Mitch Schneider: Open Saturday? Shop Owners and Mitch Discuss the Sixth Day

Mitch Schneider: Open Saturday? Shop Owners and Mitch Discuss the Sixth Day

Long-time shop owners weigh the pros and cons of being open on Saturday.

From:  Kit Johnson

Hello Mitch,
 
I have read your column for years and followed from publication to publication.  Your latest musings in the June issue end requested "other important questions" about our industry from us, your eager Mitch groupies.

I have one that we are contemplating at this time.

I recall reading an article of yours, some 12 to 15 years ago, you discussed your experiences involving when you switched from being open Saturdays to being open for the traditional five 5 day work week only.  You stated the gross sales went down, the net stayed the same and everyone had their weekends off for some much needed R&R time, coinciding with when the kids and the spouse normally had that time off too.
Do you still feel the same way?

In their latest communication packet, NAPA (VIN Waterhouse’s recommendation) is pushing Auto-Care centers to be open 6 days a week.  They have compelling reasons of course, we will not keep losing our valuable customers to the dealership that are now staying open Saturdays to capture them and will increase the bottom line, both net and gross.

It would be a full 8 to 5 work day (our weekday hours are 7:30 to 5:30) and we would be losing our traditional weekends and would go to the work five, one day off, work five, three days off routine.

I am planning on asking the shop owner’s opinions in my business management group also to get as many opinions on this as possible and I am certainly interested in your take on this.
 
Thank you very much,

Sincerely,
Kit Johnson
Owner, Head floor sweeper and President of J4 Automotive, Inc. in East Helena, MT

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From: Mitch Schneider 

Hi, Kit

I never thought of myself as having ‘groupies,’ but what the hell… ;-{)} And, that’s about as light as it’s going to get if we attack this subject with the serious consideration it deserves. You see I’ve been struggling with the same paradigm for a long time and more than a couple of reasons.
 
First: Paranoia… The argument that chasing convenience or in the face of an unexpected crisis, your customers will seek out an "emergency" alternatives (another independent, the dealership, a McTune & Lube, a retailer, et al) ultimately abandoning you: the Vin Waterhouse argument.

Second: Greed… It is reasonable to assume that even if you were only open half-days – eight to twelve or one – you might make half-revenues. In the case of our shop that could be a substantial increase in both gross revenue and bottom-line profits (50 Saturdays X $1,500 – plus = $75,000 – $100,000) considering the fact that certain fixed expenses would remain constant. Even with increases in the variable cost of labor the potential for additional profit is almost irresistible.
 
Third: Fear… The Economy: capital "E." I don’t know about Montana, but it seems the higher the crest of wave, the deeper its trough. Southern California led the country in economic excess and now leads it in economic collapse. For many shops staying open more than five days or eight hours per day is no longer a decision within your control: it is an economic necessity.
 
Fourth: Frustration… Saturdays are just plain screwed! Parts are always going to be an issue – So, the car that comes in on Saturday, that the customer needs for the family outing on Sunday, will have to, at the very least, reassembled so it can come back during the week when the parts are actually available! Time will always be a problem… That’s how half-day Saturdays become twelve-hour Saturdays. After all, how do you just close the hood and walk away from a ‘good’ customer just because it’s time to go home! Additionally, "Good" Customers will always be a problem! I don’t know about you, but all we ever had on Saturdays – and, Yes! – that is an exaggeration – was price-shoppers, flakes and crazies: none of whom you would want to add to your ‘regular’ client-base.
 
We have considered opening on Saturday for all of the above reasons at one time or another, but have consistently resisted those urges. We are a small shop: three techs, a porter, a writer, an office person and me. Our productivity numbers have been averaging over 96% for the past six months and with a fairly high concentration of drivability, and considering the national average for our industry: that ain’t bad! But, it does take its toll.
 
And, that toll is exhaustion… When Friday rolls around and we have finally ‘cleared the lot’ of the forty-five to fifty cars and trucks we’ve worked on, we’re all pretty much "toast." Another day is not at all appealing… to anyone here. Add to that the logistical problems of who works when, overtime, family, kids, life in general and the need to have a life – a meaningful and spiritually rewarding life; and, working more than five days a week doesn’t look so good.
 
