The Racketeering Motives of Auto Shops

by Kyle Egan


I decided to take my car to Tire Kingdom store #122 on Alafaya for oil changes. After my first oil change, they gave me my car back with no talk of “extra work” I needed done. This gave me false hope that they were trustworthy mechanics.


A few months later, my car’s engine started malfunctioning. I took it to Tire Kingdom and asked for an engine diagnostic to see what the problem was. The customer service representative, Johnny, had me sign the consent sheet. Oddly, he circled the choices he wanted me to check on the list, which included “I do not want my parts back.” I inquired why he circled it and he said “because there are no parts to give back on an engine diagnostic.” That made sense to me at the time, so I checked to box and left, though I should have asked more questions.


Lesson #1: Always ask for more details on what you’re signing. If it seems sketchy, it probably is.


I received a call two days later and was told there was a suspected cracked or warped cylinder head on my engine. I disagreed with the diagnosis; I know the symptoms of a cracked cylinder head. He then cleverly reworded the diagnosis to the effect of “we are going to take a look at it to make sure it’s not that.” He then went on to list several things that they planned on doing, including: “changing the belts” and “changing the wires and plugs” and a “coolant fluid exchange.” The final price for the work was relayed to me in a nonchalant tone, and quoted “around $285.” He informed me the car would be ready in two days. I naively agreed over the phone to have the work done.


Lesson #2: Always ask for an itemized list of the services you are agreeing to. Even if you have to come in physically to see it, it will definitely be worth your time.


What I didn’t realize was that when I agreed to the diagnostic, I agreed to whatever work needed to be done.  After all, I figured it couldn’t be that serious, if it was only $285.  It wasn’t until I went to pay for the work that I realized the gravity of the situation. The final price to drive out of the shop was  $2,853! In disbelief, I asked to speak to the manager but he was gone for the day, so I called my girlfriend to pick me back up.


I returned the next morning to speak to the manager. I told him of the misrepresentation of the work as well as the ambiguity used to relay the price. His response was, “I was there during the phone call and I heard the conversation. He was very clear.” I then asked for a print out of the engine diagnostic to at least justify the work done. He claimed that, “there is no print out, it was done with a Snap-on Solus.” I researched the Solace website, which states that one can, “Save, print, share results using Shopstream Connect™ software available at no charge! Click here for more information and to download.” The Snap-on Solus program the mechanic supposively used to troubleshoot could have been printed or emailed to me.


Lesson #3: (My mom always told me this) Always get a written estimate and/or diagnostic!


The manager ended up giving me a student discount of 10%, which was never mentioned before (wow, thanks), and that took a little over $300 off the price to an even $2,500. When I told my mother the story, she was not happy, but she also wasn’t surprised. Thankfully, she had the money to give to me. If not, I would be in significant debt right now.


Lesson #4:  Insist on them providing evidence for what needs to be serviced.


I will never forget being duped out of $2,500 dollars by Tire Kingdom. To make matters worse, they were incapable of providing any objective evidence on what they claimed was wrong with my car. I emailed corporate about this issue and they forwarded my email to the manager at store #266 without responding to me. He has dodged my questions and has been ignoring me for about two weeks.


I have been forever changed by this reprehensible business practice.


Lesson #5: Never get work done at Tire Kingdom. I doubt they even change oil correctly.


The Lesson


As students and/or part time corporate puppets, we have a lot of pressure on us all the time. Be here, don’t be late, go there, study, get an A. Go go go! Do do do! Give it your all! Produce! Secure your future! All of this pressure can alter our perspective of the present moment. I now realize this “work” on my car demanded more attention than going to work or school. I would have benefited giving this issue the attention it deserved. Being stretched out so far, like many students are, made me forget that  some people take advantage of others.   At the very least, as student consumers we need to ask questions and demand explanations before any service is completed.


I’m very frugal and vigilant with my money, so if this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. My advice to you is slow down. Scammers thrive on people who are in a rush and over look details. Ask questions and take your time. After all, you’re the customer.