Since my last column titled “Criminal Inspections,” I have received a lot of email about the status of the case and how this case will affect other shops.
The case has yet to go to trial (at the time of printing), but I did get a chance to talk the shop manager’s lawyer. As far as lawyers go, Edward Menkin gets the BRAKE & FRONT END seal of approval. Mr. Menkin informed me the charge of falsifying business records in the 2nd degree has been dismissed.
According to the local police, at the time of the accident the car’s rear brake hydraulic circuit had failed. Where the brake line failed was a portion that runs above the gas tank.
Even under the mandated State of New York Inspection Procedures, there is no way the shop owner could have seen if the line was corroded or damaged.
The shop manager did advise that the pads were low at the time of the state inspection, but not bad enough to fail the car. The car’s owner purchased new pads, but another “mechanic” who installed them only installed them on one side due to the fact that he could not remove the caliper on the other side.
One of the main implications for shops is how to handle a customer that refuses work that is critical to the safety of the vehicle. Some shops are now requiring that unsafe vehicles be towed off their lots. Also, some shops are requiring customers to sign their estimates so that they are aware of the possible safety issues. I am currently investigating what a shop’s legal responsibilities are for every state. Some states have procedures written into their motor vehicle code, while some assume federal DOT standards cover this area. This information will appear in a future issue of BRAKE & FRONT END.
My best advice for now is to adopt write-up standards and language like those developed by the Motorist Assurance Program (www.motorist.org). It is a great resource for legal customer communications and documentation. In other words, CYA (Cover Your “you know what I mean”).
One More Thing
I am about to “lose it” on the next parts-counter computer jockey who quotes me the lowest price first. What is wrong with selling the highest-quality product first? Also, when I ask what is the difference between the parts, don’t just say “that one has a longer warranty.” When I buy something, I like to be sold. I also consider selling an art.
When I am quoted the lowest price first, I assume that person thinks that I am a penny-pinching miser. This hurts my feelings, and it offends me.
Selling on price first is like hunting deer with land mines. You may kill the deer, but you do not get to enjoy it afterwards. Plus, you might scare away his friends.