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Old 12-03-2000, 07:58 PM
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After seeing an advertisement in my local paper (Adscene) for 14.99 MOT tests at Baileys Nissan dealer at Vauxhall Industrial Estate, Canterbury, Kent, I got my car - a 1987 Mercedes 190E, 125K miles - tested there last week. It failed, on what I consider to be three very petty points, none that in my opinion (as an honours degree-educated engineer) could be classified as safety critical:

1. Tiny pinhole in the bottom of a sill (actually a screw hole left when I removed side skirts fitted by a previous owner).
2. 2 inch (5cm) length of wear on the 60cm long windcreen wiper blade (covering the bottom centre of the windscreen, not a place you can even see out of as it's blacked out with windscreen adhesive!)
3. Headlamps aim too high (it can be lowered by the in-car dashboard control.)

I complained about the petty nature of these faults after being informed of the reasons for the MOT failure and the workshop manager said they only test the cars and don't make the rules as set out in the MOT test guidelines.

To get a retest, I was told I would have to hand over another 14.99, even though I repaired all these 'faults' and returned it within 24 hours. I maintain my cars well, and for 12 years have usually done my own maintenance on them, so I feel I am knowledgeable enough to know when work required is critical and/or safety-related.

I took it in for the retest the following day, and returned after an hour to hear the workshop manager say "oh, your windscreen wipers and washers don't work". I was extremely surprised at this because in the 19 months I've owned the car they have given no trouble whatsoever and I tested them en route to the dealer to clear road dirt from the windscreen, literally just around the corner from their premises and both wipers & washers had worked perfectly.

He suggested I try to get them working and led me to the car parked around the back. He was right - no sign of life from wipers or washers. I popped the bonnet and headed straight for the fusebox, but all fuses looked intact, though I wiggled them about in case one had loosened, yet still the wipers wouldn't work.

I confirmed with the manager who was standing by that the fault would have to be fixed before the car would be given a pass certificate, and he agreed that if I could fix it there and then, the car would be passed. I looked in the car's Haynes manual that I happened to have brought along with me to try to trace what might be causing the problem.

At this point, I suggested to the manager that it seemed as though someone must have played about with the car for the wipers to suddenly have stopped working, adding that it was highly suspicious that they had failed while the car was on their premises for only 1 hour. I also pointed out to him the greasy fingermarks someone there (presumably the MOT tester) had left on the car's windows, not what I would expect from a main dealer.

Naturally, he was in denial of this and seemed aggrieved that I had said it, but suggested I should again try the wipers switch while he fiddled with the wipers fuse which he'd identified from the fusebox cover decal.

This I did, in retrospect rather naively as I suspect he knew *exactly* what was causing the fault, and probably realised I'd soon spot what had caused the failure if he didn't 'fix' it quick while I wasn't looking.

Miraculously of course, the wipers and washers immediately sprang back into action. The manager didn't mention what trick he'd actually performed in the fusebox to get them working again, but it took him only a second or two which is pretty remarkable considering he shouldn't have been overly familiar with my car! I had to hang around for another half hour or so before finally the pass certificate was in my hands, as there were other customers being seen to and it appeared I was bottom of the list of priorities as I was dealt with last. Perhaps I was just too patient? Whatever, I got the distinct impression that I was being 'taught a lesson' for calling into question what was going on.

Despite my complaints and suggestions of underhand tactics, I had to pay the 14.99 retest fee.

The manager had obviously found the experience stressful himself, and left the room muttering to a colleague "it's been one of those days!"

From my experience of this so-called 'Special Offer' on MOT tests at Baileys Nissan dealer, it appears that they will try to find any fault they can (or even make them occur) to ensure you don't just pay the basic 14.99 test fee.

In conclusion, although I obviously cannot prove any malpractice took place, I strongly suspect it occurred and while they managed to diddle me out of 14.99, they have totally lost my future custom (a pity, as I have another car that requires MOT testing shortly), and I shall not be recommending the dealer to other car-owners I know in the area which I may otherwise have done had they demonstrated fair dealings with me. Instead, I shall be warning them not to go there.

I shall also be letting Nissan Head Office and my local Trading Standards Office know about this episode. Perhaps they will let the management of this dealer know the consequences of their cynical treatment of customers. We know when we're being ripped off. A good reputation is easily lost if this sort of experience becomes commonplace.

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