Monday, February 19, 2007
Help Me Howard: My Car Back
If you drive, odds are you have had to take your truck or car to a repair shop. Now a question: What is a reasonable amount of time to get it fixed? A week, a month, how about 8 months? That is actually how long one man had to wait to get his car back, and he was so upset he turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Gene Davanzo's job is nice -- putting people into pools.
Gene Davanzo: "I love making people happy with their pools."
Gene knows it's critical for a business to make its customers happy -- which makes him fume even more.
Gene Davanzo: "I need help. I am at my wits' end. I don't know what to do."
Gene's trouble began last year when he got into an accident in his brand new BMW. He took it into the body shop for repairs and has not seen it since.
Gene Davanzo: "They told me right from the start that it would be two months to fix the car."
That was July 1st -- two months later they said, give him a couple more weeks.
Gene Davanzo: "All the while I am renting a car because my rental car through my insurance was only good for 30 days."
A few weeks passed, September ended, and, for the third straight month, the car stayed in the shop.
Gene Davanzo: "I go up there, they are going to give it priority, it's going to be ready within a few weeks."
A few weeks turned into a few months. By December, the 6th month, Gene was getting a little frustrated by having to rent a car and pay for a car that is being repaired. So he went back to the shop again.
Gene Davanzo: "I go up there the car is in pieces. The engine is out of the car. I am thinking I will have it towed out of there. There is no way. It's in a million pieces. They have got me, but there is nothing I can do about it."
Fuming, he talked to the manager for the "umpteenth" time, who put it in writing: His car will be repaired by January 1st.
Gene Davanzo: "So I show up there January 2nd, and, while I am waiting to see the guy, I walk through the body shop. The engine is still not in the car. How is it going to be ready?"
That day, the shop finally admitted seven months was a little excessive to repair a car. They agreed to start paying for Gene's rental, but now we are in February -- the eighth month, and still the body work to the car is not finished.
Gene Davanzo: "I don't know, I can't imagine that they are going to go a whole calendar year and keep my car, but they are trying to."
And, during it all, Gene says, as the customer, he has been treated like -- well, the FCC fines people for words like that.
Gene Davanzo: "They have never once returned my phone call, ever. Not one time. You can't even get them on the phone."
So Gene made a call to the people who try to make people happy: Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "The legal issue here is what is reasonable? If they told Gene two months and it takes eight, common sense tells you that's not reasonable. The damages in this case are the cost of a rental car after the delay became unreasonable, say from the fourth to the eighth month."
When I spoke to the repair shop manager, he told me the car had an aluminum body, which requires much more work than a conventional repair.
When I asked if eight months was a normal amount of time to wait he told me, "It sounds long to me", but that the old manager and service advisor had left, and they don't know what held Gene's car up.
When I asked the shop to pay for the rental for the months Gene was kept waiting, they said they were paying for the seventh and eighth month and no more, but did agree to pay the $500 deductible on Gene's insurance.
Howard says the next step is Gene's.
Howard Finkelstein: "Gene only has one option: contact the regional office and try to get them to settle. If they refuse, take them to court -- and no reasonable judge would find eight months to fix a car reasonable."
Finally, in the middle of February, Gene got his car back -- but after eight months of waiting, he is not a happy customer.
Gene Davanzo: "They told me right from the start that it would be two months to fix the car. I would have been much better off going to some back alley Joe's auto repair."
Patrick Fraser: "When you take your car in, try to get the estimated time for repairs in writing, but understand problems pop up and taking a little longer is reasonable. If it gets unreasonable, start sending letters of complaints -- they will help you if you have to go to court, and they also spur the shop to get your car fixed to get you out of their hair."
A problem left you a wreck? Need repairs pronto? Contact us, we don't do body work but we can hammer out some legal details.
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