Louis Rossman didn’t want to keep paying a couple hundred dollars an hour to a therapist asking questions about computers. So in 2012, this renovation engineer started performing on YouTube. “This channel was not meant to be watched by other people,” says Rossman. But today, when on his YouTube channel signed by more than 1.5 million people (this number scares even Rossman himself), he is no longer “an ordinary person whining for a camera for psychotherapy.” He became a major figure in the right to renovate movement.
The right to repair is a concept that allows the owner of a broken phone, car or computer to have it repaired without contacting the manufacturer or retailer. Repair rights advocates argue that companies like Apple have a financial incentive to create monopolies out of repairs, directing buyers to their repair centers when devices run into problems. They say that in this way, companies can inflate or skip repairs to convince consumers to buy a new device.
For third-party repair shops doing iPhone and MacBook repairs without Apple’s official authorization, finding the right parts can be a daunting task. According to 2017 Motherboard investigationApple is forcing recycling partners to destroy old devices to avoid reusing parts.
At 32, Rossman runs a maintenance workshop for the Rossmann Repair Group in Chelsea, which he says has annual revenues of approximately $ 1–2 million. According to CEO Steve Younis, Rossman runs his 16-person business in the same way that he deals with his YouTube audience – with “ruthless honesty.”
If his clients can’t afford the cost of repairs, Rossman gives them the materials they need (screwdriver, keyboard, etc.) and offers to watch video instructions to learn how to make the repair themselves. If the client copes, he will not be charged.
“Luis’s main motivation is being able to control his own devices,” says Eunice.
Louis Rossman fixes the MacBook in his March video Making a MacBook work again with Louis Rossmann.
Prior to joining renovations, YouTube, and advocacy, Rossman interned and worked as a sound engineer. Around 2008, he bought a MacBook on eBay for his project. Upon delivery, it turned out to be broken. Louis fixed it, completed the project, and then sold the laptop. “And then I thought – hmm, I never had a real job, I work at the minimum wage and earn $ 400-600 a month. And now I made $ 250 for a 15 minute job. Let’s try it again, ”says Rossman.
The self-taught repairman has developed his own process for the practice of repairing unfamiliar devices. “I bought used devices, tried to fix them, broke them, swore and then tried to fix them again,” he says. “Then I completely broke them, bought new ones and sooner or later figured out how to fix them.”
He asked other repair companies how long it took them to repair and how much it cost to the client, and decided that he could take less and repair faster.
“I thought, wow, for a guy in basketball shorts who comes to clients’ offices and homes, there are opportunities for a decent income,” says Rossman.
In 2012, he opened two Rossmann Repair Group workshops – one in Manhattan, the other in Brooklyn (the second closed six months later). In the same year, he started a YouTube channel and since then has recorded more than two thousand videos.
While recording videos, he often sits at the table in his house and speaks into a microphone; a rubber duck, a Christmas tree (sometimes even in May) and his black cats Blackberry, Clinton and Oreo are often seen in the frame.
“To be honest, I don’t like any of my YouTube videos. If I hear at work that someone is watching my video, I say: ‘Turn off this bullshit.’
He does not know how the channel managed to reach such a number of subscribers (it seems to him that the matter is in the YouTube algorithm). But he believes that people like to look at someone who does what cannot be done, who learns on the job and talks honestly about it.
“Also, in this way, viewers indirectly show a huge middle finger to the companies.”
Rossman is not shy about criticizing Apple, or the real estate situation in New York, or lobbyists in his videos, who interfere with the repair of devices, while diluting his speech with profanity. Some of the videos are completely unexpected. IN this april video “Time to say goodbye, charming asshole,” Rossman reprimands a stubborn mouse that doesn’t want to leave his workshop. (Spoiler alert: The mouse was banished.) In another video, Rossman talks about the intricacies of repairing a MacBook board. And in many, he talks about the right to repair.
Rossman first attempted to defend his rights in 2015 when he and Jessa Jones, who owns an iPad Rehab in Honeoya Falls, NY, traveled to Albany for a lobbying day organized by the Repair Association, which promotes legislation and standards to ensure ease of repair. In addition to attending events, he spoke at public hearings and recorded them for YouTube.
“I want to make the process transparent for all viewers. I want them to watch with me, as if they are following the action of a sitcom or the plot of a drama series, see all the unexpected turns, feel angry, so that sooner or later they think, ‘I want to fix this situation.’
Louis Rossman squeezes his rubber duck at the end of his April video “The pandemic is ending even if COVID is still here.”
The decades-long battles for the right to repair are not only taking place in the technology sector. In 2012, Massachusetts legislators passed the Auto Repair Right Act, and the state’s electorate said yes to the repair right, which was raised on the ballot.
The Repair Association, inspired by the Massachusetts Auto Repair Right Act, seeks to expand that right to other industries. “Our goal is to enact laws in all states,” the organization’s executive director, Gay Gordon-Byrne, told us. At the moment, more than 25 states are considering bills.
Gay said the Repair Association would like to organize a direct voting initiative, like the one in Massachusetts, but gathering public opinion and advertising will be too expensive. The Massachusetts Auto Repair Right Amendment 2020, amended to the 2012 Act, has been spent by all parties involved in total more than 50 million dollars… The Repair Association simply does not have comparable financial resources.
However, Rossman hopes to collect them. As a repair engineer, repair rights advocate and YouTube star, he has the experience and influence needed to bring his new vision to fruition: trying to vote in Massachusetts the right to repair consumer electronics.
“Louis is very good at motivating people to fight back baddies,” says iPad Rehab owner Jenna Jones. “He has the unique ability to point out atrocities and mobilize people to resist them.”
To do this, Rossman created the Repair Group Preservation Action Fund, a nonprofit public welfare organization, and launched fundraising campaign… It has raised more than $ 700,000 out of $ 6 million so far, which is not nearly enough given that its potential opponents will be tech and telecom giants such as Apple, Verizon and T-Mobile.
“We’re not really against it,” says Gordon-Byrne. “God bless him for this attempt. But I believe that our ability to sponsor this initiative is very limited. We need to find some billionaire friends. “
This move is risky, even if Rossman manages to collect 6 million.
“If you lose the vote, it will be difficult for other people to raise this issue again, because it will look like your idea has not passed the test,” says Nathan Proctor, director of the campaign to promote the rights to repair US Public Interest Research Group.
But according to Rossman, it’s worth a try. The deadline for filing a petition to vote is August, and Rossman plans to file it if he can raise enough money. Then there will be another year and a half left for campaigning and fundraising for the issue to appear in the 2022 newsletter. And if the law is passed, Rossman will continue to work on passing repair rights laws in other states. And if Louis loses, then he himself says the following: “I guess I’ll go home and drink a bottle of liquor.”
Rossman doesn’t know where he will end up, but he wants to leave New York. He says paying rent in Manhattan is unwise, as half of the customers send their devices by mail anyway.
He is currently working on creating materials for training repairs, promoting a direct vote on the law initiative, and publishing several videos a week on YouTube. He concludes quickly with various variations of the phrase: “Today is all, and as always, I hope you learned something.” And sometimes even a big rubber duck crumples.
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