Before I begin, just in case you aren’t familiar with the term “flat rate” here’s a quick rundown.
The rate of pay for a technician is broken down into tenths of an hour where each tenth is equivalent to six minutes (ex. 0.2 hours = 12 minutes and 1.5 hours = 1 hour and 30 minutes.). Thus, his/her pay is accumulated by hours earned during the given pay period.
Employee’s flat rate wage
= $20.00 per hour.
Given/Assumed time to remove and replace front brake pads and rotors
= 2.0 flat rate hours
Employee’s actual time spent on job
= 0.5 hours
= 2.0 flat rate hours x $20.00 per hour = $40.00 for their 0.5 hours of actual labor
On paper the system can’t be beat.
But, if an employee were to spend 10.0 actual hours on the job the pay still remains at 2.0 flat rate hours.
The workers in the industry refer to the total number of hours accumulated as “flagged hours”.
Also, a technician isn’t given base pay. If there is no work and he/she hasn’t fixed a car, then the technician receives a check of $0.00 at the end of the pay period. To keep this from happening, most technicians end up stick to one type of job—something they can complete routinely—instead of testing themselves, unlock their potential, and expanding their expertise.
The flat rate system was put in place to keep workers productive, the logic being the more a technician works, the more he/she will make. The suits and the instructors at all the schools alike love to say the same shit: “the faster you are, the more money you’ll make; the quicker you diagnose and fix a problem, the more hours you’ll flag; make damn sure you up-sell everything and make more fucking hours; TIME IS MONEY! WORK FASTER!” Drilling that into the head of a eighteen year old college kid who doesn’t know shit about wrenching to begin with—who can barely install a license plate frame with confidence—will never improve anyone’s diagnostic skills, especially not while being a part of your
bullshit amazing eight-month program.
In reality, the above attitude has effectively helped create a very hostile working environment for an already stressful position. In my opinion, is the leading cause of the huge number of crippling comebacks, wheel-off, and oil-outs.
: when a customer returns to the shop with the same complaint [within the 12-month / 12,000-mile warranty] after the shop has already attempted to fix the issue but obviously failed.
: when the technician forgets to tighten one or more wheels on the vehicle and it falls off while the customer is driving.
: when the technician lets the car leave after an oil service is performed and the oil cap wasn’t put back on or they forgot to put oil back into the engine after draining it)
AND I ALMOST FORGOT: The technician doesn’t get paid for the job the second time around, and nine times out of ten they’ll be the ones paying for anything that’s been broken or parts to fix the vehicle correctly. Even when techs move to a weekly salary, the first thing out of every greedy, piece-of-shit-boss’ mouth is either, “You know that job only pays 2.0 hours and you’ve been at it all day?!,” or the lovely, “We’re losing our asses on this one, pick it up.” Personally, my favorite is, “You should be paying me this week; you haven’t made me shit.” Naturally, the tech says, “
Fuck it” becomes upset, rushes the diagnostic and/or the repair-in-progress, pieces the car back together with chewing gum, puts the extra parts in the glove box, looks over at the boss and says, with a smile, “It’s ready for wash, sir,” just for the customer to come back a week later, completely pissed (and rightfully so), leaving the tech right back where he/she started.
The rub? When the customer comes back with the same problem, the boss will yell at his mechanic, usually in front of the client, to make him/her feel that the boss is on their side, that they’re punishing the employee that screwed up even though that same fucking boss—and an arbitrary number on a computer that dictates how long any given job “should” take– was the cause of the employee rushing in the first place. The repair SHOULD be free of any charges, but now that the boss is “on the customer’s side,” and that they’ve gained his/her trust back, they start talking jargon that is so complicated and convoluted the customer won’t remember any of it long enough to Google when he gets home. Instead of a free job, the customer then gets hit with another bill on top of the first one. Hook. Line. Sinker.
Now, while all of that sinks in, you’re probably thinking, “How the
fuck could anyone work under those conditions?!” or maybe a little of “That can’t be legal!!!”. Truth is the system is one-hundred-percent for the owner since the owner doesn’t have to pay anyone that isn’t producing, and when the guys in the big seat are making money hand over fist, nothing will change. The bad times never hit him unless things are so slow for so long that the reserve funds were eaten-up by his rent.
But, this never happens because having a car is a necessity. People would (and do) rather cancel their health and dental insurance instead of lose their vehicle.
The shop owner doesn’t pay the mechanic for being there, and he doesn’t allow you to go home when there’s no work. The only time he’ll add money to your paycheck is when you make him money by completing a job (and it’s only considered completed when it’s picked up and paid for by the customer). And, if you mess up, then you start from the beginning, for free, and the part they broke most likely will get deducted from their pay.
In the next entry I’m going to be discussing a system that I’ve developed but just haven’t found the right crew to test it with yet. This system shows a way to allow the technician to be completely relaxed every day and still motivated to work. You’ll see what I mean.
To be continued…