Always Get a Second Opinion

Apparently Not…

Today is one of those days that I can’t believe happened. My ability to question someone and their expertise was on full test mode and when it comes to money we always have to make sure we get what we pay for. When it comes to cars and taking care of them, special care has to be made or the likelihood of getting ripped of increases.

Let’s make one thing clear, I love my car. It is symbol of my personal freedom to come and go as I please. I can control how long I stay somewhere because I do not have to wait for anyone. I have had my 2007 Hundai Elantra for 6 years and it has given me very few problems. One thing about owning a car is the annoyance of finding the time to get it inspected every year. This is very necessary because safety trumps everything else. However, being that I can be swamped with working events and money is an issue, it can be difficult to find time to get the inspection done.
So this week, I told myself that I am going to just get it done. I set an appointment for this morning at 8am and dropped off my car at Pepboys. I have been a loyal customer over the years with oil changes and inspections in the past, so today should be no different. I was nervous though, because last year I barely past inspection and I knew I had to get my brakes fixed. I got lucky because last October Cole Muffler had an unbelievable sale on brakes and brake pads. It was one of those things that I knew I could not pass up and since I had the money, I went with it. I ended up replacing all 4 brakes and the pads, plus all 4 routers, and got 2 new set of tires for $900. A lot of money…but for all the work that was done, it was a bargain.
Fast forward to today. I was praying that I passed this inspection. I know my car runs well, but some times you just never know. So I get the phone call from Pepboys telling me that I failed…badly. I am dumbfounded and pissed. The guy tells me that there are several concerns (which I wrote down). He tells me that my tie rods are bad. I have no idea what these are but they effect my allignment. Not all of them are bad but when one goes then they all have to be replaced because it also means I need a realignment. Then he proceeds to me about my BRAKES. The back set is stuck to the router and according to him, it is a safety issue. The best route, in his opinion, is to replace them although he could just clean them too. Then he tells me that my serpentine belt has a crack and there is problem with my sway bar that may have to rectified.
I am just quiet. I asked how much. He quotes me Ten Sixty Seven plus tax. I say…”you mean like, a thousand sixty seven???” I told him that will not work. So I begin to look at my options. The brakes and the tie rods will cost me more than $700. I keep repeating that I would rather the brakes be cleaned and not replaced because I just had those fuckers installed less than a year ago. So then I decide to just say fuck it, let them just do my oil change and I will figure it out. I was late to do my inspection which means they are taking the sticker off.
So I talk to my friend Casey (aka @panthbro) and he reminds me that I did get these brakes done by Cole Muffler. If they did do a horrible job then they have to fix it for free. He was right because I called them and this guy tells me that there is a lifetime warranty. AHA! My day was looking up already. I head over to Pepboys to get my car, pay for the oil change and drive it down the road to Cole. I explained the situation and he (Nick) was already looking at me like something isn’t right. He assures me that we will look at it right away and then tells me that more than likely I was almost ripped off. 
Cole saved the Day!
I leave to go back to work and 10 minutes later…Nick calls me. “Sir…there is nothing wrong with your car. The brakes do have to be cleaned and we can do that here. By the way, your tie rods do not even give one inch.” I almost did a cartwheel. He quotes me a price of $81 for labor and the inspection fee (which is $21). Before he hangs up, Nick says to me that I should report Pepboys to the BBB. If you don’t know, by law, no one can make a false inspection on your car. The fact that Cole can give me my inspection sticker shows that they put their name on the line when it comes to the customer’s safety.
So I pick up my car before they close and Nick is there telling me that this isn’t the first time that he has heard Pepboys doing such a thing. He seemed like a cool everyday guy and I remember not getting that cool feeling from anyone at the other place. It was more like drop off your car and wait kinda deal. It turns out that Nick charged me even less than he quoted because the brakes were not that dirty and it didn’t take that long to clean so he charged me half the labor. My total was $51. 
Which bring me to my point. Question everything! Get a second opinion! You never know what may happen.  I was freaked out and thinking about how I was gonna get the money to pay this. Cars are something that people depend on and because of that it makes us easy prey for those trying to make a quick dollar. 

4 thoughts on “Always Get a Second Opinion

  1. I can't believe what a bunch of scam artists are out there. Luck was on your side that the original place has a lifetime guarantee of their work which is extremely rare these days and you were able to get the work needed and for a very reasonable price. This isn't the first time I've heard of Pep boys doing this as I've known someone who got a quote from them which was outrageous. Sometimes we need a second opinion especially when it comes to costly things they take advantage of people knowing that they need their cars to get around. I would report them to the BBB, NY Consumer Affairs, etc and even an email to Pep Boys Corporate Office. I'm sure they'll think twice before they scam someone else if they heard from you.


  2. Anthony, I don't know about Cole muffler, but I know Pep Boys is a big chain. I try to steer clear of chains. Typically there's a bean counter pushing for better profit margins back at headquarters and that's when shit like this happens. I've gone in for parts before, but I've always gotten the heebie jeebies when talking to their service guys. It helps that I have a pretty solid understanding of the mechanics, even if I can't do every procedure. I can smell BS a mile away (even outside of the car stuff)..

    That said, if Cole Muffler is one of those places that's independently owned an operated franchise, and you get good vibes from the owner/operator… Then stick with him. Good mechanics are like Doctors.. find a good one that you're comfortable with, that you trust, and stick with him. I've been lucky to find two good ones. One is in Queens (not-so-close) but I went to him for years until I found another 3 miles from my house.

    In any case, if you need anything beyond what Cole offers, ask around and look for a solid independent mechanic or shop. These guys live off referrals, they can't afford to have a bad rep, so they take care of their customers and are honest about what they need/don't need. It's refreshing when my mechanic tells me I can hold off on something because it doesn't need doing, or if I tell him I'm tight with money right now and he tells me well, you can deal with this and do it in 3 months, but this has to be done now. Let me know if you need any referrals in the 'Cuse area. Do you live right in Syracuse near campus, or are you in one of the neighboring towns?

    tl;dr : Avoid Pep Boys at all costs for service, stick with Cole if you're comfortable, or look for a good independent..


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