Are you shopping for a new vehicle and having trouble finding one, or have you been waiting a long time for a factory order? A reporter would like to speak with you; please reach out to [email protected] by Tues. 5/11 for more details.

Imaginary car problems, negligence and nitpicking--stories? anecdotes?

eharri3eharri3 Member Posts: 645
I sell lawn tractors, mowers, and other high end equipment. I'd say roughly ten percent of the equipment returned has actual manufacturing defects. Roughly 9 out of ten returns though are due to owner negligence or improper maintenance. Examples: People hitting rocks with their lawn mowers and then complaining because they had to pay 200 dollars for a new crankshaft, or people who don't know how to make the right mixture for a two cycle engine and then try to return their weed wacker when it smokes and is hard to start because they put in the wrong mix. I must say, it's pretty frustrating to have people abuse their product or use it wrong and then blame me for selling them something defective.

Any dealers or service techs with similar stories? Obvious cases of improper or negligent maintenance, but the owner wanted to complain and blame manufacturer's defect anyway in hopes of getting free repairs?


  • adc100adc100 Member Posts: 1,521
    on the "Engine Sludge" board-to further stir up trouble!!!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    This is because Sears will allow a customer to get away with practically anything.

    It's been a long time since I was a very young Division Manager for Sears but I doubt if things have changed.

    I was usually successful in refusing an unreasonble claim but if the cuustomer went over my head I would ALWAYS get a phone call from the store manager telling me to write the check.

    Sometimes the abuse was sickening. I could tell dozens of stories.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, please do!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    There were three different senarios.

    1. We really did screw something happens

    2. An honest customer really felt we did something that created a problem.

    3. A dishonest, dirtbag customer who knew EXACTLY
    how to get something for nothing.

    I remember once doing a brake job on a Pontiac. I happened to be watching from my office when the customer came to pick the car up that evening.

    He slowly walked around the car and finally got down and looked under it.

    He came up to one of my Service Advisors and informed him that his car was leaking some kind of fluid.

    We put it in the air and sure enough, the automatic transmission was leaking pretty badly. It was so bad that my brake guy had noted it on his repair order.


    Any attempts on my part to convince him otherwise were in vain. His face was red and his veins were bulging. Now, I'm VERY good at defusing a hostile customer, but not this time.

    My mechanic that worked on his car was an excellent mechanic with 20 years with Sears.

    When the irate customer called my mechanic the worst possible thing that a black person could be called (to his face) I threw him out.

    Next day, I was informed by upper management that I would fix the transmission leak at no charge.

    I almost quit.

    For those who know, the front seal was cracked and the convertor "o" ring came out in fifty pieces. Yeah...we did that by replacing his brakes!

    Just one story of many.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    repair shops need to inspect the car prior to working on it, obvious problems, like the tranny leak when spotted should be called to owner's attention. Ie: call the owner and say we have not worked on your car as yet and wish to inform you that you have a tranny leak. If you wish us to fix your brakes fine but you have a leak. that way no work was done which could have screwed up anything else.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I think the "bent rim" complaint has some basis in negligence...I've seen people hit potholes with tremendous force and then blame the manufacturer. "I just bumped the curb!".

    Overheating is another sore spot: "When I saw the needle go into the red (or the warning light flash), I drove to the next exit (a mere 7 miles) and pulled over. The engine was ruined. What kind of lemon is this?"

    "But you are supposed to STOP when a car overheats!"

    "But I was on the freeway and it was too dangerous!"

    "Well, fine, you made a decision in your best interest, but it isn't the manufacturer's or repair shop's responsibility that you were driving where you were and made the decision you made."

    (This argument rarely works, so it gets ugly from here on in)
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    Back in the 80's one of my father's coworkers came in to work mad as (the dickens and then some) one day.

    His wife had been driving their Buick (a six, but I don't know exactly what year or model), and the oil light had come on. She kept driving and the engine quickly turned into scrap.

    He was quite upset with her, after she told him that. "Why the hot place did you keep driving after the red light came on?" he asked her.

    Her reply - "I didn't think it was important - they come on every time I start the car"
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
    When Dad was still service manager at an Olds dealership, an eighteen year old "rich kid" brought in his one month old '64 442 complaining that the clutch was slipping. He forgot to take off the Mickey Thompson racing slicks before he brought it in. Clutch was not covered under warranty.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    We buy a lot of stuff from Sears. And I'm usually happy with it.

    When I was buying a clothes washer from a nice saleslady, after also buying a dishwasher from her 2 days before (the household appliances had a bad week) we were talking about the stuff you see on the re-sale table and how that came to be.

