Dear Tom and Ray: A friend of mine was in Germany, where they have garage bays that you can rent out and do some work on your car yourself. This seems like a great idea. Can you provide me with information on why these do not exist in America? What are the unforeseen obstacles to starting up such a business?
Ray: Well, the first obstacle is that you can't make any money at it. At least we couldn't.
Tom: We came up with this same exact idea back around 1973. We opened a place called "Hackers Haven," where people could rent our bays and our tools and fix their own cars.
Ray: We figured it was a "can't miss" idea. We saw ourselves standing around in white lab coats and collecting the money, while people lay under their own cars and banged their own heads on transmission housings.
Tom: But, alas, it didn't work out that way. You see, most people needed help. They would call us over and ask us questions. And before we knew it, we were helping them fix their cars. And then they were standing around in white lab coats and we were banging our heads on their transmissions.
Ray: So after a couple of years of that, we decided that if we were going to fix the cars anyway, we might as well charge money for it. And we turned the place into a regular old repair shop.
Tom: And, to tell you the truth, I think it would be even harder nowadays to make such a concept work. First of all, cars have gotten a lot more complicated in the past 30 years. A guy used to be able to come in and do his own brake job if he knew a thing or two. But nobody's going to come in today and fix his own ABS.
Ray: Moreover, with people getting sued for serving hot coffee these days, the insurance costs would absolutely croak you. Can you imagine? You call up Frank, your insurance agent, and ask how much your coverage would be. He asks you, "What kind of dangers are your customers going to be exposed to?"
Tom: And you say, "Oh, nothing serious, Frank . . . cars falling off lifts onto their heads, batteries exploding in their faces, hot oil pouring down their arms . . . oh, and occasional asphyxiation from carbon monoxide. Hello? Frank??"
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