I have been noticing a recent phenomenon at Smog ‘n Go. We have five vehicles (yet, because we’re bad at car math, only four current drivers), so I spend my fair share of time at Smog ‘n Go.
For those of you non-Californians, Smog ‘n Go is where we are required to visit to have our gasoline-powered cars blessed every year to be allowed to operate them in the Golden State. If one of our vehicles fails our state’s emissions standards – the strictest in the nation – we are legally required to sell it to someone in Nevada, where it will be revered as the cleanest running automobile in the state.
Anyway, I have been noticing a severe rate increase for Smog ‘n Go’s services.
Now, let me be clear. The price I pay for each vehicle hasn’t increased in years. There is obviously a state price cap on how much they are allowed to charge. But the rate has skyrocketed.
I think Tesla has scared them. Or maybe it was the Nissan Leaf. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, my. Now that we’ve all had a good laugh… I think Tesla has scared them.
Now, this is a strange customer complaint, for sure, but hear me out. Years ago, when I would take my car to Smog n’ Go, they would check me in and then say, “OK, go ahead and have a seat. We should have it finished in about twenty minutes or so.”
The work usually took anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes, and I was on my way. (Except for the time my old Jeep Grand Wagoneer failed the smog test and I had to drive it to the liquor store and buy a flask of Everclear to pour in the tank, and then get it re-tested for the passing grade. That took a little longer, but we don’t ever, ever mention that to the authorities. Ever.)
The $60 that Smog ‘n Go charges, while annoying, still at least seemed like a reasonable hourly rate for an automotive service, even though you never wanted or needed the service.
The last four times I have been there, however, the entire process has taken no more than ten minutes max. On my visit last week with our Suburban, from pulling up to the building to getting back in the car to leave, was no more than four minutes. I am not making that up.
They still charged me $60.
Now, I am a big proponent of businesses getting more efficient in their operations, but this is ridiculous. I mean, I checked in at the desk, and I checked out and paid inside of that four minutes. That means, maximum, they “worked” on my car for two minutes.
Sixty dollars for two minutes of work equates to a rate of $2000/hour. Now, this business has either gone completely off the rails, or they are absolute geniuses.
“OK, ladies and gentlemen, we have a huge problem. Our business model relies on people driving gasoline-powered cars, but lots of people aren’t doing that anymore. Plus, California just said that in a few years it would actually be illegal to sell someone a gasoline-powered car in the state, even though that is completely unconstitutional. What should we do?”
“Elect reasonable people into office? Move?”
“I mean what should we do about our business here in California, Jenkins. Keep up with the conversation.”
“Why don’t we just charge more?"
“Stop being an idiot, Jenkins. We aren’t allowed to do that.”
“What if we just work less?”
“Interesting, Johnson. Explain.”
“Well, sir, if we’re losing customers without the hope of getting more, and we can’t charge more for our services, then we could just do less, but charge the same rate, therefore increasing our hourly rate dramatically and making the company billions of dollars.”
“I like where you’re headed, Johnson. But, how would it work?”
“Well, sir, instead of actually measuring emissions and running the vehicle through a series of tests like we do now, we could just pop the hood, wheel a computer up next to the car, note that the car does, in fact, have an engine, then close the hood. The car wouldn’t really even have to be running. We push the PASS button and call it a day. The whole thing probably wouldn’t take more than two minutes. We’d be making about $2000/hour and living the good life, sir.”
“I could finally get that third house in the Caymans. Johnson, you’re a genius! Jenkins, you’re fired. Johnson is taking your office. Let’s celebrate.”
You, know, come to think of it, this isn’t a complaint at all. Now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, as an owner of gasoline-powered vehicles, I’m actually really happy about this new company direction at Smog ‘n Go.
Carry on, smog check professionals. I’ll see you in a few months.
For about three minutes.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen
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