Unauthorized diagnostic fee charged to my credit card
Posted by The D Man on 09/26/2007
BANGOR, MAINE -- In all my years of dealing with car dealerships NONE has been as pathetic, unprofessional, dishonest, and completely without a shred of professionalism as my experience with Darlings Honda in Bangor Maine. This company is one of two major companies that own most of the dealerships in the greater Bangor Maine area. Quirk owns 50%, Darlings owns 40% and the other 10% are everyone else.
I have a 2003 Honda Pilot that I bought in Ft. Myers Florida. It was certified and I dropped another $700.00 at the time of purchase for the zero deductible extended warranty. I moved to Maine and have been faced with bringing my Pilot to Darlings or traveling about an hour to go to the next closest Honda dealership. I first went to Darlings Honda for a replacement of a sensor under my brake pedal that was interfering with the proper starting of my Pilot. I was told it would be about an hour for my vehicle to be ready. They offered to shuttle me to the local mall during that time but I figured an hour was not that long so I opted to wait. There of course was no offer of a rental car, even though my warranty provided for one, and I waited four hours before I was told by Rick Ellis that they didn’t have the sensor in house and would have it the next day.
Only then was I provided a rental car. Bad enough but wait it gets much worse. When I picked up my Pilot the next day the bill was $0.00 because it was all done under my extended warranty. At least three times at the dealership and once at home by phone I was reminded by Darlings Honda staff that I might get a phone call from American Honda asking how my service was. They said it was their report card and that anything less than perfect was failing. Well I never got that call.
What I did get was a return trip to Darlings Honda a few months later for an issue with an oil light that seemed to come on for no reason. I made my appointment, made a preliminary phone call to American Honda to confirm that I was entitled to a rental car (I was not going to wait another 4 hours this time) and showed up on the date scheduled. After being checked in again by Rick Ellis I proceeded to get my rental car after mentioning I had already checked with American Honda.
When I first inquired about the car Rick told me they didn’t have rental only the shuttle. Lie. Rick seemed to be irritated that I had called American Honda and informed them of my potential problem with the oil light and was told it should be covered under my warranty. He said it might not be covered if it was say “mice that had crawled up into my engine block and chewed on the wires”. O.K. fair enough I understood that. I took my rental and headed off to do some errands with my kids (ages 2 & 4) As I drove by the dealership about 25 minutes later I noticed my Pilot was already in the customer pick up area. I returned to the dealership and found my Pilot was ready! Well all sounds good until I get the bill. $75.00 not a big bill BUT $75.00 for a diagnostic fee. What? Is seems the problem with my oil light was stemming from the fact my battery needed to be replaced and batteries are not covered under my warranty. This is a fact I WAS aware of.
What I was NOT aware of is that because of this reason I had to pay this $75.00 diagnostic fee. I had not paid it or been aware of this during my first visit since the cause was covered under warranty. Rick was not at the dealership at the time as I protested that I was not told of this potential fee and had never seen it outlined in my extended warranty booklet. With my two kids screaming I was told that they would just run an authorization on my card and I could leave and call Rick about the issue when I got home. I did just that. Rick was no help at all. Just regurgitating the same lines I had gotten before about the fee was due to the fact the reason was not covered under warranty. I asked if it was possible to have the fee removed this time because I simply was not aware of it and I was told “No”.
Realizing I was wasting my time with this low-level employee I called American Honda and relayed the story to them. They were surprised at the issue and mentioned the reason the problem had been diagnosed so quickly was because it was just sent out to Honda dealerships in a mass e-mail that outlined the problem. It seems that on a regular basis American Honda e-mails dealerships about know problems they may run into and how to diagnose and address them. My rep at American Honda said that Darlings Honda technicians should have diagnosed the problem in about five minutes. I was informed I should contact the dealership and ask for a “Goodwill Courtesy Credit” which I did. I called and asked to speak to the service department manager Sheldon Wheeler, who was of course not in, so I e-mailed my request to him. Long story short after being bumped from Sheldon Wheeler to the dealership manager Bob Jonah to the VP of fixed operations Carrie D. Meo I was told that no way were they going to refund or credit my $75.00. Oddly enough during our e-mails the diagnostic fee went from $75.00 to a company wide standard $85.00. ???
