Early on, I wasn’t working with a lot of money, nor with a known reputation. Sure, I had a reputation from repairing studio gear, but that doesn’t translate over into what I was trying to do in this business. What gave me my competitive edge early on were my parts vendors.
Many legitimate repair shops have no vendor relationships.
Take advantage of this.
It was helpful when I realized early on that “legitimate” competition had no supply chain. During my exit-interview with my customers(which, btw, you should always conduct, more on this in the future), I heard my competitor’s failings over and over again. “I was going to use XYZ repair, but they didn’t have the part in stock.” Or, “I was going to use PLM computers but when they got the part in it was bad and I couldn’t wait anymore.”
Instant service creates legitimacy in the mind of your customer.
If you can offer service in 20 minutes in front of a customer, you are legitimate. Forget about the fact that you work out of a park instead of a store, forget that your idea of a receptionist is your bluetooth headset, forget about having a nice location. All those things make the other guy’s operation seem more legitimate. However, if you can do in 20 minutes what would take them a week – you’ll always win.
I based my business around the shortcomings of my “more legitimate” competition. I didn’t have a client base or a name built for myself, so I had to be better. One of the ways I created legitimacy for myself was through my parts vendors. I always had a proper supply chain. I knew my vendors, and they knew me. I kept quality stock and they cut me deals for being a regular. When something went wrong, I was always able to receive swift replacements.
Fair pricing makes you competitive.
Utilizing a good supply chain allowed me to purchase parts for standard prices, instead of the ripoff rates offered by eBay.
If we can purchase a part for $97 that costs $250 everywhere else, that puts us at a distinct advantage. We can offer a service for $275 and make $178, whereas others would have to offer the service at much higher prices, cutting them out of the loop. Or, they can come down to our price, and cut their own throats with a lack of profits.
The additional profits we netted as a result of utilizing proper supply chains was funneled back into the business, and the high volume of customers we gained as a result of offering fair pricing allowed me to grow my client base exponentially.
eBay is for people who cannot develop vendor relationships.
Talking to vendors requires work. You have to find them, which takes time. You have to find one that caters to what you’re looking for, and to find that; you have to know what you are looking for. What you value in a vendor. Then, you have to get them to care about you and your success. This is hard.
So, what do many repair shops do? They keep the training wheels on, and use eBay. This puts you at a significant advantage.
You can’t expect an eBay or Amazon vendor to care when something goes wrong.
You can’t expect overnighted RMAs or advance RMAs from eBay & Amazon vendors when you are just an order #.
When you order off of eBay or Amazon, you are $3 of profit. You are not a returning customer. You are not a business opportunity. You are not someone they know, or care about, and you’ll be treated accordingly.
Lengthy RMA procedures will be the kiss of death for your business.
When you’re waiting on a part for a customer, waiting for an RMA kills your business. You send the part back, wait a week, then they send it to you, wasting another week. This back & forth shipping time is very often the kiss of death that precludes your customer leaving your business with their device & going elsewhere; before leaving a lengthy review detailing your incompetence.
This RMA process is based on the single order – the $3 profit margin they’re looking at when making their decision. You’re being treated like three dollars. You’re being treated like your business is worth little more than a bottled Vitamin Water, because that’s what it’s worth to them.
Good faith gets you a better RMA policy.
Let’s talk about good faith. This is what overnighted RMAs and receiving replacements before they receive the bad part back is based on.
You have a vendor you’ve spent most of your parts budget with this year. You’ve stuck with this vendor even when their prices were 10% higher. You’ve stuck with them when they’ve been out of stock, returning to them after a onesie purchase from someone else. You don’t call their customer service staff to berate them when you receive a defect. This is a vendor that knows you by name. You’ve built up something called good faith with this vendor.
When deciding whether to send you a replacement overnight or an advance-RMA, they’re looking at more than the profit on one purchase. They’re looking at all the business you’ve done with them in the past as well as all the business you will be doing with them in the future, and they might just send you an advanced RMA with overnight shipping – which saves the business and allows you to satisfy your customer.
I cannot believe repair shops expect eBay vendors to trust them with advance RMAs!
Three years ago, I decided to count how many people sent back the defective part when we provided an advance RMA. An advance RMA is when we send a customer a new part before they send back the defect, and we provide them with a prepaid return shipping label to return the defect to us.
