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Service tech overcharging us. Legality?

yoke

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 26, 2013
Location
PA
This is a weird situation.

How did a PM turn into 3 weeks? Was the machine out of service for 3 weeks?

We get PMs from our machine dealer and I am happy to pay the $2200-$3200 per machine. They spend 1 or 2 days per machine and have caught things that end up saving me money. I would certainly know it if they hung around an extra day, let alone weeks.

You have a good case for not paying anything above and beyond the original quoted price but then you'll have to deal with the same company in the future. I would think getting their manager to sit down and talk over what was done and how the miscommunication happened would be a good step to finding a workable solution. You want to keep the service tech in your corner if at all possible.
 

mcclij01

Aluminum
Joined
May 12, 2010
Location
St Paul,MN
Not directly related but I have called out our local CNC rep for what I say is illegal, or at least should be. Here is the scenario:

I schedule service call, tech arrives and does his thing, I get the service report to sign from the tech and it has 1 hour travel time. I know the tech lives right by the shop so max drive time for him is 15 minutes. I call the distributer and ask WTF. They tell me it is 1 hour travel charge regardless. So if he did 5 stops in our local industrial park he would get 5 hours drive time and whatever labor hours billed? They say yes. So even though the tech only drove 1 hour total and has 7 hours labor, the distributer actually billed 12 hours. This practice is illegal if you are a lawyer, how can it be okay for this? They make a lot by overbilling as I have seen it many times.
 

Bobw

Diamond
Joined
Feb 8, 2005
Location
Hatch, NM Chile capital of the WORLD
Not directly related but I have called out our local CNC rep for what I say is illegal, or at least should be. Here is the scenario:

I schedule service call, tech arrives and does his thing, I get the service report to sign from the tech and it has 1 hour travel time. I know the tech lives right by the shop so max drive time for him is 15 minutes. I call the distributer and ask WTF. They tell me it is 1 hour travel charge regardless. So if he did 5 stops in our local industrial park he would get 5 hours drive time and whatever labor hours billed? They say yes. So even though the tech only drove 1 hour total and has 7 hours labor, the distributer actually billed 12 hours. This practice is illegal if you are a lawyer, how can it be okay for this? They make a lot by overbilling as I have seen it many times.

That would piss me off.. Our local dealer in Albuquerque would do their best to schedule multiple shops
in an area, and then split the travel time.. New Mexico is like really big, so travel can really add up..
And then for a while they had a tech that lived in El Paso, but worked mostly out of Albuquerque.. If
you could catch him on a Monday or a Friday, they would only whack you the travel time to El Paso, that's
ONE hour instead of THREE hours..

I would think that would be something common that a dealer would do. Still making money,
but not screwing people.
 

CITIZEN F16

Titanium
Joined
May 2, 2021
Not directly related but I have called out our local CNC rep for what I say is illegal, or at least should be. Here is the scenario:

I schedule service call, tech arrives and does his thing, I get the service report to sign from the tech and it has 1 hour travel time. I know the tech lives right by the shop so max drive time for him is 15 minutes. I call the distributer and ask WTF. They tell me it is 1 hour travel charge regardless. So if he did 5 stops in our local industrial park he would get 5 hours drive time and whatever labor hours billed? They say yes. So even though the tech only drove 1 hour total and has 7 hours labor, the distributer actually billed 12 hours. This practice is illegal if you are a lawyer, how can it be okay for this? They make a lot by overbilling as I have seen it many times.

Aggravating, but if explained a head of time I doubt it is illegal. I have worked at shops that were CNC only and had a 4 hour minimum, even if they were short runs in a part family.
 

metal-ica

Aluminum
Joined
Jan 19, 2019
They for sure should have been more forthcoming and received written approval. On the other hand did you expect a $5,600 bill in California when their guys were there for 3 weeks?

If it were me I'd accept their offer of $16k and chalk it up to experience + not wanting to burn bridges that will end up costing in the future + the distraction of fighting it which is a hidden cost.

I appreciate a tech that wants to clean my machines but as an owner it raises my blood pressure a little. These guys charge more than I make sometimes so as I often have one of my guys take covers off and do cleaning before they arrive to try and save that money.
 