During this time I filed a dispute with my credit card and despite numerous logical requests for this massive $75.00 profit be traded for good customer service and positive word of mouth the best offer I received from the VP of fixed operations was a $75.00 gift card for future parts or service. My offer to credit my account and to utilize the gift card for the diagnostic fee was flatly rejected. The VP of fixed operations Ms. Carrie D. Meo sent me this gift card in the mail with her letter saying how proud she is of her staff and how I was told by Rick about the fee and blah ,blah, blah, included a photocopy of the paperwork I signed at check in. My signature is in a dialogue box that states I hold Darlings Honda not responsible for any potential damaged that my occur while moving my vehicle in the lot or on the roadway for diagnostic reasons. As I found in my warranty book I have to give my authorization for “tear down” which is directly ties to this diagnostic fee. I was never told of the fee nor did I give my authorization for it. The fee of $75.00 and the MYSTERY FEE of $85.00 where hand written on to the work order after the fact and not present when I signed the paperwork at check in. DISHONEST LIERS! Checks out some of the e-mails…notice all the misspelled word in the e-mails from Darlings Honda.
August 28, 2007
Mr. Selden Wheeler,
Attention: Service Department Manager
Dear Mr. Wheeler,
I am sending you this e-mail after my attempts to reach you by telephone
yesterday were unsuccessful. This is in regards to my service visit to
Darlings Honda on 8/24/07. I had made an appointment to have my oil light
checked that had been intermittently blinking on my service display. This
would have been my second visit to your location for service to my Honda
At check in with your service representative Rick I explained the problem
and informed him that I had the Certified Additional Coverage. This was
verified and I mentioned to Rick that I had placed a call earlier to Honda
to see if such a service would be covered. I was informed that it sounded
like a sensor and it would be covered. When I mentioned this call to Rick,
he stated that it might not be a sensor and used the example of if
mice climbed up into your engine block and chewed on the wires that
would not be. That was fair I thought. I would have no
problem paying for parts or service for a non-covered part.
When I returned to pick up my Pilot I was a bit surprised to see a unauthorized
diagnostic charge for $75.00 since the problem had been identified as my
battery causing the oil light issue. I understand that a battery is not
covered under my warranty and the replacement of this item would be at my
own expense. My problem is that at no point was I ever informed that I would
be charged to look at my vehicle. As I previously mentioned my last service
visit at Darlings Honda was for a sensor switch under my brake peddle that
was covered under my warranty so I have never paid a diagnostic fee before.
I was as unaware of it then as I was during my second visit. After speaking
with both Rick and representatives from American Honda I do understand now
the concept and guidelines of service appointments at Honda dealerships. My
point from the beginning has been this. If I had been informed that I
was going to be charged $75.00 just to look at the problem and would not be
financially responsible only if the problem was covered under my warranty,
I would have declined the service. I would have then brought my Pilot to a small local
garage for a free or low cost diagnostic. I then would have made the
decision to return for warranty service, or handle the issue on my own.
(Like a battery replacement)
I have spoken to American Honda in regards to this issue and was informed
that I should make contact with the dealership and ask for a "Goodwill
Courtesy Credit since I was not aware of the diagnostic charge and
the oil light issue was such a simple problem to identify. Rick mentioned
e-mail sent to dealerships in regards to this problem and American Honda
confirmed this, which led them to advise me to ask for the credit. Sadly my
two voice-mail messages left on your phone yesterday went unanswered. After
my first service visit at Darlings Honda was completed I was informed twice
at the dealership and once by phone that I would possibly receive a phone
call from Honda asking about my service experience. That the call was
Darlings report card and anything less that perfect was a
failing grade. It would seem to me that this time my experience is not
quite as important since it does not directly involve Honda. This is not
excellent customer service.
