IF there’s one thing in this business that really grinds my gears, it’s the bad reputation that the less scrupulous people in the trade give to the more honest among us.
I run a small garage in a rural market town, where most of our customers are locals, and from where most of our trade comes via word of mouth.
I have never once in my career knowingly ripped a customer off. It’s bad practice, bad for your reputation, and not fair on others. I firmly believe in treating people as you’d wish to be treated yourself, and in my book that means fairly.
And, despite perceptions, it’s not the one-man ‘under the arches’ brigade that are doing our profession harm. Far from it. No, some of the biggest crooks out there are the ones running household-name, fast-fit franchises.
I won’t name names, but I encountered the effects of one recently via an old chap who came to us in a bit of a tizz after his beloved Rover 45 failed its MOT.
The fail sheet he presented to us was pretty long, and came attached to a quote for £550 to carry out all of the work that his car ‘required’ in order to see another 12 months on the road. Luckily, his son-in-law had seen the situation for what it was, and being a customer of ours had recommended that father-in-law make the 20-mile journey to us for a more level opinion.
The fail sheet threw up the following problems, which those of you who’ve seen the fast-fit fiasco before will recognise instantly: all four tyres perished; front exhaust section has major leak of gases; front brake pads below 1mm thick; exhaust emissions excessive; headlight output below statutory requirements.
Attached to the fail sheet was a quote for four budget tyres, an exhaust front pipe, two ‘high-intensity’ headlamp bulbs, some front pads and a bottle of catalytic converter cleaner which, for £15, would get those emissions down to where they should be.
I was so convinced that the fast fitters had seen the old boy coming that I deliberately got my colleague, Nick, to carry out an MOT on the car rather than do it myself. That way, his opinion (for that’s genuinely all an MOT test really is…) wouldn’t be skewed by the back story.
Slight amount of rust
The car passed, with one advisory for a smeary wiper blade – ironically, one of the few ‘quick-fix’ things that the original test centre had overlooked.
With the Rover now legitimately MOT’d, I took the owner to inspect the vehicle with me so I could give him my own view of the faults. Starting with the ‘perished’ tyres, this really incensed me. All four were budget brands, but they were date-marked 2015 – they easily had 5mm of tread left and absolutely no signs of tread or sidewall deterioration.
Likewise, the exhaust front pipe, which had a slight amount of surface rust around the flexi section, but was completely gas-tight and fully road-legal. We could find no problem at all with the headlights and as for the brake pads, it was quite clear to us that they had more meat on them than last week’s Sunday joint.
Probably because the unfortunate owner had paid for them to be done at a previous fast-fit MOT just 3,000 miles ago, if the car’s online test history were to be believed.
Indeed, the only thing we could really find wrong with the car at all was that it was a Rover 45, and that’s not an MOT failure point, at least not yet. Joking aside, simple cars like that make a lot of sense for motorists on a budget…
After chatting with the owner, it turned out he was about to scrap the car as there was no way he was prepared to spend £550 on an old banger that was worth less than that to start with, and because his funds were tight he’d probably have swapped his independence for a bus pass.
And that, my friends, is why I find this ‘hit targets at all costs’ approach to franchising utterly unethical. There’s a human side to it. So much so, that on this occasion I let the old boy have his MOT test for free on the basis he’d come back again next year. He’d suffered enough anxiety for one year, and he’d had to fork out £50 for the ‘bad news’ in the first place.
Happy motoring, sir, and we look forward to seeing you again in 12 months’ time.
Who is Our Kev? If we told you, we’d have to kill you. What we can say is he’s been around for longer than he cares to remember so certainly knows his stuff…
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