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Bait & Switch?

I inherited my parent’s 1995 Nissan Maxima, an almost 20 year old car with 112k miles. I do most of my repairs but for the power steering pump I purchased a re-manufactured pump and asked a local shop for a quote to replace it. They gave me an estimate of 1.5 hours, at $75 an hour labor or $112.50. I thought it was a fair deal so I dropped the car off along with the pump and both belts in case they need to be replaced. When I went to pick up the car during my lunch break, I was asked to pay $112.50 PLUS another $90 for replacing the belts! I tried to reason with the Service advisor: you have to remove the belts to replace the pump! How can you charge me another 1.2 hour of labor to replace the belts? His answer - “We didn’t have to replace the belts, we could have put the old ones back on.” I paid for the bill just to get the car out of the shop so I could get back to work. I believe this was a bait & switch, your thoughts?

They were upset that you supplied the pump and the belts depriving them of their parts markup. The answer that they would have replaced the old belts for free but charge for replacing the new belts is total BS. They gave you a quote which included removal and replacement of the belts. I don’t consider this a case of bait and switch. It is outright price gouging when they had the vehicle and counted on you needing it. I would file a complaint with your State Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office. It will probably go nowhere unless other complaints have been filed against these crooks. No matter what happens with SAG never darken their door again and be sure to bad mouth them in any way possible in order to warn future victims.

That’s referred to as overlapping labor and an honorable shop would factor that in.

If they didn’t like the fact that you provided the parts (understandable actually) then they should have refused to accept the job.

That would be similar to charging you X dollars for a 4-wheel brake job and then charging you extra for rotating the tires.

It’s unlikely that a complaint will ever go anywhere or accomplish much although it certainly won’t hurt. Mentioning this incident to friends and neighbors may hurt them a bit but one never knows the end result.

Some states have statutes about estimates and how these things are handled so you may have some legal options depending upon the state where you live.

Had this done to me once, when the shop was changing the alternator (their part), I asked them to put a new belt on and charge me for the part (again, their fee). When my wife went to pick the car up she called and there was another one hour of labor added for the belt. I called them and the owner did not have a real explanation (other than “we didn’t expect you to read the receipt”). I did not go back there and they went out of business in a few months.

Crooks. If you paid by credit card contact the card company and ask if you can dispute the charge. If the shop has ads on search engines like bing/yahoo/google post a negative review explaining your situation. Contact the agency that regulates repair shops in your area. Your signed estimate is a legal contract in most states, if they went above that amount small claims court is an option. It’s sad that shops like this manage to stay in business, it give the industry a bad reputation.


The only thing they did wrong is not telling you there would be an extra charge to replace the belts…That little ploy covers their disappointment in losing the parts markup…

@DexT - did you tell them you had your own parts when you asked for the quote? If not, you should have.

Hang on a minute here. Let’s stop calling the shop crooks and thieves and look at the customer who is guilty of the bait and switch. He supplied a pump to be installed at an agreed upon price and then wanted additional work performed at no charge.

There are 2 belts on this car, one for the P/S, one for the alternator and A/C. The P/S belt is the inner belt. The P/S belt does not get removed from the car to replace the pump. It is loosened, slipped off the pulley and pulled aside. The other belt isn’t touched at all during pump replacement. So the labor price quoted doesn’t/can’t include replacement or installation of new belts.

Replacing the P/S belt requires removing the outer belt. My labor guide shows .7 hours to replace the alternator A/C belt and .9 to replace both.

So it seems to be the only fair thing would be to pay the additional .7 as shown in the labor guide for alternator belt replacement. But since this customer brings his own bacon and eggs to the restaurant I think whatever the shop can charge as backed up by a labor guide is more than fair.

I agree with @asemaster . I don’t take uncooked hamburger to McDonald’s and I would never take parts to a repair shop. The customer is in the wrong here ( @DexT ) …not the shop.

I don’t necessarily think the customer went in trying to do wrong, just with unreasonable expectations. Of course there would be an additional charge to install additional parts, why wouldn’t there be? If you order dinner at a restaurant and decide you’d like an order of onion rings as well you’d fully expect to pay for it. If you hire a painter to paint your house and you ask him to throw a coat on the garden shed while he’s here you’d expect to pay for the additional work. But to ask your mechanic to change a set of belts for free?

FWIW, I think the shop didn’t handle things properly either. It’s no secret that that 30% of gross profit comes from parts markup. Why the shop agreed to do the job without properly adjusting the labor rate upward is beyond me. The service writer should have informed the customer that there would be an additional charge when the customer dropped the car off and explained why.

