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Trade Chat The Truth about the TV Trade

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MurphyV310
(@murphyv310)
Posts: 456
Honorable Member Registered
Topic starter
 

Hi.

I think it time to actually expose the real truth of the TV Servicing trade. Some think it's a bed of roses but from my own and many others experience it was at times a pretty awful job and many these days could never cope with the stress and pressure.

If you take the average rental company, I worked with British Relay and Clydesdale who leaned very heavily toward rental. Take for example a field engineer firstly. You would have a kit of spares that were specified by the company, a selection of common valves, droppers, fuses, LOPTYs, resistors, caps and some panels for G8s, 3000/3500, RBMs and little else, You'd have an AVO 8 but no isolating tx or scope, the CRT Booster would be on a pool basis and shared. It was your responsibility to restock your kit. In the main You would get your calls around 10 AM even though you started at 08:30 so you would have to help the bench engineers if it was very busy or look at a set you lifted from the previous day. You would have 14 calls to do on each day, job and finish but if on the odd occasion you finished early you were told to return to the workshop before 17:30 when it shut so it wasn't really job and finish. If your run was town based etc you may not have had too much travelling, if unlike many engineers in Ayrshire you could have been driving up to a 100 miles each day. Rental customers and managers were very demanding, you could go to a job that was say a no colour report, with just an AVO you have very little chance of finding the issue, but you had to look you could not lift the set otherwise, perhaps easier on a panelised set but ITT CVC5, Kortings, Grundig etc no. Then the customer nags asking how long you'll be and the threat of termination if its lifted and no loan set, with 14 calls to do you only get 20 mins if you want fit the calls into the working day and remember no OT is paid. So you uplift the set and leave the loan set. The next call is to a filthy house, with the kid running around naked and nowhere to put your knees a lift is on the cards, but you have used the loan set and this man is abusive, so you say you'll definitely go directly to the workshop and get a loan...... that'll be right! You then fix a few others but get no lunch or even a pee! Your day ends at 18:30 and your contract says you must put the tellies in your home including the one that is covered in muck that smells, if you don't and the Escort Estate is broken into its instant dismissal.

Life on the bench is a little better but far from ideal. You are under constant pressure from the service manager for the time you spend on a job, OK you have access to test equipment but some faults take time, spend more than an hour and you get constant earache, this makes for more mistakes and misdiagnoses, adding to stress. You then fix say a Saba with its Thyristor Line stage and its on test for a day, the following day at switch on and pop, you have to haul it onto the bench again and the office lassie has promised it back.

This is a mere gloss over the trade, there is much more to it and I'm sure many others will tell of the real pressure you were under. It's a great hobby but not a good job and low paid to boot!

Trevor 2M0GZQ.

Cheers,
Trevor.
MM0KJJ. RSGB, GQRP, WACRAL, K&LARC. Member

 
Posted : 06/04/2021 12:42 pm
peterscott, Alex728, PYE625 and 6 people reacted
Nuvistor
(@nuvistor)
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I had a easy time of it compared to Trevor, mind we were a very small , 2 employees 1 sales and me service and the owner who was a very decent man. Probably 7 or 8 jobs a day plus bench work,  an AVO and crosshatch on the van but full set up of test equipment if required on the bench and able to take the scope out if I thought it was needed. Spares stocking up was my dept but straightforward.

All in all happy days but agree the money was not the best and the reason I left the trade, in hindsight it was a excellent  move into Mini Computer hardware and software. That did come to a foreseeable end after about 18 years so from there to employment at a Further Education college looking after the network and computer systems.

Frank

 
Posted : 06/04/2021 2:26 pm
Till Eulenspiegel
(@till)
Posts: 4947
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I fully agree with Trevor's comments about the TV servicing trade, it certainly wasn't an easy means of making a living.  Get to 6pm you think all the service calls have been cleared up, but then return to the shop only to find more service calls have come in.  Leave them for tomorrow? Could do but by then another load of calls have come in so the only answer is get out clear up the jobs in the evening. With TV rental there was always that pressure to fix all faults the same day, within hours of receiving the call.

If there was ever a revival in TV rental count me out, anyway, I'm almost 76 so it's time to take easy.

Again, what Trevor says is correct, radio, TV and other electronics is a great hobby but it ain't an easy way to earn an living.

Till Eulenspiegel.

