Friday, July 22, 2011

I am Woman, Rip Me Off

The other day, I took the Dogmobile to the dealership to have a headlight bulb installed. I've never gone there because I bought my car out-of-state and this is the closest brand dealership to me, at about 80 miles away...the left front headlight is inaccessible without removing, among other things, the windshield washer fluid tank.

I was a little surprised when the service manager came in to discuss the quote for fixing the puddle lights in the running boards, the front one of which was out on either side. You can imagine that I balked a little at being quoted $420 for two modular LED lights, which cost approximately $20 each. I told him that I'd wait until all four were out, since they were non-essential.

That's when it got really weird: "You know you're missing the engine cover, right? It's about $135 to replace, plus labor."

Wait a damn minute, dude, it was there the last time I checked...and the only other people who've ever been under the hood besides me and thee are the people at the dealership who have the service contract to change the oil. It was there after my last oil change, and it didn't hit me until later yesterday what had happened: I, a woman alone with a small Wire Fox Terrier I was transporting for rescue, came in with a low-dollar repair. Their technician ripped the engine cover out in a bid to up the amount of my repairs to at least $200. Since I didn't think of it at the time and for legal reasons, one can't just barge into a repair garage, I can't prove it.

This is an old and venerable dealership in the city where I attended college. They don't have a reputation for bait-and-switch in their luxury car sales and service departments, but I guess my moderately-priced, popular-with-the-horsey-set vehicle isn't worth their time unless they can gouge more money out of me. They're the only show in town, so what's something scary that you can spring on a female car owner to bluff her into a sudden outlay like this without tearing up her car? Literally defacing her engine, or at least that's what they did to me.

My cousin the automotive engineer is home for a bit due to his stepfather's recent surgery and happened to call me last night. He was a) furious and b) horrified, since he knows the family who own the dealership. I have ordered both the puddle lights and the engine cover- he'll be putting those on for me- at a grand cost of $155 for the parts, as opposed to $555 at the dealership.

I've learned the hard way that dealership service departments see a woman without a man in tow and think, "HELLO, SUCKER!"  There's a guy up the street with an ASE who graduated from the college's auto repair program with my cousin early in their respective automotive careers to whom I think I'll take the Dogmobile for brakes...I just know I'm not going back to the dealership. Ever.

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