Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Gas Leak? Mom's Nose vs Car Dealer & $49 Service Bill

This is a story about cars, gender and age. My mom is angry about the gas leak in her Buick LeSabre car. She smelled gas. The local dealer tested the car, charged $49 and denied that the car was leaking fuel. Several miles and many fumes later, the problem -- a major leak -- was discovered by a second service station. My mother is angry.

The scenario: My father is the main driver, but for as long as I can remember, my dad has had no sense of smell. (It's a family trait that I also share somewhat. For example, if a pot is burning on the stove, my dad and I don't always smell it. Thank goodness for smoke detectors.) My mother, however, detected an odor of leaking fuel in the car. My sister -- visiting from out-of-town -- confirmed the scent and my father took the car in for repairs.

The Dealer Experience: My father drove the car -- a 2001 model -- to their local Pontiac/Buick GM Dealer in Central Florida. The mechanic -- who was very courteous -- repaired something else. ("Totally unrelated," my mom said.) He examined the car; drove it but reported that there was no fuel leak. He gave my dad a $49 bill with an implied message: "Your 70-something wife is wrong about the gas leak and the smell. Maybe it's all in her head." Of course, the dealership did not say that, but listening to my mom tell the story, that's the message I heard.

The Persistent Fumes: Meanwhile, the fumes in the car continued to bother my mom, who began to develop a cough when she was in the car and the scent troubled her. "I could still smell gas," she told me. Finally, the odor was so overpowering that she insisted that my father take the car in for a second opinion. With the windows rolled down, they immediately pulled into a nearby service station.

The Second Opinion: The car had major issues, namely a leak in the gas line. "Gas was accumulating in the car," my mom said. The problem was so severe that the repair shop would not let my parents even drive the car home. That was yesterday. Parts have to be ordered and the car will be ready in the next day or so.

My Angry Mom: She feels as if the dealership dismissed her concerns too easily. Gender bias? Age bias? She's also concerned that they test drove the vehicle, inspected the fuel lines and told my dad that the tank was dry. The dealership did not detect the odor that was painfully obvious to my mom. "And they charged us $49," she said. "I'm going to send them a letter. If we had been hit by someone...." Thank goodness for second opinions.
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Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in the Spring of 2008 by DPL Press.



jayne said...

Bad word of mouth is the absolute best solution to dealing with this. Mechanics rely on credibility to bring in customers. I'd tell your mom to tell her friends that this place isn't entirely qualified--and then post reviews of the experience on www.cartalk.com and local.yahoo.com. The only thing worse than an incompetent mechanic is a sexist, arrogant mechanic.

Marsha said...

Thank heavens your mom didn't give up. It's just another reminder that people need to listen to their gut or in this case their nose. :-)

Chief Family Officer said...

Yikes! Thank goodness your parents are okay. Maybe the mechanic at the dealer is also smell-impaired, but no matter what, they at least owe your parents their $49 back!

Frugal Duchess said...

Jayne, Marsha and Cathy (CFO)
My Mom & Dad read your comments and appreciate your insights and suggestions. (I do also!)

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.
Take Care,