Dateline February 10, 2000:
George, Pep Boy's District Manager, called and said that he had interviewed everyone at the (Higlands Ranch) Pep Boys Automotive Service Center who was involved in this matter. I was told that he felt we were treated fairly and that the work they did was necessary. He also went into a great deal of detail justifying their use of the Mitchell service manual. He admitted that they charged me for the labor time it would take a less experienced (mediocre) mechanic to do the work, not for the time the ASE certified master mechanic who worked on the car actually spent on this particular job. In other words, the labor charges were based not on the actual labor time, but on some hypothetical time scale established for each individual task performed by an individual with med-level experience. He also
- spoke of Rip-Off Revenge's involvment in this matter;
- apologized for any inconvenience they may have caused us;
- said Pep Boys would do whatever I asked in order to resolve this matter.
As such, Pep Boys and I settled the dispute over labor charges associated with work they performed on my step-daughter's car on February 5 and 6, 2000.
The amount we settled for is confidential; however, I am satisfied with the result.
Without the help and intervention of RipOff Revenge, I believe that Pep Boys would not have contacted me as soon as they did nor would they have offered to settle this matter for "customer satisfaction" reasons or otherwise. Again, as George put it to me, they feel perfectly justified (using the Mitchell service guide) in charging for labor time based on some mythical mid-level experienced mechanic, not on the time it actually took their highly experienced mechanic to perform each task or job. Keep this in mind when you take your car in to any repair/service shop that utilizes the same technique for assessing labor charges. The safe bet is to try to negotiate labor charges based upon the lesser of the actual labor time multiplied by the flat hourly rate vs. the labor charges recommended by the Mitchell service guide.
Thank you RipOff Revenge.
Dateline February 9, 2000:
I got a telephone call from George, the local District Manager for Pep Boys. George and I discussed the problem(s) which are addressed below. He said that he needed more time to review the applicable invoice and would get back to me later in the day; however, I did not receive any more telephone calls.
Dateline, February 5, 2000. After several attempts at trying to control what appeared to be a minor oil hemorrhage, and at my suggestion, my step-daughter agreed to take her 1992 Ford Taurus Station Wagon into the Pep Boys Automotive Center located at 7469 Park Meadows Drive, Littleton, Colorado. After receiving the appropriate "What can we do for you?" greeting, I proceeded to request an oil and filter change with the proviso that we wanted to know where the mysterious oil leak or leaks were emanating from. The charge for the evaluation was $19.95, for which no credit was allowed when the actual service took place. I asked to be contacted at home with an estimate for repairing the "leak(s)" prior to the commencement of any work on the car. The check-in time was 9:18 a.m.
At approximately 10:00 a.m. we received a telephone call from Mr. Peterson at Pep Boys. I asked the obvious question, "What did you find wrong?" Mr. Peterson rattled off a plethora of problems, the most troubling of which included (1) the automatic transmission seal was leaking and is potentially hazardous because it is flammable; (2) the oil pan seal was leaking; (3) both high pressure hoses attached to the power steering pump were leaking; and (4) fan belt attached to the power steering pump was badly cracked. "How much?" I asked. The answer, "$721.00."
After a pregnant pause and several minutes of discussion with my wife, I reluctantly gave permission for the work to be done. I was not, however, provided with a break-down of the parts vs. labor cost involved. I trusted the information I was given and the person delivering that information. The time was approximately 10:06 a.m. according to the call log on our work order/invoice.
According to our work order/invoice, the repairs to the car were completed at or about 3:05 p.m. on the afternoon of February 5, 2000. Pep Boys called to let us know the car was finished and my wife and step-daughter, the owner of the car, went to pay for the service and retrieve the car. The total cost for the repairs/work performed was a whopping $744.01, excluding sales tax.
Shortly after my wife and step-daughter returned home, I discovered a pool of red transmission fluid under the car. There also appeared to be other leaks which were not there before. After uttering a few explicatives, I contacted the service center at Pep Boys and relayed the problem to them. Not seeming too distressed about the situation, they told me in a less than concerned manner to bring the car back. I made it very clear that we would return the vehicle on Sunday, February 6, 2000 for them to re-fix the problem.
In addition, here in Colorado, any time a car is repaired and parts are removed and replaced, the customer is to be given the old parts - or so I thought. When I asked where the old parts were, Pep Boys told me they only give parts back if a customer asks for them. My wife and step-daughter were not asked if they wanted the old parts nor did they think to ask for them when the car was picked up. This seems a clear violation of, if nothing else, the spirit of the law.
Dateline, February 6, 2000. My step-daughter and I dropped off the car, again, at Pep Boys. Prior to leaving, we attempted to make a case against the outrageous labor charges using logic and reason, but were unsuccessful. The Assistant Store Manager, Larry, and the Assistant Service Manager tried to make a case for their use of the "Mitchell" method of calculating labor time and charges and insisted that $92.00/hour is reasonable.
My assessment of the "Mitchell" method utilized by Pep Boys is that it provides automotive repair businesses with a deceptive method of calculating labor charges and a license to steal. Given the fact that Pep Boys prides itself on its well trained and highly qualified mechanics - all ASE certified, how do they justify charging customers for mediocre labor using such highly qualified personnel. In a nutshell, if the book says 12 hours and it take the mechanic 6 hours, you still pay for 12 hours. What's wrong with this picture? What happened to that flat hourly rate? According to Larry, it's fair because the job could have taken three (3) days instead of 6 hours and the charge would have been the same. If a 6 hour job took one of their mechanics three (3) days to complete, how long do you believe that mechanic would have a job at Pep Boys?
We were called by the store to come back and take a look under the car and to be shown where the new parts were installed. I looked at the gasket seals around the oil pan and automatic transmission fluid pan. We found some ATF around the pan, but they and we did not make a solid determination about where the fluid was coming from. They presumed that it was residual oil from the drain and fill on 02/05/2000. The mechanic hosed off the front end of the car hoping to wash/flush away the residual ATF and other fluids. He also added power steering fluid w/conditioner to the power steering pump to quiet the noise which suddenly appeared after the high pressure hoses were replaced. They blamed Ford saying the noise is endemic to its power steering pumps - hmmmm! We also managed to retrieve the old parts taken off the car.
The only compensation we were offered was a free oil change for all our trouble. A $19.00 oil change doesn't quite compensate for the damage done to my driveway or the sheer inconvenience of having to spend another half day trying to get the car re-fixed.
Keep in mind, the party from whom the car was purchased is a manager with a major dealership in the Denver metro area. According to this gentlemen, he personally oversaw the flush and refill of both the oil as well as the transmission fluid just prior to the car being purchased in November, 1999. He said that a brand new transmission fluid pan seal and screen was used and did not believe that either the seal or screen needed replacement. The fluid which we noticed leaking from the car was clear or murky, not red - hmmmmm!
The bottom line. Total time for repairs, not including the hour to perform the oil leak diagnostic, was approximately 5.0 hours. We were billed $190.77 for parts and $553.24 for labor. Total labor charge/hours worked = labor charge per hour. $553.24/6 = $92.21 per hour. Per Larry, the Assistant Manager, they charge $48.00/hour for labor, but according to the mechanic that worked on the car, the charge is $65.00/hour. Assuming $48.00/hour is correct, $48.00 X 6 = $288.00. $288.00 + 190.77 = $478.77, $265.24 less than the $744.01 we were charged. Assuming the mechanic was paid $20.00/hour, Pep Boys achieved a gross profit margin on labor alone of approximately 460%.
My advice, steer clear of Pep Boys Automotive Service Centers.