Monday, December 12, 2011

Windshield Chip Repair Experience

Recently, I was filling up at my local ARCO gas station on 16th and W Streets in downtown Sacramento when I saw those pesky windshield chip repair guys doing work on some poor innocent victim's windshield. I wondered just how much she was being taken for a ride, so I walked over to the two gentlemen performing the work and asked them exactly how they can repair cracks right on the spot.

One gentleman in a yellow jacket, we'll call him Mr. K from University Auto Glass, explained to me how they inject the resin into the chip or crack, and then ultraviolet light finishes it off to form the permanent seal so it cannot spread any further. I asked how much it cost for the repair, and he quickly responded: $40 for up to three chips/cracks. He was then quick to ask if I had any chips or cracks (I did) and then we were swiftly off to begin his sales pitch.

After reviewing my windshield and my insurance card, he determined that my deductible was high enough that it didn't make sense to file a claim with my insurance company to get it repaired/replaced--I could buy two or three windshields for the price of my deductible. And so, given the choice of a $40 repair (warrantied for as long as I own the vehicle) or the chance of it spreading and forcing me to replace the windshield--not only for safety's sake but to comply with California law--I decided that he got me. I was in.

The process
He takes a razor to the pit/crack to get as much loose junk out of the tiny crevice as he can. Once that's done, he attaches some kind of apparatus to the window via suction cup. This apparatus delivers the resin to the damaged area, which the technician then hardens with an ultraviolet light. He scrapes off the extra resin with his razor, making it level with the glass, then shows me how there are no black marks (those are air gaps) which cause cracks to spread. The whole thing took perhaps 15 minutes start to finish. Pretty painless. Of course, as any good sales guy would, he professed that this was one of the best repairs he's ever seen and he was sure pretty proud of his work. I had no idea, looked like there was a lot less of a crack, to be sure, but I was expecting it to be completely invisible. What remained was a tiny dot, which is largely absent from my vision as I drive down the road.

So in that short time, his partner had helped the lady whose car had sparked my interest, they had helped me, and were scouting every car in the gas station for potential customers, which of course they found with ease.

Why I did it
Costs and benefits, for one. $40 repair vs $100+ windshield. The repair is guaranteed for as long as I own the vehicle. In fact, they stand behind their guarantee such that if I ever need a windshield replacement, they'll credit me the $40 if I buy my replacement windshield from them. But more so, I did it because of Mr. K, who was extremely up-front, transparent and forthcoming about the product/company... and because it just made sense to prevent the crack from spreading. They've really got you right where they want you--a captive audience that has to wait for gas to finish pumping, and trying to solve a problem that may become a bigger problem unless you--wait for it--act now.

The conversation
While talking with Mr. K about his job and other random stuff, I learned the following:
  • They use a Square device to process credit card payments right on the spot. (I've had my own Square for quite some time, and it was really cool to see it being used to run a business. Seeing this more and more.)
  • The product is $40, and $25 of that $40 goes to him as commission. In places like the Bay Area, where people have more disposable income, he remarked  that the same job would cost drivers anywhere from $80 to $120. Not sure if his commission increases in kind, but I'm sure it does to some extent.
  • Speaking of cost, the gas station I was at charges the auto glass company $1,500 per month for exclusive rights to that corner, according to Mr. K. Wow! By my calculations, when you minus out commissions these two guys would have to do 100 windshields per month just to pay the rent. That's a lot of windshields! They did at least three in the short span of time I was there at the station, so I suppose it's entirely possible... hence their hustle to find dinged-up windows. That, by the way, equates to about a $2,500/mo gross income for Mr. K, or about $30,000 per year. After taxes, that's about $1,750/mo or $21,000/year. Not bad for fixing windows.
  • To maintain that corner, the sales/install guys must hustle but also remember who the gas station's repeat customers are, and not to piss people off--especially those who say they do not want the service, because "you get any complaints, and you're gone."
Summary
After it was all said and done, I zipped my card with him, the Square processed it on his iPhone (not company-issued, unfortunately), an emailed receipt hit my inbox 5 minutes later, and I wished him good luck on the rest of what was as very chilly night. With a go-get-em grin, he remarked, "There's no luck in sales!" as he put a hop in his step toward his next customer. I took a few notes for this blog post, then drove toward the gas station's exit. As I departed, he waved at me and I waved at him, as if we were friends, as he stood there signing papers with his next customer of the night.

Business is good, apparently, but only if you're good at sales. And this guy was, from start to finish. The conversation was good during the repair, and he noticed me drive out and gave me a friendly wave on the way out.

So next time, I think I won't look at these hustlers the same way I used to--like car salesman waiting for their next mark. They're solving a problem that could lead to a larger one, it's convenient, and the value is right. (Except if you live in locales where the disposable income is higher... yikes!) In Sacramento, he's on the corner of 16th & W hustling every day... so go check him out if you're in the area and want to get that pesky crack fixed up so it doesn't spread and become a bigger problem than just an eyesore.