I’ve looked at military models like the fire department or police departments tend to work with duty schedules and split shifts, to see how they do it without having something just jump out at me. I’ve thought about having two separate shifts: one that works Monday-Friday, eight hours a day; and, a second smaller group that would consist of a writer, a porter, a tech and maybe a helper, working Friday – Monday, ten hours a day: which would give you help on Friday and Monday, the two busiest days of the week (at least, for us)… But, my head starts to hurt when I try to work it all in the real world and not the two-dimensional and concrete paper world where theoretical stuff like this always looks good.
 
There is another, less obvious reason for not opening on Saturdays, and simply stated: it is that I’m old and I just don’t want to! And, by that I mean "I" don’t want to: I don’t want to work Saturdays anymore, and I flat out hate to ask anyone to do something I am loathe to do myself. I can’t do it! I’m just not wired that way…
 
I know that is a lot more answer than you wanted and you should know that after reading it a second time I think it’s starting to sound a lot like the foundation for a column, but I think serious questions deserve serious answers.
 
Now, I’d be interested in what you and your group of shop owners come up with.

Mitch

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From:  Kit Johnson

Hello fellow Elite Groupies,
I know we have discussed being open Saturdays in the past but I do not recall an in-depth fact finding evaluation of all of the pros and cons.  Are any of you open Saturdays?  Should this be a topic for a global meeting?

In their latest communication packet, NAPA (At Vin Waterhouse’s recommendation) is pushing Auto-Care centers to be open 6 days a week.  They have compelling reasons of course, some of which are that we will not keep losing our valuable customers to dealerships and other shops that are now staying open Saturdays, and we will increase the bottom line, both net and gross.

It would be a full 8 to 5 work day, no half day stuff.  We would be losing our traditional weekends and would go to the "work five, one day off, work five, three days off routine".

I have floated this idea past the employees, the old guy doesn’t mind, might even work all six days.  The younger ones with families state it would be a hardship.  Day care issues, mismatched days off with spouse, kids, etc.

My personal feeling – I can see the cent$ of it but I’ve slaved 50 hours a week for 28 years and I deserve the weekend, so does my crew.  Life is short and its not all about the buck$.
 

Any thoughts?
 Thanks! 

Kit Johnson
Owner, Head floor sweeper and President of J4 Automotive, Inc. in East Helena, MT

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From:  Phil White 

My thoughts exactly.  But it still needs to be looked at from a business point of view and not just a personal one.  Years ago I quit being open on Saturday because we had so many problems sourcing parts. I would like to say I don’t think I am loosing customers because of my choice of a 5 day week, but I am afraid I need to do some research into that statement to see if it really is true.  I am going to consider what NAPA brought up in the monthly packet, but I do  know I am not willing to work 6 days.  Heck, I really don’t want to work 5!
 

Phil White

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From: Scott Osborn

 I see it as a totally personal decision, two sides of the coin…..  I’ve opted to be open M-F only as I see the majority of people that ask me if we can work on it Saturday are the ones that are retired and somehow feel that Saturday is the day for a quick oil change.  I just think it gives me better employees and a more professional look.  That may be similar to not having a car in the bay’s, but when someone calls to see if I can fit them in, I always put them on hold for a few seconds and say “Let me check the workload to see if we can squeeze you in”.

The other side of the coin, which I have looked at long and hard is that you own the business and as the owner, dictate the rules.  You’re paying for that property and as an investment, it should not be sitting idle for 29% of the time (closed weekends).  You should not be concerned with what your employees think and desire, it is yours and yours to do with as you please.  You built it, maintain it, nurture it and feed it.  Why close it down and not be convenient for paying customers that would like to use it at any time?

I think what happened with me is that I realized in my unique situation that I would have a lack of “PAYING CUSTOMERS” during the weekend, and I’d be overloaded with doing the loss-leaders and hurry up oil changes.  I’ve tried real hard to wean my customers off of the idea of getting a quick service.  I try real hard to not get any waiters, and that’s what a Saturday would be for me.

