$6500 repair bill to remove a stone from a moon roof

by Paul Michael on 14 June 2007 22 comments

Merc

How many times have you felt like someone was ripping you off? Hopefully, you can trust your gut instincts, just like the guy in this video below.

You can watch the full 7 minutes for yourself, but the basic story is this. He went to a Mercedes Benz repair shop complaining of a problem with his moon roof. The shop took a look at it and said he needed a complete new moon roof.

Total charge from Merc = $6500 (remember, this is Mercedes so it's going to be high, but gee whizz).

Being a customer worthy of Wisebread status, although I hope he got that Merc on a discount, he went elsewhere for a second opinion. I presume one of those smaller shops that don't have such huge mark-ups. You can imagine his surprise when he discovered the moon roof was simply jammed due to a small rock in the mechanism.

Total charge from other shop = $143

All it took was a pair of tweezers to remove the offending pebble. So, armed with a hidden camera our seriously ticked-off customer goes back to the dealership. Here are the results.

Car Dealership Tries To Screw Customer - Watch more free videos

Moral of the story: A second opinion is worth its weight in gold. Oh, and as I have said earlier, be wary of dealerships. They're not all bad, but some are just out for maximum profit.

Main photo by Saschaaa (with a new plate by me)

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Guest's picture
jess

it would be really cool if you guys would do brief recaps of the videos you post. im at work (hahah i know...so productive) and can't watch movies but i really wanna see what happened...

Paul Michael's picture

Maybe we can do a round up of the video stories we have featured every month?

Guest's picture
Jessica

I had a Chevrolet dealer (Bill Heard Chevrolet in Sugar Land, TX) try to screw me similarly.

I went in to have my air conditioner compressor replaced (it was under warranty, as they had put in a new one less than 9 months prior). Even though it was experiencing the exact same problems it did when they replaced it the first time, they claimed it was a completely different problem altogether.

THEN, my car was slow to start for them, which caused them to diagnose a failing fuel pump. Do you know what the real problem was? I WAS LOW ON GAS.

These fuckers tried to charge me $1,200 to fix two (nonexistent) problems, so I took it somewhere else for a second opinion, but not before they held my car hostage for a $70 diagnosis fee.

The mechanic I took it to said I had a minor leak in freon (from the compressor that the dealership, because of the warranty, should have serviced for FREE) and needed a new battery. I was fixed up for less than $100. LESS THAN $100! And the problems that the Chevrolet dealer dreamed up still wouldn't have done anything constructive, $1,200 later.

I chewed out the service manager and got my $70 diagnosis fee back, plus an apology. I'm currently in the process of shopping for a new car and I've avoided them like the plague.

Guest's picture
Guest

You know, I'm on the other end of the country and I've heard of Bill Heard's reputation and it's not a good one at all. I'm very surprised that place is still in business.

I have to agree with the poster about where the rock was located. It also might've required some minor disassembly around the sunroof to get at the mechanism. Whatever it was, it was still a better deal than the shady dealership.

Guest's picture
Guest

on one hand, this is an awesome story and awesome for the guy who could have spent $6500. On the other hand, in my wisebread mind I would still be irritated that I paid $143 to get a pebble tweezed.

Paul Michael's picture

A true Wisebread reader would have took a flashlight to his moonroof and pulled the stone out with his own pair of tweezers. But let's be honest...if this guys is driving a shiny Merc, he probably isn't into all the DIY nonsense. I'd be surprised if he even owns a toolkit. But good on him for not just going blindly with the first quote...a lesson to us all.

Guest's picture
60 in 3

I had an issue with my car recently.

I'd always taken it to the dealership before for service. This time, they charged me $1400 for a 90,000 mile treatment. I paid it but two days later I had a wheel well come loose and the car had trouble starting. Took it back to the dealership and they asked for another $1000 to fix these issues, including $100 for some part that they told me was the "at cost" price.

Took it to some small dealer and they charged me $200 to fix everything. They bought the part from the exact same dealership I went to. I even heard them order it on the phone and the price was $25.

Lesson learned, dealerships suck! Find a small shop you trust and you'll never go back to a dealership again. Don't assume you're getting good service just because you're at an "authorized dealer".

Gal

Guest's picture

I can only agree; went in to the dealership twice for two different cars. One was for a buick owned by my dad, it had transponder keys. At the dealership they wanted 90 dollars for the key blank and 40 dollars to 'program it'.

Solution: Went to a roaming locksmith who sort of screwed me on the wait so he went down to 35 per key I wanted versus charging me $50 dollars that he originally wanted. I got 2 keys made for $70 dollars. He didn't charge me for programming since all it was was putting the key in this machine that beeped after a second. He then tried the keys and since they worked; we each went our separate ways.

