Home arrow Technical Articles arrow Hot Air 29/03/2004 (Is The Customer Always Right?)
Hot Air 29/03/2004 (Is The Customer Always Right?) PDF Print E-mail
For some extra pocket money I worked Friday afternoons & Saturday mornings (long ago) at a  motorcycle shop in Primrose for the late, great Enrico Gasparini (a wonderful man missed to this day), where I got hooked on motorcycles and bike tuning.

I had just started there one Friday afternoon when a customer came in with his son to collect his son’s Honda SS 50V. At receiving the bill, the customer promptly began a provocative rendition of verbal abuse about Chico’s shop, his mother and his violent future, to which Chico replied by physically picking up the SS 50V and hurling it at the “fat pig of a customer”, and unceremoniously informing him of the immediate direction to depart.  (This was no mean feat.  You could measure the adrenaline pumping in liters per second.  I was nineteen years old with a strong back and try as I might, I could not single-handedly pick up a SS 50V or any other 50 CC off the ground.)  The customer is always right??

Okay, I have on more than one occasion wished I could pick up and hurl a car and customer out the shop, but restraint is important when dealing with the paying public ……….

Owning an exhaust fitment shop also has its interesting moments.  We meet a range of diverse characters in dealing with the public and some stand out prominently in my memory as colourful or charismatic or enigmatic or just plain interesting people to talk to.  Most of them have one thing in common.  They lack knowledge about what they are about to purchase, i.e. branches, free-flow exhaust systems etc.

This is definitely so in the case of most phone calls received making enquiries about systems and branches for specific cars.

These customers need to be informed not necessarily just about technical aspects of the items in question but also about the different options available for their car’s exhaust.

An often-asked question has to do with header and silencer system diameters.   Sometimes it becomes difficult, and almost argumentative when the customer cannot accept for example that with regards to pipe diameter on headers or exhaust system, bigger is not always better, even though the exhaust shop down the road’s recommendation says so.  The fact of the matter is that more often than not, there are two or three different options available relating to branch manifolds and silencer systems for the same car.

A typical example is the Golf MK I, which is very popular in terms of performance enhancement mods.
What the customer does not know is that there are different branches available off the shelf to complement the different degrees of modifications made to the Golf motor.  The extent of the mods, for street or race, will determine the type of branch and the diameter of the silencer system used to obtain the engine’s potential horsepower target.

The most popular, though is the “branch and system” for the stock engine set-up which is readily available at most reputable exhaust centers for most popular makes of car and this is the typical “branch and system” which causes controversy.

The reason for this is the variation in price, which can vary from around R1200.00 in mild steel, to an extreme of over R4000.00 for the “same” set-up in stainless steel.

The cheapie is exactly that, a cheapie.  Unfortunately, like most things, you get what you pay for.  The customer is
Not aware that the two packages are not at all equal in quality, and workmanship.  Besides, the cheapie probably has incorrect sizing and formatting on the branch manifold which was probably slapped together in the back of the shop;  incorrect diameter exhaust piping, incorrect silencer application regarding shape and volume, type, location and combination;  not to mention unsightly overlap joints, crevices and moisture traps caused by bad welding, joining and bending.

So, when a potential customer says that he can get the same “branch and system” for half the price, this is definitely a case of “The customer in not always right.”

On the other hand to pay over R4000.00 for such a system seems like a rip-off to me!  To pay a reasonable price is not a question of affordability, because, in the end, the customer who was suckered into buying  the cheapie will ultimately fork out more money to buy the right system if he is really interested in the potential gains in power.  In any case, the package “branch and system” is available in separate sections, which can be bought and installed separately, dividing the cost up into affordable separate amounts.

To make it even more affordable, if the customer can swing a spanner, he can purchase the branch for his car separately and install it himself, saving installation costs.  He may even be able to obtain a discount for the branch manifold sold over the counter.  The top brands of branch manifolds are available from most reputable exhaust fitment centers, which are spread countrywide.  There ought to be one close to you.

Once again the comment was made, over a Saturday afternoon braai about the question of additional subject matter to write about relating to exhausts (by my daughter, nogal).

There is a lifetime of information about exhausts to write about.  The following (not necessarily in order) is a list relating to some Hot-Air articles appearing in the future:

  • Diesels don’t respond to free-flow systems!
  • Diesels don’t respond to branch manifolds!
  • Stainless steel systems overheat and make less power!
  • Stainless steel systems rust from the inside!
  • Pulse tuned branches on supercharged motors!
  • Why don’t cars come out with branches & free-flow systems?
  • Stainless steel systems result in higher fuel consumption.

Other subject matter
  • Anti-reversion headers
  • How much increase in power can be expected by:
                 -  Branch manifolds
                 -  Silencer systems
  • How much improvement in consumption can be expected by a “branch & system”
  • Turbo branch manifolds
  • Turbo exhaust systems
  • Different types of exhaust systems, single, split, dual, turbo, etc.
  • Corrosion problems
  • Rotary engine exhaust systems
  • Stepped header system
  • Different metals used for exhausts e.g. Mild steel, /stainless 409, 304, inconcl, titanium, etc.
  • Catalytic Converters
  • Variable back-pressure exhausts
  • Exhaust header insulation and coatings

Please e-mail any special requests regarding hitherto unprinted matter for special mention

That’s all for now!
Abel dos Santos
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