Scott Osborn

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From: Jeff Odom

 
I was open on Saturdays and found that we did a poor job on Saturdays because of a small crew and allot of weekend mechanics looking for advise. We were able to do about half of our daily sales compared to a week day. The smaller crew on the make up day (Monday) lowered the sales for that day as well so it became almost a wash with being open 5 days a week. Unless you can fully staff and operate as if it were a regular day I don’t feel it’s worthwhile. And from the sounds of it your not committed enough to the idea to push hard for an additional day. Bottom line is I agree with the logic and would like to be open Saturdays, but until I feel confident that it will make money and not just be convenience for the customer, I’m not for it.
 These were all great comments and will probably find their way into the column I’ve started addressing this issue… By the way, I had no idea Vince and NAPA were ‘pushing’ it.

Jeff Odom
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Are you open on Saturday? Thinking about it? Share your comments below. 

Don’t worry, I have not erased your comments. I have made them part of the story.

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From: GEORGE LEATHAM

The phone starts about 11:30, “How do I fix…? All they want is the free advice. After 40 years of it I want saturday off for me and my crew.

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From: Forrest Wood
As a shop owner for the last 15 years and a tech at a shop that was open Saturdays at the beginning of my career for 10. I can say that if you would like to lose the quality techs you do have, then by all means open on Saturday, Additionally, in some cases being open might even hurt your bottom line when you take into consideration many of the jobs taken on Saturday usually just mess up a productive day on Monday, not to mention many of your regulars who would normally bring in their business m-f just might show up on Saturday expecting timely service that just cant always be delivered considering the parts sourcing problems on Saturday! Sure NAPA is already open and naturally they are looking to increase their bottom line ,but when was the last time NAPA had every part you were looking for on any day? Are those stores putting on the personnel to get your parts at the NAPA store 14 miles away that they didn’t have? Probably Not!  Just my 2 cents worth.
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From: Ray Behari
I own a small shop that is very profitable during the week. We have done away with service work on Saturdays. I feel that my employees consider it a drudgery to work on Saturdays, even if it is for overtime or a swing shift schedule. They like not having to plan there weekend around work. I agree it is my business and my rules but when employee moral effects the bottom line, it’s an obligation of mine to fix that. IE; no more Saturdays. Unhappy employees are not profitable employees. Besides, the bosses wife likes him being off on the weekends. Lord knows she can’t plan anything during the week. Thanks for the opportunity to relate.

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From: Robert Pepper

I am retired now after 40 years of working on cars / light trucks. I gave my ALL, working days, then going back to shop evenings for problem jobs, many times on MY own time at that. I looked forward to my time off, and that was with family on weekends. 2 places I worked for tried the Saturday thing, both not good, last one would stay open (bad news) as long as anyone walked in the door. Short handed on weekend is an over load for those there more so after a week of work.  I am happy to be retired from it all now. Now it’s my time OFF…..

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From: Rick Appelman/Ricks Tire & Auto Svc Inc
I’ve been the owner for 46 years, the first 25 years open six & sometimes seven days and nights. Business became more steady when I went to Monday thru Friday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm during the week. I struggled with Saturdays off at first like an addiction, driving by the shop & calling for messages for 6 months. Then I learned to relax & enjoy my time off like I deserved it after all my struggles, I sometimes think I am missing an opportunity to thrive  better financially but I’m rewarding myself for all my hard work. I need to recoup after 5 days now that I’m getting up there in years.
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From: Chuck Duricek
My hours for 25 years included Saturday. Over the years we shortened the hours from a full day to half day. For the last 10 years we have been a five-day shop, have increased profits & gross sales by offering a free loaner & other marketing options. It has worked well. Our productivity numbers are 92-95%. I have no reason to work on Saturdays. Enjoy your family & friend! We all know whatever dealers do most customers won’t go there. They hate service writer attitudes & the prices.
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From: Brianna