Out of 100 returns – 14 customers sent the old part back. Out of these 14 RMAs, 11 of them were fully functional.
The reason these people never sent back the old part is simple; there was no benefit. The label was prepaid, and the box was provided, but the two minutes they would have spent to do the honest thing and return our part was not worth it to them. There was no relationship there, so two minutes of time was an unacceptable waste to the customer. They were never going to use us again, so there was no need to work with us.
This bites both ways – there is no need, in this scenario, for the supplier to put forth effort to do the right thing. There is no relationship. There is a one time profit of $3, and you will be treated like your business is worth a bottle of Vitamin Water. You will be treated as someone they don’t know, and you will deserve it if you did not make an effort to establish a relationship with the vendor.
Quality vendor relationships allow you to achieve more and obtain a competitive advantage.
Vendor relationships even the playing field.
You do not need a lot of money, or an established business to work out a relationship with a new vendor. This is something that requires work, people skills, and an agenda. You need a specific mission & purpose to figure out what you want out of a vendor, and to go out there and achieve it. You need to also bring value to the relationship for them, whether by offering insight or information that they may not have that would be valuable to them.
Let’s take a look at those necessities.
Mission & purpose.
What do all of these necessities have in common? None of them require money.
Vendor relations even the playing field because you do not need to have money to obtain them. Sure, money helps, but if your business has little money and the other business has lots of money – vendor relations can be the leveling factor that allows you to compete.
Personalized relationships are key.
We don’t talk to our vendors when we need parts. We talk every day, regardless of what we need.
We discuss trends in the business. We discuss moves that other companies are making. We anticipate demand for parts and services, but it’s not all business. I’ve discussed family life, personal life, problems, hopes, and dreams with some. The propriater of my favorite vendor has even become one of my most trusted friends & advisors.
You want your vendors to know who you are. You want them to have an interest in you and your success. You want them to like you. You don’t want to express neediness, as if you need them to like you. Rather, you should act in a manner where they can’t help but like you.
Personalized relationships get you treated like a human being.
If you want to be treated like a client, instead of a customer, you want a personalized vendor relationship.
Customers get sold parts. Human beings get sold competitive advantages.
When iPhone 4/4S LCDs were being produced that didn’t work with old versions of iOS, who gets sold the batch that does? The customer, or the human being?
When Macbook Air screens were new to the market, who gets the first carton? The million dollar conglomerate customer, or the broke 23 year old human being?
See where I’m going with this? If you have a real relationship with the people you do business with, you will be kept in mind when something comes up that might skyrocket your business or keep you from stepping into a hole. Making sure you are seen as a human by the people you do business with starts with you. How you act, how you treat them, will all play a role in how they see you.
eBay only makes sense for small odds & ends that real vendors don’t sell.
eBay’s value is in the obscure, not in the commodities.
I believe eBay should be used when we are dealing with something rare. I don’t mean the kind of rare in which it is valuable, I mean the rare as in “rarely needed”, “rarely used”, “rarely sold” – the type of rare where it is not valuable. eBay is good for sourcing components that other vendors do not sell because it would make no financial sense to do so. Odds & ends.
What’s an odd or an end vs. a commodity?
Let’s say the cable that attaches the top case to the motherboard on a five year old, unpopular laptop. No real vendor in their right mind will sell this. A low amount of these laptops were ever sold, the laptop is worth very little as it is very old, and this part rarely if ever goes bad. It would make no sense for a real vendor to sell it. As a result, I will often look on eBay for it. This is an odd & end.
A commodity is a part that everyone has; something that can be acquired from many sources. A laptop LCD, an iPhone screen, a Macbook LVDS cable. You have options when purchasing these parts, and your option SHOULD be a vendor you have a long term relationship with.
eBay should be used for parts when you have no other sensible options!
When forced to use eBay for these items, USE EBAY WISELY!
When purchasing these small odds & ends for repairs, don’t use eBay expecting everything to go as planned.
If a customer is leaving in 3 days, DON’T TRUST PRIORITY MAIL TO GET IT THERE IN THREE DAYS!
Use Express Mail. And even then, give the customer the option of returning their device by mail, FedEx, or UPS incase it doesn’t come in in time.
Plan for disaster. Plan for it to take a day to ship. Plan for a snowstorm to hit the county in which the part is shipping from.
