AAMCO's "Repairs" Imperil Motorist

Justin took his Taurus into AAMCO for transmission repairs, only to endure a month of repairs that left his car in no better shape, and it ended up endangering his life.

When Justin finally took the 1994 Ford Taurus home from the mechanic’s twenty-four days later, the car made strange new noises. It also was missing its front disc brakes.

He had the car towed back and repaired. When driving the newly repaired car, it stalled in the middle of a freeway intersection. He took it back for further repairs. Driving it afterwards, the transmission once again slipped out.

Justin contacted AAMCO corporate, who told him that the franchise owner refused the refund.

Initially, Sunflower Bank approved Justin’s chargeback, but later refused it, saying…

UPDATE: Justin writes, “We spoke to a rude lady who kept changing her story. First, she said that we can’t have a dispute if they put a new transmission in (working or not). I told her that made absolutely no sense. After 10 minutes of going back and forth, she changed her story to: “take it to another mechanic, pay them to look at it, and have them send us something saying it’s not working right.” My concern with this: Could Aamco could blame another mechanic for opening the transmission (possibly voiding the warranty)?”


When Justin asked his bank to do a chargeback, Sunflower Bank said,

By signing the sales receipt you authorized the merchant to bill your account for the transaction and agreed to the terms and conditions of the sale. Since the transaction was face to face, the cardholder is responsible for determining what they are agreeing to prior to accepting the transaction. We cannot dispute verbal quotes or promises in situations involving a signed document.

Our advice to Justin is to shake the contact tree at Sunflower Bank and try to kick his issue up to a more senior representative. Their reason for refusing the chargeback makes no sense and we’d like to chalk it up to an inexperienced employee working in a tiny bank. If that’s fruitless, small claims court may be the way to go.

Justin’s official letter of complaint:

December 27, 2006
Aamco Transmissions
Attn Franchise Owner
6144 Merriam Lane
Shawnee Mission, Kansas 66203

Dear Aamco Franchise Owner,

This letter is in response to service rendered at the Aamco, located at 6144 Merriam Lane in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. The services were performed on a 1994 Ford Taurus, in accordance with invoice number 127117.

On the morning of October 16, 2006, I initiated a service call to Aamco to have our 1994 Ford Taurus towed into your shop. Two days passed before I received a call about the condition of our automobile. Your shop manager, John, told me that the vehicle needed a new transmission. John let me know the transmission would cost between $1100 (if it was only the transmission) and $1500 (if the torque converter needed replaced). After I received the pricing information, we spent the next two days discussing the investment in the automobile. I called John again on, or about, October 23, authorizing him to begin work on the automobile.

Throughout the next ten business days, I called five or six times to inquire about the status of our automobile. Each time I was told by John that he would call me by the end of the business day with an update. In those ten days, we never received a telephone call.

On the morning of Friday, November 3, I received a call from John. While I was expecting to hear that the car had been finished, he told me that the price was going to be $500 more than what he previously quoted, giving us a total of $2000 to repair the transmission. John assured me that he would have the automobile finished in two business days if we decided to accept this new price. At this point, we had been without our car for eighteen days. I told John that I needed to discuss my options with the rest of the people involved.

On Monday afternoon, November 6, I called John and authorized him to begin work on the car. Two days came and went, and once again I received no telephone call. On the afternoon of Thursday, November 8, I called John to inquire about the status of the car. John told me the car was being worked on, and he would do his best to get it done that day. He told me he would call me by noon the next day with an update. On Friday, 12:00 p.m. came and went, with no call from John or Aamco. I called John around 3 p.m. to find out if the car was going to be held through another weekend. He assured me the transmission was being put in as we spoke, and that he would try his best to have the vehicle ready by 5 p.m. At 4:45 p.m. I called John again, to see if the vehicle was ready. He told me that he planned to stay late to finish up the automobile.

At 5:45 p.m., Friday evening, John called to tell me the vehicle was ready to go. He then informed me that “the car needs brakes all the way around” and “it is leaking engine coolant.” He then offered to put brakes on it. I declined this offer for two reasons: 1) there was nothing wrong with the brakes when we brought it in and 2) I didn’t have much trust in Aamco’s service at this point. I arrived at the Aamco shop around 6 pm to pick up the vehicle. I had John run the credit card payment through, and I signed the necessary papers. When I started to pull away in the automobile, it was making noises that it had never made before. The car was grinding and squealing as if metal was rubbing against metal. I drove the car home and got to my driveway. My driveway has a slight slope to it, and I was unable to stop the vehicle (as there were no front brakes). The vehicle slammed into the curb and finally came to a stop.