 
Posted : 06/04/2021 3:02 pm
Greg_simons, peterscott, Greg_simons and 3 people reacted
MurphyV310
(@murphyv310)
Posts: 456
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Topic starter
 
Posted by: @nuvistor

I had a easy time of it compared to Trevor, mind we were a very small , 2 employees 1 sales and me service and the owner who was a very decent man. Probably 7 or 8 jobs a day plus bench work,  an AVO and crosshatch on the van but full set up of test equipment if required on the bench and able to take the scope out if I thought it was needed. Spares stocking up was my dept but straightforward.

All in all happy days but agree the money was not the best and the reason I left the trade, in hindsight it was a excellent  move into Mini Computer hardware and software. That did come to a foreseeable end after about 18 years so from there to employment at a Further Education college looking after the network and computer systems.

Hi Frank.

Agreed that some in a smaller workshops it would have an easier time. I know of engineers that worked for DER, Radio Rentals that said the same story as mine. 14 calls a day seemed to be the norm in the trade. Clydesdale were well known for good training I've countless certificates from so many courses, I did the C&G VCR course after my C&G Radio and TV Technicians and put a lot into the trade. In the last days of Clydesdale before they went to the wall my wages were above the service managers!! The reason for that was I did the Microcell cash registers in the Clydesdale shops which covered Saltcoats, Irvine, Ayr, Kilmarnock, Newton Stewart, Stranraer and Carlisle. I got mileage and standby for Saturday & Sunday, plus I ran the audio dept, trained apprentices and did their engineering courses that were HNC level...allegedly! That level of wages though took 16 years to attain with Clydesdale and they closed two years later. 

Engineers were unhealthy, many were chain smokers and drunk like a fish due to pressure, there were many cancers and the union were concerned with this. Pay rises were always done with the threat of redundancy.

I keep in touch with my old service manager and he says it was the worst time of his life. He went to Prestwick Circuits after the collapse of Clydesdale.

Later I worked for SES Glasgow (Sony UK Service) which was of course not rental and it was a different pace, quality was of the essence rather than rush and pressure, I left due to travelling every day to Glasgow a long time before the M77, a horrible stressful journey with accidents every day on a three lane A road. Three years with Mastercare then my own business that lasted 5 years. Glad it's all finished now and am retired. Can now enjoy my life, sadly my wife of 30 years passed but now remarried and passed foundation and intermediate radio amateurs exam in February and March this year, the full in June if I can get a slot.

Regards

Trevor 2M0GZQ

Cheers,
Trevor.
MM0KJJ. RSGB, GQRP, WACRAL, K&LARC. Member

 
Posted : 06/04/2021 4:35 pm
crustytv
(@crustytv)
Posts: 11990
Vrat Founder Admin
 

As with all things, there are always two sides, some will have had poor experiences, others better therefore see it differently. I have spoken to quite a few engineers who feel totally the opposite. I've also lost count of the ex engineers who have contacted me over the years thanking me for all the pictures of my TV collection, especially the detailed internal shots. It brought them many happy memories and how they miss the old days.

There are also members here who have expressed to me on more than one occasion it's been their life passion and would go back to it at a drop of the hat. I guess some loved the time, others hated it. Like all things in life, it's not all bad, and equally it's not all good either. We must always strive to provide balance and avoid bias, here's Olivers wonderfully articulated recollection.

https://www.radios-tv.co.uk/memories-of-the-tv-trade/

Many engineers have also shared their trade tales, they can all be found here.

CrustyTV Television Shop: Take a virtual tour
Crusty's TV/VCR Collection: View my collection
Crustys Youtube Channel: My stuff
Crusty's 70s Lounge: Take a peek

 
Posted : 08/04/2021 11:09 am
colourmaster, ntscuser, colourmaster and 3 people reacted
MurphyV310
(@murphyv310)
Posts: 456
Honorable Member Registered
Topic starter
 

Hi.

The other thing we had to do was the amount of paperwork that reared its head in the 80's. Manufacturers were worrying about breakdowns and initialised a system called IRIS Codes (I've forgotten what IRIS stands for) You were issues with a triplicate book and a look up chart, you selected the nearest code for the customers perceived fault,  the actual fault and a code for the type of repair and a circuit reference if you fitted a part. These has to be accurate and were all checked by the service manager. The issue was if you replaced a part in the customers home and you didn't have a service manual for the parts circuit reference, EG, R102, C97 or IC 401, sometimes a painstaking task the following day looking up manuals for circuit references a day after repairing a TV or VCR.