If it’s cheap and you’re making money, buy more than one!
If the cable or part you are ordering is $5-$25 and you are getting $150-$200, do yourself a favor – buy two. Buy them from different vendors. This way, when you get screwed by one of these vendors, you’re still able to offer good service to the customer.
Don’t expect this to be easy – it’s not supposed to be!
It pains me to watch technicians buy parts off of eBay and complain when they do not work.
Isn’t it beautiful to you that this is NOT easy?
If this were easy, customers would be doing the work themselves.
Don’t offer customers the same poor experience they would have repairing their own device!
When someone comes to you, they expect better. They expect an excuse-free, hassle-free experience. They came to you to avoid the pitfalls of delays, bad parts, & non-working junk that they must wait weeks to return.
What many repair shops do not realize is that by purchasing from eBay, they are offering their customers the risk of a bad experience that they came to the repair shop to AVOID!
These parts are not always going to work; you can’t be mad at that.
Don’t take it personally when things don’t work.
Many repair shop owners become personally agitated at vendors when they receive a defect. Even good vendors will become the target of anger when they ship a bad part.
Understand why these parts do not always work.
When you order an iPhone screen, you’re ordering a device with millions of small transistors inside of a thin glass layer, that cost about $15 to produce, that was sent to you in an envelope via the US Postal Service. How can you possibly expect every one to work?
I am not surprised when I receive a defect. I am surprised when more than 10% of them work!
There are, however, good reasons many eBay parts do not work.
Many eBay vendors take parts out of abandoned, ewasted, recycled machines to sell to you.
Let’s say a laptop is dead. It was tossed in an ewaste container.
A parts company will part it out and sell all of its parts on eBay. It is far easier to refund the customer who receives a defective part than it is to figure out which parts do & do not work inside of that laptop. It is built into their business model that they are selling broken parts which will have to be refunded, and you are purchasing these parts for mission critical repairs – YIKES!!!!
Develop relationships with your vendors. Use these relationships to gain a competitive edge over your competition. Leverage that competitive edge to become more successful, and smile at your success, because you earned it through doing what’s right; instead of doing what’s easy.
If you repair Apple products, adhesives are everything. Adhesives separate the people who have no clue from the people who do the job properly. Apple products are held together with various adhesives, and if you don’t know what to use to put them back together, you’ll never get far.
You can buy the amazing adhesive we use from us directly!
We sell the best adhesives here, and we use these adhesives we’re selling for our own repairs. This adhesive fits into category #4, of the four categories of adhesives I list below.
Adhesives come in many different types.
There are four types of adhesives that I find most people using.
Tape that does not stick.
Tape that sticks permanently.
Tape that sticks permanently unless you utilize specialized tools to remove it again.
Let’s talk about each of these individually.
Superglue should, in 95% of all cases, not be used. It is only there for dire situations when you need a strong hold on something that adhesive cannot bond. Superglue should be used sparingly, only if there is an exceptional outstanding reason for its application. Using superglue in lieu of proper adhesive is never a good idea. If you are using only superglue to hold something together, you are in for some misery. It doesn’t bond well; it breaks. The bezel or glass will move away as the glue dries, causing a permanent bulge that is unfixable, and the glue will destroy any wiring inside when you try to remove it. Did we mention all the little dead-skin looking pieces from dried superglue that leak all around the device you are repairing that the customer will see and bring up as they file their chargeback against you?
Tape that does not stick, like 3M 465.
So many businesses have that one bad review from glass that peeled off their laptop, or an iPad that gets cracked again because the glass raised up. Double sided tape that does not stick well is very prevalent. For example, the 3M 465 series was commonly recommended five years ago but was riddled with problems where it did not stick.
This type of tape makes re-repair easy, because the old bezel, or glass, or LCD screen, comes off very easily. It is desirable that an adhesive allows for re-repair incase a customer breaks the device again(very common!), or if an error must be corrected(something isn’t plugged in properly). However, it does need to bond the device together and stick, and if it doesn’t, you’re in for some chargebacks when the glass falls away from the 3M 465.
Tape that sticks permanently.
Tape that sticks permanently is what many new technicians, tired of customers coming back for warranty, dream of. They want the bezel to sit in place like it did fresh out of the box, and never come out! I hear you, I feel your pain, but this is still not ideal.
