About four years ago I was driving home on a bright Saturday afternoon when my Nissan Altima overheated. I was hoping for a broken belt but, no, it looked like the water pump broke so I called AAA for a tow.
As the car was being towed back to my apartment building the driver suggested that he drop it off at his garage instead. "It's right up the street from where you live, they can look at it Monday morning and give you an estimate." I said OK.
The garage was:
Gulbicki's Towing & Svc
Address: 50 1st St, Lowell, MA 01850
Phone: (978) 453-9967
(I actually just looked that up in case anyone who ever reads this happens to live in the area)
On Sunday I wanted to get an idea of how much this was going to set me back so I walked to the garage. It wasn't open of course but I saw their sign in the office, "Labor $45/hour". Then I walked across the street to a CAP auto parts supply store. They had a re-built pump for $100 so I'm figuring about $200 to $250 depending on how much they pad the bill.
On Monday I get a call from the owner (I didn't know it was the owner at the time). He told me it would be about $500!!!
I was a little dumbfounded but I managed to ask what he was figuring for labor because I had figured about two hours max. He agreed with the two hours max but, "You know these foreign cars...the pump is going to be over $400 by itself".
I said GREAT! I know where I can get a re-built pump for $100. Can he take out the old pump so I can exchange it and buy the re-built then just charge me for the labor? He hemmed and hawed a bit but agreed to do it.
At this point I didn't suspect any evil intentions.
I called CAP and told them I would be down to pick up the pump.
CAP: I'm sorry sir but we don't have any in stock. I have two at another store but we won't be able to get one here until tomorrow...unless you want to go to the other store to pick one up?
Me: But you had one in stock yesterday??
CAP: Well, actually it's still here but the garage across the street called this morning and put it on hold for a pending job.
Me: I think I know what they were going to use it for.
CAP: Well, if you can get Dick (I can't remember his name but Dick seems appropriate) to release it I can sell it to you.
WTF! If I can buy it for $100 you can bet "Dick" was buying it for a lot less. $400 my ass!
So I walk to Gulbicki's and ask the woman in the office if I can talk to Dick. She says sure, Dick is the owner, I'll go get him. Dick comes out and I tell him who I am. He points to the broken pump sitting on the counter and asks me how long it will be before I get him the new one.
Me: Well Dick, that kind of depends on you. You need to call CAP and let them know you don't need the re-built pump before they will let ME buy it.
So Dick makes the call but the whole time he is acting like I'm the one that tried to screw him over instead of the other way around.
I wish that were the end of it but a week later my alternator goes. This time it IS just the belt but I take it 40 miles out of my way to get the mechanic from my old hometown to look at it. He comes out after fifteen minutes and asks me if I had any work done on the engine recently. I said yes, why?
"Well, whoever you had work on it must have accidentally bent a metal bracket out of place because it was rubbing up against your alternator belt. It's no big deal I just bent it back so no charge."