How A Few Minutes With A Screwdriver Saved Me $139

We don’t begrudge Sears Repair–or, indeed, any business–a healthy markup on items that they sell. That’s how capitalism works, and capitalism is awesome. But Matthew must have felt insulted when the part his dishwasher needed showed up on his doorstep ahead of a return visit from the repairman. The part needed only a few screws to install…and, making things worse, was available $50 cheaper, for only $121, on Sears’ own website. It’s even cheaper elsewhere.

Had a problem with the dishwasher, and scheduled an appointment for Sears to come check it out. The tech that showed up was not actually a Sears employee, but rather a 3rd party. He asked me what the problem was, then said that I needed a $171 part (a soap dispenser) without as much as looking at the dishwasher. Being that I’m not mechanically inclined I agreed to the charges, which also included $139 worth of labor.

Sears ships the part directly to your home, and not the repair company. I opened the box to discover that the part was incredibly simple. After 10 screws and about 10 minutes the part was installed and working. Sensing I had just been ripped off, I Googled the part # and discovered that the same part was $50 less on sears.com! I asked for them to match the price, and the simply would not do it. The rep stated that their repair services always charge more for parts than their own website… Even more frustrating is that the same part is about $85 online.

The take-home lesson here: even people who aren’t all that mechanically inclined can operate a screwdriver and save themselves $139. Know your limitations, but fixing things yourself isn’t just frugal–it’s empowering.

Comments

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  1. scoutermac says:

    Last time I tried to order something from searspartsdirect.com they wanted to charge like $15 for shipping alone.

    • Jawaka says:

      Meh

      The customer didn’t know what was wrong with the washer so she hired someone to fix it for her. The technician who came quoted her a price THAT SHE AGREED TO. Yes, she may have been able to replace the part herself but she wouldn’t have even known what part to replace if it weren’t for the tech. And yes, service repair people add a surcharge on parts. They all do.

      • shufflemoomin says:

        Why do you keep saying “her” and “she”? HIS name is Matthew. It’s right up there ^

  2. chefboyardee says:

    You can learn how to fix just about anything on repairclinic.com or youtube.com. Repairclinic is AWESOME, they will actually walk you through it and tell you what parts you need. I had a 20-email back and forth with them and fixed my dishwasher myself (had never even touched a dishwasher screw before) and my repair consisted of replacing the entire logic board. This weekend, I used youtube to learn how to fix my gas lawn mower, saved myself the $250 to replace it by replacing 3 parts worth about $20 total (only took 2 hours of my time).

    tl;dr: always look online for a fix before wasting money on a repairman.

    • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

      Never heard of this repairclinic.com before. Anyone else using this site.

      How’s it work? You pay for the part and they provide free instructions? Is it a subscription service?

      • donjumpsuit says:

        Awesome site. I got a part that senses how fast my drum is moving in my washing machine. It was $12 and included shipping. Several users had posted comments about the best way to remove it and install it. I probably saved about $150-$200 on the repair. It took 5 minutes to install. I got tips on what was going wrong via the internet and Fixya.com. A few moments googling something can really save a bundle. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work. I guess I wouldn’t suggest spending hundreds on an electronic replacement part that you can’t return, but under $20 and some elbow grease is well worth it.

      • twerp says:

        Use them & love them. They have videos online or PDFs of how to’s. For example, my washing machine quit agitating. After googling, I found the probably cause, ordered the part for $13 and my son repaired it. I probably saved $200 or so since it involved taking apart the machine to get to the motor.
        In fact, I even got an extra part ‘just in case’ and they accept returns.

    • davegins says:

      This company’s retail location / warehouse is on my way home from work. They are the best! Their website helped me diagnose the blown fuse in my clothes dryer. Then they confirmed with me on the phone and had the replacement fuse waiting for me at the counter. Saved a huge amount of money on the part and avoiding a service call. I also used their online manuals to take apart my microwave and superglue a broken piece. They helped me over email with that project and didn’t even make a sale from the effort. Their magnet is now on my fridge for emergencies!

    • Geekybiker says:

      Google has shown me how to fix a great many things. Chances are someone out there has had the same problem you do, solved it, and maybe even posted a how to. I never call a repairman before goggling unless it is an emergency.

  3. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    We don’t begrudge Sears Repair‚Äîor, indeed, any business‚Äîa healthy markup on items that they sell. That’s how capitalism works, and capitalism is awesome.

    Some writer got their blog sites mixed up. Please remove this post and repost on the correct site.

    • Audiyoda28 says:

      WTH??!??

      Funny how we have come to this consensus that paying for something is wrong. Why shouldn’t the repair service include margin for the part they are installing? Why shouldn’t they charge for the labor to install that part? If the OP had done a bit of research maybe he could have diagnosed the problem and ordered the part himself. But he entered into a verbal agreement with a repair company to do it. And then the OP reneged on that agreement.

