Unscrupulous Auto Repair

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Unscrupulous Car Repair

Would you have any advice on how to get satisfaction from an unscrupulous car repair shop? We took my car in and paid for a "super tune-up." While the car was there, the key stuck in the ignition. The shop said it was probably just time for it to go, and charged me $40 to repair the tumblers. When I got the car out of the shop, the horn, brights and turning signals didn't work. After arguing with them for a couple of weeks, I found they had closed for reorganization. I took the car to a more reputable shop, where they told me that none of the work I had paid for had been done (the belts weren't changed, the oil was the same, etc.). Their charge to bring it back to where it was prior to the first shop? Just over $400.00. Do you know who I contact in the state of MD?

In California: The Bureau of Auto Repair

In California, the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) is found in the state government section of the white pages. Generally if you contact the Better Business Bureau they can recommend who to contact for any type of complaint.

Local Better Business Bureau

I'd like to suggest your local Better Business Bureau. I recently had some problems with a local carpet business. After calling and arguing with them on the phone (and getting NOWHERE!) I finally decided to contact the BBB. I got *immediate* results after filing my written claim. Even if you live in a small town, you can find one in your region, I'll bet. You can also contact the BBB *before* having work done to find out if any claims have been filed against a particular business.
Leslie in Oklahoma

Check Mechanic's Certification

Almost every state requires mechanics to hold some form of certification. I'm in Michigan, and we have special laws that place requirements on mechanics (written estimate before any work is done, signed approval before any work is done, car owner receives old parts back, etc). I suggest you contact the Better Business Bureau or maybe even a State Representative's office in your area and ask about the laws in your area.

I know how frustrating it can be to be a woman and deal with mechanics. I once took my car in because the defroster fan wasn't working. The dealership charged me an hour of labor (about $40) even though it was only 10 minutes, and charged me for "parts" even though they only used a two-inch piece of black tape to seal an exposed wire. When I complained to the mechanic and confronted him, he told me if I didn't like it, he could make it so my car didn't work at all! Crooks like these need to be stopped before they take advantage of others!
N.B. in Michigan

How About TV Consumer Line?

You have several places that you can contact. Start with the Better Business Bureau, you may find that you are not the only one who has had problems with these guys. You can then contact your local TV station. Almost every town has a "Seven Can Help" (our local channel). They have a consumer advocate group that seeks retribution for things like you have experienced. They are usually very successful because the business doesn't like the free advertising. And now for the big guns, every Governors office (maybe Attorney General) has a "thing" called "a Congressional". Basically it works like this, you would "elect" to do a "Congressional" on your problem. They contact the business (or organization) and give them 24 hours to respond to them concerning the issue. If they do not, then they are dealing with the State and not you.

Try Attorney General's Office

Contact your Attorney General's office, the Better Business Bureau and possibly even the Office of Consumer Counsel. Register complaints about this business. Chances are, you are not the only one to have a problem with this company.

Pay With Credit Card

This is in response to the reader who had a problem with a car repair shop bleeping with her electrical system. I work for a lock shop so this is my slant on things:

First, she should have paid with a credit card. Then she has the leverage to protest the charge after reasonable attempts to work something out with the shop have failed.

Second, if the shop had problems with keys stuck in the ignition, *they* should have gone to a competent *locksmith* with experience in dealing with automotive problems. Replacing the ignition may not solve all the problems but if you are replacing the ignition, you may also find that you now have two keys when you had one before.

While a locksmith is not a replacement for a good auto electric shop (which is what she also needs), he (or she) is the best option for dealing with the ignition cylinders and other security hardware on the car. Look for a locksmith who features his membership in trade organizations in his advertising. Most locksmiths associations, like the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) require new members to be sponsored by existing members.
Jill L.P. in Hillsboro, OR

Attorney General or Small Claims Court

Contact your state's attorney general office (listed under state government in the phone book). In most states, this is the office that handles consumer complaints. Another option is small claims court. The cost is minimal. Just suggest in her suit she sue for all costs associated with this fiasco, including filing and summons fees, any estimates she paid for, mileage to and from the shops that fixed the damage. The more documentation she has, the stronger case she will have with any of these options. Also, if there is a consumer watch on one of her local TV news stations, they may be interested in helping. She may also contact the Better Business Bureau. They won't take action, but at least they can warn others before they do business with this same company if it reopens after its "reorganization."
Linda S.

BBB On-Line

The Better Business Bureau is on-line at www.bbb.org. You can check out businesses who belong to it in any state, read reviews, report problems, or just get contact numbers for the bbb in your state by choosing LOCATE A BBB from the home page. I don't know if your garage is a member of the bbb but you might be able to use the phone numbers given to find someone who can help. The MD BBB is found at http://www.baltimore.bbb.org.

California Experience

In California, there is a Bureau of Automotive Repair. I used this once when I got burned getting a clutch job. I had called ahead to ask some very specific questions about what was included in their advertised price. After getting what I thought were the answers I needed, I took my car in. The shop later called me to tell me some "extra" work needed to be done. I had specifically asked if that "extra" work was included in the advertised price. When I couldn't work something out with the owner, I wrote to the Bureau of Automotive Repair. They responded quickly. Unfortunately, unless I wanted to go to small claims court, there wasn't anything they could do about the financial side. They did write a citation, fine the shop, and place conditions on their advertising for a period of time. That in itself was satisfying to me.

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