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Low Price or Low Cost?

Was it really cheaper?

My son wanted some additional lighting for his vehicle for his birthday. The lights weren't cheap, but the installation cost was the real shocker. So being me, I knew I could save some money by installing the lights on my own.

I figured on the installation taking me four hours so I started early Saturday morning. I ran into a little detour when some wires were not clearly labeled. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Wiring was therefore not connected properly and I melted an entire string of wires behind the car's dash and into the engine compartment.

The four hours quickly turned to eight as I had to trace out the damage and replace the burnt wires. I also had to make extra trips to the auto supply store for additional fuses and adaptors that I didn’t anticipate needing. Not to mention the fifty internet searches to find wiring schematics and advice on how to figure out the proper way to connect the lights.

Late Saturday evening, I called it quits with my son’s car still in a thousand pieces scattered around the vehicle. My wife walked through the garage and looked at me, wondering if I knew what the heck I was doing. Thankfully my shirt was soaked with sweat, and my hands and face black with dirt while working in a very hot garage.  That provided me some criticism protection ... for the moment.

Come early Sunday morning, I figured four or five more hours and I have this project licked. Nine hours later, my wife came out to the garage to say dinner was close to being ready. My son and I finally finished the installation and it all looked great, but I didn't eat dinner with the family that day. In fact, I didn't eat until 10:30 that night!

23 hours of labor, numerous tools and parts purchased, a weekend shot to pieces and you know what? The original installation price for those lights looked darn cheap.

Frequently PBI contracts with new clients who were making their buying decisions based on what they thought was a low price strategy. PBI is always a mid-priced option in the marketplace but we are frequently called in to correct work or take over accounts performed by an “inexpensive competitor.”

We all do it from time to time (see above) and we also know the outcome when making a buying decision based on price alone. Everyone wants a low price but the more complicated the task, the less we can rely on a low price equating to a positive outcome. In fact a low price for a project with complexity is typically a red flag for what’s to come.

Any business can easily give a cheap price, and in my industry bad service quickly follows. If you want to become a Google guru, eat dinner at bedtime and squander entire weekends, make your buying decisions based on a low price strategy.  Then you'll really learn the difference between price and cost.


Michael E. Popowski is President of PBI Restorations.  Reach him at