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Shop until you drop for service

October 31, 2012
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Everyone should shop around for the best price before buying, unless they're lying in the back of an ambulance.

It's how capitalism keeps prices competitive. For some reason it doesn't work in the medical field. It's something about urgency. Household appliances, car parts, insurance policies, television sets and almost anything else can be shopped for, and the buyer can save some money, with a few provisos. The first is that the item being shopped for must be identical from each vendor for the comparison to be accurate. For instance Michelin tire prices can only be compared if the tire is identified exactly, and not just by size. Michelin makes many styles at varying prices. It can be an intimidating task to compare prices while making sure that you aren't comparing apples to oranges, but worth it in the end. If you need a muffler you can call around and compare prices by asking for the warranty. If the warranty is the same you can assume the quality is similar, even if the brand is different, so you can sometimes compare prices between brands with comparable warrantees.

We could probably all save a bundle if we changed insurance companies every year. Don't ever think that there is loyalty due you from your insurance company, no matter how many years you've been with them. They'll drop you like a hot potato if they think you're going to cost them money. If you check around every year, and tell each one that you are shopping, many of them will give you a lower price than you're paying now. You may even come around to the original company and get an even better price next time. They like to give low entrance fees, and then jack you up steadily until you rebel. You may be a loyal customer, but there are no loyal companies. The only proviso here is to use an independent agent. They might want to keep you as a client, and will shop different companies for you to keep you happy, and maybe apply some influence to get your company to pay up. Yes, there are differences between companies, but they are highly regulated, and the world is full of lawyers itching to sue them to make them pay up. So if they're licensed, they're useable, and highly competitive.

Then along comes the snag: shopping for service. If there is a difference between models of tires, there is a much larger difference between levels of service. It varies tremendously between providers. It is governed mostly by the morale of the providers. If you've ever tried to get a teenage boy to sweep a floor, you know what lousy workmanship looks like, brought on by a lousy attitude. If a company doesn't provide an atmosphere that promotes good morale, the work will be like the floor after the boy pushes the dirt into the corners. When it comes to performance, nothing makes a bigger difference than morale, whether you're fighting a war or fixing a car.

So how do you shop around for service? Everyone may have similar pricing and warrantees, but do you really want to keep going back to get something done right? I think not. There are not a lot of lawyers waiting to sue small businesses. No deep pockets. To protect ourselves, we can use our own common sense, sixth sense, gut feeling, or whatever you want to call it, to tell if employees seem happy at their jobs. A grumpy reception usually means a teenage boy is going to sweep your floor. Let the shoppers beware.



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