My brother had a pontiac grand am gt and the shifter cable had lost its nut and washer. The hardware was pretty hard to jury rig since any nut and washer he tried to get in there would fall out after a while; so he decided he might buy the nut and washer until he heard the price. It would have cost 400 dollars to order the parts; they wouldn't just order the nut and washer that were needed. We left and he sold the car; pretty much the mechanic who bought it went to a junkyard and bought the pieces for like less than 10 bucks; most of that is because junkyards here have to charge for an environmental fee or some such; this could of course be some scam but whatever. This is sort of a weak case but trying to force him to buy 400 dollars worth of parts in order to get a special nut and washer just seemed dumb.

Guest's picture

The same thing happened to my dad. He got furious though and traded his S600 for a Lexus.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've worked (and am currently working) in the automotive service industry, both for independents and a dealership. The unscrupulous dealers will have issues like this where they get techs that don't want to be bothered to diagnose properly and tricky service writers that will (up)sell the excessive or unnecessary repairs that result. What does surprise me a little is the rate the man paid for his pebble to be removed from the moonroof. A minimum of 2 hours charge is a bit steep with a shop rate that's around the $70 per hour seen here. I doubt it took 2 hours to fix, and in the name of honest service and good will a really great shop would charge 1 hour at most or even do it free.
The shop I work in now has done as much, because it's right. You'll be paid well for such negligible 'free' work, with repeat customers and an excellent reputation.

Paul Michael's picture

I do agree that $143 for pebble removal is steep, although it may have taken a little time to find the problem. We don't know where the pebble was located, or how well hidden it was. But I think a free repair, or 1 hour charge, would have been excellent for customer service. Then again, when faced with $6500 from the other dealer, the $143 looks like peanuts. That shop is probably looking golden to the customer anyway.

Guest's picture
MisChef

There's a joke that goes:

A man took his car into a repair shop because his engine was making a funny grating noise. The repairman opened the hood and looked around with a flashlight. Then he grabbed a rubber mallet and banged on the engine a few times. He told the car's owner to go ahead and start the engine, and lo and behold! No more funny grating noise!

When the satisfied car owner went to the cashier to pay, he was astonished to see his bill. $143.00!! He went over to the repairman, and demanded, "Hey, what the hell? All you did was hammer on the engine!"

The repairman calmly replied, "Yes, that's true. Here, let me itemize this for you." Taking the bill from the customer's hand, he explained, "I charged you $3 for pounding on the engine with the rubber mallet... and $140 for knowing where to pound, how hard to pound, and when to stop pounding."

Guest's picture
Guest

What I really appreciated about this particular "caught in the act" video is that even though the customer was "as livid as he can be" (as he said in the video), he was relatively calm and quite professional about confronting the service department with this ridiculous charge. No screaming or unnecessary accusations whatsoever, which is such a rarity these types of confrontations, and he still managed to make the dealership look like total morons. Kudos!

I learned my lesson about dealerships last year, when I paid $150 for diagnostics on my BMW, only to have them tell me I needed over $4000 worth of repairs. After I told them I was taking the car to another shop for a second opinion, they ceased to further discuss anything in detail, and refused to print up a copy of the diagnostics results for me. I got it fixed for half the cost of the dealership's estimate at an independent shop down the street. No dealerships ever again!

Guest's picture
Guest

$143 doesn't go to just removing to pebble, it also goes to some or all of the following:

- insurance
- benefits
- rent or mortgage
- utilities
- waste disposal
- accounting and tax services
- shop maintenance

The basic infrastructure costs for maintaining even a small auto shop are nontrivial.

The joke about $140 for knowing what to do applies as well: Most auto mechanics have paid money for school, training, and/or certification...and/or bit the bullet through sub-living-wage apprenticeships. Compensation for their knowledge is entirely reasonable.

So, my point is, that a tweezing out of a rock is not "free" to the auto shop, even though it may not involve consumption of supplies, or much time.

Paul Michael's picture

As consumers we often forget everything that goes into running a successful business. And that training doesn't pay for itself. Just consider what some lawyers charge per hour.

Guest's picture
Guest

Sounds like all dealerships are an a$$ when comes down to repair. Even Brown Bro. Ford does the same thing. I had a defective transmission bearings (making whirl noise) on my Probe GT at 45K km and they also told me I should replace my clutch as well because it also went bad! I told them no f*king way that my clutch will go bad since there is nothing wrong with it. A normal driving clutch should last for around 100-150K km on average. Until now, I am still driving my car for just over 109K! The dealerships always try to rip off customers who they think all are idiots. But remember, you are not the idiot! They are the idiots for calling their customers off. I never went back to them for car service. By all means, go ask else where for 2nd opinion.

