Dubai: When was the last time your phone broke or the blender in the kitchen stopped working, and you immediately thought of buying a new one? While getting a replacement can be quick with online shopping now being the norm, many UAE residents still appear to be keen on getting the original item repaired.
Go down a bylane of any popular market in the UAE and you are sure to find small repair shops, where you can get everyday items fixed – phones, laptops, kitchen appliances, shoes and even luxury car keys.
“In fact, people prefer to get things repaired instead of replaced. I am a key maker, I programme remotes and smart keys. Customers come to me and ask me to fix their old key,” 34-year-old Irfan Shahid, who works in his uncle’s shop in Dubai, told Gulf News.
“I could easily give them a new key, but they want the original one to be fixed. I have been in this field for nearly 10 years, I have seen the demand for repair work increase. Last month, I had a customer bring his luxury car key, I just had to change the case and it cost Dh900. A new key for that car is worth Dh9,000 at least,” he added.
Last month, I had a customer bring his luxury car key, I just had to change the case and it cost Dh900. A new key for that car is worth Dh9,000 at least.
Many shopkeepers also spoke about how customers were willing to spend more money repairing a mobile phone than what it was worth, just because they had years of memories stored in it.
21-year-old Haseeb Zaman, who repairs phones and laptops at a store in Dubai, said: “People are usually possessive and protective about their data. They may have been using the phone for many years, which might be worth Dh500 now, but they are willing to spend Dh600 or Dh700 on it, just to keep their data. Doesn’t matter how rich or poor they are, their data is the most precious thing.”
Speaking about laptops and desktops, Zaman said that the reason people reach out to repair shops is slightly different.
“A lot of people come to us to upgrade their laptop and increase its speed. We fix and upgrade all kinds of laptops and they are able to enjoy faster speed on their old machine, instead of spending thousands of dirhams to get a new one,” he said.
They may have been using the phone for many years, which might be worth Dh500 now, but they are willing to spend Dh600 or Dh700 on it, just to keep their data. Doesn’t matter how rich or poor they are, their data is the most precious thing.
Fixing branded shoes
Thirty-three-year-old Abdul Haleem also works at a shop in Dubai, specialising in repairing leather items like shoes and belts, as well as fixing suitcases and luggage pieces.
“There are days that we have fewer customers, on other days I can get 20 customers. People might get a shoe that’s worth Dh30 or even bring a shoe that’s worth Dh3,000 or Dh4,000. Once in a while I might get a customer who brings in a shoe that’s worth Dh5,000. When it comes to suitcases, there are really expensive items as well, with luggage pieces costing Dh50,000. It might need a minor repair, so they bring it here. With luggage, the most common requests are to repair the zip or the wheels,” Abdul Haleem said.
Mohammed Irfan, another shopkeeper who has been in the electronics repair business for over 20 years, said that while the lower cost of electronics over the years has made a difference, people still come to him if the repair costs significantly less than a new appliance.
“We fix all kinds of electronic items – microwaves, washing machines or kitchen appliances. But nowadays, we get the most requests for split ACs and washing machines. Also, restaurant equipment is usually expensive, so the managers prefer to get it repaired. We have been working in this business for 20 years and we always try to make sure that we repair it well. Because to be honest, if the customer has the same issue again, he or she won’t pay us to fix it the next time,” he said.
When you walk around a market that has many repair shops, like in Satwa, Dubai or Rolla, Sharjah, the customers seem to come from various backgrounds. People of different nationalities and income groups all bring items – big and small – to find out if they can continue using their sewing machine or shoes.
One such pair of shoes, which belonged to 31-year-old makeup artist Muhammad Awais, was extremely handy.
“I always kept this pair of sports shoes in my car … it was perfect to take out if I decided to just go for a walk at the end of the day, or if I was in my sandals and suddenly had to go somewhere important. After a couple of years, the sole started to crack from the side. I was in Bur Dubai, where I saw a cobbler at a repair shop. I had bought the shoe for Dh250 and I got it fixed for Dh15, and they are still in my car right now,” he said.
Another loyal customer of repair shops in Satwa is 43-year-old Muhammad Nadeem, who comes often to get broken phone and tablet screens repaired.
“My phone’s screen has broken twice in the past, and I come here to fix it. If I get a new one, it will cost Dh400 or Dh500. This costs around Dh80 or Dh90,” he said.
My phone’s screen has broken twice in the past, and I come here to fix it. If I get a new one, it will cost Dh400 or Dh500. This costs around Dh80 or Dh90.
But it is not just about saving on money, shopkeepers that spoke with Gulf News also talked about how the service they provide has to be top-notch, or they would not continue to thrive over the years.
Muhammad Khursheed, another shopkeeper who repairs watches, said that he has been doing this work for 40 years, having started at the age of 11. Today, he has individual customers, as well as shops from other parts of Dubai, who contact him to fix watches that are worth hundreds of thousands of dirhams.
“Any watch, expensive or not … they all come here to get them repaired. If you go to the manufacturing company with a watch worth Dh1 million, they will charge you Dh20,000 or more. Here, you can get it repaired for Dh2,000 to Dh3,000,” Khursheed said.
Once they come here, they don’t go anywhere else.
Hailing from a small town of Chishtiyan, in Pakistan’s province of Punjab, he said that watch repair was a family business, and he learnt it as a young boy from his uncles. When asked if fixing high-end watches was any different from the more affordable ones, he said: “They all have the same mechanism. It’s like when you learn how to drive … when you are learning, you might drive a regular car, but then you can use them same knowledge to drive a luxury car. We fix all kinds of watches. I once had a customer who dealt in watches. He came to me with three watches. He was so happy with my work that he went on to bring 400 watches over the years to get repaired. Once they come here, they don’t go anywhere else,” he said.