Unlike many industries, the repair of home audio and hi-fi equipment is not well regulated. As a result, it is wide open to abuse.
As there is no set standard for work, how can we differentiate between the competent, the incompetent and the thoroughly crooked?
A very good check is to look at how long a repairer has been in business and where he trades from. Mike Solomons at London Sound started in 1967 originally trading as Radio and Hi-Fi Service. London Sound was first registered on December 19th 1969.
There are important exceptions, but generally the business premises are a good start. A shop is ideal, though it's not always obvious if the shop is on a short lease, long lease, or, (ideally), owned freehold by the repairer. Mike Solomons owns the freehold of the London Sound shop without a mortgage.
Alternatively, a well established repairer working from home can be just as good, if he comes well recomended.
There are further indicators. Ignore negative comments on the internet as they can be malicious, unless there are a lot of them citing detail. A better indicator is the price charged and the guarantee given. Mike Solomons charges more than some repairers, as he carries out repairs thoroughly, necessary to make it prudent to give a full 12 month guarantee on the whole unit, not just on the repair itself, (the only exception is that repairs carried out without charge are not guaranteed).
A repairer should provide you with a free estimate. Some repairers see it as unfair to have to give a free estimate as he feels that he is giving you something for nothing.
However, having to pay for an estimate is seen as unfair by the customer.
A good repairer will understand the customer's viewpoint and be happy to give a free estimate. London Sound gives a free qualified estimate on request with a rigid ceiling, so you will never have to pay more than you have agreed.
Warning signs for a bodger include only a short 30 to 90 day guarantee, (or if you are lucky, 3 months), as there are many bodges that only last for a short period. There is also the important issue of competence; if the repairer is dubious of his abilities to effect a reliable repair that he can guarantee 12 months you should take that as a warning! Another trick is to guarantee the parts used for the repair, but not the rest of the equipment, or to guarantee the repair only.
A surprisingly low price for repairs, especially from a repairer working from idustrial premises or from home is also a warning sign. Some take the approach that if they don't charge much, the disatisfied customer will not bother to complain. If the repairer is difficult to contact, leaves his front door locked or otherwise avoids you, if the bill was modest, you've lost your money. It's not worth suing him - he probably doesn't have any money even if you do go to Court!
A bodging repairer once advised me that I charge too much - he assured me that customers want a cheap bodge, they don't want to pay for the work to be done properly. It is no surprise to me that London Sound is now well over 40 years old and the bodger I mentioned ceased trading over 25 years ago!
I discussed pricing with another bodging engineer, asking him how could he carry out certain work at a price the customer would be happy to pay, make a profit and give a 12 month guarantee, (this concerned inexpensive equipment). With grin he said it was easy - he didn't give a 12 month guarantee! Put another way, he openly admitted to me that he was carrying out cheap bodges that probably would not last and were, for his customer, a waste of money!
London Sound ticks all the boxes:-
1) Originally established, (under another name), in 1967.
2) Registered as London Sound in 1969.
3) All estimates are free.
4) All chargeable repairs guaranteed 12 months.
5) Shop Premises owned freehold without a mortgage - i.e. financially stable.
It can cost more initially to have equipment repaired properly at London Sound than have it bodged elsewhere, but it's cheaper in the long run.
If you save a few pounds on a cheap bodge not only is it likely that the equipment will go wrong again in a few months, it's also unlikely to function at its best even during that short period.
On the other hand, there's no bodge that will last a year, so repairs and overhauls competently carried out and guaranteed 12 months often last decades!