Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2012   by Tom Venetis, Editor

True and False Fronts

If there is one thing that will cause apoplexy amongst shop owners and technicians is suggesting they’re out to defraud people. It’s an all-too-common perception among some consumers that car repairs are a license to be taken to the...


If there is one thing that will cause apoplexy amongst shop owners and technicians is suggesting they’re out to defraud people. It’s an all-too-common perception among some consumers that car repairs are a license to be taken to the cleaners with unnecessary repairs or grossly inflated rates on simple services.

Last year, CTV W5 featured a report showing a number of service shops that were suggesting unneeded repairs and high-priced services for what, in reality, were simple problems that should have been spotted quickly and fixed in a matter of minutes with nothing more than a screwdriver.

Another report has recently surfaced that will likely have many fuming once more. In the February 27th issue of Wheels.ca, a reader wrote about a timing belt failure that resulted in engine damage and a high repair bill. The vehicle owner wrote that the technician who did the repair informed him the vehicle never had its timing belt replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance interval. You are thinking: “Too bad buddy. You should have had it replaced and now you are paying for it.” The kicker is that the owner wrote he did have the belt replaced earlier at the appropriate time at another service shop; and he has the invoice from that shop showing the work was done.

There is not enough information in the article for me to know where the truth resides in this matter. This story is troubling because it plays into the perception that this industry is filled with fraud and people are out to mislead and gouge consumers.

Truth be told, the majority of shop owners and technicians are deeply honest, hard working professionals who treat people fairly and with respect. Many will go the extra mile to help a truly in-need person, going so far as not to charge for some work or to discount services.

However, there are some shops out there that do not inspire that kind of confidence or reflect the best-practices of the industry. They are dirty, ill-equipped and have such out-of-date signage you have to wonder if the motor oil they are pouring into your vehicle is from the 1950s. Others do such a poor job communicating with customers that many are left wondering what exactly is wrong with their vehicle and what they are paying for. Customers have complained to me that they have encountered technicians or shop owners who get so close to the edge of truth and falsehood they forget Cicero’s dictum “that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge.” And who has not come across news of a shop doing shoddy work or having a history of questionable practices that leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth.

Sometimes, in an effort to defend our industry, we are too quick to go on the defensive, especially when accusations of chicanery are brought forward. Yes, we want to support the team, to put up a united front; but we should not let that deter us from calling out practices and behaviours that diminish everyone.


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