Stirling

Hot Rolled
Joined
Dec 11, 2013
Location
Alberta canada
How’s the machine now? If a 3 day job became 3 weeks typically things went wrong. Hopefully no gremlins are left over in the machine
 

Doug

Diamond
Joined
Dec 16, 2002
Location
Pacific NW
It's very possible the techs were not telling the truth about their time on the job. It happened to me.

I scheduled a service call with "Bob" the service company's top guy. Instead they sent a young guy with no experience. After he'd been at my shop for 15 minutes I noticed a reset button that solved the problem.

I was billed for 8 hours plus travel. I demanded to talk with the tech. The company said they had to fire him. I refused to pay anything and they replied by saying don't ever call us again. I didn't and they went out of business a year later.
 

Orange Vise

Stainless
Joined
Feb 10, 2012
Location
California
On the other hand, you have a problem if you need them to come back and do a repair down the road and the line is down.

+1, this should be your biggest consideration.

Likewise for the dealer, how will this affect your decision in buying another machine from them in the future? It goes both ways, and thus I think it would be helpful to involve your sales rep in the conversation. There's often a disconnect between Sales and Service, and with many of these companies, the sales side has more pull.

Some additional thoughts:

1. In the past, we've sold machines because we had no confidence in the dealer's service. The machines were working, but the dealer provided band-aid solutions (at relatively exorbitant costs) on a few issues, with little to no help from the manufacturer, and we foresaw bigger problems down the road.

2. With a few exceptions, we try to buy "common" machines whenever possible. Less obscure machines means the techs won't come in seeing the machine for the first time in their lives.

3. Whether it's a CNC tech, an electrician, a plumber, etc, anyone who walks through the door to perform work in your facility needs to be supervised. Maybe not every minute of every day, but they should be checked up on and verbal progress reports should be made.

4. With many companies, the techs sent in for preventative maintenance are on the greener/less senior side. The senior techs are busy troubleshooting major issues like crashes. This emphasizes the need for #3 (above) even more. Also, this should temper your expectations as to what these guys are actually capable of doing. Finally, having an in-house maintenance supervisor, whether by title or simply appointed to the responsibility, is helpful. This individual should not only supervise the techs, but also take notes so that future PMs can be done in-house.
 

CITIZEN F16

Titanium
Joined
May 2, 2021
Some of the comments here baffle me. When I hire outside services I want a good job done at a fair price. Since I do all my own in house tech work, my hiring outside services machine shop wise entail sending out circuit boards for repair (my tech knowledge stops at the board) or dropping off a motor, anything needing more than brushes or bearings forget it for me. I could not imagine ruining a relationship with a bad vendor being a concern. Most of the time the best answer in that situation is to figure it out how to do it yourself, or find someone else. My personal experience is factory techs are a grab bag, I only experienced them working for others. Often you get a tail chaser with a cell phone. You want to let that company hold you hostage?
 

CalG

Diamond
Joined
Dec 30, 2008
Location
Vt USA
We hired a very large and very reputable machinery sales company to perform preventative maintenance on our two newest machines (they aren't very common machines). We purchased the machines from them. You have certainly heard of this company.

They sent us an estimate for $5600 for BOTH machines, their estimate says 8-16 hours per machine, and any additional charges will be discussed. See quoted text below.

"We will work on your machine no longer than necessary performing PM, correcting minor problems and making alignment corrections to bring the machine back to the original specifications, when possible. You will be informed of any issues with the machine and given a recommendation of what would be needed if it cannot be corrected reasonably during the PM"

Now everything is said an done we've received our first or two bills, machine one total cost is $16000. Add the second machine and we're looking at $32000 for preventative maintenance. It's outrageous. Apparently they spent days removing and wiping down panels.

I called and spoke with the service manager who told me their service tech cleared everything with me personally. I responded by telling him i work as a programmer for two companies, and was only at this location 4 days during the entire 2-3 week process. He then changed his story to "oh we cleared it with the owner" also not true. After some back an forth he agreed to cut the price down to 16k total.

Now I don't think these guys are intentionally trying to rip us off, we believe they came in for service got in over their heads with, possibly have never serviced one of these oddball machines, didn't think to inform us they were learning how to do it while on our jobsite, and are now trying to cover their asses from the higher ups in the company.

