“They take advantage of me because I am a woman….”

I hear this regularly and I don’t believe a word of it. Yes, there are unscrupulous service writers, particularly those paid 100% on commission, who are happy to take advantage of the motoring public. They have no more qualms about taking advantage of a man than of a woman — its all $$$ to them. The typical male who worked on his Mustang in high school is totally unequipped to know if the recommendations to fix an electronics problem in a modern engine are overpriced and overkill or legitimate. The unscrupulous service writer can actually take advantage of the male ego and what the male THINKS he knows to feed him a line of crap more easily than he could feed the same line of crap to a female in many cases. Outright gullibility and naivete know no gender lines. Several years ago I saw a repair order for “recommended maintenance” on a Toyota Camry, 20k miles and 2 years old and still under warranty, that came to $2000! Adjusting for inflation this would be now more like $3000. Apparently the dealership service writer decided to just keep making suggestions and see how far they could go with this guy. I discussed this egregious ripoff with his girlfriend and she told me when she found out what he had done she totally flipped and told him never to go back there — take the car to Don’s from now on.

If a Lexus has a problem with the extraordinarily complex computerized traction control system the average male’s knowledge of car mechanics isn’t even going to get to first base as far as determining if a diagnosis offered by a shop is correct or not. In fact, the man could be a competent diesel mechanic and still be just as lost as a woman who works in an office regards how the system works and whether the recommended repair procedures are valid or not.

Male or female, there are rather generic ways to keep from being taken advantage of when getting your car serviced. These principals can be applied to getting your roof repaired or your plumbing fixed or most anything.

–Is the business trying to lure you in with coupons, unrealistic low prices for oil changes, etc? RED FLAG

–Is the business proud to detail on a legible, preferably computer generated, repair order exactly what parts were replaced, or recommended to be replaced, and what labor operations were performed or recommended to performed and why? GOOD

–You get a hand written piece of paper that says “replaced clutch, $800.” RED FLAG

–Does the repair facility want to perform all kinds of maintenance services that are not in your owner’s manual schedule? RED FLAG

–Does the repair facility tell you, “You don’t need spark plugs at 65k miles, see here, the factory schedule doesn’t call for them until 120k miles?” GOOD

–Does the repair facility appear to have a large advertising budget? RED FLAG

–Does the repair facility appear to have a minimal advertising budget but is proud to talk about its latest investment in high-tech diagnostic equipment? GOOD

–If you suggest your car might need new struts or shocks is the repair facility eager to go full steam ahead without looking into whether or not strut replacement would serve any purpose on your vehicle? RED FLAG

–Does the repair facility point out that struts are not necessarily worn out at any specific mileage and poor ride quality can be caused by many things, including over or under-inflated tires? GOOD

–Do the employees seem to like working at the repair facility? GOOD

–Does the repair facility claim to be able to perform any kind of service or repair on any make or age of vehicle? RED FLAG

–Is a representative of the repair facility willing to tell you “We are not the best choice for this type of repair or to service this type of vehicle?” GOOD

–Is the repair facility hurting for business on a regular basis? RED FLAG

–Are prices for services negotiable like prices at a flea market? RED FLAG

–Are there referrals to the business from long-term customers? GOOD

Common sense and not being blinded by trying to get an impossibly good “deal” will keep women and men alike from being taken advantage of.

Last of all, for some of you ladies out there: Give yourselves the credit you deserve!

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