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Old 07-22-2004, 06:25 PM
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Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Miami, FL
Posts: 645
¡Ay Dios mío!

Gosh, Yoshhimura, you got all steamed and I can't see why.
I did not say that all Cubans were incompetent clowns that were unaware of the fact that a 124 needs a 4-wheel alignment, nor that they all played videogames much of the time, or that they made up bogus charges to diddle their customers. Just that THIS ONE GUY did this.

I am back from my trip, and it appears that my wheel alignment was pretty good, the tires do not show any strange wear after 1200 miles, and the car tracks perfectly. I also did not mean to imply that the Cuban guy could not align the car as well as the Salvadorean (or Honduran or Nicaraguan, I'm not sure, nor is this important) fellow who Steve suggests might be lacking an adequate medical plan.

I told the tale as I did because I feel it brings out the local color of la vida loca de la ciudad mágica, no seas pendejo, mano.

I do not mean to suggest that the Central American who did the job was a sap for working for the Cuban fellows, either. I am sure he was just trying to get by, and doing much beter than he did before in Tegucigalpa, Matehualpa, or Chichicastenago. Hooray for him, may he own his own shop soon. May he live long and prosper.

I refuse to accept the notion that any mention of ethnicity is off-limits and inherently racist. I am merely doing with reprocessed electrons the same damned thing a casting director does when he does not choose Robert Redford to play the role of a Chicano or Brad Pitt to play the part of Woody Allen.

If I did not think that I could get my car aligned by a Latino, I would surely not have called anyone in Hialeah, where mechanics of any other description are as rare as hen's teeth. In fact, the fellow who has been aligning all my cars since 1997 is a Colombian named Carlos, (at the Tire Market, NE 8th and 29th St, Hialeah) and his work and opinions (on tires and shocks) was always great, but at his work I was told that he was in the hospital because he was wounded or injured (herido) and I was about to go on a couple of trips.

Why would I choose to have my car aligned in Hialeah? It is close to where I live.

My complaint, as Steve pointed out, is that I was told one price and then forced to pay another. I would not do this to anyone in my business (I am a teacher and I do translations ), nor do I consider it ethical. That's it. There are no materials used in doing an alignment, and I think it is wrong to charge for such nonexistent crap. It is doubly wrong to not tell a customer that there is a unmentioned $5.00 charge for materials that do not exist.

I still insist that I have every right to find the greatest value for my money as I can. When I bought my home, I assumed a mortgage (avoiding paying "points", aka a bribe to a bank, and did not buy through a Realtor (avoiding a commission). I invest in No-Load Mutual Funds. Whenever I can get the same quality for less I do so, and I always do as much research as I can to get the best deal. My favorite hobby is Saturday morning yard sailing, and I have avoided paying tons of money by buying used stuff, unwanted gifts several years old and way too many goofy collectables and tools, including one Snap-on wrench for $1.50 and another for $2.00. These were prices offered me, not the result of me presbyterianing down the price.

I have driven a number of cars over the past 40 years, I have never bought a new one, nor have I ever paid more than 40% of the original retail. I really like to drive and I rather like working on cars. In High school, I liked to hang out in junkyards and fiddle with engines and such. At one time, I actually worked my way thru college putting wheels on Ford Falcons and Mercury Comets at the Claycomo Assembly Plant.

Every once in a while I screw up, such as when I bought a bee-yoo-tiful Ryobi electric drill, which looked like it had never been used, for $20 (the price quoted to me by the seller). Of course, the batteries were unrechargeable and the charger would not charge, so I consider this a lesson: Never buy used rechargeable tols unless you get a money back guarantee with someone who will put it in writing that you trust. On the other hand, before that I bought a set of rechargeable Black and Decker items (flashlight, drill, saw) for $10 that have been working for the past four years.

The way I have it figured, I paid $30 for tools that would have cost me about $120. Not a losing proposition.

I realize that one runs the risk of getting diddled when one does wild and crazy crap like driving a couple of ancient German cars (one 14 years old and another nearly 20). But I also realize that if I buy a couple of NEW cars (let's say for $100K combined, on top of which I must pay bank interest (or if I pay cash, I must forfeit investment income), extreme insurance premiums, be much more likely to have my cars stolen) I do not run the risk of paying too much for transportation: I am GUARANTEED to pay more, and in the case of myself, to have far less fun doing it.

