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The Nightmare of an Auto Repair Gone Wrong

Updated on November 1, 2015
Madonna Bugayong profile image

Madonna lives in Gardena, Ca with her 2 kids. She attends LATTC for Business and Psychology, and she's a survivor and human rights activist.

We could all relate to the stress, time, headaches and money invested when our car breaks down and needs repairs. It wreaks havoc and causes us to lose precious time from work and family, not to mention our money. But we pay up, knowing we need our car to commute. Most of us have an honest mechanic that we trust, they're reliable and trustworthy. But what happens when you don't have one? In this case my boyfriends car broke down on the freeway far from home and he needed it towed to a repair shop.The tow company referred him to a repair and AAA certified Tow Company. Being AAA certified he agreed with no hesitation, because of that reason only. As consumers we look for certain certifications, for example in this case it was AAA certified so we automatically think this is a ethical company they stand by their product. Right? Well yes I agree as well. But that doesn't mean that the people that run or work for that establishment stand by that.

Listen to your intuitions that gut feeling it's always right

This experience caused so much emotional stress between us, so much time invested and cost my boyfriend Jason to fork up his hard earned money and all of that together it sadly tore us apart. I mean it bothers me, reflecting back at all the stress and trauma it caused us. I Remember the exact moment, my intuition kicked in about the fraud that was destined on us.So the car was getting worked on and it had been a couple days Jason calls and the manager that we were dealing with no names can be given for legal reasons, says its not quite ready they hit a problem. So, Jason decided to go see the problem at first hand because that meant more money and the estimate was already at $1,600.

Before I get to all of the details, when the car first was diagnosed the shop manager advised Jason that his BMW needed a brand new alternator with serpentine belt and pulley. The more luxurious the vehicle, especially a BMW the more costly, that's a given known fact. Ok, so we both go to the shop and the manager and another mechanic have a part on the floor, I'm still not even sure what it was but they were trying to explain to us they hit a big problem while placing the "new" alternator in and now the car was leaking "water". The manager said that it was another big job and it requires more labor, more parts and more money. What do you do when they there's another problem they stumbled across? You can't say or doing anything, you need your car fixed you don't have time to really think about it when you're put on the spot. You ask, is it fixable? So that's what Jason asked, and that's when the manager motions us to follow him to his office to go over new estimate costs. Now this is where my instincts kicked it! He goes over the bill so fast and brief, I couldn't write my notes down. It sounded to me like he wasn't even quite sure of what he was talking about. It just sounded like nonsense to me it wasn't adding up and didn't click right to me. Let me point out this though, he was a sneaky persuasive little manipulator. He convinced us that he did a wonderful job at getting Jason a top of the line brand new alternator with a lifetime warranty because the manufacture gave them a used alternator at first which he returned because it didn't work on his BMW. His car needed a brand new one. Makes me so mad thinking about that. The new estimate came out to be about $600 more making the total charges now $2,000 at this point. That was a lot more then Jason thought but he agreed because you do at this point. Plus he was leaving out of town for 2 weeks so he really had no choice. After Jason agreed he asked if we had questions and I did. I asked him to go over the breakdown again because i didn't understand it, I'm the type to write it down and research it if it's not adding up. I am, I'm sorry that's just me and my boyfriend turned to me with a nasty look and said it wasn't necessary that he understood. End of discussion as long as he knew because it's his car, I ended it. But I did have my handy little notebook out with pen and I probably would of caught the rip off right then. Who knows!

What went wrong?

Exactly 2 weeks later, he's home we go pick up the car and the manager greets us so we go to the office and he starts going over the invoice and tells us that the car is running in tip-top shape. It's running beautifully like a dream and they checked every hose and screw and bell and whistle. Great we thought, so how much. He tells us it's going to be $2,100 but with a AAA discount he'll knock off $100. Jason pays and we leave. One week later it was a Saturday he calls me and says the car is acting up. There's a loud sound squealing from under the hood and it's shaking. Ugh-oh great I thought. In between this week he took it to get a oil change so he said it might of been from the oil change and he was going back. He calls me again and says they sprayed lube on it to help with the noise but he was so upset because that didn't solve the root of the problem. The oil shop advised to take it back because he had a warranty and so he did that Monday. He calls me after he went to the repair shop and tells me they can't fix it because it wasn't something they warranty covered and it was a new problem. They misdiagnosed him and said it was a transmission problem. Great I thought. But, I know about transmission problems because my mom had a BMW and she had major transmission problems. If your transmission was shot you wouldn't be able to drive your car or it would be leaking and it wasn't. Tuesday he takes it to a specialized transmission repair shop and they tell him that it 100% not the transmission and he has the mechanic call the manager and tell him that. The repair shop tells him to bring it in. So he did the next day which was a Wednesday now. He takes me with him this time and we pull up to shop irritated. The manager lifts up the hood pulls a hose and says here's your problem you need a new hose that's connected to the coolant. Ok, great Jason asks me to call Beverly Hills BMW to order the part. I talk to the parts guy on the phone tell him what part I need and explain a little of the situation. He sincerely applied a discount and puts the part on hold for me. I ask the manager for a copy of the invoice because we lost ours and I wanted to go over it at home and do some research because I had intuition that we he was ripped off. Jason and I pick the part up and on our way we're quiet , we're tired and stressed and have had it. I felt so bad for him I just wanted to help my man out. After picking the part up we go home. I start researching the invoice and wouldn't you know it. He was ripped off.

