The End Of an Era

published July 18, 2020

When the COVID pandemic began to infiltrate our region, StereoMan took a hiatus from automotive work due to the inherent risks associated with getting into other people’s vehicles. The intention was to return to this work once the pandemic was under control and life returned to normal. But here we are, four months later, and the situation continues to deteriorate, with ever-growing numbers of victims, overcrowded hospitals, and tragic deaths, and no end in sight. I cannot in good faith and clear conscience resume this kind of work under these circumstances, or predict when I might be able to. And I cannot pretend to be a 12 Volt shop if I am not offering 12 Volt services.

And so, after twenty years of auto sound sales and installation, I have reluctantly decided to end this aspect of my StereoMan business. I will continue to offer bench repairs for home stereo and home theater components for the foreseeable future, with all customer interactions by appointment, facial covering for safety, and observing proper “social distancing” at all times.

Thanks to everyone who has been a faithful customer over the years, for all the positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals!

Who Is StereoMan?

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Steve Livingston is StereoMan. Steve has over forty years of technical experience in electronics, including more than twenty years installing home and car entertainment systems.
Steve can also help you obtain good quality audio and video components at competitive prices.

 

What experience does StereoMan have?

Why does Stereoman do this work?

^^Click the links!^^

 

Click the pages at left for information on StereoMan’s services

 

Located at 33 London Rd. Asheville NC 28803

it has come to our attention that some GPS systems direct you to our across the street neighbor, RB Gas Co. We’re in the little red brick bldg in the hidden side of the curve.

Where is StereoMan?

^^Click the link^^ for a convenient map!

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StereoMan’s Rates

StereoMan’s labor rate is a mere $48 per hour. Routine maintenance and repair of stereo components typically runs in the $30 to $75 range. If it’s going to be more, you’ll get a call first!

 

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My customers are the BEST!

I took in a preamp for repair recently, and as usual I took a $25 deposit for my bench fee. A week or so later, the same customer decided to have his amp checked out and I said I’d do it at the same time as I did the repairs on the preamp, and I took it in without charging the bench fee.

Turned out the preamp needed some work, but the amp was in good shape, only needed a thorough cleaning. I completed the work on both pieces but when I wrote up the¬†invoices, I forgot that I hadn’t charged a bench fee on the amp, so the invoice showed an $11 balance instead of $36. My customer picked up the equipment and paid the invoices, we had a nice chat, and he went on his way.

Not ten minutes later, he was back. He remembered that I hadn’t charged that second deposit, and he still owed me 25 bucks. How’s that for honesty??!

Kind help

Yesterday I provided in home service for a blind woman. Not merely “legally blind”, but absolutely not able to see. I got her two CD players hooked up and working (she has a backup just in case), and then figured out how to turn off the wake-up alarm on the backup (she had turned it on by mistake, and when it started beeping she thought it was a smoke detector and called in the fire department!). Then I helped her identify the different buttons on the remote, which involved guiding her fingers to the right positions as I explained what each button did.

When all that was done, she asked me to come in the kitchen and see if I could get her dishwasher started. To which I, of course, complied. She knew where the different buttons were located, but unable to see the indicator lights, she couldn’t tell that she had pushed one button too many and turned the wash cycle off instead of on.

Then when it was time to pay, she asked me to fill out the check, and then guide her finger to where she was supposed to sign it. I charged her $46 for my travel and my time. It was close by, and less than an hour.

I imagined how stressful it inevitably must be for a not-sighted person like her to let a total stranger like me into her house and allow me to work on her precious audio equipment. A lot of trust involved! It was so gratifying to me to feel that I had earned it, so satisfying to hear her say as I was leaving, “Thank you for your kind help.”

Bose Makes Waves

I’ve been working on Bose products for years and years, with some success despite their complete lack of support for field repair. No replacement parts, no service information, no tech support, nothing. Still, I can boast a better than 50% success rate, just knowing how to take them apart, what common problems to look for, and what replacement parts can and can’t be used to complete a repair. Due to their immense popularity – and high cost – I have at least one Bose unit in my shop at any given time.

Recently a customer bringing one in for repair told me they had found out about StereoMan on¬†the Bose website! Imagine my surprise to learn that although they are doing absolutely nothing to support my efforts, they are happy to tell people that I am out here to support their products. The irony is not lost on me, but I take it in stride. I’m here to support my customers, and if they’re willing to take a chance on me repairing their Bose stereo, I’m going to give it my best shot.