What I would call a "chop shop" is not a place where mechanical work is done cheaper, either well or poorly. To me a "chop shop" is a place where stolen vehicles are dismembered and their pieces sold at low, low, prices. I have not knowingly ever bought from any such operation. I have turned down COUNTLESS Rolex's, Tag Heuers and Omegas offered by individuals of many ethnicities who have attempted to pass themselves off as theiving junkies selling "hot" merchandise.

Life is a series of risk analyses: you pays your money and you takes your pick. I do not buy lottery tickets, neither do I mess with casinos, nor will I ever bother with three-card monte.

We are ALL obliged to work for a mere fraction of what it cost us to get qualified and armed to do whatever we do: we all pay rent, huge amounts for houses and such. Since we cannot control the income much, the way I see it, I am a fool not to limit the outflow. I spent 22 years of my life getting a BA, an MA and a PhD, for a job which does not compare salary-wise with that of many realtors, mechanics, rockstars, jockies or guys who fiddle with various types of ball. Life is unfair, so what?

This does not, however, justify anyone who calls themself an expert quoting me $45 for a job and charging $60.
Semibodacious Transmogrifications a Specialty

1990 300D 2.5 Turbo sedan 171K (Rudolf)
1985 300D Turbo TD Wagon 219K (Remuda)

"Time flies like and arrow, yet fruit flies like a banana"
---Marx (Groucho)
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Old 07-22-2004, 07:13 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Miami, FL
Posts: 645
I would not have bothered to write anything had the only problem been the "bait and switch" bit with the real wheel alignment.

I would think that anyone with a tire shop who advertised that he did alignments in the Yellow Pages would know that a 90 Mercedes-Benz 300D would require a 4-wheel alignment, just as anyone who did oil changes would know that a Mercedes Diesel needs about 8 quarts of CD through CL oil, or at least would look it up if he did not know.

A gas station attendent should know whether to put Diesel or gasoline in a car with a Diesel engine, as well. Every job requires a degree of professionalism, don't you agree?

He did not mention this when I brought the car in. He mentioned it as the alignment was being done. I could see the guy through the window fiddling with the rear wheels as he was asking me this.

It is quite probable that the guy doing the alignment told him and that the head guy did not bother to look it up.

I was not told of the bogus charge for $5.00 in parts until I was presented with the bill. It had not been previously mentioned, and the fool told me that there were no materials used, but that he simply stuck this on to each and every bill of all work he did, and not only that but that EVERYBODY did the same (which they don't) and that the county approved and perhaps even recommended this, which they do not do.

I simply told the guy that I thought it was unfair, that no one that I know ever did anything like this, and that I did not believe that it was legal. Then I came home and wrote this.

Here in Miami, Cubans generally like to inform everyone who is not a Cuban that Cubans work harder, work longer hours, and are more competent than all those other Latinos: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, Central Americans, Venezuelans and whatever, as well as the Gringos and Blacks who lived here before they blessed us with their arrival, changing Miami from a sleepy Mayberry into a bustling metropolis. So I found this particular situation ironic, I suppose.

Having lived here for 30 years, I have not found that there is any reason to classify any particular group as being different than any other in terms of work ethic.

Social class makes a difference, perhaps, but not nationality per se. One would be wiser to draw conclusions only by comparing specific individuals rather than ethnic group.
Semibodacious Transmogrifications a Specialty

1990 300D 2.5 Turbo sedan 171K (Rudolf)
1985 300D Turbo TD Wagon 219K (Remuda)

"Time flies like and arrow, yet fruit flies like a banana"
---Marx (Groucho)
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Old 07-22-2004, 11:20 PM
Posts: n/a
Evil Shop

One thing I have learned over the years is you get what you pay for when dealing with certain types of vehicles. I have dealt with shops that have a very low labor rate but when you get your vehicle back it's worse off after the repair and they don't warrenty it.

If the cost is way below the area average then its too good to be true. Labor rates for shops in the Pensacola area run in the 70 to 100 dollar per hour range. When I have to take my vehicle in for a repair I want to deal with a business that has been in the area for a while and developed a relationship with the local community. That way I know if the repair goes bad it will be covered by that shop. That piece of mind is worth a few dollars to me.

Just my two cents worth.
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Old 07-23-2004, 10:33 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: New Orleans, LA
Posts: 305
The $5 charge seems uncalled for, but $60 or whatever for a 4 wheel alignment is reasonable if they did a decent job. I pay $100 to a guy at a local speed shop for alignments because I know he does it right and has good equipment.
2005 Mercedes C230k sport sedan, 6 speed
1987 Porsche 924S - 968-engined track car
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