Predatory auto body shops may be operating legally, but not ethically

Originally published at: Predatory auto body shops may be operating legally, but not ethically | Boing Boing


Small time grifters looking for easy marks, yeah I heard of that.


Why didn’t Bulldozer Guy go on a rampage against a place like the crooked auto shop? That I could get behind.


Auto insurance in Michigan is still pretty much the highest in the US, but at least we don’t have to deal with this kind of grifty BS. It definitely helps to know what shops are preferred by your insurance before you even get in the car, though. I know because people just love crashing into my Prius (it’s sporting it’s third rear bumper right now). Haven’t needed a tow, but I know where to send it if I do.


I made the mistake of asking a shop to install a radiator fan I purchased myself. There wasn’t much to it, if I had a lift I would have just done it myself. The shop gave me a range of how much the labor was going to cost, it was all dependent on how “difficult” it was. The range was $50-$100, which really isn’t that bad. Anyhow, it took him like 10 Minutes… and of course charged me $100. Now if they ever give me a range, I’m just going to assume it’s going to be the max.


… aaand the Killdozer makes another appearance.


I have a classic car that needed extensive work (don’t ask). The guy I took it to mostly just sat on it, occasionally doing a bit here and there, but kept billing incrementally. I payed the first couple times, but the third time he asked there was clearly no work done to justify the charge and I told him to pound salt. The next day, he’d advertised the car for sale in the local newspaper. Fortunately, I know a good lawyer and he very quickly had an injunction and an order to return the car. Had I not known what to do, though (or hadn’t noticed the ad) I very easily could have lost my car.

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And here I thought that auto repair shops and towing companies were the pinnacle of ethical American businesses…/s

It felt appropriate here. Maybe seeing that lot full of cars made me think about them all being flattened?

If it’s been popping up all over I hadn’t noticed. Wouldn’t want it to become a cliché.

Where I am, a single tow company has the contract with police to tow all stolen cars that are dumped by the thieves & found by police. The owner gets a call (often in the middle of the night) from an unidentified number to come pick up their vehicle in 20 minutes or it will be towed. The cops get a $75 “donation” from the tow yard for every car towed. The tow company charges $100 for towing, hundreds for storage, plus all kinds of tacked-on fees for “special equipment” (a flatbed truck? why?!?), extra tow mileage (even though most cars are located in the hinterlands less than a mile from the yard), & even more if the “customer” happens to mention that insurance will cover.


“Before that car is put on the hook, check all these things.”

Sure, buddy, I’ll just ask the EMTs to hold off on sending me to the emergency room until I can check what fees the towing company might charge me.

The amount of scummy behavior related to autos is staggering.

I have been towed 3 times in 2 weeks from a parking spot behind my condo, and I owned the parking spot. Tow company up to shady enough behavior that before they did that, their residential tow license had been revoked. Court only option for getting back the ~500 dollars it cost me. (Do the math: taking them to court doesn’t add up, and they know it) I lodged several complaints to the local commission which issues those licenses, and got them fined to the tune of $6k - and a while later, the owner sold his house and moved out of state. One presumes the commission never got their fines.

I had a bad driver cause me to total my car the day before I had to fly for work travel. I had weird calls from an out of state number asking me to fax a release so some body shop could take the car away. (I called the tow place the police used, and they said it was a common scam to “steal” the insurance money, either totaling or repair, and a local body shop was prolific in using that scam)

The way they get away with this stuff is because I think broadly speaking, this stuff flies under the radar of police because it’s considered civil offenses. In much the same way you can’t do jail time for a parking ticket, without some weird legal wrangling anyways. The crimes are too small to justify the typical civil remediation (i.e. paying a lawyer) and so it continues until they rack up, and then they can always just pack up and move on like the tow owner did.


Years ago, a small weekly paper, the East Bay Express, did an in-depth investigative story on one of these tow scam (towing people from legal spots in an apartment complex). I hadn’t heard of the other one but it doesn’t surprise me. The tow lots seem to be uniformly corrupt & predatory. On the other hand, the independent tow driver from a small company who brought my truck home from the lot was a sweetheart.


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