Below is the actual paragraph from my warranty booklet that a Honda
representative had to help me find by telephone today.
The part I want to bring to your attention is the line that reads
I must give authorization to the repair facility for tear down to diagnose
the problem. As I previously mentioned I was not informed of the
$75.00 diagnostic charge and if I had been I would have declined service.
Diagnostic fees are not mentioned by name or in plain terms in the warranty
booklet hence I was unaware of them. Your department did not make it
verbally known to me, or point it out on any check-in paperwork. This is
dishonest, deceiving and I expect it to be addresses and corrected
immediately. I want the $75.00 fee removed and credited to my Discover card
(last 4 digits) by the end of business today. I do not require a follow
up phone call as since it was not important yesterday, I feel a phone call
today would simply be insincere. E-mail to @verizon.net to confirm
the $75.00 credit will suffice. I will check my on-line statement this
evening to confirm the credit.
Please remember that although Darlings has a monopoly on the Bangor market
it is not the only Honda dealership in the area. Customer service, common
sense, and the ability to negotiate situations to keep customers happy and
returning to Darlings Honda are more than just talking points in
From: Selden Wheeler
Date: 2007/08/29 Wed AM 07:49:05 CDT
Subject: Diagnostic fee.
I do apologize that I was unable to return your 2 calls. Idid receive the
messages unfortunately the name was hard for me to distinguishand the
message was cut off both times without a return number given. I had
theopportunity to look into the repairs and need to address a couple issues.
I dounderstand at times it can be difficult for all involved to be aware of
thecharges that can apply especially when a customer has a service contract
thatcovers some items and not others. Because of this we at Darlings have
trainedall of our service staff how we need to handle this so the customer
is aware ofany potential cost they may incur. At all of our stores we have
instituted aminimum 1.0 ($85.00) diagnostic fee for any transmission, ABS,
engine, air bag orelectrical concern. These are stated as Rick did when we
are unsure if the servicewill be covered under your agreement or not. By
looking at the pre write thatis attached to the invoice it shows that Rick
did indicate in writing the $85.00fee with your signature. I am sincerely
not arguing the issue but I do not feela refund is warranted in this matter.
The vehicle came in for a concern (engine/electrical)The diagnostic steps
were performed as agreed at the time of write up and afailed part was
identified. The services you asked for were performed. I am notsure how
anyone could make the statement that this is a "simple problemto identify"
because there are multiple items that can cause thisissue and when
performing the diagnostic steps especially on low oil pressureconcerns our
tech's need be sure of what the failed item is. To do thistakes time and
that time is not 5 or 10 minutes. I also had the opportunity tolook at the
service bulletin that Honda is presenting and found that thebulletin applies
when the "low oil pressure indicator blinks at start-up"your concern was
noted on the pre write with your signature as " Customerstates the oil light
will come on at time while driving/will go off on restart".I understand
because the end result indicated the battery the diagnostic stepsdo differ.
In no manner do I feel anything was done dishonest or deceivingly andI am
sorry you feel different. I have been with this Company for 15 years
andunderstand to do business today we need to be upfront with our customers
and wemake every attempt to do just that. I sincerely hope you understand my
positionand continue to do business with us in the future.
Service Director Darling's Honda/Nissan/Volvo
Dear Mr. Jonah,
Please review the follow correspondence between myself, and your service
manager Mr. Wheeler. As per our quick phone conversation on 8/29/07
(approximately 4:15 p.m.) I will expect a phone call or e-mail from you on
Friday in regards to this matter. I really am not trying to cause a
problem...I simply want customer service, understanding of this situation,
and the appropriate remedy. Thank you.
This reponse is unacceptable.
First why are you quoting me a diagnostic rate of $85.00 when mine was
$75.00? Does that fluctuate from customer to customer?
