BRIDGEWATER, NEW JERSEY -- After receiving a fair estimate from the insurance adjuster for $1,600 to fix a minor fender bender, I brought my car to Bridgewater Autobody. I was told by Allen at Bridgewater Autobody that they could fix the fender for $1600 and he asked that I wait for the check from the insurance company. When I received the check from the insurance company, Allen asked that I endorse the check over to them and leave it with the car. He promised to call when the job was done.
Three weeks later, I called to follow-up on progress, Allen advised that in the course of repairing the fender, they broke the door handle and stopped working on the vehicle because the insurance company would not authorize further payment to fix the handle. I told Allen that the insurance company was not liable to pay for collateral damage to my car that was not caused by the accident. Moreover, I emphasized that the door handle was in perfect working order when I dropped the car off and expected it to be returned in the same condition.
Allen became belligerent and uncooperative stating "Someone has to pay for it or you will get it back with a broken handle". I then asked to speak to the owner Glenn Morello, and was told he was not in. When I asked to have the owner call me back, I was told that "Glen does not want to speak with you". Allen also stated that I would have to pay for the charges of approximately $150 to $300 to fix the door handle. When I refused, he said that my other alternative was to demand that the insurance company pay for a rental car.
In this way, Allen reasoned he would have leverage in negotiating the extra payment from the insurance carrier since the cost of the rental car would exceed the cost of the handle repair. I did not like the sound of this, but needed a car that week to get to work so I asked the insurance company to provide the car until the handle was fixed. They were happy to do so, but only for three days. After I returned the rental, I called Allen who stated that the insurance company is still taking a hard stance and would not pay. As a result, they had not fixed the door handle.
I was told to either pay for the damages caused by them or pick up the car with the broken handle and fix it at my expense. Finally, I called the owner Glenn Morello. Glenn was familiar with my situation and supported Allen's position that I would need to pay for the collateral damages while the car was under their care. I have filed a complaint with the NJ Better Business Bureau as well as with the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs. At the very least, I can do my part in preventing this establishment from committing what amounts to at a minimum, insurance fraud. STAY AWAY AND ADVISE YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME!
UPDATE: 2/19/09: Filing a complaint with BBB of NJ was not received well by Allen. He left me a message on 2/16/09 demanding that I pick up my car immediately or face storage charges of 40 dollars a day. In addition, Allen explained that the car was not drivable and I would need to pay for a tow to get it home. I returned Allen's call on 2/17/10 and politely told him that I would pick up my car as long as they put it back into drivable condition and left the broken door handle in the car. Allen replied that they had the car apart and did not intend to work on it unless I pay for the door handle that they broke while taking off the door.
This is after I paid $1600 to have them repair my car and subsequent to them receiving an additional check from the insurance company to pay for blending in the paint from the fender. Allen also reminded me that I signed a waiver stating they are not responsible for loss/damage to the vehicle or articles within. I had previously replied to this threat noting that the statement is not enforceable in court and amounts to standard boilerplate language.
Aside from poor customer service and incompetent work, I will no longer listen to their attempts to extort money from me by holding my car hostage. This case will be documented and forwarded to the state's attorney general's office for review.