More Tales From the Garage

Have you ever been in a circumstance that made you stop dead and rethink what’s happened because you’re sure such a thing belongs in a whacky movie script? This whole car repair thing is just such a circumstance for me. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you missed the beginning of the story! Go back to my previous entry and read the first topic, then come back here. Okay, are we ready then?

Friday morning, as I put the key into my car door, I immediately noticed something was wrong. No, no tires were flat. Rather the centre console was wide open and my parents’ garage door opener was on the passenger seat. This wasn’t the way I left things the night before. Lovely, my car had been burgled. It’s never happened to me before in my building’s parking garage so I suppose I ought to be thankful it’s taken this long. The only thing the bastards made off with was my cassette adapter. I keep the inside of the car pretty bare because it’s been broken into at the Museum many times. When I park it there, I go to the trouble of opening the change compartment, the ash tray, the cup holder, the centre console, and the glove compartment so anyone looking inside can plainly see there’s nothing to steal. It’s worked so far but I haven’t taken this precaution at home. Perhaps I ought to start. I thought they’d taken my sunglasses, but I was pleased to later find them in my apartment.

Friday was a slow and careful drive to work because we had a lot of snow. All together, twenty-four centimetres over the course of the day. It’s the largest single-day snow fall since 1993. Things were a little slower than normal on the road, but nothing else was really different. Kudos to the snow removal crews! Montreal had it worse with over forty centimetres of snow on Friday.

I drive right past a garage near my office so I called them after I got to work. I asked if they do suspension work. They do. I asked if I could bring my car in to have the CV boots looked at. I could, and they do inspections for free. That’s great, but I explained they might want me to pay anyway. I imagine they do inspections for free because if work is required, there’s a good chance they’ll be asked to do it. Whether or not the CV boots required changing, they wouldn’t be doing it. The young lady on the phone said they’d be happy to do my inspection for free regardless. So I made an appointment for 12:30. Perfect.

I wanted to take photographs but I thought I’d ask after finding out they hadn’t been changed. If the boots had been changed, I could avoid asking the weird question. It occurred to me however, that they might lower the car and park it before giving me the news. I went back up to the counter (startling the woman with my stealthy approach it seems) and asked if they allowed customers into the service bay. She answered with a curious look. I explained that if the CV boots hadn’t been changed, I’d like some photographic evidence. She checked with the manager and there was no problem. Excellent! I expected to be told it was against policy or some other dodge.

CRW_03726.CRW: Digital Rebel, EF 17-40mm 1:4L @ 40mm, 1/100, f/5.6, 100 ISO, direct flash
My left outer CV boot. Does this look like only a single day of wear? Granted it doesn’t seem too bad for a ten year old piece of rubber, but I didn’t pay over $400 to keep the CV boots I already had!

Some ten minutes later I was deep into a newspaper article when I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard a voice behind me, “Have you got a moment?” I certainly did! The mechanic took me into the service bay saying very little. Walking under the car he pointed out the inner and outer CV boots as he asked, “Are you certain it was the outer boots that were changed?” I told him I was absolutely certain. He reached up and stuck his fingers into the accordion-like bellows of the CV boots revealing a well-worn crack along its bottom. I later realised he didn’t give me a diagnosis, but rather let me see for myself. The boots had not been changed. It’s exactly what I expected, but I was still shocked. How can this happen? I went to the other side and saw exactly the same thing in the other outer boot. The mechanic told me to go ahead and take photos if I wanted to, but to not get him or anyone else in them, and not to reveal where I brought the car. He explained the repair community is a small one and he wanted no trouble. I understood completely and promised his secret was safe with me. Too bad because I’d like to give them a kind mention as they were so good to me.

