Like Ron White's rich vein of comedy struck by his experience with a tire service at Sears, the story of a run-in with Firestone's mechanics opened a wellspring of mechanical horror stories, many from national chains. Turbolence's had not just the typical gory details, but some insight into a coping strategy:
Oooh! Oooh! I had a similar experience recently! Let me go grab and scan the RO.
Here, in case the photo upload fails: [i67.photobucket.com]
No, it wasn't at Firestone. Rather, it was at what is considered the best shop in the area. A little place called...well, it's on the attached image. They're moderately popular in the New England area. Quite frankly I had no other reason to be there except for the fact that my car was due for state inspection, and they were running inspections for just $5. Five goddamn dollars. How can you argue against that?
I dropped the car off and knew I was going to be upsold like crazy. What, 23 year old guy, driving a sensible Japanese sedan. I couldn't have a bigger upselling target on the back of my head if I had a rack up front. A buddy of mine works at one of the other stores farther away, who warned me that they make huge commissions on any upsold service, and when there's a big sale they make the same amount. They were running a buy 2, get 2 tire sale that day (like they do every single goddamn day of the year) so I figured my barely-passing front tires were going to be a hot button for them. I just wanted the damn inspection and I'd take care of any serious issues later, on my own.
What they came back with was ridiculous.
The service writer started telling me about the numerous "issues" with the car that need attention. Like I figured he would. He said my spark plugs were worn out (which they are, but why is he checking that?) and needed to be replaced. A general tune-up was suggested, which included the spark plugs and seafoaming the engine (really?). Apparently my transmission fluid was bad (which is a complete lie, since I had it flushed 10k miles ago) and my power steering could use a flush too. He told me over the phone he could take care of everything right there before I came down to pick up the car. I told him no thanks.
For the next five minutes over the phone we bickered back and forth. He kept trying to persuade me that if the plugs wear out, the car could die in the middle of nowhere and won't restart. The seafoaming was needed so that all the gunk in the engine would go away and stop robbing me of precious fuel economy. The transmission fluid would only lead to rougher shifts until every gear change would come with a loud BANG. And power steering? When that wheel goes limp (his exact word...) at 75 miles an hour I could be the cause of a horrific accident. I told him they're all risks I'm willing to take. He then says VIP won't be held legally liable if any of the above happens. So I told him if he performs any work that I don't authorize he'll be held liable for the $700 I'm not paying him. He finally shut up.
I then authorized him to get the car to pass inspection, which required a $7 set of rear license plate light bulbs. $12.90 and I went home with new inspection tags.
Sometimes a great deal just isn't worth the hassle. My car hasn't been in a 75mph "limp-wheel" accident, by the way, and is running fine. I'm doing the spark plugs myself this weekend. Let's see their "low price guarantee" match a $0 labor cost.