July 2, 2017

The real cost of repairing a lawnmower

I own a lawnmower. It’s a simple gas powered push model that cost about $150 bucks at Lowes.

I’ve had it for a year or two, during which time I’ve probably used it for a total of two hours (we have a pretty small yard).

The vast majority of the time it just sits in the garage, rusting quietly.

Yesterday it died.

I was mowing the front yard and it just sort of stopped. It seemed like it ran out of gas, but when I checked there was plenty.

Then I checked the only other thing that I know how to check which is the oil. Also plenty.


I know exactly zero about getting a lawnmower repaired. In my imagination, it goes something like this:

Google for a local lawnmower repair place. Call for price estimate, hours of operation, and directions. Get answering machine. Call back the next day. Get necessary info. Remove the handle from the lawn mower so I can fit it in my car. Hoist the thing into the back of my car. Cut myself. Get grass clippings and dog poop all over me and interior of the car. Drive to the repair place. Look for parking. Lug the mower out of the back. More cuts and poop. Realize that I forgot the wrench to reattach the handle. Push handleless mower into repair place in a doubled over position. Open door to repair place with one hand while holding detached handle in the other hand, and clumsily push mower in with foot. Feel like useless spazmod. Wait to speak to service person. Wait while service person diagnoses the problem. Wait for price (in my imagination, it’d cost about $30). Okay the work. Leave the mower there. Return a week later. Repeat the doubled-over/cuts/poop process to get the mower home. Reattach handle. Finish mowing lawn.


I could give the broken mower away for free on Craigslist and buy a new one packed in a shiny cardboard box at Lowes for $150.

No cuts, no poop, no doubling over. No calls, no wait, no return trip. I would have to unpack the mower and attach the handle, but even with that the entire process would take about two hours.

Why am I telling you all this? To drive home the value of intangible benefits.

On the surface, it might seem insane for me to buy a new mower for five times more money than it would cost to repair the old one.

But when you really think about it, the entire experience matters. The timing. The level of uncertainty. The amount of stress. The cognitive load. The physical pain. The emotional discomfort. The likelihood of unintended consequences.

It all matters.

This combination of intangibles is more than enough to convince me to spend five times more than the low cost repair option.

Bundling together and reliably delivering intangible benefits is a great way to differentiate yourself from low cost alternatives and avoid the race to zero that comes from competing on price.


What intangible benefits do you provide?



P.S. Are you sick of competing on price? I’m available for a limited number of 1-on-1 coaching called each month. Book yours now -> https://jonathanstark.com/call