Mobile TV Repair in Albuquerque and surrounding areas.
TV Repairmen Enjoy a Resurgence
Excerpted from a Massachusetts Eagle Tribune article originally published by the Albuquerque Tribune in 2007.
TV Repairmen Enjoy a Resurgence
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - David Cuomo, the owner and sole employee of Master Television Service in Albuquerque, said turning away small jobs is the only way to stay afloat in the ever-changing TV-repair industry. It's hard to make a living repairing small "disposable" TVs, he said.
TV repair is an industry with an uncertain future, he said, because of an influx of inexpensive foreignmade electronics, and the rise of high-definition technology.
In the past 20 years, the number of TV-repair businesses nationwide has dropped from 20,000 to 5,000, said Mack Blakely, chairman of the National Electronics Service Dealers Association, a trade group for electronics technicians.
"That's due to the demise of repairing low-end products," he said. "Those have become disposable."
Blakely said there is hope for repair technicians who can learn to work with the new technology, especially if they can install high-end home-entertainment systems.
But for now, Cuomo has found a niche repairing big-screen TVs.
Cuomo only does mobile repair.
In a van stuffed with soldering equipment and electronic components, he drives around the city, tinkering with TVs at each stop.
Before visiting someone's house, he tries to diagnose the problem over the phone, so he can be sure he has the right parts when he arrives.
At the house, he sets up a soldering station on the porch, opens the TV and goes to work.
Cuomo said working at people's houses adds more pressure than working in a shop.
"For a lot of people, it's the first time they've seen the inside of a TV," he said. "Things probably would have been different if my parents had put me in front of the TV instead of behind it."
Home visits offer other hazards than just added pressure; cat hair, cockroaches and unfriendly dogs come with the territory.
"Sometimes I get into situations where I'm thinking, 'Should I fix the TV, or should I call someone about the condition these kids are living in?" he said.
Many new TVs, especially small Chinese models, aren't meant to be repaired, Blakely said. The manufacturers often do not sell parts or provide repair manuals.
But expensive HD sets are often easier to repair than old models, he said.
That's because they can be repaired by replacing broken components instead of working on the circuit itself.
"The type of skills required in the old days were more technical and difficult," he said. "You had to figure out what was going on at the circuit level."
Many people who have been in the business for a long time are intimidated by the new technology, he said.
"It's been great to me, but I'm not sure I'd recommend that someone get into it now," Cuomo said. "It's a crazy time in the TV-repair world."
Cuomo got an associate's degree in electronics in the late 1980s after taking classes at the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, now Central New Mexico Community College.
He began working at a local TV-repair shop and has been in the business ever since.
He moved around the country but came back to Albuquerque from Las Vegas a few years ago and started his business.
Most of his education is from electronics manufacturers, not schools. What he doesn't learn from the companies, he picks up from other repair technicians, often on the Internet.
"That's a standard education for people in the business."
"You can't just pick someone out of a vocational school for electronics and have them start working, there's too much specialized knowledge."
"Most repair technicians have to talk someone into training them on the job."
Five years ago, Cuomo couldn't have run his business from home, he said.
"We had huge rooms just with the manuals for all the different models," he said.
Now, Cuomo gets that information from the Internet, where repair technicians share information and tips. Sometimes, they even send each other hard-to-find parts.
"There's some real camaraderie," he said. "Repairmen all over the country help each other out, all the time."
One of the biggest complaints about the TV-repair industry is a "throw-away attitude" among manufacturers and consumers.
Cuomo tells about half the people who call him it would be cheaper to buy a new TV than to fix the one they have.
"I've been doing this job forever, but I'm still seeing brands I've never heard of," he said. "If I've never heard of it, it's probably going to be hard to get help from the manufacturer."
Despite the challenges, Cuomo said he's enjoyed his career.