Hi everybody. I’d like to ask you guys for an advice. Upon receiving a job, I didn´t check well the status of a vehicle. When I finished work, the client noted in his car a broken fog light. He claimed that I broke it in my garage during the repair. Now he wants me to buy a new one. I know that I was very stupid not checking well the vehicle before. I’m 100% sure that the fog light was already broken and the customer wants to take advantage of my inattention. I don’t want to pay for something I didn’t break!
What do you think I should do? What would you in my place?

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration,
Best regards!


How much money did you make on the job? How much will a replacement fog light cost? Is the lens broken? If so, is the interior of the lamp spotless or not so spotless…Did you drive the car during the repair?

It would depend if the repair involved the area of the fog light. If the repair did involve the area of the fog light then there’s a chance it was damaged during the repair. But what kind of damage?

If the repair was nowhere near the area of the fog light, I’d tell them to pack sand and find a new mechanic.


Standard automotive work orders always contain the disclaimer: “Not responsible for theft or damage while vehicle is being repaired or is stored on the premises”…

It was a complete brake job and oil change. The profit of the repair was $ 102.00 and the cost of the fog light´s lens is $ 81.00 plus labor. The customer show up early so I didn’t have the opportunity to drive the vehicle. It was parked outside the garage where there´s no vehicle traffic or people. There was already dust inside the cavity of the fog light and I couldn´t find plastic lens pieces on the ground.

What really bothers me is the attitude of the customer. She keeps telling me that ain´t no matter what happend. It was my fault for not checking well her vehicle before working on it and now I gotta pay for that inattention.

Do you guys think I should pay the 50% for that inattention?

I think you should show her the door. That does not make sence to be forced to fix what you know you did not break because you did not see it broken to begin with. Do you know how many mechanic shops would be out of biz if they followed that thought process??

This is a common sleazeball customer move to get stuff fixed for free. The unfortunate part is that this tactic usually works. Show her the door. You don’t need, and can’t afford, customers like that.

Get out your good quality digital camera and take really good pictures of the fog light. Document in writing that there is dirt, dust, and debris inside the body of the reflector. Such material would not be present if the light was broken in the short time the car was in your possession. Debris inside means the lens was broken prior to coming in for your repair work. The force of the air of a moving car pushed the debris past the broken lens inside the body of the light. You didn’t drive the car on the road at all.

Show the customer your pictures, your written statement, and your “proof” that the light was pre-existing damage. Perhaps she had never noticed it was broken before, or perhaps she is trying to scam you. Either way show her your pictures and documents and tell her you are not fixing the light.

What happens next is up to her. If she wants to take this to small claims court she knows what your story will be. She’ll need to provide more proof of her story to win the case.

Perhaps she had never noticed it was broken before, or perhaps she is trying to scam you.

This is the center of the problem. I suspect she never noticed it. It is a no win situation for you. I suggest that you offer to split the cost.

Stand your ground. If you didn’t break it then don’t pay for it.

+1 with Missileman. If you’re sure you didn’t break it, don’t pay for it.
But Joseph has a good point too: If you want to keep her as a customer, offer to split the difference but not with actual money. Perhaps offer her a half hour labor off for her next service or a free oil change.

If I did not break it then I’d tell them to hit the highway because odds are if someone is willing to stoop low enough to blame this on you then they won’t be back anyway.

Unfortunately, this type of thing is not rare at all and I’ve seen far worse including a trashed engine and moderate body damage blamed on the dealership. In the case of the body damage it was so old that rust was present where the bare metal had been showing.

I’m not a mechanic but in the business world, “the customer is always right” does not apply anymore. Its a two way street and unprofitable customers should be refered to your competitor. If there was dust inside, it is not recent damage and she is just trying to swindle you. The statement that you need to pay for not doing a good check on the car just shows her true colors. It is not necessary to have to do a detailed check before a car is worked on. Offer to replace it for the $81 maybe but that’s it.

Or offer to replace it at cost (parts, no labor).

Thanks a lot you guys. I really appreciate your advices and supportive posts.

“,but in the business world, “the customer is always right” does not apply anymore.”

That was never true. The customer always deserves to be heard and understood. The customer deserves to know that the supplier hears his concerns and the supplier is willing to work through the issue. This does not mean that the customers claims about an issue are correct. It only means that they have an issue that needs to be dealt with. And it has always been that way.

@RemcoW: At that point, I would not want to keep her as a customer nor have any further dealings with her.

If the “customer is always right”, than that means you are always wrong. Perhaps the best way I’ve heard it said though is: “The customer is not always right, but they are always the customer, and they pay your bills.” That said, some people are more trouble than they’re worth and need to be cut loose.

If you are 100% certain that you did not break it, then listen carefully and sympathetically but then firmly explain that you did not break the light and will not be paying for any portion of replacing it. Simple as that.
At this point the person is no longer a customer but rather a lady with a broken car. Don’t try to buy her future business by replacing a part you did not break or damage.

If you feel the slightest bit responsible or sympathetic, tell her to buy her own replacement lamp and gladly offer to install it for free the next time her car is in your shop for paying work.

Well there are people, and there are people, I think you are on the hosed end of the situation, now what to do. Sure you could contest it in small claims court, I think you offer to replace it for free labor and she pays for parts, first stab at the cat. IMHO she is trying to rip you off! In no circumstance say anything that assumes liability.

At a shop where I used to work, the manager once posted a sign printed on computer paper that said: Rule number one - the customer is always right. Rule number two - if the customer is wrong, see Rule number one. The sign was visible from the front counter (which seems to be just begging for trouble to me) and was taken down when someone added Rule number three - first two rules no longer apply once the customer has left.