Second I am sure you do have my signature on a piece of paper that
Rick presented me during my check in. I did sign a paper for Rick after he
did his walk around of my Pilot to what I thought was an
acknowledgment of his notations of a need for new front and rear wiper
As previously mentioned, at NO POINT was I told about the $75.00 ($85.00?)
Diagnostic fees that you were going to charge me. This was not done verbally by Rick nor did Rick point it out on ANY paperwork that I may have signed. I understand that perhaps your
trained staff was just trying to help me by speeding up the
process as I was with my two young children, BUT omitting something as
important as a $75.00 ($85.00?) diagnostic fee is by no means helpful.
As I also previously mentioned the concept of asking for a Goodwill
Courtesy Credit was suggested to my by American Honda after
discussing the issue with my case manager. I certainly did not expect such
reluctance from Darlings Honda in this matter. You stated the following:
I have been with this Company for 15 years andunderstand to do
business today we need to be upfront with our customers and wemake every
attempt to do just that.
I am informing you that did not occur in this situation. No attempt was made
and your representative was not up-front with me in regards to fees I may be
responsible for. This issue is not going to go away due to the fact I do not
appreciate being mistreated by any business on any level. As a business
owner myself I know and understand the meaning of customer service and for
that reason I know when I am getting the brush off.
I have filed my complaint (s) with American Honda in regards to this matter
and made it very clear to them I did not appreciate the response to date
from darlings Honda over a request suggested by American Honda. (Goodwill
Courtesy Credit) I have also formally filed a dispute with Discover Card and
covered the fact that your department ran my card while I was in your
waiting room as my two children were crying and I needed to leave. I spoke
with two of your department staff telling them that I needed to leave for
the sake of my children but that I was not in agreement of the fee and would
call in later to discuss it.
For you to make the comment I sincerely hope you understand my
positionand continue to do business with us in the
future simply adds additional insult to the situation. If you
sincerely want to keep my as a customer, or at the very least not a bad
reference in the community, this matter needs to be resolved immediately. I
urge you once again to weight the situation and consider the whether $75.00
($85.00?) is that crucial to Darlings Honda or is that small financial loss
worth positive customer relations. I sincerely hope you see it my way.
Cc: American Honda Motor Co., Inc. / Discover Card / Bob Jonah at Darlings
Good Morning Carrie,
Although Bob mentioned you would be in touch with me early this week I did
want to touch base with you in advance and provide you the correspondence to
date I have had with your company and its staff. I have spoken with American
Honda and they have informed me that they have already spoken with Darlings
Honda in regards to this issue. They have informed me that Darlings Honda
told them that a "Goodwill Courtesy Credit" would not be issued and that
darlings Honda was refusing this credit due to the fact that I had signed
the check-in form that outlines the breakdown charge. My case manager did
express his disappointment in that decision and also that he could be of no
further assistance. It would seem that this issue has come to you. I simply
ask you to review the previous e-mail exchanges in this matter and make your
decision based on if you honestly feel I am asking for something incredibly
out of line. I would much rather be able to bring my Honda to your location
in the future with no hard feelings and be fully aware of the diagnostic fee
vs. driving to Augusta for service. It seems to me to be a simple equation
of math: $75.00 now and nothing in the future but bad feelings and a lost
customer. Or a great show of customer service that equals a loss of $75.00
but the gain of a continued customer relationship and positive word of
My assistant is in the process of send you a letter in response to your
request. You should receive it in the mail in the next couple of days.
Thank you for your patience.
Carrie D Meo
Vice President of Fixed Operation
Where the difference is real!
I am in receipt of your email. I will review it Mr. Johan and Mr. Wheeler
and get back to you tomorrow.
September 17, 2007
I received your letter on 09/14/07 and would like to offer this resolution
to the issue.
In your letter you stated that as a gesture of goodwill you were
providing me with a gift card in the amount of $75.00 for parts or service.
I would like to utilize that $75.00 gift card towards my previous bill with
Darlings Honda in the amount of $75.00. This would be a simple process of
crediting my Discover card for the previous charge of $75.00 and applying
my gift card to that amount. In doing so that would be a true sigh of
working hard to earn the trust & respect of your customers and prove
that you truly do value my business and look forward to servicing my
automotive needs in the future.
