Three RIPOFF Stories Involving Mechanics

“Being good is good business.” — Anita Roddick

In our modern age, trust is a super-big important word. When I place my money in the bank I trust that when I want it back I will get it back again. When I have a mechanic fix my car, I trust that he has done the work he’s charging me for, and that the work was needed as he advised.

One of the primary reasons online businesses like Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Shopify have been successful is because they took great pains to create systems of trust, that if one is ripped off the consumer has a recourse.

Hence, it can fairly be said that Capitalism — the free exchange of goods and services for capital (money) — is built on trust. Which is why it’s so disturbing to read or hear stories about people whose lack of knowledge is taken advantage of and they are ripped off.

Here are THREE RIPOFF STORIES that were not in the news. Two involved my own experience and one involved a friend.

My Sears Experience

Sometime in the mid-’70s, while I was still living in Jersey, I needed to have a muffler replacement on my car. I called Sears to get a quote and they said it would cost $75 and take an hour. I scheduled an appointment and brought it in.

Everything went smooth until the man handed me the paperwork to sign after the job was complete. I looked down, read the amount and said, “I was told seventy-five dollars.”

The guy called a manager, who apologized and said, “No problem.” Whereupon he presented me with paperwork indicating the amount I was quoted.

When the credit card bill came several weeks later, it was shocking to see the $175 charged to the card, shocking both for me and my dad, because it was his credit card. My dad told me to go back and fix it, which I actually did. And they did.

Upon reflection, I came away with the impression that the Sears rep tried to take advantage of me because of my youth. As a result, I never did business with Sears till near two decades later. And that experience almost turned out worse than the first. But that’s a story for another time.

My Son as a Mark

When my son was a student at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, his van began to drip a red fluid wherever he parked. Eventually he brought it to a mechanic because he knew he had to deal with it. When the mechanic told him it would cost eleven hundred dollars, Micah called me to ask my advice.

I knew from an experience with my first car that a leak can occur in front of the transmission which is fairly easy to fix. In my case (1970 or so) it cost six dollars. I asked his permission to let me talk with the mechanic. I made the call.

When I got through to the fellow who made the estimate, I told him who I was and that I worked for AMSOIL, a respected name in the automotive aftermarket. After a brief discussion we agreed it probably did not require a tranny teardown. He replaced the estimate with what ultimately became the final bill: $110.

A Woman’s Story

The smell of gasoline was getting worse, and there was an oil leak as well. Nancy (not her real name) became concerned enough to bring her [brand name redacted] to the [brand name redacted] dealership, They looked at it and said it would cost $4500 dollars.

She was distressed over this and shared her frustration with a friend. He told her she should get a second opinion and suggested a place.

The dealership told her it was exceedingly dangerous to even drive it, but she took it anyways. The mechanic, who had worked on her car once before, was a straight shooter. When all was said and done, the good guys fixed it, good as new. The final bill: $700.

What a sad place we have devolved to. On sinking passenger ships the call would go out, “Women and children first!” They were first because of their pre-eminence. Youth has its future ahead of it. Women deserve consideration and respect.

Unfortunately, in each of these three stories “women and children” seems to mean, “opportunity to make a few extra bucks.” It’s shameful to see such unscrupulous behavior, to take advantage of people who may be unaware that they’re being robbed.

It brings to mind the following anecdote from when I first returned from Mexico in 1982 and was job hunting.

I can’t recall if I was responding to a want ad or a sign, but I went to apply for a job at a tire shop. After filling out an application we talked a bit and the manager liked me. He said he would hire me, except he had one concern. He saw that I had been a missionary for a year, and he didn’t think I would be a good hire. “You can’t make money in this business if you’re honest,” he said.

One of the most important people in any of our lives is a mechanic you can trust. I’m grateful for having had a good run in that department. How about you?

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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