We are open Saturdays "by appointment" with just the owner and one part-time technician as staff. By doing it this way we can still accommodate our regular customers that either prefer Saturday or can only make it in on Saturday. Because there are no set hours, if they are finished early they can leave early, and if there are no appointments scheduled they get the day off (and conversely, if they have engagements or plans they can take no appointments that Saturday). We still get a few drop-ins or phone-ins but because our website and posted hours state that we are by-appointment they are fewer.
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From: Cliff Story
I tried Saturdays early in my career as a shop owner (27 years so far), but it was as many of you have observed: a high-effort, low-profit zoo.  When I became a husband, then a father, I realized that family time is priceless. I make a good enough living in five days, and I just don’t worry about my customers going to other shops that are open on Saturday.  Let ’em go!  I want the people I care about, the ones who have enough regard for me to come when I’m open.
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From: Scott Dreisbach
I’ve been in business since 1975 and was open half days on Saturday for about 30 years. Then after being closed for 3 days for Labor Day I decided to try closing Saturdays for good. I can’t believe I waited that long. It’s so nice to be off and have time to relax. The employees need a break from each other.
I used to be open 8 to 5 Monday thru Friday with ½-hour lunch breaks and 8-12 on Saturday. This made for a 46 1/2 hour work week. 6 1/2 hours was 1 1/2. I don’t know about most shops but the end of the day when trying to close up and get finished wasn’t all that productive. I decided that it wasn’t worth paying 1 1/2 for non-productive time and staying open on Saturdays was at best break even. If I was going to break even I might as well close.
As far as the dealers taking work from us on Saturday’s I believe most people don’t like dealerships. If your shop has a good reputation the good customers will wait to see you.
I think I actually make as much money or maybe more working only 40 hours a week as I did working 46 1/2 hours and have more sanity.
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From: Mark Bittinger
We were open Monday – Friday with an 8 til noon on Saturday for about 20 years.  Finally decided to give up the Saturday thing and have never looked back.  Mostly crap work on Saturdays, and like someone else stated, calls started at about 11:30 and they either wanted free information, or wanted to know if you could completely rebuild their car today.
I go in a couple of times a year on a Saturday and lock the doors to work on a problem vehicle, but that is it.  8 to 5, Monday through Friday is all I am gonna ever do, less if possible!! 😉
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From: Monroe Smith
Been in the auto repair business for 43 years & 5 years ago my employees started to complain aobut all the hours.  Went to 5 day week & everyone is happier & gee I didn’t really lose any customers.  Ever try to get in to see a doctor on Sat?  I consider myself a car doctor.
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From: Paul Zappardino

I have been working with my Dad full time since out of high school, back then in the early 70’s we were open 6 days a week. Saturdays at that time were very profitiable for us.we would work form 8-2 or 3! Some times during the summer we would be closed on Saturdays. Just after 2000 it really started to change, Saturdays were unpredictable and appointments were not kept and it became discouraging. form 04-05 I wasclosed on Saturdays BUT I felt give it time and things will improve, Saturdays can be a good nway to finish the week and make up for an off day, It can also help you set up repairs for the upcoming week. Lately I say 1 out of 4 saturdays will yield a good income BUT It is hit or miss in Baltimore. Most people don’t wake up on Saturdays till after 12 and after that parts and people can be a problem. If you line up a couple of jobs the day can be good but it is a coin toiss, i do not mind working on saturdays anyway, to me it is better than the alternative at home, I would not be able to relax anyway So I am there to make a living and take care of my customers, maybe when i get to 62 i will slow down but as of right now in this economy I will take what I can get.
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From: Steve Rennison

been in business for 18 years, was open Saturdays for about 10 years was tough decision but all we got where people that wanted something for nothing, missed appointments no parts and a tired owner, not worth the hassle. you take care of your customers they wont leave, we offer loaner car and rides, I say take 2 days off, everyone happy.

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From: John Lamb
Most surveys say #1 reason to choose a NEW shop is convenience. This is not necessarily the #1 reason to STAY with a shop. Yes, we get a lot of new customers on Sat with "what do you think this could be?", but that gives us a chance to develop a relationship that will keep them coming back during the week. Once that relationship is established, you can schedule them during the week for the serious stuff. Over 30 years I have been open 7, then 6, then 5, then 5 1/2 days a week (my staff dragged me kicking and screaming back into the 1/2 day Sat).  Reopening 1/2days Sat improved our bottom line, not necessarily from the Sat work, but from the weekday work scheduled on Saturdays. We rotate Saturdays to at least have a full 2 days every other weekend.  Much as I would like to rationalize Saturdays off, it is hard to ignore the economics and the relationships built on Saturdays.
 

 

 

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