The photo is the left boot. My finger is the big blurry blob at the bottom holding the rubber apart to really show the cracking. It’s also visible in the valley to the right, where my finger is pointing, if you think I may be causing it by stretching the rubber. The image is about twice life-size. One of the guys offered to hold his flashlight on the area I wanted to photograph, but as soon as he saw my gear, he said “Oh,” realising I’d be able to make all the light I needed. I was amused. When I came out from under the car, I noticed a few of the other mechanics had come over because my flash had caught their notice. My mechanic was telling them why I was taking the pictures. I was doubly amused. I again offered to pay for their time but the mechanic would have none of it. I thanked him kindly and left.

So there I was driving back to work having learned my suspicion was true. Besides the tire, none of the work I brought the car in for was done … and the tire was only done because I spoke up about it when I came to collect the car. It really hadn’t been moved the whole time I left it there. There was no question about it, I had to call the garage. I really dislike confrontation, but I dislike being taken advantage of even more and simply will not put up with it. Just before I called them, it occurred to me they may have already tried to call me. I did leave a very unsatisfactory response in the survey they asked me to complete, and I did include my name and phone number. To be sure, I checked my voicemail and imagine my surprise when I discovered the guy who was manning the service desk the day before had left me a message regarding my survey response. I have to admit they were really quick to respond.

He apologized backward and forward, and offered me a free oil-change as an apology. He explained the mechanic who worked on my car took full responsibility for the tire not being properly repaired. The mechanic delegated the tire repair to an apprentice working with him and neglected to inspect the apprentice’s work. He next explained he fully understood why I might not feel confident in the CV boot replacement but they’d be happy to put my car up on the hoist and show me the work if I came down. I laughed a little to myself at this point.

So I called him back. He recognized me as soon as I said my name, and repeated his offer of showing me the work to allay my concerns. I explained I already took the car elsewhere to have it checked. Not only did I look at it myself but even my untrained eye could see the boots were not new. I believe he was genuinely shocked. Not in a “I don’t believe you” way, but that he was certain the tire was just a mistake and the mechanic really had done the CV boots as promised. He’s wrong, though.

He asked me if I could bring the car in later the same day. They close before I could make it there after work so this plan was a non-starter. Unfortunately, they’re only open late on Wednesday and Thursday so we make arrangements for Thursday. I am going to call him back however. I believe he’s made an appointment for me not only so they can confirm my claim that the work wasn’t completed, but also do to the work if they see I’m correct. In thinking about it however, I don’t want them to do the work. The most obvious reason is after this incredible screw-up, I won’t trust their fixing the problem and I’d rather not again take advantage of a free inspection somewhere else. Also, why should they have my business after such an incredible lapse? They profit on the work they do and I’d rather not contribute to their profit. A free oil change doesn’t cut it.

One thought I had made me reject their making the repair. It occurred to me this morning the most likely explanation I came up with was simply not possible. I’d thought the mechanic could have not looked closely enough at the work order and taken the wrong car in to do the work on. The problem with this is the car key. My key goes with my work order, so he couldn’t have just mistakenly taken the wrong car because the key wouldn’t have worked. On the off-chance the keys were mixed up, they would have given me the wrong key and I wouldn’t have been able to get into my own car. The only way this would work is if they mixed up the keys before the work and then ‘unmixed’ them afterwards, but this is just a bit too much to believe. It was either a mistake borne of gross negligence, or someone’s trying to pull a fast one. Either way, my business goes elsewhere.

So I’m going to call them back and give him the option of my presenting my car for their inspection any day during lunch if it’ll get me in sooner. I’ll accept a full refund and nothing less. Given the magnitude of their mistake I can’t imagine many would blame me for not wanting them to do the work. In telling this to my mother, she asked me what I’d do if they refused a refund and only offered to repair the car. I explained to her I’d tell them the only thing I’d accept is a refund. I paid for the work, and they claim to have done it, but in reality they did nothing but take my money. If they still refuse, I will get in my car and leave. My mom laughed saying I take after her. She will take no shit when a business tries to take advantage of her!

There are other avenues open to me, though I really don’t expect to have to pursue them. We’ll see.

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