      I repair computers for friends – I don’t charge them for parts – I tell them where to buy them but I install them. But I do charge a nominal fee for my time – and every time I get complaints. Well I’d done some work for a friend who owns a HVAC company a year or so ago. I called him up and asked him if he could re-charge my central AC for the coming summer. When he gave me the bill I asked him if I could just send him a check – he was fine with that. The check I sent was for the coolant only – I didn’t pay for the labor (since he didn’t pay me for my time/labor when I fixed his company computers). He was rather upset – too bad I said – call it even based on the three hours I spend ridding his computers of malware and viruses because he refuses to reign in his employees and their browsing habits.

      People seem to want the sun, moon, and sky but are only willing to pay for the dust under their own feet.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        The retail cost of the part already has “margin” factored in.

        Paying a trained specialist for their labor is fine if you really need it. Otherwise there really is no need to be helpless.

        Besides, you always need to be able to supervise any professional work being done lest you get taken advantage of. An ignorant consumer is bound to be fleeced. This is especially true given the current climate of “companies should screw everyone but the stockholders”.

  4. Extended-Warranty says:

    Breaking! – Parts online are cheaper. Said parts can also be installed by yourself. News at 11!

  5. Alan says:

    With the internet today, one of the most important skills a person can have is not being able to do something, but knowing how to find out to do something.

    I am in the process of finishing my basement. Someone from work asked me how I knew how to do that… Lots of time on youtube and some basic common sense.

    • Dave B. says:

      “some basic common sense”

      That’s the missing ingredient in most people today.

      • deathbecomesme says:

        Amen! I had a customer call us (ISP Tech Support) and asked us for a credit after he alarm company came out and disconnected some of her phone wires on the box outside. Our technician figured the issue out and fixed it free of charge (even though in most cases they would/should have charged her). She had the gall to call and ask for a credit for the down time she experienced **due to her alarm company fudging it up***.

  6. techstar25 says:

    Dishwashers, washers, and dryers are some of the simplest machines in your home. If you can change the oil on your car, then you can probably replace any part on those three appliances. The hardest part is determining which part needs replacing, but Google can help you troubleshoot, and you can usually narrow it down to a couple of things.

    • Robert Nagel says:

      You apparently haven’t seen the new ones.

      • barty says:

        They’re still incredibly modular. Troubleshooting is usually the biggest task on fixing most major appliances. I will agree that on some newer appliances they’ve made it an absolute nightmare trying to take something apart because of all of the clever trim pieces that have to be removed just to get at two screws, but swapping the parts once it is apart is usually pretty easy.

  7. valkyrievf2x says:

    Why ask them to price match? I mean, if the op had the common sense to google the part AFTER the transaction, why not do it BEFORE the transaction and arm himself with the knowledge about the part’s cost? Or at least getting a second estimate. He was about to spend over $300 on a repair–easily the cost of a NEW dishwasher. I would have like a second opinion before plunking that kinda of $$ for the machine. Kudos on installing it himself, though!! A lot of times, these repairs are much easier than they seem :o)

    • Not Given says:

      Because he didn’t know which part to Google

      • valkyrievf2x says:

        Ok, true. However, I would have thought he’d get a 2nd opinion. That is a very high repair bill for something that seems like a somewhat trivial part (yes, I know we need soap in there, but isn’t as high priority as say the motor or the waterlines). I would think that kinda bill would set off some alerts…

      • bbf says:

        +1 Yep, the OP didn’t know what was wrong with the Dishwasher, called in a professional to troubleshoot, agreed on a price… then decided that he could have gotten the part cheaper himself *AFTER* the part had been identified by the service person. The expertise in diagnosing the problem is worth $$$.

        I don’t like it when I have to *pay* for labor and pay MSRP for parts that get installed… but them the brakes when you agree to the estimate.

    • kent909 says:

      Make arrangements to return the more expensive part. When you get the RMA buy the cheaper part and send that one back.

    • az123 says:

      One would need to understand the cost of the dishwasher the OP had to decide of the money was well spent. Replacing a high end $1K+ dishwasher with the cheapest $300 thing you can get does not exactly make sense

  8. DJSeanMac says:

    Having worked in a service tech office, I can vouch that mark-up on items in this range routinely were quoted as “(cost + tax) x 2″ with the rationale that the company had to supply warranty labor in the event something went wrong after the repair.

    Tip for today: since it’s heating up way early this Spring, save yourself some agony and set an alert on your phone that will remind you to change your air filters regularly. If you can’t afford a spring cleaning for your A/C unit, go out and make sure no pine straw, leaves, or bushes are blocking air flow. Clean up any debris on or in the machine. Take a look under the house (or in the attic) to make sure no ductwork has fallen, disconnected, or been chewed through by critters. And make sure your vents and returns are not blocked by furniture in the house ;)

  9. xanxer says:

    iFixit.com, very useful site.