I know a few engineers that got an easy life, one such person fitted mains dropper sections and hung them with paper clips! Others would tap down the voltage setting rather than lift the set for a tube, others were just lazy and lifted anything other than a valve plug!

In my last 8 months with British Relay I was given a Simca 1100 estate and a run in south Ayr, Coylton, Drongan and Rankinston. I was getting around 16-18 calls a day. Often I wasn't home till 8-9pm. The sets were in a dreadful state with flat tubes, liked out droppers, frame faults, you name it they had it, I changed tubes in the house, fitted droppers, sorted out burned cathode resistors, low valves and all the maladies, never ever got stores bonus as I believed in getting the sets right, I did get lots of tips and cups of tea though. Six months in and the call rate halved. Then Larry said to me, I'm sending you to Saltcoats to "clean up the run" That was January 1975 and I handed in my notice there and then, I was fed up working all hours for nothing. I went on the week of my notice to Clydesdale for an interview and started the following Monday, better pay and was there 18 years till they went bust.

Cheers,
Trevor.
MM0KJJ. RSGB, GQRP, WACRAL, K&LARC. Member

 
Posted : 09/04/2021 7:37 pm
MurphyV310
(@murphyv310)
Posts: 456
Honorable Member Registered
Topic starter
 

Hi.

Like British Relay it was a rental orientated company so there was no slacking, the service director and area service manager were both ruthless, I still keep in touch with the local service manager (now 76) and says never ever mention those two to me! They used to wipe the door tops and say the place was filthy which it wasn't, It was a workshop and they refused to employ a cleaner. The foreman Jimmy Burwood was told to get on his hands and knees and scrub the floor or be dismissed. One day the Area service manager told me to change the wording on the completed calls box....... it was so so busy we worked lunch breaks and late at night to get to grips with the work for no OT. He came back two weeks later and gave me a row, I was about to pan him one when I said I'm too bloody busy even to have a pee let alone something YOU can do rather than walking around doing nothing Brian! He then said My name is Mr Chilies and I retorted my name is Mr Goodenough!  Funny enough after he respected me for my outburst and we got on better thereafter.

My days in the trade did improve a lot in Sony, they were good to work for and got a trip to Milan after finishing 1st in the European service competition UK leg in 1997 for audio and then getting 4th in Milan. The unit for the competition was the MZ-R30 minidisc player, I still have my prize from there.

Cheers,
Trevor.
MM0KJJ. RSGB, GQRP, WACRAL, K&LARC. Member

 
Posted : 09/04/2021 8:04 pm
Greg_simons
(@greg_simons)
Posts: 17
Eminent Member Registered
 
Posted by: @murphyv310

Hi.

Like British Relay it was a rental orientated company so there was no slacking, the service director and area service manager were both ruthless, I still keep in touch with the local service manager (now 76) and says never ever mention those two to me! They used to wipe the door tops and say the place was filthy which it wasn't, It was a workshop and they refused to employ a cleaner. The foreman Jimmy Burwood was told to get on his hands and knees and scrub the floor or be dismissed. One day the Area service manager told me to change the wording on the completed calls box....... it was so so busy we worked lunch breaks and late at night to get to grips with the work for no OT. He came back two weeks later and gave me a row, I was about to pan him one when I said I'm too bloody busy even to have a pee let alone something YOU can do rather than walking around doing nothing Brian! He then said My name is Mr Chilies and I retorted my name is Mr Goodenough!  Funny enough after he respected me for my outburst and we got on better thereafter.

My days in the trade did improve a lot in Sony, they were good to work for and got a trip to Milan after finishing 1st in the European service competition UK leg in 1997 for audio and then getting 4th in Milan. The unit for the competition was the MZ-R30 minidisc player, I still have my prize from there.

Sony were very good to work for in those happy days of the seventies and eighties, the sony family is what I've heard it described as, very Japanese way of working and culture, i caught the last gasp of it in the early nineties before things went sour and they lost their way.

Greg.