    This was in September or October, not sure exactly. But we were having nice fall weather. She said, see that guy just leaving there? I said yep. She said he just returned a window air conditioner, said he didn't like it. Sears was crediting him or refunding money or whatever. She said he bought it at the start of the summer. Said they take several back each fall, and Sears management oks it.

    Just go to Sears when it warms up in the spring, get the window A/C, return it for full credit in the fall.

  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Member Posts: 1,308
    "the household appliances had a bad week"

    For some reason, I thought that was one of the funniest things I've read on Edmunds. :-)
  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    I was a service advisor in Oregon (Chevy place) when a sweet old lady came in complaining of a buzzing, grinding noise from inside her car.

    I took a drive with her and she directed me to the noise several times, but I couldn't hear it. I lost some hearing in the Air Force, so I asked the QC guy to drive with her.

    Kent went out for 45 minutes, drove on every kind of road imaginable, then pulled up to the dealership. He shut the car off, the windows were up - he asked, "do your hear the noise now"? She said "Yes, now more than ever". He explained the power to the car was off, the cooling fans weren't running and there wasn't anything else that could be making a noise.

    She left, she called the BBB, said we were rude, told the dealership's owner, etc.

    We spent three days trying to find a noise that wasn't there while the service department put her in a rental.

    She said, "I don't like that Toyota Camry you got me from Enterprise. It makes the same noise as my Malibu!"
  • midnight_stangmidnight_stang Member Posts: 862
    Around late 1997 , while working as a grease monkey at the local Firestone, a middle aged couple brought in their brand new red Mustang convertible. They wanted 4 tires and an oil change. Needless to say after having both of them over my shoulders every step of the way(literally), I was ready for them to go. Lower the car, kick the lift ramps free, and get ready to wash up. The couple then speaks up, they are unhappy because the little pony on the hubcaps aren't lined up. (As in the noses of each figure were not pointing in the same direction.) I thought they weren't serious at first, but as I watched their hands go to their hips, and face expressions tense, I so I said alright. Had to lift the car again, and spin the tires so they matched up. But now they want the spokes to be aligned too(no joke either). So I popped off the center caps, had another guy hold the wheel so the differential wouldn't turn both axles, and got the pony's lined up.

    I then washed up and pulled the car straight back out of the bay, and took off the plastic seat wrap and floor mat. We usually parked the cars completely into a parking spot, but not now. I showed them the pony's were still lined up, and said if you want to keep em like that, don't turn.... EVER. As their wheels started to turn in their heads, I turned around, walked in, and turned in their ticket. We were cracking up on that story for a while at Firestone.
  • kmagkmag Member Posts: 98
    I worked as a flunky at the Auto Center long ago (the '70s). It was alot of fun to see customers come in, wanting the 19.99 muffler. Then they come back two hours later and get a bill for 80-$100. "Well, you needed a muffler, but the brackets were shot, the pipes were rusted..." Not long after that, a law was passed in Ohio that required a written estimate and customer approval before any work was done.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    Well, we never did any work unless it was authorized by the customer.

    The 19.95 customer was usually the guy with the beater that needed the entire exhaust system replaced.

    I once had a customer come in to have his "lifetime" muffer replaced under warranty.

    He had no receipt. As a courtesy I agreed to go ahead and replace the Sears muffler for free anyway. wasn't a Sears muffler. It was the original that came with the car.

    When I brought that fact up to him, he turned red and became irate.

    I calmly walked him out to the muffler shop where his Chevy was up in the air.

    I showed him that it was a welded assembly from the factory and even showed him the GM stamping on the blown out muffler.

    This didn't work. He told me that we must have bought the muffler from Chevrolet...yeah, right!

    I'll make a long story short...after I politely let him know I wouldn't be replacing the muffler for free, he stormed over to the main store.

    I got a call shortly afterwards from the Store Manager's secretary letting me know that Mr. Olson, the store manager would like to see me...

    The jerk was sitting in Olson's office with a satistied smirk on his face.

    I was instructed to please take care of Mr. Bryant's muffler.

    To make matters worse, Mr. Bryant was the father-in-law of a friend of mine.

    Years later at a family picnic I ran into him. I said nothing, but he knew EXACTLY what my opinion of him was.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    A funny story!

    I just don't understand...WHY you would let a customer breathe down you neck. We kept the stalls roped off and kept the customers at a safe distance. Machanics HATE IT when a customer watches them!
  • midnight_stangmidnight_stang Member Posts: 862
    But I think our manager at the time knew them or vice versa. Besides, 4 tires and an oil change only took like 30 minutes... At least they didn't watch me mount and balance the tires. But I do have a soft spot for Mustangs, plus I live in Plano Texas, so I'm used to stuck up people. I did give the "Firestone cannot be liable for your accidents in our service bay" speech...
  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    I'm originally from Brazoria County, South of Houston and I worked in Lake Jackson, another "home of the snobs". Used to be a really cool small town (I was raised there), but several major companies came in and brought in people who had, it seemed, been kicked out of Southern California, Manhattan and Brooklyn for being too rude.