  10. Hi_Hello says:

    you are not ripped off. you paid for their knowledge.
    That 10 min job you did, the person probably can do it in a min.

    “without as much as looking at the dishwasher. Being that I’m not mechanically inclined I agreed to the charges, which also included $139 worth of labor. “

  11. anime_runs_my_life says:

    The $139 is probably their standard rate, and most repair places I’ve encountered usually bill by the hour, even if it only takes 10 minutes to do a simple repair. Chefboyardee mentioned repairclinic.com and I can’t even begin to count the number of items I’ve fixed on my own or had the husband help me with that saved us money. All it took was a Saturday or one of his days off to do. I’m sure we’ve saved a lot of money because of that site.

  12. SpamFighterLoy says:
  13. sufreak says:

    I’ve found that websites like doityourself.com and a bit of shopping can help even the most home repair incapable.

    I was able to get a brand new ice maker door assembly, and install it, while taking apart the dispenser part of the door. It took me a bit longer, a little trial and error, but saved me what could have been hundreds in repairmain costs.

  14. drtrmiller says:

    Cancel the appointment, purchase the part for $85 elsewhere, and then demand that Sears accept a return of the part (the $85 one, if it is identical–if not, swap the packaging) for the full amount you paid.

    All you have to tell them is that the dishwasher now works and no longer needs repair.

  15. pgr says:

    Appliance repair is the biggest rip off there is!
    You can buy any part online now for next to nothing as compared to what they charge and get free instructions to boot

  16. Murph1908 says:

    You weren’t ripped off. Repair places for all kinds of items add to the price of the parts. This is part of their profit margin, as well as off-setting costs for shipping, storage, and other costs, of parts management,

    The cost of the labor isn’t just the 10 minutes it costs to screw in the part, it’s the travel time, gas, truck maintenance, insurance, and every other cost associated with running a business like advertising, shop rent, taxes, government fees, etc.

    In fact, I’d say you ripped them off. You had a guy come out, tell you what the problem was, and then fixed it yourself. You are also paying them for their expertise, which you took and didn’t pay for.

    Good on you for being able to do it on your own. Bad on you for claiming to be the victim. Don’t be surprised to see a bill from the shop for the original diagnostic call-out.

  17. donjumpsuit says:

    For everyone …

    fixya.com

    There, I saved you hundreds.

  18. Murph1908 says:

    The internet saves me more money than it costs me some months.

    A couple of years ago, the ice machine in our fridge died. Saved me at least $100 diagnosing that it was the ice maker and not a pump or something else, finding the part and replacing it using instructions online.

    When we first bought the house, one phone jack didn’t work. A little online research told me what I needed to know, and I fixed it from the junction box.

    Both pretty simple things, granted, but those are just some simple examples. I am considering reshingling the roof on my own next.

  19. Traveller says:

    I have ordered from http://www.appliancepartspros.com more than once. They have wonderful exploded views of all the parts.

    Great prices too. I had a piece fall out of our dishwasher and looking at the parts blowout knew which one to order and how to install it.

    It isn’t always that simple. You do have to have a certain amount of mechanical prowess to pull it apart, diagnose the problem, and then install.

    Sometimes you get lucky though. I tore apart our washing machine to get to a sticky latch part that was throwing an error, figuring I needed to pull it out to get the part number etc., turned out a little wiggling and some wd-40 and it started working again.

  20. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Old car repair joke. Person pulls into a gas station with a car running rough. Mechanic takes one look, pulls out a screwdriver and fixes it in 1 minute. The charge, $25. The customer becomes irate, ranting and screaming. Mechanic explains, $.05 to turn the screw, $24.95 for the years of training, education and trial and error experience to know which screw to turn and how much.

    The repair person depended on their years of experience to diagnose the problem. They then ordered the part, prepaying for it. Then budgeted 1 hour of their time to install. Yes, it only took 10 minutes, but unless they live next door, you need to include travel time and time for paperwork.

    That being said, I have repaired many appliances over the years, both before and after google came on the scene. Dishwashers, washers and dryers, even stoves. But without proper diagnostic skills, you may wind up with a switch you installed that you can’t return when the motor is burnt out.

    Yes, many are repairable. Just don’t discount the knowledge base that repair people have mentally built up over the years.

  21. ChuckECheese says:

    This is an example of one of the distortions of the economy – the one caused by imperfect/unequal knowledge. The repair person doesn’t have special skills; s/he has special knowledge that used to be difficult to obtain due to a deliberate restriction of access to knowledge about appliance repair details, knowledge that is easy for most anyone to acquire these days. The repair person uses this disparity in knowledge to fleece people, charging more for an hour’s effort than I make in a half-day.