Guest's picture
Guest

While I am not a fan of the dealer (I am an independent shop manager) I see this situation like this:

The Tech works on the same model vehicle day in and day out and has seen this problem 49 times all with the same result after diagnosis (ie: moonroof pooched). The 50th time he sees it he shortens his diagnostic routine, hearing the motor trying to move the roof to no avail and assumes the same result as all the other 49 moonroof problems. These things can happen. And let's say that when the Tech does go in to do the work and see the rock, he simply removes it and finds that was the entire problem.
Mercedes' philososphy is when there is problem with any system in their vehicles, replace the system completely, regardless of condition of the rest of the components. For Example: Front brake pads are worn, replace pads, calipers, rotors, hoses, seals etc. They do this because their customer drives a Mercedes, the perfect car in their opinion, and Mercedes will not let a vehicle of their's be subpar.

All I hear on the video is Mercedes on broadway, why didn't he promote the other guy who saved him all this money? Typical complainer..... never help the guy who did you right.

Morale of the story to the tech: never assume, always diagnose as exact as possible.

Guest's picture
MB's R Us

It cost him $141 to get it fixed.

The dealer charged him $143 to tell him he needed to spend another $6500.

I had an even worse experience at a Mercedes Dealer in Cambridge MA. A customer had sold his car a week after I had put new brakes in, rotors, pads, hoses and calipers all around. The guy he sold it to took it to this dealer to have the car checked, dealer told him he needed $3500 worth of brake work. Guy calls me, tells me I'M a thief etc. I went down to the Mercedes dealer, car was still on the lift.
Asked the tech to show me what needed replacing, tech literally RUNS in the other direction with some lame excuse about forgetting another car running, doesn't come back. I grab the service manager (by the arm), take him over to the car and show him the BRAND NEW components all around. This guy looks at us with a straight face and says: "Mercedes recommends this service for this model with this mileage, the computer shows Mercedes didn't service this vehicle."
So in other words, they're either outright thieves, or complete incompetents who can only perform repairs on a schedule because they couldn't diagnose their way out of a paper bag.
This was the 3rd such run-in I've had with this dealership, the other two involved AC work and a 300TD. A customer had his 300TD towed to this dealer (I close early on Saturdays) and given an estimate of $850 to fix injector pump and replace glow plugs. Customer calls me and asks if this sounds right, on the way home I stop by the dealer, car parked outside, I looked at it, walked up to he parts counter, paid $2.50 for a blade fuse for the glow plug relay, installed in 30 seconds and my customer drove away without even looking back.

Guest's picture
Hear Hear

Not unexpected, actually.

It happens more often then you think.

I have always kept my cars serviced at the exact same Broadway service location until up to recently. You have to book them weeks in advance because they are just so damn busy.

And in all that frenzy, the service guys just don't take the time and investigate the problems in depth. They always advise to replace the whole subsystem.

One time, I had the entire radiator replaced for 5 billion dollars (it seemed like it at the time). When the problem didn't go away, it was only then they discovered the problem was just a hose to the windshield fluid reservoir (a minor repair). They were apologetic and offered to fix the problem minus the labour cost. But still, I ended up paying for a whole new radiator which was unneeded. And that was not the only time this kinda thing happened to me at the same dealership.

So now, I take my business to independent mechnical shops that specialize in Europian makes. And to this date, I still haven't found one that I feel comfortable with. They are all overpriced for their level of competency, in my opinion.

Guest's picture
Hear Hear

In addition to my unneeded radiator which I paid for the part and installation... here are two other incidents I recall.

1. Left audio speaker stopped working. They wanted over $1000 to replace the amplifier. Turned out to be just bad wires. I paid $0 to get it fixed.

2. Left light wiper lost its spring. They wanted an inexorbant amount of money to have the whole wiper arm replaced. I went to Canadian Tire and paid $0.50 and installed the missing spring myself.

And yes, they charge you to diagnose these problems.

It should be criminal!

Guest's picture
jake

I have a chevy. I just bought it and the moonroof completely stopped working. I's clicking, so I assume there's power going to it but I'm hoping it was something this simple because I pent every last penny on this car and all of my paycheck is going to insurance. If it's costly or anything more complex than a pebble then I'm S-O-L. Gotta love a chevy... Oh, and did I mention that the passenger door won't open from the inside and the CD Player skips?

Guest's picture
Guest

It's not the service advisor's fault, he's not a technician and all he can do is convey the diagnosis to the customer and use his experience on similar complaints. Just about any sunroof problem will require a complete system replacement since Mercedes-Benz does not supply individual parts (with very few exemptions). I've been taking my car to this dealership for over 15 years and I developed a comfortable business relationship with most of the people in the service area. I know that the technician who missed the stone is supposedly the #1 Mercedes tech in Canada, I also know that he no longer works there (was practically forced out) because he wasn't able to impress the new management. I noticed a big change during the last two years in both, the quality of the repairs and the management style. Someone else is running the shop (and doing a great job) and the new service manager is a lady who takes her job seriously. I'm quite pleased with the improvements but I still make sure that I research well before taking my car in for service or repairs, not because I don't trust them but because mistakes do happen. The technician was arrogant and careless, I guess this case proves that some people are just book smart; both the service advisor and the customer should have received an apology from him.