Being in the real estate business, you’d think I would be able to know when I am about to be taken. We write, talk and do broadcasts about the “games” in real estate and how to best protect yourselves from the “predatory real estate agent”.
Our shows and blogs get a lot of buzz and we are glad to be of service. However, my experiences at a local Mechanic Shop in Newhall CA really gave me a bad spin.
The Struts, air struts, in the front of my car were going bad. The cooling fan did not shut off – apparently due to some valve sticking that was associated with the manifold. The engine light was always on. I had some slight “pole damage” on the right rear quarter panel and had this quoted several times at about 1k to fix.
After visiting the local dealership and not having the best of experiences from their service department, I took it to a local mechanic’s shop in Newhall.
I was told to leave the car – it had to be looked at… I was good with that – after several hours – I was told it’d be $4100.00 to fix everything – except the body work. Heck, that was a lot less than the dealer – I’m good – It’s a local business, locally owned and operated, let’s do it.
I was promised 4 days, it took 7 days to fix, but still – I’m using a local Santa Clarita Business. A few days more won’t make any difference. I was notified that the car was done and I had Paris drop me off at the shop in Newhall.
As I sat in front of the owner, he handed me the Due Bill and it was just shy of $5,000.00. I reminded him of his original quote and he told me he was losing money and the struts were more expensive than originally quoted. I wasn’t happy – when we over promise and under deliver(which we did when we were new), I’d do the deal still at a loss. The relationship with the client is more important. Some don’t ascribe to the same school of thought – so I wrote the check and took my car.
Less than 1 hour later, I’m leaving the parking lot on the South East Corner of McBean and Valencia Blvd – by Corner Bakery. As I’m preparing to exit the parking lot to turn North Bound onto McBean, I hear a large explosion and was startled as the front end of my car collapsed onto it’s axle.
I gain my composure and get out of the car – the front end it totally sunk and the wheels are very close to rubbing on the inside of the wheel wells.
I dialed the Auto Mechanic – told him the story – he said to bring back the car. After I slowly made the right turn - the other one blew, not as dramatic, kind of like balloon being bled slowly of air – loud enough to hear – but no where as exciting as the first.
After I arrived back at the Auto Mechanic – I was not happy, but I am not one to scream and yell. These things happen from time to time. The parts were apparently defective – the mechanic had no way of knowing. Or did he? Looking back – I’m wondering if the parts he used were up to the standard of factory? Sure, I get it, factory can go bad – but stay tuned why I may think the first set of struts may not have been factory and from a third party manufacturer…
While I sat there in his shop – he and his son could not believe that both went bad so quick after I left. I did not have anything to say, they could see that it had happened – Heck, I like the theory behind a Low Rider – I just never wanted to own one.
He called a rental car agency and said he’d pick up the tab. I agreed – It’s hard to function as a full time Real Estate agent when you don’t have a vehicle to show properties in or to go to listing appointments with.
A nice lady picked me up, drove me to the rental agency in Valencia CA and I picked out a car. A Ford Focus – a few years old, Grey in Color. It smelled a bit like cigarette smoke – but I did not notice it after about an hour.
BTW – I was running late to meet up with some clients where I was going to show a home in Acton CA. I made it, but only by the skin on my teeth. A side note – It’s interesting how many people judge a real estate agent by the car they drive. I never had any comments about what I drove until I spent the last 2.5 weeks in a rental car. Yes, you read that right – 2.5 weeks – The story gets better – Stay tuned…
I waited, waited and waited some more. After 7 days I received a call – It’s ready. I headed over – picked up my car, there was no other bill – nothing more due. Frankly, due to the past experience, I had prepared myself to be confronted with a bill for the rental, even though he told me he was covering the cost.
I was preparing to drive off, that’s when I asked the owner how much it’d be to fix the light “pole damage” to the right rear corner panel. He looked at it, rubbed his hand over it, as if he was Schwarzenegger in that movie where he was asked to detect a fake id, and said with confidence, $1200.00. He then commented, it would be just like new.
I called my financial adviser, Paris – my wife and partner, she said okay and I told him, I’d keep the rental – get her done!
You see, I’d had the t/c(traffic collision – a hold over from my days working motors with the LAPD), quoted several times – everyone was about 1K to 1.2K. Heck, I had the rental, the car was already there, what could go wrong???
After 7 days, my phone rings – “It’s Done”, said the confident voice over the phone. I said great – I’d be right over. I then asked how much the final bill came too? The owner asked, “How much did I tell you?” I said, “$1200.00″. He then said, as if he did not hear me but wanted to pull some sort of Jedi Mind Trick, “Sixteen hundred dollars???” – I said no, with force, “You told me $1200.00″…
When arriving, I went into the office and sat down. After, of course I got my stuff from the rental car. The nicest thing about the rental car was the GREAT gas mileage. I filled it up twice, It held no more than $40.00 of gas and I know I put over 1,000 miles on it.
As I was sitting in front of the owner, he said, “have you seen your car?” I said “No”, he said, “Let’s go out and look at it, it’s just like new…”
I told him that I did not want to look at it and asked how much the bill was. He said $1750.00.
SCREW me once, shame on you… SCREW me twice, shame on me. I was the only one I could blame at this point. The only one…
I told him I needed a moment, right after I reminded him of our earlier phone conversation about what he had told me originally. He then started to justify the cost. ” I have to charge you for 1/2 of the rental…” ”I lost money on this deal – the guy in Florida, where I bought the first set of struts, did not reimburse me…” I just stared at him and then looked out of the window, as if the answer was outside driving by on the street…
While I was not saying anything, not moving just breathing and reflecting on how I “could” handle this situation, he attempted to make small talk. He asked about the real estate market, about the homes in Westridge, and a few other things that I failed to respond too as if I was hearing that “loud pitch” once hears after the drop the hammer.
My thought process at that time, during my moment of silence and deep reflection: What was I going to do? Clearly, I am getting taken. Who buys parts from a place where if the parts are bad, they are not covered? Why does Almond Joy have nuts? What kind of parts were these – was the mechanic attempting to roll more profit for himself by ordering and installing crappy and discounted parts? What If I said, forget it and walked out? I cannot do that – it’s my car.. Maybe I could call someone? Who, this guy does not have a boss, this is not a matter for law enforcement, this is a business dispute. If I don’t pay him, he might not give me my keys. What if I took the rental – It’s not his rental… I looked at him in the eyes, his eyes were darting back and forth, not focusing on mine after my long “detached” silence, and said – “Okay – please don’t cash this check until tomorrow…” He said, “I don’t go to the bank today…”
I looked at my car – I have to say, I cannot tell there was body work done to it – it looks when it did when I drove it off of the dealership lot. The entire car had been detailed – apparently in preparation for the body work and painting.
I drove my car home. It’s nice to have it back. The very next day – a few hours ago, I was driving to Starbucks coffee to get my family some pastries, hot-chocolate and coffee. As I turned onto the main drag – the engine Light popped on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!