At first I wasn’t going to write about this and chalk it up to ‘live and learn’ but it’s eating at me.. Let’s start by thinking of the some 5,000+ (who was counting) commercials, copy for billboards, TV ads, websites and on and on marketing pieces I’ve written that successfully produced positive results for clients. Over all these years and all those clients many times they’d say: “put in that I do Free Estimates” and I’d usually say, “sure, I can but here in (fill-in-the-blank) 19__ or later 20__ people expect an estimate not to cost anything, you’re wasting space/time. They’d shrug, realize I had a point and we’d move on. Their commercials would air, their businesses grew. All Good.

The 92.9 Lake’s station vehicle is a Hyundai Santa Fe, recently the gasoline door stopped staying closed. As operations manager for the entire group of Lake Charles radio stations it falls to me to get an estimate on fixing the door. Our regular mechanic told me that repair was a body shop item. This morning I looked up body shops in Lake Charles and drove over to one. They had a nice website and a nice clean, organized looking facility when I pulled in.

Walked inside, greeted the lady and said I needed an estimate. “What insurance is covering it?” she said. “None, we’ll pay cash for the repair”. “In that case… go get two other estimates and bring them in and we’ll beat them!” She said enthusiastically. I smiled: “I appreciate that competitive spirit ma’am and applaud it, but it’s a very minor issue and I’m not up to spending a lot of Friday morning time on this so, if you’d please just have someone look, that’d be fine.”

I’ve been piddling with lawn mowers, electric motors, hot rods, appliances and mechanical items in general my entire life. I already knew the part needed was around $60, and the labor to install it shouldn’t have amounted to more than another $50 or so in my mind. That’s when she said: “Well, it’ll be $100 for the estimate.”

I was quiet for a long moment. It was one of those long awkward moments where I was watching her face for her to break out into a smile/laugh letting me know she was just BS’ing. Finally, I said: “$100 just to look at it?” “Yes”.
I gave her a friendly, ‘well, I’ll think about it and maybe come back.” I left.

What to do? That fuel door hanging open a little bit just makes me crazy to look at it. Are PAID estimates a Lake Charles thing? My father was born here, I have family all over this place… I’ve lived and worked here a couple times already –but I’m from SE Texas where all estimates are always free.

I used to live in Moss Bluff around the turn of the century – So I drove up there to a body shop that did a little work for me around 2002.. .yep it’s still there. Walked in, asked for an estimate and Mr. Richard Dyson, Estimator, grabbed his clipboard and got to lookin’.

In less than 10 minutes I was given a piece of paper and the 92.9 The Lake vehicles fuel door repair estimate is for exactly: $105.23 completely installed including “tax, title and drive out!”

I have to ask: are there other industries in the Lake area that will charge for estimates? That’s a new thing for me, so warn me if you will – I would never pay someone to tell me what they’ll charge me to fix something. Never.

Guess who will get the job to repair the fuel door. Free Estimates.