The next day, I jacked the car up and took off the tire to look at the brakes. Another witness, Larry McLary (whose notarized statement is available upon request) was with me as I looked at the braking system. The entire braking system was loose, and the caliper was grinding into the rotor. The brake pad, which was still relatively new, was not even close to the rotor. While we were looking at the brakes, we noticed they had left one of their bungee tie downs in the car, proof the work was done quickly and poorly. We put the tire back on, and lifted the other side of the vehicle. Before we even took the tire off, we noticed that the entire wheel moved back and forth without loosening the lug nuts. I took some video of the braking system with my camera phone, as further proof of the sloppy work.

On November 13, the Schmelzle’s and I called Sunflower Bank to dispute the credit card charge Aamco had put on Friday night. I recounted the events leading up to that day with the representative, who approved the dispute on the charge. I then left a message with the Aamco corporate office, to let them know what had happened. Within a couple hours, I received a call back from a representative of Aamco corporate office. They recorded the incident, and told me I would receive a follow up call shortly. At that point, I received a call from you. You informed me that John would be calling me to have the vehicle towed back to the shop.

Two more days passed, and I received a call from John to let me know that the vehicle had been repaired. He told me the braking and wheel system had been replaced. I thanked him for taking care of the situation, and picked up the car that afternoon. I drove the car for a week, and determined the services paid for had been satisfied. The bank was then notified that the dispute could be removed, and payment could be released.

On Monday, December 4, my fianc

e Sara and I were attempting to cross the freeway. As we went to cross the freeway, the car stalled. It sounded as if the vehicle was in Park and it did not move. After a short period of fear, the car shifted into gear and we made it across the dangerous intersection. I immediately drove the car over to Aamco and let them know the vehicle was still not fixed. After another two days in the shop, I received a voicemail from John. He told me he had figured out what was wrong, and that I should call him to pick up the vehicle. I called him and he let me know that they had forgotten to hook up the “power steering switch”. I was unsure what this exactly meant, as my knowledge of the inner workings of an engine is foreign to me. I picked up the vehicle, and drove it back to work to make sure everything was working fine. As I was crossing the intersection of 95th and Quivira, the vehicle’s transmission once again “slipped” and I was stuck again. After a few seconds the vehicle jerked hard, and began to move. This was the final straw for me. I called Sunflower Bank to have them reopen the dispute case, and begin the chargeback process.

This whole experience has not only been a nightmare financially, but has also put our lives in danger due to the poor work performed. Twice, Aamco admitted to, and fixed, things they had neglected to do right the first time. Having no front brakes on the vehicle could have endangered me, or my fianc

e, and whoever else would have been unfortunate enough to come into contact with this vehicle. Having the transmission slip while we were crossing a busy freeway could have caused serious harm or death, due to improperly hooking up the power steering. I will not allow my life, or the lives of my loved ones, to be put in jeopardy over careless work. We have been lucky nothing has happened to us so far, but I will not wait until I am about to be run over by a semi to find out what new Aamco mistake will be found. We have been without an automobile for almost a full month, though I will admit that we took five of those days for decision making. This has caused thousands of miles, wear and tear, and gas to be used on other personal vehicles as a result of the vehicle being out of commission.

As a result of this, we refuse to make payment on services rendered. The bank has been informed of the dispute, and has taken the necessary steps to begin the chargeback procedures. We do not authorize any further work to be done on this vehicle. Please let us know what steps you would like to take to rectify this situation.

Sincerely,

William E. and Judith A. S.
Justin R. R. and Sara J. S.

Bill

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/aamcoservice-thumb.jpg?w=522&h=727

Receipt

aamcoreceipt.jpg

— BEN POPKEN

Comments

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  1. DeeJayQueue says:

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s a bogus reason to deny a chargeback claim. After all how did Sunflower expect him to know that Aamco did crap work at the POS? There’s no reasonable way to know, and of course they won’t let you out of the shop till you sign the paperwork.

    At this point, I wonder what the poster’s car insurance company could do to help, if anything?

  2. Pelagius says:

    When Justin finally took the 1994 Ford Taurus home from the mechanic’s twenty-four days later, the car made strange new noises. It also was missing its front disc breaks.

    Were his breaks broken?

  3. nullset says:

    His first mistake was owning a Taurus…those are widely known to have big transmission problems. I’d see about taking it to a DIFFERENT AAMCO shop for repairs. Ask the corporate office to provide you a location owned by a different franchisee to inspect the work.

