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Service shop abuse

I had some body damage to my car and left it with the shop. They’ve had it for the past three weeks. I have video and eye-witness evidence that my car was used this past weekend (photo of the license plate taken by a security camera as it came onto campus). This was at about 3:30 am Saturday morning, so it’s unlikely it was a routine test drive. The service shop is affiliated with a major dealer (Red McComb’s).

Is this theft that should be reported to the police? The car wasn’t taken from me directly, but I don’t think it was being used in any sort of “authorized” manner, and it’s still my car. What are my options?

you could prepare a bill for auto rental for that night and fill in the amount and hand it to them when you get your bill.

just kidding. probably was not authorized by the shop in question either. probably a rogue employee who would be fired if you reported this to his boss

Talk with the manager or owner first. I doubt there’s anything legal you can do. I surely wouldn’t bring my vehicle to that place again. This is very unethical.

I agree to talk to the owner/manager first. This may be an ongoing situation of which he is unaware… and he’ll probably be glad you made him aware.

If the owner/manager is uncooperative, you could talk to the police about filing charges. “Unauthorized use” statutes are common, and this might fall under those statutes. Understand that depending on your state’s statutes you might be initiating a felony charge if you choose to proceed.

This is about unethical as it gets. What you should do is sit down with the shop manager and/or owner and politely but firmly point out what happened. Odds are they know nothing about this incident and it’s a rogue employee as wesw mentioned.

Additional odds are that this is not the first time the employee has pulled that stunt. This employee should be terminated on the spot and the shop should offer you a free or very heavily discounted repair with the latter meaning no funny numbers game being played.

As to auto theft, I would say that is at least a potential charge. It may vary based on the state but I personally know 2 guys who were arrested for auto theft over the same kind of stunt. One of them worked for a dealer and unbeknown to the dealer that employee was borrowing cars now and then after hours.
One Friday night a new car was noted to be missing from the lot and an APB went out which led to a high speed chase and arrest. They were given options; prison or enlist in the U.S. Army. One took jail and the other joined up.

Your car could have been used to commit a crime. It is important that you talk to the dealership ASAP. If you don’t get satisfaction, move up the food chain, assuming the person you talk to has a boss. You should consider notifying the police in any case to protect yourself. If the manager is ethical, he should welcome police help to get catch the perpetrators.

Security cam photo of your …plate …but was it actually your car in the photo ?
Another illegal activity is to use a legal plate from a car in the shop that’s going to be there a while and put it on some un-licensed one to go out driving like that.
Still illegal but they do that too.
Still needs reported to the dealer also.

This was at about 3:30 am Saturday morning, so it's unlikely it was a routine test drive.

There is also a good chance the driver of your car was intoxicated. Because anyone that would be tooling around in your car like that at 3am likely has an alcoholic attitude.

There is a saying around here…

What happens after midnight in our town? Nothing good.

I must also add that anyone I ever have met named “red” either had red hair or a reddish completion usually due to their drinking habits.

'Ol Red looks like an old drunk and often a business owners alcoholic attitude trickles down to the employees, even if they don’t drink at all. The company culture is probably toxic and thats why your car got misused.

I would avoid that dealer in the future.

@WheresRick, that reminds me of a chemistry professor I used to know who frequently said, “Nothing good happens after midnight.”

The other posters here have changed my mind. They’ve raised some potentially serious issues that have made me believe you should definitely file a police report and let the chips fall where they may. If your vehicle or your plate was involved in something illegal (beyond its unauthorized use, which is illegal in and of itself), than you NEED to have this event on record.

Taking customer cars to get lunch is a fairly common practice at dealerships

I’m not condoning it . . . I’m just giving the facts

It often goes something like this

After a major repair is completed, the car needs to be taken on a road test, in order to verify the repair

On the way back from the road test, the mechanic will stop by brand x fast food restaurant and pick up his lunch, which he’ll bring back to the shop

At 3:30AM on a Saturday morning?


