I received a phone call from an upset friend who had a horrible experience at a local auto repair shop. He explained that he dropped off his SUV for three simple services: an oil change, some new wiper blades, and his rear wiper motor was not working. Upon arrival he was greeted warmly and told that they were expecting him. However, his repair shop did not set any price expectations, nor did he sign an auto repair estimate authorizing any work – everything went bad from this point.
At the end of the day, when he picked his vehicle up, he discovered they had only fixed the wiper motor – the least of his concerns. He was shocked that the bill was $500 (RepairTrust discovered this was $75 too much). The person who greeted him so warmly in the morning wasn’t there. Instead, a grumpy and greasy mechanic stated the price with no explanation or skill in customer service.
What happened? I thought you can trust your local mechanic. Car dealers are the bad guys – right? The reality is that both types of auto service centers are substandard each in their own way. For more on car dealers and local repair shops go to Auto Repair. It’s obvious that expectations were not set and the standard protocol of getting a signature on the repair estimate was ignored, but something much more under-handed really happened.
You see, many car repair customers simply drop off their vehicles with their local repair shop, pick it up at the end of the day, and pay the bill. While this may seem convenient, the reality is that you’ve just given complete control of your wallet to an industry that works very hard to make as much money as possible from you.
Just because a local auto repair shop is friendly and casual (as opposed to the formalities in an automotive dealership), they are not always your advocate. Put another way, when you throw your keys to “your local guy,” you’ve just tossed your prized hen directly into the fox’s den. Local repair shops take full advantage of this.
Be your own advocate. Get your estimate in writing up front – or at least over the phone. You should leave your repair shop with an idea of the car repair costs and a clear understanding that you’ll be notified if things change.
The sad ending in this very common story for this particular repair shop is that they were actually good – they could fix cars – albeit with stretching the charges a bit. However, they lost a very wealthy and influential client (that never had an issue with price) who only wanted some simple communication and customer service.