    Did you check the transmission fluid level?

  4. Andrewjh says:

    What are “breaks”? Broken brakes?

  5. Papa K says:

    Now if he would’ve been in a wreck, we’d be reading about a lawsuit here against AAMCO, not a “almost wrecked, won’t fix” issue.

  6. any such name says:

    uhh… what’s the value of a 1994 ford taurus?
    could it possibly be anywhere near $2000?

    yes yes AAMCO screwed this guy, but, wtf mate?

  7. valel says:

    Wow, I honestly hope justin fights this to the end. Be sure to keep us updated.

  8. The car is probably worth about 1800 depending on condition.

    On a side note, I had a tranny done in mine 4 years ago for 1100. These guys really stuck it to him. 2 grand? WOW.

    I hope he gets his money back, and then some. This is absurd.

  9. Yozzie says:

    Yeah, no question he was getting it from both ends, and repeatedly, but for the $2k he dropped on a new transmission, he could have bought himself an entire late-’90s Taurus, and kept the ’94 as a lawn ornament or something. When my ’97 needed $1k worth of repairs, I looked up the Blue Book trade-in value ($1500), decided to cut my losses and took it to Carmax.

    Unscrupulous mechanics and car dealers depend on the car-illiterate like Justin. This is another argument for avoiding the big repair chains, and finding a good local mechanic to handle everything from your oil changes up. Forging a relationship with a reputable local shop vastly reduces your likelihood of getting screwed, or even getting killed when some underpaid grease monkey forgets to, you know, put your braking system back together.

  10. Bourque77 says:

    Just a warning folks, if you dont know about cars talk to someone who does and that you trust before taking it to a shop. These shops are like cell phone companies, try to sell you 5 different things when you only need one.

  11. Two Problems: 1) Taurus; 2) Aamco.

    I replaced a transmission in an Escort in a morning with 2 people assisting. The Taurus can not be that much different.

    I second on the local mechanic route. Lots of cities have some sort of rating system with reviews.

  12. ReccaSquirrel says:

    The bank is correct actually. I work for an entirely different bank but it is the same. I had someone who bought her mom tickets on Amtrack. The train’s bathrooms were out of order and the train was reported as disgusting and she wanted to charge back the charge because the service provided was not the one that she was reported to be getting.

    This isn’t fraud. Chargebacks are only for fraud such as when an item is promised to be delivered but isn’t or if the incorrect amount is put through.

    The only legal recourse for an ATM/Debit card is declaration of fraud on the account. If he signed the credit slip for the transaction, his bank can do nothing for him.

  13. soke2001 says:

    He shouldn’t drive a Ford (Especially a Taurus) to begin with… he can get a used foreing car with the money he was to pay to get his “tranny” serviced.

  14. Scazza says:

    Recca, he has the right to a chargeback IF the services he paid for where not correctly rendered. He paid for the repair and installation of a new transmission. What he got was a rushed repair that led to another failure.

    The reason why the bank is denying the chargeback is because its the SECOND TIME he has attempted to chargeback the transaction. After he let the transaction go through after the first chargeback the bank is now in the understanding that the original problem has been corrected and will not go back on it.

    Although I do agree, push your bank harder and explain that the problem was not corrected again, and they should be able to help you out. OH and GO IN PERSON and speak to a bank manager (tellers etc can’t do squat and will refer you to the banks helpline).

  15. Kornkob says:

    The only legal recourse for an ATM/Debit card is declaration of fraud on the account. If he signed the credit slip for the transaction, his bank can do nothing for him.

    Isn’t claiming you’ve completed a service to ASE specs and then charging someone for it fraudulent?

  16. jodamiller says:

    I had a similar situation in which I got my oil changed at a Jiffy Lube and the guy didn’t put a new oil filter on the car. All the oil came out and the engine was screwed up pretty badly. Just contacting the manager of the store got me not very far. He was wanting to give me like $300 for the car, but there’s no way I could find a similar car for that amount. After contacting my local Better Business Bureau the manager seemed much more willing to accomodate my requests and I got a new engine for the car.

  17. mathew says:

    I think he should call Car Talk and tell them the story on the air. It’s the kind of story that could use being told to a few million potential Aamco customers.

  18. ReccaSquirrel says:

    Kornkob,

    That’s what the bank is saying. They have no methods of confirming that a promised service wasn’t rendered and thus can’t conduct a chargeback.

    When you declare fraud on a debit card (aka charge back), you declare why that is fraud. The bank has 10 business days to conduct its investigation before it must provide a provisional credit (which it did). After that point it has 45 days to complete its investigation.


