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I what? I overcharged them?



August 30, 2007 – Comments (2)

I came across a news story that reminded me of a little brush-up I (an auto mechanic)had with a customer  and  the NY State DMV, 4 years ago. I'll tell you my version.

Here in NY all (legal) repair shops are subject to DMV regulations. What that means is generally before a repair shop is sued in court by a customer for faulty repair work or other crime the customer takes their complaint to DMV who decides the merits of the case and passes judgement. If I win the customer can still sue me elsewhere, and if I lose I can refuse to pay and risk my repair shop registration, and still wind up in court where the judge will usually follow the DMV's recommendation.

So four years ago a new customer (recommended by an old customer) shows up with a Camaro running like crap, idling rough, misfiring, no power etc. And a tale of woe about the expense of parts already replaced that did not fix the problems, and then finding out that since those parts did not fix the problem, he needed a rebuilt engine. He went to an engine rebuilder recommended by the shop that had installed the parts that did not fix the car, who installed a rebuilt engine at great expense to my new customer.

And now he is in my shop with the same problems and without $3500.00. And telling me once I (His new hero based on the recommendation I received) have figured out whatever is wrong and fixed his car he is going to sue the other two shops for his money back.

I do not blame him. I would not be happy in his shoes either, and would likely do the same thing.

So now I am tasked with finding whatever problem these other two shops missed. Now I know they would have preferred to fix this man's car. Every shop I have ever worked in would prefer to charge money and send you away happy, as opposed to charging you money and sending you away unhappy with a car not fixed. So I know they at least tried to fix the car and now I have to find the problem they missed.

Now I have been fixing cars for almost 30 years, and for the last 18 whatever shop I have worked in I have been the "go-to" guy for the tough ones. Don't get me wrong, I know some better mechanics than myself out their, but I am pretty good. So I take the keys of the counter and start with a test drive, and this car will barely move around the parking lot. It is not safe to take onto the street and as bad as it is running I don't have to. So I sputter around into my bay. Now I am home, in my element, surrounded by six figures worth of wrenches and sockets to fit nuts and bolts the size and variety of which is astounding even to me.  I roll my sleeves up turn the bill of my cap around and get down to it. I get out my $10,000 (yes 10k, and boy did I miss going long on Snap-on) computer scanner with annual $700.00 updates and pull a dozen codes of the kind that anything can cause. So I start with checking fuel pressure: fine. Spark timing: a mile out, I set it but the car still runs crummy. Engine compression: good. I set it up to check the ignition on an oscilloscope (the heart monitor machine you see in hospital dramas) and I see high firing voltages and hash along ther burn line. I put the car onto an emissions anilyzer (15k in 1990 before the state mandated the newer 40k ones with the dynos) and start killing ignition to cylinders one at a time. Sure enough 4 injectors were restricted and not delivering enough fuel. I tell the service writer and he writes an estimate for around $800.00 including the 4 injectors at $119.00 each and $30.00 for gaskets. The rest is diagnostic time and labor at $70.00/hour to change the parts. The customer says fix the car and we do. I pull off the intake plenum, remove and reinstall the four injectors. I clean the parts going back on, put her back together and it is off for a test drive. And holy crap, she runs nice. I mean kickin. This is a v8 Camaro and that rebuilt motor came with an oversized cam for more pop. The customer did not tell me he had it, but he would have had to ask the rebuilder in order to get it. Doesn't matter, this car is fixed. I give the keys to the service writer and go on to my next job.

Two weeks later my boss is screaming and yelling at me like I'm the referee at  soccer game. It seems the Camaro owner decided that we ripped him off, and DMV is suggesting that we refund the 1/2 of the labor we charged for diagnosing this guys car in order to stay out of a hearing. It seems the DMV guy is prepared to recommend at the hearing that we overcharged for the diagnosis and should therefore refund that portion of the labor. 

But my work was good I complain. I fixed the car. The price was cheap. Doesn't matter says DMV, just make it go away. Do you want to waste time at a hearing? DMV doesn't.

Rather than have my boss and I lose a full days work each, he gives in and writes a check for $125.00 and refunds the customer. Good for us says DMV it is the smart thing to do. Now the DMV guy doesn't have to listen to any more phone calls from the customer or spend a day in court and neither do we.

Oh, I'm sorry. The point of all this rant. What news story inspired me to spend this long, writing this story, about which most of you are probably saying "so what". 

If I had to buy it again today, I could not even afford the house I am living in.

There, I've  vented. I feel better now.

Unfortunately I still cannot afford my house.


2 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 30, 2007 at 11:39 AM, EPS100Momentum (73.56) wrote:

Great Story, read it in full....

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#2) On August 30, 2007 at 12:31 PM, hall9999 (91.57) wrote:

  Probably one of the things that upset me the most was the unlimited tax-deferred pension plans.  I have a limit on my 401k but CEO's can sock away as much as they want?!!  I thought the point of pension plans was to encourage people to save so they would have enough to retire on.  Why the hell would someone making $10M a year need to worry about retirement?

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