"Customers Beware"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Are we becoming a country of liars, thieves and malcontents? We have to ask ourselves who we can trust when we venture out to do our daily tasks.

When you shop, do you seek out sale items and find they are gone, sold out or just not re-stocked? Sure you can ask for a rain check but in our rush-rush society, most of us do not.

A favorite drugstore I shop at sends out a flyer listing all their sales each week. When I visit the store looking for the “buy one, get one free” items, I often find only one on the shelf. If I wait around for a manager, I can get that item half price but my objective was to get two. I asked a person putting up stock one day about it and they said, “We only put so many on the shelves each day.”

The prescription department can present another problem. No matter how busy they are, we are always told, “Come back in about a half hour to pick up your order.” At a major box store pharmacy, I was told the wait would be two hours. Of course we will wander the store and pick up additional items during our “wait.” I believe it is the store’s objective that we do so.

How about items that have a peel off discount tag? If the cashier ignores it while checking you out, you will get home and find it still attached. Are you going to take it back and get your discount? Not likely, but if you shop locally, you may have a better experience.

Maybe you choose to order online, or mail order. When you price compare and think you are getting a bargain, the bargain often disappears by the time you add shipping and handling charges. Depending upon where you shop, your time spent may not be that much less online because of difficulty on many websites you visit.

So far, I’ve discussed small stuff that goes unnoticed and amounts to only small sums. Beware – large expenditures can be encountered like the one I recently faced.

I own a top of the line 2008 Chrysler Grand Cherokee Limited Jeep. It is loaded with everything, including a few things I could do without. One of the biggest sale prompts was the “Lifetime, drive-train warranty. I assumed this meant anything pertaining to the drive-train

A little light came on in the dash cluster and the book directed solutions to try. When they did not work, the book said if I did not receive service, my vehicle would stop running.

I needed it to run 1,500 miles to get me home so I visited an authorized dealer in Florida, (plate on my car read Michigan).

I was told to determine the problem, the cost would be $125 for an electronic scope. I quickly agreed and, due to the low mileage and warranty coverage, expected a simple repair. A write-up service adviser wrote up my order and said a report would be ready shortly.

An hour or so later I was called in to meet with the mechanic who explained what he had found on the scope. He told me to check back with the service adviser, who would work up a cost for repairs. After scribbling on a note pad, without benefit of a calculator or computer, the advisor told me the cost would total over $3,000. Hearing this price, I wondered if my lifetime warranty would be voided if I dropped from a heart attack. When I looked over the list of parts needed, I mentioned references in my owner’s manual, which I had just been reading trying to resolve the problem myself. The adviser told me either: “No. 1, the book was printed wrong” or “No. 2, I didn’t understand the book,” which inferred, “No. 3, I was stupid.”

I did not have heart failure but I sure was irate. I told them to return my car, at which time the price immediately dropped $500. The adviser kept putting me off, making up reasons why I could not have it. Finally, to get away from her, I asked to speak to a new car salesman. He showed me a few but none equaled the four-year-old Jeep I owned. When my car still did not appear, I asked to see the dealership manager. Hearing my account, he called in the service manager and the mechanic.

After a lengthy meeting, the repair price was lowered to less than $ 2,000 and my car was returned. Feeling I had no other option, I agreed to have the repairs done and received a new car loaner to drive the 100-mile trip home. I continued to plead my case with the dealership manager and learned the write-up adviser and the mechanic both worked on commission. Seemed like a conflict, definitely not favorable to the customer.

A good friend who worked at a car dealership and was let go after many years of service told me why when I inquired. “I refused to add on unnecessary parts and labor as the boss had told me to.”

As I see it, I have exposed a common problem that impacts car owners around the nation. The auto sales and service business may not be the only one doing it, but rip-offs perpetrated upon customers need to be investigated and manufacturers need to take action on behalf of the customer. Without us, they have no business.

I did report my problem to the manufacturer and reached a customer care representative. She acknowledged an awareness of my experience and told me it was all too common.

I am not saying all service providers are crooks, but those who are need to be exposed. We, the hapless customer, are the only ones who can do that.




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