole “your extended warranty will not cover fuel related issues at all” stuff, which is going to be 90% of any repair problems you’re going to encounter (unless you play polo with the thing and you’ve crushed the engine housing).
He may also have neglected to mention that if you try to bring it back after it’s been used, it better be snapped in half or burnt to a crisp. Because if its some kind of engine issue…
“You want to return it? Jeez Mister. My manager won’t let me.”
So rather than junk it ” Because I’ll be dipped if I’m going to just dump a $115 machine in the scrap pile because it won’t start.”, you decide to have it fixed.
Which bring us to our staring contest across my counter.
So let’s cut to the chase. Assuming you can get parts for it, here’s what you’re looking at for a tune up:
$70 per hour for labor alone. (At the time of this writing)
Then we add…
Carburetor kit: $12.95.
Spark plug: $4.00.
Air Filter: $6.00,
Gasoline / Oil: $5.00,
Sales tax… Recycling fees…
When the smoke clears, we’re looking at an easy $105-$120 provided the carburetor doesn’t need to be replaced. Fuel lines, fuel filter, primer bulb…the hits just keep on coming.
When I hit you with the bill, you’ll look at that trimmer or blower or chainsaw or whatever like you’re looking at me and think “Piece of junk!” You’ll walk out feeling “screwed over” And to tell you the truth, I’m going to feel like I screwed you over too. Because that thing should never have been fixed. It was not worth it and now you know.
“Screw this! I’ll fix it myself!”
That’s the spirit! After four days on the internet, you’ve identified that the closest authorized dealer for that brand of trimmer is 43 kilometers west of Saigon. Parts are available if you have an importers license or you want to purchase air filters in bulk.
Oh, and it turns out that no one in your area works on this particular brand because you can’t fix a machine unless you can get parts. They can’t, and unless you currently live on the other side of lots and lots of water, you can’t either.
I get it. You’re ticked off. You’re feeling scammed and a little embarrassed.
The kid at the “Biglawnhomemartdepot Store” didn’t mention anything about any of this. Give him a break, he just hit puberty. He’s probably got a big game this weekend and his girlfriend is a real pain.
Your neighbor, who has the (exact same trimmer) didn’t mention anything about this stuff either. That’s because he either anticipated it might happen and took steps to prevent it, he’s embarrassed too, or he hates you and did it on purpose. He’s probably in his garage right now, sticking pins into the “you” doll and cackling like a madman.
Here’s some real talk partner. You get what you pay for. And when it comes to equipment, you’re going to end up investing in it at some point in time because the thing is going to break at some point in time.
Here’s a little secret: That machine was never intended to be repaired. That machine is the goldfish of the trimmer kingdom. I’m giving you the truth here. You bought a $100 disposable lighter.
Either you’re kicking yourself right now or you are firmly entrenched in denial.
Either way, don’t be too hard on yourself. You were nobly clinging to an old fashioned concept that $100 gets you quality these days.
The whole point of the sales strategy was to import cheap, sell low, move them in quantity and flood the market with crap equipment that would have you looking for another one in twelve months.
It’s crazy, I know. We lament to our family and friends how everything is cheap and made in China then we turn around and buy all that stuff up thinking we got a great deal.
Look, you can pony it up at the time of purchase and get a reliable piece of equipment. A reputable brand with a solid history, purchased from an authorized dealer who will provide all the service and support you could every possibly want.
Or you can buy cheap now and pay much more later.
Personally, I’m of the opinion that the life of the equipment is more a testimony to the quality of the owner rather than the quality of the machine. Having said that, you don’t go to the dollar store to buy a pace maker.
Get the real deal at an equitable price and gain a little piece of mind knowing that if there are any problems in the future, there is someone there to take care of it.
So, put down the Yackawochi SUX-5000 and go visit your local dealer.
Hopefully, you will never have to ask someone like me it it’s worth it to repair it?