I looked up the company on BBB because they had the accredited sign up and I couldn't even find any information on the company. I looked up the AAA certification nothing under the repair shop but the tow company was listed. I looked up the licenses on the invoice and no information. I notice that the $900 alternator said "remanufactured" and that means it's not new. I'm on a roll now. Jason looks up all the parts and there were a couple that he couldn't find alternator included and the prices were off. I couldn't find anything on the repair shop it was odd. We had dirt on them but we needed the car fixed still so we had to play it cool. The next day we go to to the repair shop and they put the new hose in which took less then 10 minutes. Great we can go, nope the manager stuck his head in the driver side window and tells Jason he has to pay the mechanic for that 10 minute labor and give him give him cash. Jason flips and finally cusses him out. He gets out and argues with him and demands to talk to the owner. Yes finally some actions here we go! I'm mad too so I confront him in front of his employees and tell him you lied to us. You said that you could only put a new alternator in his BMW and it says on the invoice that the part is remanufactured. Be honest and tell me the truth. He looks at me annoyed and loudly has the nerve to ask me , if I even knew what that word meant? I'm so angry I was shocked that he would even belittle me in front of my man and his employees. I answer him and reply " I sure f-ing do know what it means, it's a re-used, recycled part from the manufacture where the part was originally made. They used original manufactured parts to reassemble a part that can be resold and reused!" He looks at me stupidly and walks away like a coward. Another manager rushed to help us and at first I was hesitant about him as well. I argue with this manager and demand to know where they purchased our parts and he calls the company on speaker and says he wants to prove us wrong that we paid the correct price blah, blah blah. He asks the person over the phone what the cost was for a new alternator and the person on the phone replied for that vehicle it requires a Bosch and it costs about $600 for a new one. He thanks him and hangs up quickly and I'm like hold on I wanted to talk to him. The manager feels bad he proved himself wrong. They overcharged Jason with a used part. We argued to get all of the money back from that part and that could've solved the problem but they were greedy. They would not give us the name of the manufacture at all which had us both thinking if they even put an alternator in at all. It could've been the original part. This repair shop just didn't want to pay up, long story short Jason only received $300 back that day. They argued that it was a new part and they would only reimburse the difference. But that manager tried to help us but he couldn't, he later called to check on the car after all the drama. He was the one that told us that they absolutely ripped us off.

How we fought back!