My point is this . . .

There’s a lot of stuff going on that the customer doesn’t know about

But that 3:30am trip was definitely shady . . . somebody is abusing the customer’s trust big time

In one episode of Columbo, the musical director of an orchestra planned of murder of a soloist that was to appear with the orchestra. To make it look like he didn’t have transportation, the maestro took his sports car to the shop, went to the restroom and unlocked the window. After the shop was closed, the maestro entered the shop through the restroom window, “borrowed” his own car, committed the murder, then returned the car to the shop and slipped back out the window. Columbo solved the crime because the shop noted the mileage in of the maestro’s car that was recorded on the invoice and compared it with the odometer reading. In the case of the OP, the shop should have noted the odometer reading when the car was brought in. The OP can go from there proving the car was driven.

Db, I absolutely agree with you.
Now, I have a confession to make. When I posted my original suggestion I hadn’t caught that 3:30AM Saturday detail. I originally misread it as 3:30PM, which would be reasonable for a test drive. That “time snap” is what really made me change my mind and suggest that it should be reported to the police.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with driving a customer car to lunch or even home if it’s done to verify a complaint or even to make double-sure any repair has fixed the problem.

That way past middle of the night timeline can be reasonably assumed to mean that something not legal was going on; other than the misappropriation of the customer’s car.
Imagine a police stop and impoundment after liquor and/or drugs being found. The dealer would likely try to avoid liability by claiming the employee was on their own time and acting outside the scope of their employment.

OK4450, you’ve added even another plot-thickener. This might sound paranoid, but the more I think about it the more I think it might even be wise if when making out a police report the car’s owner asks if the drug dog can give the car a quick once-over… just to be on the safe side.

That’s a very good suggestion mountainbike; just in case there’s something that has been inadvertently dropped between the seats; even trace amounts.

A late widowed aunt of mine moved to another home many years ago. Going through a spare bedroom a week or so after moving in she found a large bag of green stuff in the corner of the closet. She actually thought it was some type of old produce that had been left there for some strange reason and called her son to look at it.
Her son identified it as over a pound of weed and rather than risk getting blamed for being in possession of an illicit drug (the DA was very tough on these things) they flushed it down the stool.

Thankfully she never had any return visitors with a sudden memory jog as to where their stash was at.

I’ll go a little off topic

When I was at the dealership, there was a porter who was “borrowing” customer cars in the evening.

I believe he had very little money, and didn’t even have his own car. But that is no excuse.

He was found out when somebody saw him returning a car in the morning.

He was not at all apologetic, not that it would have saved his job.

In regards to those “burger runs” . . .

One time a mechanic took a car to get lunch . . . a car that he knew to have a badly leaking water pump. On the way back, the engine was ticking ominously

The same guy also spilled a super big gulp on the the carpeting of a car, when a hobo suddenly ran out into the street, forcing him to slam on the brakes. He missed hitting the hobo, but he lost his grip on the super big gulp. The carpeting soaked up the whole thing. When he was back at the shop, he cleaned it as best he could, then asked the porters . . . not the guy who “borrowed” the cars, by the way . . . to clean the interior as best as they could. He bought them lunch, and the customer was never informed. But I believe there was always a lingering soda smell

That same mechanic also got into a physical altercation with another mechanic, during which one guy had the other in a choke hold

He also made menacing fists in front of his supervisor, when he was being talked to

He also had a “secret” stash of beer in the locker next to his tool box . . . which everybody knew about

Later on, when he was at another dealership, he and the alignment guy got into a physical altercation. They were both equally to blame, and it wasn’t clear who started it. The management decided to fire the mechanic and keep the alignment guy. The reasoning was that mechanics are a dime a dozen, but good alignment guys make big bucks for the dealership and are hard to come by

And that was just one guy

I’m sure you guys have humorous stories about your colleagues