california Broken Bumpers, Sneaky Mechanics, and Screaming

This is never a good way to start a date:

I’m driving down the street in Los Angeles when I hear a large cracking sound and a scraping noise…

Read the story after the jump. What should Karmen have done at this mechanic’s shop instead of paying five times what she thought the job should have cost?

For starters, junk that lame boyfriend whose idea of helping is to explain to the mechanic, “how irrational women can be.”

No points in his corner, either, for signing the overpriced estimate in the first place. What’s a man good for if not playing swords with other men? Not saying that you can’t, Karmen, it’s just funny to watch…

“Dear Ben,

I’m driving down the street in Los Angeles when I hear a large cracking sound and a scraping noise. I pull over and low and behold, my bumper has fallen off. After a kind man stopped and helped me load the bumper into the front seat of my car, and I headed off to dinner (the valet driver was a bit surprised to find the bumper in the front seat….but I digress). A few weeks later, my boyfriend drove around to a couple mechanic shops in my area to price the job. He received a \$300 estimate from a shop and, not knowing anything about car repairs, it sounded like a reasonable price to me. My boyfriend signed the estimate, authorizing the repairs to be done in the amount of \$300.

When I dropped my car off the next morning, I asked the mechanic when he expected my car to be done, and told him that I would appreciate it if he could fix it as quickly as possible since I needed to get to work. He said it would be finished in an hour and sure enough, when I returned an hour later, my bumper was reattached and someone was kindly washing the outside of my car. Wonderful service I thought. But here’s the kicker. I saw the mechanic’s rates, \$40/hr, which was posted on a large sign. Lets do the math: \$40 (one hour of labor) + \$20 (parts consisting of a few wires) = \$60.

When I asked the mechanic why I should pay \$300 when he only spent one hour on the job, he told me that when I signed the estimate, I agreed to pay that amount. Bullshit. When you sign an estimate, you authorize work up to that amount. The custom is that if the work is going to cost in excess of the estimate, the mechanic should call you to get authorization for the additional work or risk having you dispute the bill. I explained this to the mechanic but he continued to insist that I agreed to pay \$300 when I signed the estimate. He then told me that he had two mechanics working on the car and that it was a rush job. I pointed out to him that two mechanics at \$40/hr plus parts would total \$100. He then had the audacity to say that no mechanic would have agreed to take the job for this amount of money because it wasn’t worth their time. Mind you, this was a small rinky dink place and there were no other customers the entire time I was there. There were, however, several guys sitting around cooling their heals. I pointed out to him that it’s not like my small job kept them from taking other jobs more lucrative jobs (although frankly, if \$40/hr is their rate, I’m not sure how another job could be more lucrative unless they make money off selling large parts or something).

I get my boyfriend on the phone and start screaming into the phone telling him the situation (he was the one that signed the estimate after all). I’m hoping that the irate female tactic will do the trick. My boyfriend talks to the mechanic, and from what I can tell, my boyfriend explains to the mechanic about how irrational women can be, tells him not to worry about it, and then tell me to pay the \$300!! God that pissed me off (he is now an ex-boyfriend I might add….but I digress again). Anyway, just wanting to leave and get to work, shamefully, I paid the fricking bill. Not one of my finer consumer moments. I did tell the mechanic that his books better be clean because I may report him to the IRS for tax evasion (he only accepted cash which I thought was suspicious). The fear in his eyes was at least some payback.