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Yates Express Lube Complaint - Potentially costly and dangerous business practices

Review by MR B on 2006-01-21
ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA -- Hello, I am usually one in the majority of consumers that does not bother to file a complaint about poor service. I generally, as most of us do, vote with my feet. If I am treated poorly, I just don’t go back. Instead I tell my friends about my experience and use it as just another example of poor business practices when I broach the subject with my students and clients. I am taking the time today to write about an experience because the failures of a local business were so egregious as to have the potential of causing significant financial loss and even physical injury or death.

On January 16, 2006 I stopped to get gas at the Mobil station at 5800 Kingstowne Center Drive in Alexandria, Virginia. I don’t live on that side of town but I have a business partner that lives a few miles away so I have filled up at that station on the way over or on the way back from a meeting several times. On this occasion, I noted that there was a Yates Express Lube attached and it reminded me that I was due for an oil change and I felt that a full service oil change would take care of the chassis squeaks and allay any concerns I might have over other fluid levels.

Although I did not have time that day to have the service performed, I was back to the area on the 17th and had some time to kill so I pulled into line and waited my turn. I drove into the bay as directed and was told to turn off the engine so I did. A young attendant checked the oil level once before the oil was changed, possibly for liability issues. He then looked under the hood for various things. I watched him locate the battery and look at the belts and hoses. He checked the washer fluid level and coolant levels. He looked for something else but couldn’t seem to find it, probably the power steering reservoir. Then he pulled out the transmission dipstick and checked it, with the engine off, and replaced it. Finally he pulled the lid off of the brake fluid reservoir to check the level (an unnecessary action because there are sight lines in both halves of the reservoir). After he failed twice to get the lid back on and pushing the seal into the fluid, thereby dumping some amount of fluid out of the reservoir and into the engine compartment, I recommended that he attach the seal to the underside of the lid and then press down so he did and it went back on. He then asked that I start the car and, after a minute, to turn it off again so he could check the oil level. Finally he told me how much I owed him and he took my credit card and provided me with a receipt.

I hoped that the person under the car had a better understanding of vehicles than the one up top because my impression was that this young man was not very well educated on cars. First, the power steering reservoir, though hidden under the alternator, has two hoses attached so it wouldn’t have taken much to figure out where it had to be. Secondly, although it might be possible to inspect the transmission fluid for contamination and wear with the vehicle off, the level should have been checked with the car running. Thirdly, brake systems are sealed for a reason and any open contact with the air and contaminants should be avoided.

I drove off feeling that I had made a mistake to stop there and that I should probably avoid that location in the future and that would have been the end of this story if it hadn’t been for my experience the next morning. When I first put the car in drive, it groaned a little and shuddered before the transmission engaged and the car began to move. This had happened once before when the fluid level was low so I checked the level that afternoon and, sure enough, it was a full quart low. I also notice that my car had the same chassis squeak as before so I pulled the ticket out of the glove compartment (ticket number 2917987) and was surprised to find that on line 3, lubricate chassis, he had marked that the chassis lubrication on this vehicle is sealed. That is not true; I believe that there are 5-7 separate lube fittings on the car. I also noted that line 5 says clearly that the transmission fluid was full. Line 6, rear differential says N/A., also not true. This car is real wheel drive and has a removable bolt for checking the gear oil level. Line 8 claims that the power steering was full but he never checked it. Line 12 states that the air filter was ok but he never opened the breather to look. Line 14 says the PCV valve was ok but he never pulled it to check that. Line 15 says the lights are ok but I never had my lights on and he certainly did not check the turn signals, brake, or backup lights. Line 17 says that the windows were washed but he did not do that. Line 18 says the tire pressure was checked, when I looked after noting the other errors, there was 42 pounds in my left front tire. And line 19 says that he checked my wiper blades but he didn’t do that either.

Like I said, I usually vote with me feet and leave it at that. I will have to pay somebody else to lubricate the chassis and check the differential but I’m not really concerned about recovering those costs. In this case, the failures of this business could result in expensive auto repairs to the drive train and other mechanical parts of consumer vehicles. These failures could also lead to accidents and injuries related tire or brake failure. At the least, drivers could be exposed to hazardous driving conditions due to lighting deficiencies or faulty wiper blades. Why? Because they trusted their vehicle and the personal safety of the occupants of that vehicle to a business that purports to offer expert care and maintenance. After all, Yates is a proud name in automobile service. My experience is that the actions of the employees of a business reflect the attitude of the owners and their managers. At Yates Express Lube, that attitude is clearly deficient.
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