Do you know what I do for a living? If you think that I am a mechanic (a.k.a. hydraulic technician) - you are wrong. Because I am that plus everything else needed to run a two-people-operated hydraulic warehouse/shop. I do over-the-counter sales, I do phone calls, I do deliveries, I do projects, I do quotes, I do orders. I do client visits, I do cleaning and maintenance, and after that (or rather on top of that) I do the workshop and assistance calls. Hard to describe with a single label, really. I guess "running things" could be the right expression, but then the word "running" suggests that I am in charge of other people, which is not the case because I don't have any helpers, that is - aside from the missus, who does warehouse, accounting and pretty much everything else. The term "responsible for" would probably be the best choice, because I am definitely the one responsible for anything that happens in our tiny branch (in case you're curious - you can learn more about "my hydraulic career" in Five Year of Silence).
Be it as it may, what I am trying to say is that aside from the technical part of the hydraulic business, I am also connected to the commercial, which means that I know how much stuff costs and therefore what can be charged for it (by "stuff" I mean both parts and labor). So, in this post, I want to explore my over-the-counter sales experience and share some tips, which, if applied correctly, may get you a discount should you ever find yourself in need of a service or a product from a hydraulic business. A list of "insider tips", or better - "rules of conduct" - that will surely put you in good graces with any hydraulic salesperson and guarantee "preferential treatment".
Please note that I am referring to over-the-counter sales to new clients - the only people who, by definition, can leave a first impression that can determine the "arbitrary discount attribution".
Let me give you a quick overview of what we do and how we operate, so that you know "who's talking" and can decide whether anything that I say is even applicable to your "surroundings". As I said - we are a small operation, and the things we do in the shop are simple - a client shows up at our counter, and we sell him something hydraulic. Hydraulic hose assemblies are definitely the thing we sell the most. And just to give you an idea about our size - I make about a couple of hundred hoses in a good month. Tiny, I know.
Then, to make things a bit more interesting, we are located in the middle of nowhere, and I can tell you for a fact that a shop in a rural area works in a way that is very different from the way "them city folks" operate. I lived and worked in Lisbon for more than a decade, so I know this firsthand. I am talking about a place where people grow their food, and bring you bread and chouriço to thank you for something you did for them (or a rabbit - I got a rabbit once!).
Like many small shops, we operate without a strict pricing policy but with sufficiently high margins that (for better or worse) allow us to alter what we charge for the same goods and services by a large degree. Put in simple terms - "if I like you - you'll get a discount". Chemistry-based pricing model, if you will. This means - first impressions do matter, and since "everything hydraulic" is expensive - an additional 10% discount is always a big deal.
So, here's a list of things that you should do when you pay a visit to a hydraulic shop (if you want "special treatment"):
When you bring a damaged hydraulic hose to a hose-manufacturing shop - never clean it! This is especially important for hoses that come from earth-moving equipment. Agricultural too. The more dirt is stuck to your hose - the better, for this will allow the hose technician to evaluate the harsh environment your equipment operates in. The same goes for grease because the presence of vast amounts of grease on your hose is a sure sign that the central lubrication system of your machine is operational, which means that you're a serious client.
Never forget that old hose wraps are absolutely reusable, however, it's not your job to clean and re-apply them! Asking a hose shop to reuse the old wrap is a good way to reduce expenses, which, once again, shows everybody that you are a very prudent business owner!
Another very important thing concerning old hydraulic hoses you bring with you - make sure that they contain as much hydraulic fluid as possible. A shop must be able to evaluate the hydraulic oil of your machinery, must it not? Plus - a trail of oil drops and puddles that you leave behind when you walk from your car to the shop is a good way to remember where you parked.
You already know that a hydraulic hose should only be replaced when it bursts - that's a given. And, of course, you know that most of the time a hose bursts because it was rubbing against another hose for a time long enough to rub through the steel wires and make a hole. However - when you give a "rubbed through" hose to a technician or a salesperson, make sure that you pass it so that the rubbed area with the steel wires sticking out is hidden from sight. These pricks to the hands are so exhilarating and not dangerous at all! We love them!
Absolutely everything that was said above about hydraulic hoses can (and should) be applied to other hydraulic components you can bring to a shop for an inspection or an overhaul. To resume - never clean your component, make sure it contains as much oil as possible, and make sure that there's an easy way for the oil to pour out (in other words - never plug any ports). There's nothing wrong with a couple of oil drops on the floor, and everybody will enjoy a good laugh if someone slips and falls over in a comical fashion!
If your component is heavy and requires a pallet to be transported on - make sure to pick the worst pallet you can find (preferably cracked and with missing boards). Recycling is a big part of our life, and this will show the shop how important it is for you!
Very often, when you need a new part - you don't need to bring it over - a picture of the nameplate is enough. Make sure that you take the blurriest picture possible. Salespeople love riddles, and who doesn't? Obviously, you should expect them to figure it out and recognize your component immediately!
The usual service procedure is - you bring a damaged part that can be fixed on the spot - the person at the counter takes it to the shop, works his magic, and then brings it back. Try being more creative - standard procedures are for suckers! Try following the guy to the shop area - there's a good chance that he will not tell you that you can't do it. Ignore all the "authorized personnel only" signs. This will show everybody how assertive you are!
If you manage to sneak into the shop area - make sure that you constantly stare at the person who is repairing something for you. Mecanics love attenttion! Plus - who knows what they could be doing to your beloved part behind your back?!
Make sure that you give a tech all and any advice you can come up with. And don't be afraid to ask questions. Questions are very important! For example - if you need a seal replacement - ask the mechanic if he knows how to do it. This is pure psychology - all people love dialog!
Another thing you can always to do make sure you get the lowest price and the best treatment is to tell that you got a much better deal for a similar service (or part) somewhere else. Knowing about competition is very important, and they will love to hear all you have to say about it! Take a good look at the installations around you - workshop machinery, test stands, etc... - and point out that somewhere else these things are of a much better quality.
People in hydraulic shops love giving free technical advice to strangers, so make sure to spend as much time as possible asking questions about your hydraulic system. Bring schematics, and drives with files, go nuts! Leaving an impression of a person who is always looking for knowledge is never a bad thing.
If you are being explained something, and your cellphone rings - pick it up immediately. Remember - an index finger pointing up is a polite way of saying "You will have to wait now till I finish my call". Talk as loud as possible while you're on your call. This will show everybody that you are an important person and deal with important stuff. Respect is everything in this business!
If you have a hydraulic machine that is failing for some reason - remove the main pump, bring it over to a hydraulic shop, and ask them to replace the shaft seal. It is totally their fault if they fall for it! If they go ahead and do the reseal - you can re-install the pump, call them back, and tell them that before the re-seal the machine was working perfectly fine, and now - it ___insert your problem___. Someone will surely show up and you will get professional diagnostics (and hopefully even an overhaul) free of charge!
That's enough for now. I'll probably list more things in a future post. Still - if you follow just a couple of points from the list above, I guarantee you that you will get a "special treatment" in any hydraulic shop in the world!