These adhesives are nearly impossible to remove. When you do remove, it comes off in layers. There will be a layer of junk stuck to the device, and a layer of junk stuck to the bezel/glass/screen. It doesn’t come off flushly, it will have to be removed completely from both and then reapplied in order for anything to be done.
If a customer breaks their device after it has been fixed with this type of adhesive, re-repair will be a nightmare. If you forget to plug in a wifi antenna or see a speck of dust you want to remove, it will be a nightmare to open again – if even possible at all without breaking the screen – with this type of adhesive. This is not ideal. If it says something like use when removal is not necessary, don’t buy it for repairing Apple products; unless you do a perfect job the first time and never intend to repair that device again.
Tape that sticks permanently unless you utilize specialized tools to remove it again.
This is ideal tape. This tape sticks permanently. The iPad screen never sticks out. The Macbook Air bezel stays in place. The Unibody glass does not pop off from the display assembly.
Yet, when you need to open it – if you heat it a small bit and stick your tool in there – it comes right off! Further, it will only stick to what it was applied to. None of that junk where it splits in the middle and breaks into a bunch of tiny pieces of garbage you need to pick off manually.
This adhesive allows for the easiest re-repairs, but also keeps people from coming back for warranty service as a result of the parts coming off.
Our adhesive makes life easy.
Our adhesive sticks properly on the FIRST application. Our adhesive allows you to remove the glass if you’ve made a mistake, left a dust particle inside, or put the bezel on over the rubber trim. Our adhesive is affordable, and above all – it comes from a name you should trust. 😉
We received this question from Youtube, and I figured I’d share with the audience.
I’ve been watching your video on the a1466 keyboard replacement debating on whether i need to replace it so I decided to ask you directly. I broke my tab key as in i broke the metal clip that holds the plastic scissor mechanism so now if i push the tab anywhere else than the middle it will pop out… I’m a programmer so the tab key is pretty important to me so replacing the whole keyboard seems like the only solution. Now i can’t find any replacement keyboards for the a1466 on your site or other sites like ifixit, so the next place to look is ebay and i’m wondering about the quality of those keyboards and the quality ill get in general after replacing the keyboard. For some reason most of them write stuff like 95% new or tested etc.. Seems kinda sketchy but i realise that macbooks are assembled in China so there’s a good chance that these keyboards are the same ones supplied to apple so maybe i should look at the pricier ones or is there no difference at all? After replacing the keyboard will it feel the same or will it become more flexible because of using screws instead of rivets or some other thing that will make it feel any worse? I understand that these are small dome keyboards but i’m afraid i’ll exchange a somewhat solid keyboard for a crappy one just for one key… Also can i buy a different language one if the layout is the same? Right now i have a norwegian keyboard but i’d prefer the English international one since they keys looks to be the same size and layout as my current keyboard.
TL;DR: will the keyboard from china feel the same as the original one or will it feel inferior?
A couple of things.
Firstly, eBay sucks cock and balls for laptop parts purchases, most of the time. People who sell on eBay sell to the lowest common denominator – their demographic are people who don’t notice & don’t care for quality, for defects, for issues. You will be treated like a second class human being purchasing laptop parts off of eBay. DO NOT BUY SHIT OFF EBAY UNLESS ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NECESSARY! Very often, you may even pay the same to purchase on eBay as you would if you had a discount account with a real vendor.
I mean, buy off eBay if the item you seek is some little plastic tab that no one in their right mind would sell outside of eBay. Buy off eBay if it’s some little button or thingamajigie that is not sold in volume, that would only be available because someone is parting out their machine. Something where there are no “grades” of quality. But don’t buy keyboards off eBay. If you are ok with it being ripped out of a broken laptop and cleaned with windex and it never being tested, sure, use eBay. If you are ok with the keyboard having keys that don’t work because they came out of broken laptops that were returned because, maybe, they had BAD KEYBOARDS, use eBay.
Otherwise, use a serious vendor. Pay an extra $10 to not get stuck with garbage.
