Here’s a story that illustrates how important it is to ask for documentation. Reader Jarome had already handed over his credit card to pay for an alignment on his car when he learned that the work hadn’t even been done:
I’ve been an avid reader of Consumerist for quite some time. Reading the good/bad experiences other readers had and the shortcomings of some companies is an eye opener. Unfortunately, my recent experience at a nearby Sears Automotive Department is worth mentioning. I’ve noticed my car would pull to the left while driving on a straight road. My initial thought was to get the wheels aligned. I decided to have it done at Sears.
I walked in on Saturday January 19th and explained the problem I was experiencing with my car. The gentleman at the front desk agreed that an alignment should be done. He took my information, as well as the cars information and verified with the mechanic because he said some BMW’s (I drive a ’95 525i) are more difficult to align then others. I drove my car into the garage and parked it from the third space from the far left. It was 10:30AM and I was told it would take approximately an hour to complete.
I ended up walking around the store looking at BBQ sets (by the way they are on sale!), tools, clothes, etc… and by 11:25AM I walked back to the automotive section. There’s a small waiting area with several windows allowing the customers to see their cars and mechanics. I noticed my car was parked in the same place where I originally parked. Thinking it was done I asked the gentleman at the front desk about my car. He said they were still working on it and would call my cell phone when they were ready.
I again walked aimlessly through the store and 15 minutes later I received a call from the automotive department. They stated I needed a new part costing $487 with labor. I asked if they did the alignment (my original request) and was told they did. I declined to have the part replaced and walked back to pay. The work order was filled out by the mechanic and gave them my credit card to pay. I then requested for a print out of my alignment. I was curious to know where and how far my alignment was off.
The front desk gentleman walked back to get the print out, but walked back out with the manager. I was told they did not do the alignment and voided my invoice. They canceled the charge and apologized for the mix up. If I had not requested the print out they would have charged me for a service they did not do and I would still be frustrated with my car. What I learned? I’m never going back to Sears and always ask for documentation detailing the service they performed and if possible the old/broken part.
Congrats to Jarome for keeping his cool in that situation and learning something from it. It’s important to find a good mechanic that you can trust.
Call your smartest friends and ask if they can recommend someone and then check with the BBB to see whether the shop has any complaints on file.
Do you have any tips for finding a good mechanic?