Apparently my best shot is pretty good. Good enough to get mention on the Bose website. Huzzah!

Dog Day

Today I had three service calls, one install of two new tv’s, two consults. Each of the three households had at least one canine member. The first was a huge dog, some kind of Labrador mix, quiet and friendly but not overly. She followed her master everywhere. The second was a tiny ball of fluffy fur with endless energy, she never merely walked when bounding was possible. Two dogs in the third household, one border collie-ish, the other like a smallish Samoyed. The collie greeted me at the driveway and I gave her a cookie. She carried it around in her mouth, without biting it, for several minutes, then trotted over to a nearby hedge and buried it.

I love dogs and I feel like they tell me a lot about their human companions, what kind of people they are. All the dogs I met today, they all had good humans. Good people.

What Price Happiness?

Ouch!

I can’t be happy if my customer is not happy, no matter how unreasonable his request(s) may be. So if a customer orders a $500 stereo and then after I order the radio changes his mind and wants a different model so he can have Apple Car Play, what the heck? I’ll sell that first radio to someone else at some point, right? Get the customer what he wants!

And, of course, if anything happens to my customer’s car while it’s in my shop, I must take responsibility for it. After installing thousands of car stereos over two decades, first time ever the customer’s dashboard cracks when I’m taking out the factory stereo. What can I do? I have to pay to have the dash replaced. It’s mighty expensive, but it’s a no brainer. I have to do it. But oh boy was the customer pissed!

So the dash work done and paid for, it’s time to put the radio in, and I get it all done, it looks great, works just like it should, but the customer isn’t at all happy about having to plug his phone into the USB in order to use Car Play. He’s mad at me for not telling him that. We discussed it all in advance! he insists. I don’t recall that, but it doesn’t matter, I show him online that there is only one radio available right now that does Car Play wirelessly, and it’s not a Pioneer. I offer to install it for him if he wants to buy it, and take back the one he ordered. But he’s so pissed at this point he doesn’t want me to do anything for him.

The job ended up costing me about half what I make in an entire month, but I would come out of it satisfied if my customer came out of it a happy customer. But he didn’t. So I didn’t either.

Update: Pioneer now offers wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Not that it would have made any difference in this case.

Miracles

I try to commit at least one miracle each week, and this week I managed to get two. First one was a 15 year old Cadillac Escalade that someone had cut all of the wiring out of the console. It had a Bose sound system in it, and there was no information on the wiring anywhere on the internet. I figured out how to get an Apple Car Play stereo to work through the Bose system without the fancy interface some other shop had sold him that didn’t work in his car at all.

I got nearly to the end of my day today before I committed the second miracle. I repaired a factory car stereo cassette deck. Yes, a cassette deck. Took it out of the car, stripped it down (about 25 screws and three circuit boards thanks for asking), replaced the broken belt, reassembled, and reinstalled in the car. One hour, five minutes.

The punch line: the woman I did the work for was not the owner of the car. She had borrowed it from a friend and the stereo broke while she was using it.

Saturdays … gotta love ’em!

I’m often in the shop by 8 a.m. even though I’m not officially “open” until 10. Gives me time for coffee and a little breakfast, tidying up, finishing paperwork, that sort of thing. Plus if one of my customers needs to drop off a vehicle, it’s convenient for them to do so before their work day begins. But I never make a 9 a.m. appointment.

This morning I was puttering around, cleaning the bathroom, emptying trash, around 8:30 someone came in, said “I’m your 9:00 appointment, I’m here early.” Heh. I thought for a second, then I said “OK, let’s get ‘er done.” So I gathered the equipment for the job and by 9:30 I was finished. Meanwhile, around 9:15, my 10:00 appointment showed up early. “Hang in there for a few minutes,” I said, “while I finish with this one.” I was done with the second job by 10:15.

The down side is that my breakfast got cold. And it looks like maybe my microwave is crapping out. On the bright side, I am ready for the usual Saturday onslaught of walk-ins without having to feel all apprehensive about getting my scheduled work done while I’m fielding their questions and making appointments with them.

Saturdays. Gotta love ’em.