Reader Question: I just got my car back from my mechanic, and even though I've never had a problem with this shop in the past, I don't feel comfortable with what they said they did this time. Should I stop payment on the check until we can resolve the problems?
If you think you got the service you paid for and deserved, let someone know about it. If you are unhappy about the repairs, talk to the shop owner or manager in charge first. I think you will find that an honest shop will do whatever it takes to keep you as a customer.
Even the not-so-honest shop is usually smart enough to know that disgruntle customers can really be a thorn in their side. First of all, all mechanics make mistakes. You actually can get a defective "new" part, and other parts can unknowingly get damaged while they are working under the hood with a hot engine. I remember an incident when one of my mechanics poked a hole in the top of this lady's radiator as he was replacing her headlight. (That headlight really cost me a lot of money!) The lady was mad at us for damaging her radiator, and I guess she had every right to be. We did replace her 6 year old radiator with a new one free of charge, and we apologized again for any inconvenience we might have caused her. She was still upset with us and thought we were "too rough" on her car.
The point is bad things can happen. Don't just assume someone is out to get you. You don't have to write long letters or contact the local news, just show your concern to the shop owner or service writer in person. Try your best to document what your case is, and be willing to listen to his side of the story with an open mind.
If you have problems, by all means do not stop payment on your check or credit card without first trying to resolve the matter with the shop owner. Stopping payment can get you in a lot of trouble by having the shop repossess your vehicle in retaliation. In Texas, as in most states, the law is on the side of the mechanic, so do not try to take the law in your own hands. If the shop owner refuses to talk to you, or you still are unhappy with the outcome after talking to the shop owner, then I would recommend calling an attorney to get his or her opinion before you do anything else.
I have had to call a repossession company two or three times over the course of a few years, and the fees that they charged my customers to get their cars released from the storage facility was about the same as the amount they owed me. So these customers basically paid twice the amount they originally owed me, and what I did was perfectly legal and ethical. Most shops have you sign a right to repossession waiver when you leave your car for repairs. (It's that small print area on the service ticket that they push in front of you and you sign without asking what it means.)
Remember, the service writer, mechanic and/or shop manager is probably on commission of some sort, so he really wants you to come back and be happy. At most dealerships, the service writer will usually get some kind of monetary incentive for customer satisfaction and positive feedback. If you have positive comments to make, you might receive even better service the next time you visit the shop. If the service writer knows that you will take the extra time to call his manager and give him positive comments about his work, he knows you will definitely call with negative ones as well.
Austin C Davis
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