What's our move? I'm inclined to pay the original quote plus 10 percent. We aren't trying to start a war, we want to pay what's fair, but let's be honest. 6k to 16k is insane.
Ask to see the time and work done report. Pay the hourly rate on work that was requested.
 

john.k

Diamond
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Location
Brisbane Qld Australia
A dispute over cost ,or contract is a civil matter,and for a small amount will likely be referred to arbitration....if the state has such a system......the moment you are talking litigation/court,then the overcharge for the service will seem like peanuts compared to a lawyers fees.
 

ttrager

Aluminum
Joined
Jul 23, 2015
We hired a very large and very reputable machinery sales company to perform preventative maintenance on our two newest machines (they aren't very common machines). We purchased the machines from them. You have certainly heard of this company.

They sent us an estimate for $5600 for BOTH machines, their estimate says 8-16 hours per machine, and any additional charges will be discussed. See quoted text below.

"We will work on your machine no longer than necessary performing PM, correcting minor problems and making alignment corrections to bring the machine back to the original specifications, when possible. You will be informed of any issues with the machine and given a recommendation of what would be needed if it cannot be corrected reasonably during the PM"

Now everything is said an done we've received our first or two bills, machine one total cost is $16000. Add the second machine and we're looking at $32000 for preventative maintenance. It's outrageous. Apparently they spent days removing and wiping down panels.

I called and spoke with the service manager who told me their service tech cleared everything with me personally. I responded by telling him i work as a programmer for two companies, and was only at this location 4 days during the entire 2-3 week process. He then changed his story to "oh we cleared it with the owner" also not true. After some back an forth he agreed to cut the price down to 16k total.

Now I don't think these guys are intentionally trying to rip us off, we believe they came in for service got in over their heads with, possibly have never serviced one of these oddball machines, didn't think to inform us they were learning how to do it while on our jobsite, and are now trying to cover their asses from the higher ups in the company.

What's our move? I'm inclined to pay the original quote plus 10 percent. We aren't trying to start a war, we want to pay what's fair, but let's be honest. 6k to 16k is insane.
Other replies in this thread are spot on. Generally speaking from a protocol/process perspective, my opinion is (for whatever it is worth):

Always, always, operate from a clearly identified "work order", including identification of approvals needed or not. Ya'll have mentioned this factor. Point is, "Work Orders" are not always created equally. Make sure they specifically call out distinct Maintenance Points (as example).

"Shit Happens", so make sure the necessary approval contact is stated up front as part of the Work Order. My example here, even though a much more basic exercise, was when I had some surface plates calibrated. The "oopsie" that occurred was that 4 of the plates were recent, used purchase by the boss. Those actually required "repair" due to the depth and size of worn spots. I was the contact, the service tech gave me the clearly understood info, and I updated the P.O.

Someone (you?) is going to have to PERSONALLY become educated on the PM requirements of the machine, identify the schedule/intervals for that, and do your own footwork over time to have some kind of idea of the costs involved. First place to start is the OEM manual for the machine(s) and find the Maintenance Schedule section. Either 1) You are helpless / held hostage to an "experts" opinion or story, or 2) You are operating from a position of knowledge and strength so that you can detect story telling or even solid clear competence, and that detection mechanism is based on some solid knowledge.

I'm not about indiscriminately distrusting people. I've had to learn the great wisdom behind the proverb "trust but verify" and "knowledge is power". Not that I'm wise mind you, but like most of us I've had to learn that far too often I've been "burned" or caused myself a problem because I simply took someone's word. Either because I didn't have a choice or didn't take the steps to educate myself.

Anyway, thanks for the post because it reminds us of what to watch for.
 

john.k

Diamond
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Location
Brisbane Qld Australia
It worthwhile when a new serviceman comes to spend 10-15 minutes discussing things with him/her in the office ....you should be able to get a good idea from that if the guy is going to be able to even do what you want......Service providers never have a crew of equally able techs available ,and the supervisor is very likley to send the least able "for a start" and only send a better tech if the job has problems ..........service providers have a turnover of repairmen,because when a tech realises he s a top man ,and carrying the company,he quits and goes out on his own.....and is replaced by yet another "poke and hope" tech.who may pan out OK ,or not.
 








 
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