Gear Clash: Courting Trouble – UnderhoodService

Gear Clash: Courting Trouble

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

“Yes.”

“Be seated.”

This was the second time I had been summoned to court to tell the side of our repair shop in a civil case of a customer against my employer; the same employer each time. This was also my first management position ever.

“Please tell the court what had happened on October 5th, 1999 involving the plaintiff,” came the words from my employer’s attorney

“The customer had actually called the day prior. She asked how much it would cost for her thermostat to be replaced in her 1993 Escort,” I answered. “The quote was given. She asked how much it would be if she supplied the thermostat.

“She said that she had already purchased it, but just needed someone to install it for her. The quote was adjusted to only the labor for the thermostat. On the 5th, she called us to have the vehicle towed in. The repair order was written up by the receptionist with the customer’s request of replacing the thermostat. We offered to diagnose it at our regular diagnostic fee, and she declined.

“She stated that the problem had already been diagnosed by her brother in her yard and she just wanted the thermostat replaced. The technician did as the repair order stated. He installed the thermostat that the customer had left on the seat, per the customer‘s request.”

“Was that the problem?” the attorney asked.

“No,” I replied. “The water pump had leaked severely and the cooling system ran empty.”

“When did you discover this?” the attorney asked.

“During the requested service while installing the thermostat, we had discovered that the system was already empty. When we went to fill the cooling system up, the coolant poured out all over the shop floor through the leaking water pump,” I replied. “I called her to let her know what was wrong with the vehicle, along with a new estimate. She didn’t believe me over the phone and had to come down to look at the vehicle. When she had come down to see the vehicle, it was still leaking at that time.”

The owner of the shop was Mike. He had a very impressive full-page ad in the phone book for the repair shop that was a real eye catcher to the customers. I came to work for him originally as a technician. I caught some wording in the ad that I thought might get him in trouble. It’s the same thing all transmission shops around here have in their ad. I was just going to be a technician, so it didn’t matter much to me. After all, if it is working for him, then what should I care about it?

“The plaintiff has stated to the court that her car wasn’t leaking anything out of it when she towed it in, yet the car was leaking rapidly after you worked on it. Why is that?” Mike’s attorney asked me.

“She’s right” I agreed bluntly. “It wasn’t leaking anything out of it at the time she towed it in, it had already leaked out and was completely empty before we worked on it. We put fluid in it. The seal around the water pump’s shaft was faulty, then the fluid leaked out.”

I concluded with, “By the time she had the vehicle towed away again, it had stopped leaking because the system had run dry once more.”

She was accusing us of sabotaging her car and false advertisement. Oh, and of course “mental anguish” because she was pregnant at the time and we caused her undue stress … so she claimed. She was suing Mike for $3,000. During the course of her statement to the court, the “brother” who had originally “diagnosed” the problem in the front yard was now said to be a German auto mechanic at a gas station she had stopped at to check the problem. He couldn’t fix it, she claimed, because he didn’t work on that type of car.

It was now her turn to cross examine. She did not have an attorney.

“When I picked up my car, you charged me for towing, but your ad says free towing with repair,” she said as she held up the page torn from the phone book.

Next month, we find out how much the word ‘free’ cost the shop.

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