auto repair used to be a simple issue.
cars had distributors and carburetors, brake shoes and brake drums and radiators that could be repaired. today, they have on-board computers, brake wear sensors, oil change counters, coil over plugs, all controlled and diagnosed through a computer port using high-cost diagnostic equipment.
the agreement between a customer and the repair shop was a hand shake. the city, county, state and federal government were not even contemplated to be a part of the discussion. when the repair was finished, the customer paid the bill with a check.
today, we have diagnostic computers and test systems that belong in computer labs. knowing what is wrong with a car is a cross word puzzle in sanskrit. when cars arrive, no one really has any idea what is wrong or what it will take to fix it until the car has been systematically examined. it is complicated.
now add that we have the city of houston and the state of texas and the federal government all promulgating auto repair laws and ordinances and licensing requirements together with the pertinent rules and regulations… all of which seek to introduce “consumer protection” into the legacy verbal contract that was easily defined in the past.
there are laws already on the books providing remedies for both the consumer and the repair shop. the texas deceptive trade practices act has every level of consumer protection built in…. if the shop is wrong, treble damages should be sufficient to assuage even the most militant consumer. on the other side, the texas property code governing mechanic’s and materialman’s liens protects the repair shops against non payment or abandonment by a customer.
but, now, according to our elected “injustice collectors”, these two laws are apparently no longer sufficient to protect the parties..
now we have the city of houston mandating record keeping and authorizations REQUIRED before a hood is opened on a car and we have the state of texas redefining the documentation of the express mechanic’s lien granted by historical statute. (“oh, you mean if i don’t pay for the repairs or stop payment on my check, that i don’t get to keep my car – you didn’t tell ME”).
effective march 31, 2012, the city of houston now requires that the customer MUST sign ALL authorizations for repair PRIOR to the repair being performed… at each step… not only at the moment the car is dropped off, but also if the repair shop finds a problem beyond the initial estimate (and who knows what it is going to cost when it is dropped off ?), then the customer MUST sign, IN PERSON, for the additional work. signature required, please.
in its wisdom, city council deigned that since such a requirement may be a burden on most customers, council added a provision that the customer may waive the “in-person” requirement authorization by having the customer sign an additional document authorizing the shop to proceed upon “verbal phone authorization”. signature required, please.
further, the city of houston says that the customer MUST have the right to request to have their old parts returned to them. so now what do we need to do ? we MUST have a place on our work orders whereby the customer MAY request that his / her old used parts must be returned. this request MUST be in writing and must be signed by the customer. signature required, please.
the city of houston now weighs in upon the “storage issue”… not just the state of texas, but the city itself. it does not happen very often, but it happens regularly enough… whereby a customer duly authorizes repairs to be performed, and in the end, for what ever reason, allows the repaired car to sit for days, weeks, months on end. or, the customer simply does not wish to repair the car, and allows it to sit indeterminably. some customers simply abandon their car at our shops. normally, we would charge a storage fee for the time the car sits unclaimed. it is a fee for protecting the car, for parking the car inside every night, for insuring that it runs and drives, that it is protected and for insuring the car while in our custody. now, the city requires that we give “notice” of our intent to charge storage after a certain number of days after the vehicle has been repaired or after the customer has declined the repairs. this notice must be in writing as a part of the repair order, not a simple notice on the wall. signature required, please.
enter the state of texas and provides that while the repair shop does have an expressed mechanic lien, the shop must NOTICE THE CUSTOMER IN WRITING PRIOR to the repair that there is a lien position for non payment (no, you don’t get to keep your car if you do not pay for it). signature required, please.
the state further adds that the shop must have not only the authorization of the person obliged to pay for the repair to the vehicle, but that that person be noticed that that the car being repaired may be repossessed for non payment or stopped payment of a credit card or a check. signature required, please.
all of this is in the name of “consumer protection”.
we do recognize that there are unscrupulous repair shops out there. sure, there have been cases where fraud has been committed by shops ending in the loss of a customers vehicle. these cases are few and far between and most involve abandoned non-running vehicles. but because of the legislative ground swell to protect all against all, then all consumers must now stand in line with “alls-you-alls” (the plural of “y’all”) to complete, acknowledge and sign all of the notices required by all of the agencies requiring and demanding a chip in the other wise simple legacy contract.
it is a world you did not ask for, and one that we did not ask for – but we (“all’s-us’s”) apparently relish the paper state as evidenced by the fact that each year, our elected officials add more and more to the “oversight burden”… and those same officials still manage to stay in office…. (“but if you did not vote for these cretins, then who did?”).
if we were able to predict what all of our customers would do, then we would not be asking for any of these acknowledgements to be signed, but we cannot even suggest that one customer should sign and another not sign. there is another level of rules governing predictions and the basis thereof.
we find ourselves caught between those who would abuse the system against which we must protect our shops, and how to protect the wonderful customers we have enjoyed for 40 years who understand the original contract – “fix my car and i will pay you for doing so” and consummating that contract with a hand shake. it is a travesty of trust that people must be protected against themselves…. it is a world we, at motorcars, do not embrace, and we do apologize for any thought that the city of houston, the state of texas or the federal government would be needed to force our company to do “the right thing”.
we have managed to do just that for 40 years, but apparently, “someone, somewhere, knows better”…. is it george orwell ?