    Backroom, it likely looked like this. Suntrust contacts AAMCO and says that the customer is reporting fraud. AAMCO says, we had a verbal contract, he signed for it, here is the slip. Suntrust can’t show services weren’t delivered so the chargeback fails.

    Now, that said, AAMCO did have a contract service slip. If he went into a Suntrust bank with the paperwork, they should be able to do a chargeback and make it go through. Most banks should be able to reopen the case actually.

    I tried to contact our MMC Dispute department to get clarification but I missed their business hours. I’ll check tomorrow and see about getting clarification for the consumerist on this.

  19. jwissick says:

    He should call the comsumer protection division of his state’s Attorney General’s office (1-800-432-2310) and file a complaint. Also file a BBB complaint.

  20. kenposan says:

    I second the local mechanic thing. I have lived in two different cities since becoming a driver and have used small, local mechanics. I have never had an issue with their work or prices.

    I wouldn’t give my current shop away for anything.

  21. “He should call the comsumer protection division of his state’s Attorney General’s office (1-800-432-2310) and file a complaint.”

    Even better, he should rewrite the letter and cc: it to the state atty. general with a cover letter explaining in two short paragraphs his problems with AAmco.

    This is one reason I still drive (and enjoy) a manual transmission. Much easier to fix on one’s own, much cheaper to fix, and when properly used, almost maintenance-free.

  22. cryrevolution says:

    This is in response to DeeJayQueue’s comment…
    yeah the insurance company can’t do anything because technically this constitutes as general wear and tear of the vehicle. The only way they could go to bat for him is in the instance of a collision or storm damage, and the end result is this faulty repair work. Or if either one was injured due to the condition of said repaired vehicle. Otherwise, its a no go, unforch.
    But keep hounding the bank for the chargeback, Justin! Good luck and keep us posted.

    C

  23. Her Grace says:

    Just because he was dumb enough to own a Ford (and think it worth fixing) doesn’t mean he deserves to be in a car crash because the repair guy is a dickhead.

  24. emax4 says:

    Ford’s aren’t always dumb. Sure things have changed, but I’m sure a lot of you would like to be driving one of the new Mustangs or a high-powered GT40. Every car has strengths and weaknesses. Whether it’s a Ford or Toyota doesn’t matter.

    As far as whether or not fraud was committed, don’t forget that the brakes were missing. Any time there’s a risk of life involved due to poor work, I would think that issue is beyond fraud. The guy has a case in his favor no doubt. I say he should take AAMCO and the bank to court.

  25. Bad Juju says:

    Sure about that, exmax4? Ask Jeremy Clarkson about his GT40.
    “Not once completed an entire trip without breaking,” I think were the words.

    The Mustangs make nice rental cars, though..

  26. latemodel says:

    What? Another post with someone being bent over and a tranny???

  27. dculberson says:

    AAMCO is so sleazy! I loved their old ad line “Half the cars brought in don’t need a new transmission,” which implies to me that half DID, which isn’t really a good rate.

    I’ll third (or fourth?) the call for finding a small local shop. I’ll also stand up for Justin and say – if you like the car and it’s in good shape other than the transmission, it’s worth fixing. Finding another Taurus out there for $2000 would’ve netted you transmission problems a little down the road and who knows what else. Keep your car as long as you like it. Dump it only once you’re sick of repairing it.

    Check this out:

    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/automotive/aamco.htm

  28. dculberson says:

    Oh no I have to post again:

    >Sure about that, exmax4? Ask Jeremy Clarkson about his GT40. “Not once
    >completed an entire trip without breaking,” I think were the words.

    Ahh, that was solely due to a British-added alarm system! He had Ford remove the alarm system and then loved it and even drove it on air to France and back. (With much gas, but no breaking.)

    Him being British, I can excuse his oversight, but I would never let a Brit touch the electrical system on my car! (just teasing, of course, but it’s fun.)

  29. Darren W. says:

    I suggest that he take it to another AAMCO to have the work checked out. Just don’t tell them that it was an AAMCO that screwed it up in the first place. How would corporate be able to shrug off the opinion of one of their own shops?

  30. medalian1 says:

    You should do a chargeback in writing as it protects your legal rights.

  31. Optimistic Prime says:

    I would check your state law on the cost of the repair as well. In Ohio the price cannot be more than 110% of the estimate without notification, which in this case is $1650 at most. To then drop a $2000 bombshell certainly isn’t right. This shop is definitely not kosher.