I dropped my car off at a Midas in a ritzy suburb of DC* to get an estimate for repairs. I left their shop the next afternoon having bitched them out in front of customers with no repairs done and a credit toward any future visits.
Here is the standard MO of the slimeball con man mechanic. If you are the recipient of this schtick, do not bring your car there.
– First, he’ll tell you how great your car is, to soften up your resistance. “That’s a good year for that car. They stopped making them like that a couple years ago. Fine vehicle. Solid engine. If I were you I’d do whatever it takes to keep her in top shape. She could go 300,000 miles.”
– Then he’ll try to sell you on repairs and upkeep you don’t need using parts jargon you’ve never heard. Oh, and all the parts come as a “unit” or in “pairs” so you’ll be spending double what you really need to spend. Watch out for phrases like “While we were looking for that brake problem you asked us to check, we came across…” and “We recommend a transmission, brake, and coolant flush.” In fact, if he uses the word “flush” a red flag should immediately go up. Suckers Customers, especially fad-of-the-day yuppies who extol the virtues of regular coffee and wheatgrass colonics, must be conditioned to believe a car needs a “flush” every 500 miles because they anthropomorphize their cars, like they do their tiny eunuch dogs.
– After you’ve turned down every one of his additional recommendations, he’ll begrudgingly agree to your basic repair request (you’ll actually hear the disappointment in his voice) but neglect to give you a quote if you don’t ask for it. ALWAYS ASK FOR A WRITTEN PRICE QUOTE. If you are speaking to him over the phone tell him to write his price quote down so that you can see it when you come to pick up your car. Without a price quote, you are guaranteed to pay more than what you anticipated.
– He neglects to ask if you want after market or OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts used. If you don’t specify after market, expect to pay double for OEM since he will default to those parts. When you ask later why after market wasn’t used, he will tell you “those specific after market parts aren’t designed for your model car.” 99% of the time this won’t be true, so don’t believe him.
– Any haggling by the shop manager is an admission of guilt. Why would he haggle if his price wasn’t flexible from the start? Can you haggle for pants at Banana Republic? It’s weird that mechanics in the US operate like third world bazaars.
– If his eyes are close together on his head and he has pock marks, there is a higher than average chance he is a con man.
How you can protect yourself:
– If you feel like you’re being scammed, bitch the scumbag out with liberal use of “fuck” in all its glorious permutations. Start arguing in a mild-mannered way to lower his defenses and build to a curse-filled crescendo. Make sure to do this when other customers are in earshot. An irate customer fucking up shit for the boss in front of his underlings and the other customers (and future customers) puts a lot of pressure on him to concede and cut you a deal. Bonus points if children are present. Watch how fast he grabs his ankles.
– Wear dark-shaded sunglasses to make yourself look more intense and slightly crazy.
– Look all those parasites in the eyes. A liar will never be able to hold your gaze for longer than a couple seconds.
– Bring a PDA or iPhone and start furiously googling for parts and repair prices. Announce loudly for all to hear that you are going to “google and see what this really costs.” Hold your PDA high in the air when you say this. C.H.U.D.s cower before the power of the mighty google.
Top three sleaziest occupations: mechanic, used car salesman, personal injury lawyer. I’m seriously contemplating selling my car.
*I bet the bigger rip-off artists are in upper class neighborhoods. Rich yuppies who don’t know a thing about cars would throw money at the mechanic to fix the problem, chalking up the cost to normal “wear and tear”.