Secondly, there are no knockoff keyboards for Apple laptops. There isn’t enough volume for there to be demand. Knockoff iPhone screens, sure. Knockoff batteries, sure. These items are both difficult to find, expensive, and have very high demand. However, original keyboards are easy to obtain new for cheap, so there is no need for knockoffs. Further, there isn’t the same volume with them as there are with other parts – so there are no knockoff keyboards for Apple computers. There are used and new, there are broken/semi fucked up ones and working ones, but there is no “this doesn’t feel the same because it’s a Chinese knockoff.” There is no market, and no demand, for knockoff keyboards to Apple computers, in spite of what you may hear from uninformed fucktard AASPs looking to scare you out of fixing your own computer.
The layout you can buy is totally based on the top case of your machine. Some have squiggly keys towards the side. Check that to make sure it’ll fit. Reconfiguring the OS so it sees your layout, I’ll be honest, I have no idea. I just don’t deal with it enough to recall from experience how it works.
How the keyboard feels totally depends on the job you do removing the old rivets and how hard you screw the new one into the case, not on the keyboard you buy. Getting the new keyboard to sit the same as the original in an air is difficult because it utilizes far fewer screwholes than the standard Unibody model. You will see sections where screwholes are skipped and wonder why they are, because that’d be a great place for a screw.
Here we repair an A1181 Macbook with no backlight. It has a more difficult issue than usual – it’s not the motherboard, the inverter, or the inverter wire. It’s the motherboard. I will do my best to solder around a camera and tripod here so you can watch.
We offer logic board repair in our Manhattan workshop for those who do not want to mess with this.
This computer had no backlight with the inverter, inverter cable, or screen replaced. I didn’t want to keep the customer hanging so I stole it off this dead board I have. The dead board in my junk collection is an unfixable piece of crap, but has a working backlight circuit when it turns on, for the five seconds it can stay on, so I don’t feel one bit guilty robbing an inductor for myself.
Here we are replacing the keyboard on an A1278 Unibody Macbook Pro. This video has no pausing, speedups, or special effects. You can watch the process we use to repair the liquid damaged laptop in real time, and even follow along on your own computer.
We clean the liquid damage off the board, clean the fan, remove residue from the keyboard holes in the casing, and clean the backlight layers. We go through points of difficulty and urge people to not make silly mistakes such as not trapping the trackpad cable underneath the keyboard, or not plugging the dc in board while putting the motherboard back in!
One thing we do is tell you when it’s just the keyboard. It would be very easy to milk another $250 out of someone when their laptop doesn’t turn on. If your only problem is a keyboard, we’re one of the few places that will honestly tell you that.
If you want us to do it for you, we are happy to – click right here!
This article is for moderate to savvy users. It is not a precise, step by step guide.
My goal is to point people who have some computer know how in the right direction. I will not be going into detail with each particular step. If you are somewhat computer savvy, but just need somewhere to start, this is the guide for you. This is mac-centric, however, ddrescue & HDD Regenerator are equally adept at recovering any operating system along with your data.
Help! It doesn’t work!
You go to turn on your computer one day and it won’t boot. Oftentimes, home users do not have the tools necessary to do their own data recoveries. If you do have any, I am going to walk you through the steps you can take to get your entire install back – a bootable drive with your full setup on it is my goal. Reinstalling software and reconfiguring every setting so you can work the way you used to can be an incredible pain in the ass, which we are hoping to avoid. They may require a mixture of Apple & Windows machines available.
First thing’s first. Understand that drives get worse – not better.
The most important thing to understand with data recovery is that dying drives can worsen in condition as you access the data. Using software like Data Rescue Pro or UFS Explorer to obtain specific files prior to attempting a full recovery, or before attempting to repair the volume is always prudent. I did mention that my goal is to get you a full recovery – but if you have one session file, one document, or one notepad file with winning lotto numbers in it – grab that before we move forward with full recovery!
On a Mac, here’s one of the easiest points to start from.
On a mac, the first step to boot up into single user mode. This means holding apple-S from the second you turn the computer on. You’ll be transported to a black, command prompt, DOS looking screen. Type the following at the prompt.
A series of checks will undergo on the primary drive in the laptop/desktop. Any errors you see are not necessarily signs of a failing hard drive. However, if a drive is failing, you can almost guarantee errors when performing this check. Oftentimes after repairing these errors, the machine will boot again. Reboot when it is done, and see what happens.
Do we have bad sectors? It’s important to check. This can help you with Windows drives as well.