If your system at Darlings does not keep records of gift card account
numbers or recipients I would be happy to provide your accounting / billing
department with the gift card number over the phone, via e-mail, or through
the U.S. mail system.
I do not wish to prolong this issue any longer than you do. Although I
commend you on your position of confidence that your fully trained
staff (Rick Ellis) verbally informed me of the $75.00 / $85.00 (?)
Diagnostic, fees I must point out that you were not present at that time. I am
not sure how often you spend time in the service department of Darlings
Honda, but I was processed very quickly both times. In most cases that is a
benefit. But when the speed of process results in the loss of information or
the assumption of information due to print on a work order it is not.
It’s honorable to defend your employees but to assume that mistakes are
not made and that sometimes human nature does not allow for the admission of
said mistakes would be incorrect. Yes my signature is on both work orders.
That has never been in question. Part of my original point is that verbally
this fee was never explained. Rick Ellis and myself know this point. If that
fee had been explained to me I would not be spending time sending you
e-mails such as this one. I have never had a problem paying for service
rendered when I am aware of them. I do not work for Darlings Honda hence I
do not stand to gain or lose in this situation beyond the amount of $75.00.
I appreciate your persistence however my offer still holds. We will not be
crediting you back your Discover card. The services provided that day on
Repair Order 506126 fee of $75.00 stands. My offer of a $75.00 gift card was
a good will gesture for you to continue to do business with us. In your
email you stated that, and I quote "I simply ask you to review the previous
e-mail exchanges in this matter and make your decision based on if you
honestly feel I am asking for something incredibly out of line" I do feel
your request is out of line. And you stated, "a great show of customer
service that equals a loss of $75.00 but the gain of a continued customer
relationship and positive word of mouth." I feel my staff did everything
right and they should get paid for their work. This "Goodwill Courtesy
Credit" hopefully ensures me that you will come back and allow my staff to
WOW you. They do a great job and I am very proud of what they do. I hope
that you do use the Gift Card and continue to do business. Again, I feel
this is a equitable solution.
Vice President Of Operation
RE: Customer Service / Goodwill Courtesy Credit
Ms. Carrie D. Meo / firstname.lastname@example.org
Darlings Corporate Office
96 Parkway South Unit #1
P.O. Box 277
Brewer Maine 04412-0277
Dear Ms. Meo:
I received your e-mail dated 9/18/07 and I am disappointed to say the least. I will no longer attempt to address this issue with you or Darlings Honda directly. Instead I will continue to pursue my dispute with Discover card. On your work order with my signature there is no mention in set print referring to a diagnostic fee or a charge of $75.00 / $85.00. This information is not in set print even in the fine print. What is stated there is simply my signed authorization for your staff to operate my vehicle and that I hold them not responsible for damages that may occur. The amount of $75.00 / $85.00 is hand written onto the work order and was not present when I signed that form. It was obviously added after the fact.
In your e-mail signature you have a tag line of “Where the difference is real”. I must say you are right. There is a real difference between your dealership and the numerous others I have dealt with in my life. To assume a $75.00 gift card will make me a happy customer or continue to do business with Darlings Honda is delusional at best. Your technicians may do a fine job, but we both know that your $75.00 / $85.00 diagnostic fee is not how they are paid. Please do not insult my intelligence. I have been in business long enough to know where real profits come from. Diagnostic fees , extended warrantys, and extra, unnecessary services are your real source for 100% profit.
Congratulations on your massive $75.00 profit. That is if you get to keep it as my dispute with Discover card is still pending. In this day of free information and countless sources on the internet to share experiences such as mine I would like to inform you that your $75.00 “profit” has purchased you some “advertising” on the following web sites. Congratulations and have a nice life.
BOTTOM LINE…IF YOU ARE IN MAINE DO NOT VISIT A DARLINGS AUTO DEALERSHIP!