Lessons Learned From Car Repair Fraud

May 11, 2010

If you ever thought that car repair fraud was under control, consider the case of Maurice Irving Glad who ran 22 Midas Auto repair shops in California. Jerry Brown, the Attorney General of California, succinctly described the operation back in January when he said: “For years Glad ran a bait and switch scam in which he deceptively lured customers into his Midas shops with cheap brake specials, and then charged them hundreds of dollars more for unnecessary repairs.”

For the record Midas International Corp. stepped up and took over all the locations and honored the warranties and guarantees Glad had provided. As for Glad, he agreed to pay 1.8 million dollars to settle the attorney general’s allegations. According to a Los Angeles Times article the scam centered around luring customers in with “$79 to $99” brake specials and then adding other fees. As part of the resolution Glad can never engage in any type of business requiring licensing from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, the article said. California’s gain will probably be some other state’s loss.

So what does this tell you about getting involved with an auto repair shop like Mr. Glad’s? First the old saying: “If it sounds too good …,” you know the rest, really does apply here. Think about it. Glad’s shops were offering brake jobs that barely equal the cost of one hour’s labor charge.
Most advertising is legitimate and specials are common. Seasonal specials are the mainstay of all car repair operations which have always been weather sensitive businesses. Who hasn’t been served well by a cooling system flush and refill prior to winter and God knows everyone wants to get a deal. You should react to deceptive car repair ads the same you do to an e-mail from a Nigerian potentate, the reaction should be: “No Way.”
Reputable shops are not willing to trade off the opportunity to nurture a repeat customer on the unlikely chance that they can hit the homerun with a one-time customer lured in by a bait and switch ad. The good shops rarely emphasize extremely low prices for things other than oil changes and tire rotations. So the ad itself should raise a red flag.

But if you are a person that just can’t resist a good deal, I suggest you call the shop and ask some questions. Here’s a few: “What’s the charge if I decide not to have the work done?; “What does the warranty cover and how long does it last?”; “How close to the final price will your estimate be?” and the coup-de-grace: “What happens if you say I need more work done and I refuse to continue the repair?” And please take notes.
Although these safeguards, may have not have helped if you had gotten ensnared in one of Mr. Glad’s operations, they would have at least made life a bit more difficult.

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