    I had a tech in Oregon, an older guy that had been a mechanic for thirty-some years, who would walk over to his chair, sit down and smoke his pipe when the customer would either get too close or ask him questions. I'd get a laugh when the person would ask me "why isn't he working on my car?". I'd tell them, "he gets that way with me, too, when I look over his shoulder or bug him".
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    ...a few years ago, I took my Dart to Firestone to get new tires put on the rear. It had some worn-out 205/70/14's back there, and I was buying 225/70/14's, a size I have had on the car before.

    Well, after a little while, the manager comes to me and tells me there's no way that the 225's will fit in there. I tell him I've had that size on before without any problem, and he has me come out to the service bay to look at the car. Well, remember in the old days, how most cars had very low-cut openings over the rear wheels? You had to jack up the car by the frame, and let the rear axle hang down, so you could get enough clearance to get the tire off. These guys jacked it up by the axle, which, obviously, did not hang down as a result. I.e.; "we can't get your tire off."

    I finally quit going to them when the latest manager in their rapid turnover said to me "LOOK, we don't have the time to memorize the oil requirements of EVERY car out there!"

    My apologies to you guys who have worked at reputable Firestone locations, but the ones around here have proven to be a joke! As is the story with most places though, it all depends on the manager and employees.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    Visiting a Saturn dealer tech friend at work and witnessed this one:

    Customer - this *&^$$ piece of #%^&^% junk. I was just driving along and both airbags blew!!!!

    Tech, after a walkaround - Uhh, Sir, why's the left front tire moved back so far it's touching the back of the inner fender?

    I dunno, I was just driving along and both airbags blew.

    Now with the car hoisted - Sir, any idea how both front stabilizer bar support brackets got torn off the subframe, and these wrinkle marks got into the left rail of the subframe, which is now about 4" shorter than the right side?

    I dunno, I was just driving along......

    Uhh, Sir, didn't you previously mention that you work at XYZ steel mill with 550 employees coming off shift at the same time, 1 exit from the parking lot, everyone trying to get there first, and all those railway tracks which crisscross the lot?

    I dunno, I was just......

    How about you were going about Mach 3 trying to beat traffic, launched the car over the first set of tracks, nose dived it into the next set, and bottomed the suspension?

    Well, then there must be something wrong with the steel in the subframe. Yeah, that's it. I wanna see the metallurgical reports on the subframe.

    The damage was subsequently repaired under a collision insurance claim. But he was just driving along.....
  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    I had a guy ready to take me outside over the facts that I wouldn't honor the $69.95 front brake special for his '82 Chevy Citation. He was screaming, feaking out, talking about suing, telling other customers to leave since I was ripping him off, etc. He stopped yelling when I made an announcement to the 15 or so people in the waiting room. I said, "What this guy hasn't told you is that we can SEE THROUGH several places in both his brake rotors, his brake master cylinder doesn't have a sealed lid, it's a BAGGIE, both calipers blow fluid when the brakes are depressed (check the floor of the shop!) and his brake lights are blown. We can't repair his car for $69.95!!!!"
  • newcar31newcar31 Member Posts: 3,711
    This happened to me while working at Jiffy Lube (Laugh all you want, it paid the bills). On one of the first hot days of the summer, an older lady comes in for an oil change. After we did the service, she comes back to the shop about an hour later complaining that a clear liquid is leaking from her car ever since we did the oil change. I go downstairs into the "pit" to take a look at her car expecting a loose drain plug, bad gasket or loose filter. Nope, it was completely dry, but the air conditioner was dripping water on my head. I told the customer that she has no leaks and she responds: "Are you calling me a liar?" No ma'am, your air conditioner is just doing its job by removing humidity from the passenger cabin; that "clear liquid" that you are seeing is just water from the air conditioner and it is completely normal. "But it never did that BEFORE I came in to get an oil change" Sure it did, you just never noticed it. "Are you calling me a liar?" "I am not leaving until you fix whatever you broke" It was a Friday, and she had came in 10 minutes after we had closed and I was sick of listening to the crap that was spouting from her mouth which included personally insulting me ("You don't know what you are doing")......I went downstairs and stuffed a drain plug into that little rubber hose that drips water from the air conditioner and told her that she won't see anymore liquid. She never came back to complain again because her interior mysteriously had water in it now, she probably took it to another shop and told her story which most likely caused the people at the other shop to bust out laughing, and she realized that I wasn't BSing her.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    That's awesome!!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    What a great story!

    You did EXACTLY the right thing!
This discussion has been closed.