I didn’t see any unreasonable expectations. I think he expected it to be basically free because he was under the impression that the belts were already off. Replacing the old belts versus the new belts would be no extra work then. If the events are as explained, no one from the shop made any indication that there would be extra work involved when the belts were offered up for replacement.

Since you pointed out the actual need to do more work, I put the onus on the repair shop. If they were given the belt replacement instructions at the time the order was written, they should have known it was extra work and communicated the additional charge then and there, not surprise the customer after the work was already done. All of this could have been avoided and likely the customer would have understood the reasoning for the extra charge and been happy with the work. But now, it looks like a scam from his perspective…

Haiku time:

Your bread and butter
Chance to gain new customer
Shop owner blew it

asemaster Thank you for the clarification. There was some confusion in the OPs story. Your description of the repair justified the labor charge for R&R of the belts. It sounds like this was never explained to the customer. It should have been.

I don’t necessarily think the customer went in trying to do wrong, just with unreasonable expectations.

I agree and it could look like a scam from his perspective…but it’s not.

“Your bread and butter
Chance to gain new customer
Shop owner blew it

Nope, not his bread and butter. Maybe a packet of ketchup.

I generally don’t put any effort into gaining or keeping a customer who brings his own parts. The only way I can afford to do that is to charge him the lost parts profit as part of the labor charge. By that time he ends up paying more for the job altogether than if he hadn’t brought his own parts.

I don’t mind a customer getting a good deal as long as it’s as equally a good deal for me. But if a good deal for the guy with the broken car costs me money the deal is off.

I have to kind of agree. While it seems a little under-handed, they just took the opportunity get their money back on the customer supplied parts. I guess I wouldn’t get all bent out of shape over it but would certainly clarify in the future.

This is the way the local GM dealer treated me though. I had bought an internal GM water pump for my Olds from Rockauto. I tried everything with the special tool to get the dang thing out and finally gave up. Took it to the dealer. They installed it but then told me it leaked. So they put in a new GM pump after that. They did two installs and only charged for the one. Yes I had to pay the $50 for the pump but all in all I think I was treated fairly. They could have charged twice for the same job. I guess there is no standard and maybe the high hourly rate makes them more generous.

They could have met the customer halfway-they blew it(people are always doing this to me) and I’ll tell you another thing,most customers arent made of money,but sadly the days of the customer being right are over-Kevin

If we take everything OP said as true, then the shop did rip him off:

OP said he brought in the two belts “in case they need to be replaced,” not “with instructions to replace the old ones no matter what.”

The shop said “We didn’t have to replace the belts, we could have put the old ones back on.”

OK, fine. Then why didn’t they? They replaced the belts because it took them 5 minutes to add $90 to the bill.

If you expected them to install the new belts for free, you should have made that known up front, not for their protection, but for yours, to make sure you knew what you were getting into. Yes, it’s shady for them to charge you to install the belts, but it was careless on your part not to make sure there was a clear understanding of what you were willing to pay for.

You can’t blame a breakdown of communication like this on one person. Perhaps the fair way to resolve this is to split the difference.

The last time I had a timing belt done, I asked them to also replace the other belts since they have to take them off to get to the timing belt, but I asked the service writer if they would do that for the cost of the belts and made sure we understood what I was authorizing them to do. When it comes to auto service, the educated consumer doesn’t take anything for granted.

In the end, I think @DexT, can say, “I authorized $112.50 worth of work, and you did an additional $90 worth of work without my authorization. I’m not paying for the additional work I didn’t authorize.” That would at least be a good place to start the negotiation.

When I take a car to a shop for repairs, I have them supply the parts. While they do mark up the cost of the parts, they also guarantee the job. Part of what the shop makes on the part is for the their labor if the part is defective. If I owned a business, I wouldn’t be really very happy with the customer supplying the parts.
I can give you two examples of a problem where the customer supplied the parts. The church I attended wanted to install an AV system. I thought I had to board convinced to get bids for the job. Unfortunately, the equipment was bought piecemeal–the screen from one source, the sound system from another source, the projector from a third source. Once everything was purchased, the board couldn’t locate a company willing to install the equipment. Fortunately, one person on the building committee has a cousin who has an AV business. The bid from the company seemed high to the board and I was asked to get more bids. As chair of the building committee, I refused. I said to either accept the bid and consider yourselves lucky or see if you can return the equipment. The bid was accepted.
Just this week, a friend of mine had to have a new water heater. She went to a wholesale house and bought the water heater for $400. She then called a plumbing firm and was charged $500 to install the heater. Had she just called and had a plumbing firm and supply the heater and replace the leaking water heater, she would have saved money.
When I hire someone to do a job, I want them to obtain the parts, install the parts and guarantee the whole job–parts and labor.