    • MaytagRepairman says:

      Not to mention access to replacement parts. Before the internet, most of us would have no clue as to where to go to get the replacement parts without going through the repair person unless you live in a large urban area with an appliance parts store or a mom-n-pop appliance store who would charge you a hefty markup anyway.

      There are still some items like that today even with the internet. For example, I have an Avalon wood stove. Avalon has a territory deal with their retailers. I can’t order replacement parts from an Avalon retailer outside my territory. I’m stuck going through my local dealer and paying whatever they charge.

      The “being fleeced” line is somewhat hazy. Mechanics/repair people, etc. are trying to make a living that typically provides inconsistent income with few (if any) benefits.

    • balderdashed says:

      Your point about a disparity in knowledge and its economic repercussions is a valid one. But how that translates into somebody being “fleeced” is a mystery, as is why you apparently think what you make in a half-day should have anything to do with the market price of anyone else’s labor. The repair person’s skills and knowledge are both economic assets that will be — and should be — valued and compensated in the marketplace.

    • kobresia says:

      “The repair person uses this disparity in knowledge to fleece people, charging more for an hour’s effort than I make in a half-day.”

      There are some pretty stupid things said in this discussion, but I’m sorry, that’s about the most stupid of them.

      Not only is Balderdashed spot-on in observing that what you make is not relevant, but maybe it’s even anti-relevant.

      When you summon an appliance repair guy in a van, you’re paying for a share of the repairman’s compensation, the advertising costs, the lease on the main office, the salaries of the staffers that don’t go out in the van but keep the business running, the cost of purchasing, outfitting, & maintaining the van, AND the time the van and repairman sit idle when there’s not a repair to do right that moment, because the business doesn’t phase into existence only when you need something and phase out when there isn’t work to be done.

      I think you’d find that if your employer was to hire you out, the rate would be easily 4x what your salary is, because all those costs have to be factored-in. And no, that would not be taking advantage of you as you’d probably assume, because your employer has a mountain of operating costs too, of which your salary is probably one of the least.

  22. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    This is all well and good, but let’s not forget what you are really paying for is knowing which part(s) to replace. It is the knowledge we pay for. This is a common misconception.

    Oddly not unlike the belief that just because you pay for a university or college education you are entitled to the granting of a degree (and graduation). You only pay for access to the educational environment where you have the opportunity to learn and prove your worthiness for the granting of a degree (no matter how much money Daddy threw at the school).

    • ChuckECheese says:

      It’s not really knowledge in the sense that it takes a long or difficult time to acquire. And appliance repair isn’t a complex skill set either. It’s that access to the knowledge and to the replacement parts is deliberately and artificially restricted so that various middlemen and repairpeople can charge huge $$.

  23. Starfury says:

    Sears doesn’t make the appliances, they’re rebranded Whirlpool or other names. My fridge filters from Sears would be about $55 each…I can get generics on Amazon for $30.

  24. Autoexec.bat says:

    Got quoted $512 for a capacitor replacement for my A/C. After some YouTube training sessions, I did it myself in 12 minutes for $29.

  25. Buckus says:

    I have to disagree that the poster was being ripped off. You pay for the service person’s knowledge and skills. If you happen to have those same skills, good for you. I’ve never paid for computer repair, but I wouldn’t stop anyone else from paying for it if they don’t know what to look for.

    As far as markup, you can take it or leave it. If you think the part is too expensive, buy it yourself and have the repairman come and install it for you.

    I once repaired my own dishwasher, as well. But I did pay the serviceman a $50 call-out fee to diagnose it, which was more than worth it. I purchased and installed the part myself and saved about $150.

  26. wrbwrx says:

    what is the knowledge of the repair tech worth? OP did not know what part was needed and would not have ordered it without the techs’ knowledge.

  27. Mr.DuckSauce says:

    This guy should learn from Ron Swanson about sense of pride and accomplishment.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVLGRfMjsUM

  28. balderdashed says:

    You agree to a price. Sears charges you that price. The product they provide for that price is not defective in any way, and after installing that product, your dishwasher is working fine. How are you being ripped off? I have no love for Sears, and they’ve justifiably been sued a number of times for deceptive and illegal practices. But in this case, Sears is being ethical and reasonable, and your whining is inappropriate. Suppose you decided to sell your dishwasher via Craig’s list, or whatever. You ask $100, a customer agrees to your price, then shows up some time later demanding a refund, because he’s just learned he could have bought the same dishwasher cheaper from somebody else. You might think this guy is a jerk. You’d be right.

  29. larissa_j says:

    Unless it involves gas, I replace parts myself. I’m still not okay with fixing certain parts of my gas stove.

  30. Beauzeaux says:

    A few minutes online and I was able to quickly fix my leaking freezer. (No parts needed.) I’m 70 years old and not all that mechanical, but I refuse to call in a repair person if it isn’ t necessary. (Almost all simple household repairs are detailed on line.)