That happened on a Thursday, a couple days later Saturday Jason calls me and wouldn't you know it the car is still acting up. Same squeals and all. I tell him that he needs to get everything in writing now, time to sue. I felt so bad for him driving around in circles and wasting gas it took a toll on him. It literally drove him crazy. That week the first 3 days he went to 2 certified BMW dealerships and got accurate diagnoses in writing which both advised that the repair shop caused all new damages and yes the alternator was used. Then he went to a certified transmission shop and got it in writing that it was not a transmission problem like they insisted. He paid over $300 for all of that information in writing basically putting the money refunded back into the car. I was doing all the paperwork. I researched the correct organizations to file the complaints. The FTC, ASA, BBB, AAA and I submitted bad reviews on all the websites connected to repair shops even Yelp which was removed later I found out. We had to gather all of our facts and information.
It was a Friday, he says he was on his way to pick me up we'll go eat somewhere talk about our plan and then head over there. I'm thinking perfect so I dressed up a little inappropriately because I thought I could change at his house where I had all my documents. I was wearing some little shorts looked a little like lingerie and a see through black blouse with just a bra under and strappy heals because I thought we were going to the beach. He tells me let's just get this out the way because who knows what's going to happen and he was right. I'm a little uncomfortable and nervous as we pull up I notice they all run away to dodge us. Jason sticks his head out and sarcastically yells out to the manager " I can't get a hello or good morning today?" Oh no I'm thinking. I tell Jason let's not argue in front of them today and we need to be a team and he agrees. The plan was for me to talk directly to the owner and Jason got out the car before me because I was trying to gather myself. He was already in a heated conversation with the second manager that refunded us. He already cussed the first one out and called him a devil so that guy didn't want to deal with us nor us with him. So he's busy trying to find out what mechanic was working on his car. I asked the receptionist who happen to have my back, where I can find the owner and she led me straight to the office. I walk in and there were 2 men, one offered me water I declined and he left. The owner motions me to have a seat and I decline and then he asks how can he help me? I smile and reply " I'm glad you ask, I need the correct name of your establishment because I wasn't able to look it up and verify your license or bar number and my lawyer is waiting for it." He asks " lawyer for?" I reply " Oh, where should I start? I have 3 certified documents from BMW dealerships and another specialty mechanic with correct diagnoses all pointing to your establishment and agreeing that all current and existing damages were caused by your company. Also, I looked up your licenses and the ones you list on my invoice can't be verified nor your companies name. You have false signs up misleading us that you're accredited by BBB and AAA certified and I couldn't find any of that information. You guys lied about everything from the 1.5% over excessive charges on parts to the misdiagnoses, false signs, unnecessary repairs and no active business license. Also, your mechanics messed up the car even worse by the sloppy job and had us go order new parts and hoses that your repair shop damaged. We don't even know the manufacture of our parts you installed and it says lifetime warranty but with who we don't know! " He says the warranty is with his repair shop and I said " no, you guys will be audited and shut down because I reported your company if you did to us, you did to everybody else. You have no valid information that we could verify and my lawyer is waiting for my fax. " He looks at me shocked. He said he didn't want to take it there and asked me what I wanted. I told him my boyfriend just wants his car fixed correctly with no further charges, his money for excessive charges and parts and he needed a rental car on him. He agreed quickly and I told him I needed to double check with Jason first. He follows me over to my boyfriend I introduce them and tell Jason what he offered and he agreed and he said yes. The owner then walked us over to the car rental place next door and tells the man helping to put it on his tab. He gets Jason's information and asks if we need insurance and I reply yes. The owner steps in and says he doesn't cover the insurance. I look at him and say "we're not paying a dime more we agreed all further charges are on you, are you going back on your word? " He says don't even worry about it that our insurance would roll over. I'm an underwriter for insurance so I know this is true. I tell him " so yes it's true but again that's our insurance being used in case of an accident and it only covers the liability not the comp and collision. You mean to tell me that you're not going to pay the extra $8 bucks a day for full coverage? So would if we got into an accident with our kids in the BMW because of the mistakes your repair shop made? A part malfunctions and we crash and we're injured? You would of been liable and that's worse. " He still disagreed and I'm about to argue again but Jason cuts me off and tells me to shutup forget it he'll pay. I turn to the owner heated inside and tell him " look what you caused us, you see what your company did? All we've been doing is arguing with each other all f-ing week because of your nightmare of a shop!" I turn to Jason and tell him " I'm done, you handle it now. " I walked out and I couldn't believe what just happened. Jason runs to find me shortly after and I'm shaking with frustration like how dare he, we were supposed to be a team. He apologizes and tells me after I walked out the owner told him to add all the insurance and he was scared I would sue. Well good I thought. He smiled at me and said he was proud of me. I said there was one last thing, we need all of this in writing and since the owner didn't want to create a new invoice for us I wrote a statement out in my notebook and had Jason and the owner sign it just in case.

Get all your facts and research and fight

I never wanted to sue anybody in my life but it felt like it was very necessary with this company. I never had the courage to fight back and we did. We did the right thing in the end. I never did end suing them it was just a threat, I filed the complaints and wrote bad reviews which the repair shop had removed because I went against guidelines and used real names and I guess they were losing business. Their karma will or has already caught up to them. As consumers we don't think about getting ripped off. We look for certain signs and good reviews for a piece of mind to show us that a company is legit and ethical but now I know that doesn't mean anything. To verify a company you look up those licenses and verify them before you even do business. That's how bad it is now. It felt good to help Jason fight although it caused emotional damages on us both and we broke up since then. I couldn't allow myself to watch him suffer like that. The last straw for me, was when I seen him drive past my house just looking for a shop to help him and because the car squealed on and off and it always happened to stop once he pulled into a repair shop. I didn't even know he was in my neighborhood when I seen him drive by while I happen to be looking out the window poor thing. We still remain best friends because we both helped each other in some of the most toughest battles. We both learned a lot from that experience and it taught us both lessons. He knows he could count on me for anything and likewise. I hope this story helps people in the same situation that got ripped off and scammed like we did and I hope our story inspires them to have courage and fight back. Anything is possible if you believe and gather your facts and information. Dig up your research and get in writing. This actual experience pushed me to become stronger and wiser and want to help others. It also connected me to where I go for helpful information, my resources, tips on how to's and it made me want to write my experiences to share in hopes to reach someone looking for answers.


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