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One of the hardest tasks I have as the editor of this paper is dealing with Crash when he has himself worked into a grand mal seizure over some perceived wrong doing. Usually I can get him calmed down enough to submit something that is relevant to motorcycling. This month I could tell right away upon receiving his phone call, telling me what this month’s column was about, there was no use. So I set the receiver down on the desk and went about my work. What follows is due to my lack of ambition as far as dealing with an outraged lunatic.

-Troy

by Crash Casey

Every now and then you find out you got a really good screwing at the hands of someone you’ve bought some goods or services from. As shock turns to outrage, you begin an investigation and start comparing figures. You wonder whether other people have gotten the same masterful screwing or if you’ve encountered a lone bandit that has left you feeling violated in the most intimate sense.

I suffered such a humiliation this month and want to share it with you. One of the most satisfying parts of being a writer with a forum is that you can scream long and loud at those that have done you wrong. I’m a business’ worst nightmare when I detect a financial hosing. I’m a pissed off white man with a forum of 20,000 readers. Let me run through this story, hang with me, and I can guarantee that by the time I’m done I can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your lifetime.

I’m not a rich man. I’m not a clever man. And I’m defiantly not a Handyman. Due to this lack of natural assets, I’ve developed certain tried and true defense mechanisms.

Because I’m not a rich man I’ve learned to: use other peoples money (O.P.M.), reduce costs at all costs, get at least two or three bids on all work I need done, and everything can be negotiated.

Because I’m not a clever man I use experts wherever possible. I ask a lot of questions and try not to get caught up in worrying about appearing smarter than I am. The smartest guy ends up with the most money in his pocket despite what other people think of his smarts.

And because I’m not a Handyman I’ve learned that at the first sign of trouble, call someone. For me trying to fix the problem myself invariably ends up costing much more in the long run. Wielding tools can lead to personal injury ( with the possible exception of a pen, if you believe that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”)

Now I will get to the specifics of what has lead to this waffling tirade. I rented my ’77 motorhome to some friends that were going on a two week fishing trip up to Canada. They offered me $500 for the two weeks and I quickly calculated that would pay this year’s insurance (O.P.M.) The day that they set out they got as far as Fergus Falls and the motor home gave out. It wouldn’t run over forty miles and hour. As they were on a tight deadline to get up to Canada to catch their charter plane, they left the vehicle in the care of Falls Automotive, 2228 College way, Fergus Falls. (800) 726-7564. They then rented a van and continued on their way north.

Falls Automotive called me with an estimate of $450 for a tune-up and replacement of the fuel pump. Then despite everything I’ve learned over the years I made no attempt to learn if that was a reasonable charge for that work. Like an idiot I assumed that would be a fair market price. So over the phone I told them to go ahead.

When they called to tell me the work was done and to get my credit card number, there was an additional $50 charge over the original estimate. At this point I got pissed off and called my local garage that usually handles all of my automotive repair work (John Paul’s Auto in Champlin). They gave me an estimate of $250. Having suddenly remembered all my defense mechanisms I called Wright Tire in Anoka and got an estimate of $230.

Armed with this information as well as a bandoleer full of righteous indignation I called John, the Service Manager at Falls Auto. His explanation was as follows; being a dealership they don’t use “after market parts”. Whenever the term “after market” came up, he said it like he was being forced to talk with a dried up cat turd in his mouth. Falls also had a, “tremendous amount of overhead”. I’m sure given enough time he would also have explained how his mechanics have oodles of factory sponsored education. His final words of comfort were, “I don’t claim to be the cheapest, just the best.”

All of this was supposed to have left me with a feeling of comfort and satisfaction that would justify the additional $250 that I was spending. Wondering if I was being forced to pay an outrageous amount that no other dealership would have the nerve to charge me, I called two other dealerships to get estimates. This is the break down of the estimates from all three dealerships:

Falls Auto

– $138 for a tune up and fuel filter

-$286 for fuel pump

-About another $25 for tax and other miscellaneous charges

-Total $450

Dealership #2

-$278 for tune-up and fuel filter

-$106 for fuel pump

-Total $384

Dealership #3

-$275 For tune-up and fuel filter

-$160 for fuel pump

-Total $435

As you can see all three dealerships were all over the map as to what they charge for a tune up and the fuel pump. The tune up varied $137 and the fuel pump $180. Armed with this information I could have theoretically negotiated a total price from Falls Auto for $244, using the lowest bids for each service. Even if we were to allow an extra hour for diagnostics and $25 for miscellaneous charges we should have been around $325 verses the $450 estimate that I accepted like an ignorant fool.

When I called John back to inform him of my findings his response was “you accepted the estimate”. My feeble defense centered around the fact that I assumed that I was receiving a fair market estimate. He responded to this with something about this being the “American Way”. After about a half hour of battle I gave up my credit card number and received the $450 phallus that was my fate for not following my hard earned principles that I outlined in the beginning of this written piece of public flagellation.

John’s final piece of reassuring word were, “I don’t claim to be the cheapest, I just claim to be the best”. When my friends that were unfortunate enough to have gotten caught up in this mess went to pick up the motorhome on their return journey, it wouldn’t start. Several hours later it was determined that John’s crack mechanic had crimped a fuel line while installing the fuel pump.

“I don’t claim to be the cheapest, I just claim to be the best.”

M.M.M.

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