Mechanics are like doctors – it often pays to get a second opinion. When Josh’s wife’s Jetta failed, Belle Tire said it would cost $1,000 to replace the transmission. When Josh checked it out himself, he saw that it probably just needed to have a cable reattached to the transmission. Belle refused to check it out and insisted that it would cost $1000. So Josh to it a local mechanic, Otto Khim, and they fixed everything for $52.27, a savings of $947.43. Then he drove back to Belle Tire and laughed in their face. His story, inside…
I am writing to you today to inform you of an experience that I had at Belle Tire on Westnedge Ave. in Portage, MI.
My wife was on her way to work on Tuesday morning (03/10/2009) when the clutch pedal went to the floor in our 1997 VW Jetta, and it would not come back up. Thankfully, she was already in second gear when it went out, and she was able to drive into a K-Mart parking lot, right next to Belle Tire.
That afternoon, I pushed the car over to Belle Tire (since they have ASE Certified Mechanics, according to their commercials). Their mechanic, whose name is Randy, looked at it and said that the clutch needed to be replaced and that it was going to cost $1,000.00.
I went back to Belle Tire to look at the clutch myself, since a mechanic friend of mine said that it might just be a hydrolic problem. Upon inspection, I noticed that the cable that goes from the clutch pedal to the transmission was disconnected from the transmission, and just needed to be re-attached.
I went back inside the store and talked to Randy, telling him what I found, and he would not even look up at me, as he said that this would not fix the problem. I asked him to just come out to the car with me and take a look at what I was talking about, but he insisted that it needed a new clutch.
Even if this was the case, I had found a place that would replace the clutch for $750.00, so I took my key from Belle Tire, and went out the car. I found a nut and bolt in the trunk of the car and used this to re-attach the cable to the transmission temporarily, so that I could get it to the mechanic that gave me a reasonable price.
As I pulled past the big window in the front of the store, I waved at the mechanic and salesman who told me that re-attaching the cable would not get the car started. That was fun.
The mechanic that I took it to looked at the problem and agreed with me that the cable just needed to be put back on the transmission. They fixed it for me today for $52.57. The part that they needed was $30.00, and they only charged me $19.50 in labor, plus tax. It is a small automotive shop, but for anyone living in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area, it is Otto Khim in downtown Kalamazoo and the guy that helped me is Brian.
On my way home with the perfectly-running Jetta, I pulled into Belle Tire and went in to talk to Randy the mechanic and the store manager. I explained the situation to the store manager and showed Randy the paperwork from Otto Khim. They were pretty much speechless. I let them know that I would be writing a letter to their corporate office, and I left a comment on their web-site (www.belletire.com), informing them that I would also report this to The Consumerist.
Thank you Otto Khim for saving me $947.43, and thank you Consumerist for being the voice and power of the consumer.
It all comes down to what you put first, people or profits. Locally owned and operated places seem to have more pride in the former, while franchises, not so much.