Sometimes it’s hard to tell if they are good business people or highly skilled crooks? Skilled crooks do things in such a way that although you’ve been screwed you don’t realize it.

Since the economic downturn I’m getting tons of questions about pricing. Usually I have to ask questions about what happened which usually brings out a common thread about how honest the shop is or how job was priced. “It couldn’t be a bad shop because they were really nice and they beat everyone else’s price by a lot.” Not that honest shops aren’t nice because they normally are but combine very nice people with a ridiculously low price and you could on the verge of being taken.

A recent example involved a Volvo with a lot of miles and a shot transmission. Several legitimate estimates found a high of $5800, a low of $3900 and an average of $4100.  Tight finances prompted the owner, Volvo-Guy, to inquire at a shop he found on an Internet list that guaranteed they would beat any price by 50% or more. That alone should scare any rational person off but not Volvo-Guy. Without even seeing the car the shop came back with a firm estimate of two thousand dollars for parts, labor, towing, everything, including a six month warranty.

Because he’s a fan of my TV shows Volvo-Guy asked my opinion. I explained that on identical jobs (same quality, same amount of work, same parts) there could be a difference of eight to fifteen percent but not much more. There is absolutely no way the job could be fifty or sixty percent less and still be the same quality.

Not satisfied with my warnings Volvo-Guy visited the shop and called me again. He said I was obviously wrong about the shop as it was clean, well equipped, everyone was pleasant, well spoken and they had been in business for nearly ten years. I told him none of that mattered when common sense was screaming that the price was just too damn good to be real.

In the end he called me a jackass and screamed in my ear that they were too nice and too professional not to be honest. CLICK!!!! This time I hated to right but in just three weeks the transmission failed again. Volvo-Guy was back on the phone to me??

They told him an engine mount had failed and damaged the new transmission. No warranty on things they hadn’t replaced or repaired and it would cost another eighteen hundred dollars. Now Volvo-Guy’s two thousand dollar job had climbed to the same as the legitimate jobs but Volvo-Guy only has a six month six thousand mile warranty good at one shop. The real jobs would have included a three year seventy five thousand mile nationwide warranty. Was the engine mount claim and $1800 charge a scam? Absolutely! But again they were so nice Volvo-guy was happy. Happy to be screwed that is!

Perhaps Volvo-Guy lives in a cave or forgot that Bernie Madoff was loved by millions throughout the 30 years it took him to steal billions of their dollars. Was Bernie likeable? Sure was; 65 billion likeable. Did Bernie’s impressive offices make any of it real?. Nope!  Did a three decade long track record make it real? No it did not!

For Volvo-Guy only time will tell if bliss prevails. I’m guessing it might because he’s being milked by clever folks. But you should never forget; the most successful crooks are usually extremely personable and professional so never buy a repair that’s way too cheap to be real based only on how nice or professional the people at the shop are. Really good crooks will steal your money and make you feel like royalty in the process; too cheap or too good to be real almost always is.



© Copyright 06/06/12 Pat Goss all rights reserved.


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