If it boots after fscking, great! However, this doesn’t mean you’re out of the water. Your filesystem could have become corrupted for a number of reasons, and we need to rule out the hard drive as one of them before we allow it to stay in service. One thing you should do is run a bad sector check on the drive. There is no software I can recommend better for this purpose than HDD Regenerator. HDD Regenerator looks for bad sectors, and can be asked to repair them as it finds them. Bad sectors occur over time on any hard drive. You have an arm moving around a platter 90+ times per seconds and grabbing data from microscopic sectors via magnetism. It is a miracle that this works – and not surprising that bad sectors arrive over time. When bad sectors begin to appear, this is a good time to replace the drive. Considering how cheap hard drives are, it is a good idea to replace it once it reaches this point. It may still work, but is it really worth another heart attack 1 month from now when you’re right back where you started?
If it doesn’t boot after fscking, than I would attempt running HDD Regenerator in full – with the option to repair bad sectors as it finds them, on this drive. HDD Regenerator does something similar to what SpinRite does, with the difference being HDD Regenerator actually works. The concept behind Spinrite is great – I respect it a great deal, but every drive I’ve given SpinRite for six years has ended the same way – 6 days in, 0-1 bad sectors repaired, no progress.
After running HDD Regenerator and repairing the bad sectors – does your machine boot into the OS upon completion? If it does, great – let’s skip to the ddrescue section of this guide, and get your data copied onto a good drive while it still works.
Still not booting? Perhaps the directory structure is corrupt. This is for the Mac people.
If it doesn’t boot, you can try a program called Diskwarrior. If you can’t boot, diskwarrior won’t do you much good, as Diskwarrior is run from within OSX. There are ways to install OSX onto a flash drive – and install diskwarrior onto the flash drive. Or, you can install Diskwarrior onto another Mac and plug your drive into this machine. The first tab when you open Diskwarrior has everything you need to rebuild the directory. Diskwarrior is excellent at making drives reappear, that do not show up in the finder otherwise.
If this completes, check and see if you have a bootable OS. One way or the other, skip below to the ddrescue step, and give diskwarrior a shot at repairing the directory once we have all of this data on a working disk.
Introduction of ddrescue – let’s copy the data to a safer place. This can help you regardless of operating system.
Programs like ddrescue on linux are excellent tools for data recovery. ddrescue is a combination of a traditional linux tool called dd(used for creating exact copies of files, partitions,and full discs) and a plethora of smart data recovery techniques.ddrescue uses several metods to ask for data from a drive in order to receive it. ddrescue is an intelligent program, understanding that each time you mess with the disk, you are potentially making it worse. A sensible way to copy data is to copy only what is easy to copy – this prevents stressing the disk. Get as much as you can off. Then, in a second pass, grab the information that was unusable the first time around. If the drive dies during this second pass, at least all the recoverable data has been retrieved.
It is not optimal to run, say, Ubuntu linux off of a USB pendrive, but it is very doable. Once you install Ubuntu on the pen drive, open a terminal and type the following.
This command tells ddrescue to copy all data from /dev/sdb, which may be our dead drive, to /dev/sdc, which is our new drive. -f forces the data over whatever is on the new drive. -g tells ddrescue to keep track of what it did/did not copy in a logfile – the point of this will come apparent soon. -n tells ddrescue to not drive itself nuts trying to copy corrupted sections of the drive over.
This tells ddrescue to copy data again – this time, only copying data it skipped the last time. The difference between -n and -r3 is that -n tells it to ignore corrupt data, whereas -r3 tells it to try to retrieve data from corrupted blocks three times before giving up.
Once this is done, see if you can boot into your system. If you can, great! If not, we still have our options.
Try Diskwarrior again – this time, on your new drive. This is for Macs.
Diskwarrior cannot write a new directory, or read information properly off of a very bad drive. However, if you put that same information on a new drive, Diskwarrior now has a fighting chance – a possibility to recover the data. Often directories too far gone on dead drives, are recoverable after using ddrescue to copy everything to a new drive.
If this works and allows you a bootable system, congrats. You don’t have to reinstall all your apps from scratch, or deal with a 2 month old time machine backup missing everything you’ve recently done. If not, it’s time to cave and attempt recovering data that is important, piece by piece – if you can get either drive to show up with software such as Data Rescue Pro or UFS Explorer.