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What do you do when a customer comes back and says, "But this wasn't broken when I brought my car in."

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We have all been there and appealing to the logical side to these dummys its almost impossible.


Most recently had a customer come in with a non functioning passenger side mirror on his 2006 530i. After about an hour worth of diag work which was mostly removing the door panel to access the mirror and repairing some shotty wiring work the own customer did to remedy his non functioning mirror the car left without the problem being solved. Made an appointment for the customer to bring the vehicle back for more diag work. One of those customers thats not happy to drop any money for diag and seemed to own a car he can't afford. Long story short, he drives back 5 minutes later with an Air Bag Light and seatbelt light that won't clear. Few days later calls me up says he consulted with a few "BMW dealer" techs and they told him it must have been something we did when we hooked up out scanner... Right.



I tried every which way to explain to him that there is no possible way we could have done that and it could have possibly been a coincidence especially with BMWs and seat occupancy sensors going bad all the time. Of course he wanted to put on the blame on us.


How do you guys normally deal with these types of situations? I can't stand being blamed for things that we didn't do and our reputation is highly important to me. Dealing with stupid people really gives me a headache.

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I'm very interested to see how others on here deal with a situation like this.


My gut feeling is to have the customer pay full price for the mirror repair (every minute of diag billed for sure), the shop performs the air bag/seatbelt light repair no charge, and fire the customer from your shop.

Hopefully the no charge repair isn't too ridiculous (less then the initial charge).


This isn't the type of customer that I would want at my shop. They obviously don't respect you or the work you do, and are just looking to get "something for nothing."

Eating one job is probably a small price to pay for eliminating the headaches this person will cause in the future.

Edited by bstewart
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Reminds me of my 2006 hyundai. I went on my honeymoon and my mom put seat covers on my car while I was gone (I have no idea why). Her fanagaling the passenger side seat tripped the light for the passenger seat sensor.


Crap happens. Sometimes parts and sensors are in a marginal state and something simple like a seat cover install can be the end of them. Not your fault.

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This is a tough one. Normally I would first be sure to get paid for the mirror. I would tell the customer that I will look into the airbag light if they would like me too but if we determine it was an unrelated component failure (Which it most likely is) that they will be responsible for all diag and repair costs. Make them sign it and see what happens. From the sounds of it, I doubt they would want to spend the money because deep down they know it was not you that caused the light.

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BTW isnt it amazing how many people have "dealer tech" or "master mechanic" friends when these issues come about??



yes absolutely. The whole time this yoyo is telling me his friend told him whatever I was thinking, "well then why didnt he fix your problem in the first place." I will most certainly not take responsibility for something we didn't cause. There is absolutely no connection between the air bag light (and seat belt receptacle) and the mirror. The only thing like someone mentioned above is that there were different people (my techs) sitting in his seat. Shit happens. We didn't knowingly or our negligence cause any issues to this guys car. I tell all my customers the same thing, we run off of a trust basis. If you want to question the work we did no problem. I am very honest when it comes to every operation we do on a customers vehicle. Hell I had to eat a 3k head job not too long ago because we accidently folded a part of the headgasket. We don' run away from responsibility but.... If after I explain exactly how we did not cause the issue and your response is, "I don't know..." insinuated that we still had something to do with your car's problem I have to walk away from it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would double check internet/peers that this is not possible. Then hold my ground to the fact. Offer to look at it and charge as stated before. My fee would be spelled out upfront at an hourly rate and no max amount of hours. Basically make it worth your while to deal with this guy. He wont want to pay $85/hr for and undetermined # of hours if he tried to rig his own,mirror. BUT i would take the time to learn how those seat sensors work bc it may be possible that the sensor was looking for a particular weight situation as compared to the weight in the driver seat and computer set a code. I don't know but it has to sense something. So id check into that so im not made a fool of later. Also, if you have the capabilities, you could erase the seat belt code and see if it reappears.

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First we do take a few minutes to make sure we did not cause the issue. We have been wrong at times and we always keep and open mind to the fact that we may have caused an issue. It also shows the customer you care and stand behind your work. We want customers to trust us, so we have to be willing to trust what they are telling us. When a customer tells me that an issue started after we serviced their vehicle, I have to believe them unless I know without a doubt that it is not true. However, once I am relatively sure we did not cause the issue, I then treat the issue like any other that come it. I inform the customer of the next step and the cost to diagnose or repair the issue.


I know a lot of shops like to tell customers right up front that they must pay for diagnostic time which will then be reimbursed if it is found that the shop caused the issue. I'm sure we've done this before, but I'm sure you can imagine why this might not go over well with the customer. Right or Wrong, at that point with very few facts, both parties believe it's the other's responsibility to correct the issue and the other does not want to take responsibility for it. So they will quickly become as frustrated with you as you are with them. What if the customer insisted you pay for another shop to diagnose the issue and if it was found to be unrelated, then they would reimburse you?


Once we inform our customer of the next step, and they don't want to accept our analysis that we did not cause the issue, then here is what I tell them. "I can understand why you might not trust what I am telling you. You can take your vehicle to any licensed automotive repair facility and we will pay any reasonable fees to diagnose and repair the issue, provided the other facility clearly documents on the invoice exactly how the work we performed or the parts we replaced caused this issue."


I have never once had to pay on this policy. This has work very well for us over the years as it minimizes arguments with customers, shows you are willing to take responsibility, and they cannot honestly claim that you are dishonest, or that you don't stand behind your work. In fact it gives you more credibility because you are suggesting an independent evaluation.



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