 
Posted : 19/04/2021 3:46 pm
syncpulse
(@syncpulse)
Posts: 14
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Back in my time in the 60's for a lad leaving school, getting a trade was considered (mens work) as a'proud job'. Whether it was Plumbing, Electrician, Mechanical (fitter/tool maker) or Building trades ... weren't Apprentices a special breed (so I thought). Starting out in January 1962 I was paid a whole £2.18.6p/wk. I found out from my fellow apprentices when I started college that I was the lowest paid which I think stems from working for a small hole in the wall family company. During my apprentice years I was never put on the road like many other at age 18-19 yr old's. I had good memories because of the type of business the owners ran - not the money though.

It was all & everything from small appliances to multi facet Audio equipment, all makes of Radio's & TV's.

In the last year of my apprenticeship I was paid a measly £13/wk. 

Unlike others I never got to stay in the UK working as a RTV Tech, which from reading this forum & speaking to others that started life when I did, it was not a trade to stay in long term.

Emigrating to Canada in 1967 I started working for Philips as a 'Technician' (note the title job description), my starting wage was equivalent to £33/wk. I thought I'd won the pools & it was a decent, clean, easy job compared to back home.

My apprenticeship was good (including sweeping floors & making tea), it along with the C&G education lay the foundation that equipped me for a future life in Electronics to then eventual Professional Engineering in Canada. I stuck with pure Engineering (never forgetting the lean back to formative years) with some management jobs thrown in, ending my career in at age 63 with the last job in intellectual property 'patents & trademarks'. 

 

 

 
Posted : 29/05/2021 1:47 pm
MarkC
(@markc)
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@murphyv310 Wow Trevor, that does seem like an awful working environment! My Dad and I had our own small business, so the only real challenges were the general public, which I appreciate that you had to deal with too, on top of your management!

I remember a call to an old couple in a post war prefab in February with a small paraffin heater for the whole house, as I got to the back of the set there was cat excrement on the carpet... It was a minor issue and I couldn't bring myself to charge them. Contrast that with the old bloke who lived opposite of a customer who was literally in tears at the prospect of no TV... He objected to me parking on the street outside his house but I pressed on and swapped the crying lady's set for a loaner, by this time the old fella was getting vocal, so after I loaded the van I decided to annoy him further by turning into his driveway just for fun... He retreated to his garage and emerged with a huge machete knife, at which point I gracefully retreated at full throttle!

Of course the other big challenge was knowing which jobs to turn away... Of course no one wants to turn work away but sometimes it just goes awry, like the ITT Digivision suffering from a lightning strike and the countless ones that had been to another repairer. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Having said all of that, those days were the happiest working days of my life as I am currently engulfed by a world of management speak and corporate madness controlled by the Personnel dept, Sorry, I mean HR dept, sorry I mean People & Culture... But that is another story!!!

 
Posted : 30/05/2021 10:19 am
Sundog
(@sundog)
Posts: 173
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There's a prequal to this that I haven't written yet.

1973/4 - I think - I get a call from a guy I used to work with at the Co-op where I was an apprentice. "I've opened a TV repair business and have a great idea, will you come along?" Of course I would, I had been having a year off, only repairing sufficient TVs to buy beer and cigarettes.

The idea was simple. Lots of people were fed up with being ripped off (or just thinking they'd been ripped off) for TV repairs. So why not have a big open shop where people could bring their TV and watch while it was being repaired? So we did it. There were queues along the road at weekends. If we couldn't repair in 30 minutes (and most could) the customer could leave it with us or select a used or new TV to take away. It was great business idea! Shame it wasn't mine, but the wages were great for the time.

It ran for about 3 years, until the B/W TVs were gone and the colour TVs started to get more reliable and then business declined.

Then I joined a manufacturer, but that's another story.

 
Posted : 23/11/2021 9:10 pm
WayneD
(@wayned)
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In a way this kinda makes me feel better as I really wanted to get into the trade ever since I was a kid but as I left school in 1995 I was way too late. I was always fixing stuff, in fact I had a little side business doing repairs for neighbours etc whilst at school.

Nearest I ever got to the trade was working for Telewest (now owned by Virgin Media) in the early 00s. Nothing at this company made sense! Loyal customer? £50 to upgrade to a Digi box. Customer has a chipped analogue box? Offer them a free Digi box. I ended up yelling at a manager and walking out.

I'm a welder fabricater by trade these days although I'm starting to see an interest in old TVs for retro gaming as the old games consoles look dreadful on an LCD.

 
Posted : 23/11/2021 9:52 pm
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