Is Your Mechanic Cheating? Part 2

By Joel Grover and Matt Goldberg
|  Friday, Oct 17, 2008  |  Updated 11:10 AM PDT
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Is Your Mechanic Cheating? Part 2

More of the NBC Los Angeles undercover investigation exposing how you could be paying for car repairs that are never even done. NBC Los Angeles investigative reporter Joel Grover found it happening at one of the nation's largest repair chains. It's a chain he's exposed before.

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Video: Is Your Mechanic Cheating - Part 2

May 2006 - This is the third time in three years that NBC Los Angeles went undercover inside Jiffy Lube. After each investigation, Jiffy Lube has promised to clean up its act. But now, our hidden cameras reveal there are still big problems at some LA area stores.

 NBC Los Angeles drilled holes in the underside of two test cars, so they could hide tiny cameras and watch Jiffy Lube technicians at work. What they found is the technicians don't always do the repairs they charged for.

 "In my opinion they're committing a crime. They're selling you something knowing they're not going to change it," says a former Jiffy Lube employee.

 At a Jiffy Lube in Glendale, they sell an undercover producer a hundred dollar transmission flush. "There's a special device which we put into the transmission. It sucks all the fluid out," the technician tells the undercover producer.

 But that device just sat in the corner and cameras show it was never hooked up to the transmission lines as promised. They still charged $240 for the work.

 Three years ago, Jiffy Lube's spokesperson told NBC Los Angeles, "This is wrong and it needs addressed." That after NBC Los Angeles caught employees selling unnecessary repairs, a violation of company policy. Jiffy Lube promised to conduct additional training to prevent more violations of their policies.

 But a former Jiffy Lube employee tells NBC Los Angeles, "The training is a joke." The insider says part of that training was how to spot an NBC Los Angeles undercover customer. "Instead of telling us not to do these things, they're telling us how to avoid not getting caught doing it," the insider tells NBC Los Angeles.

 But NBC Los Angeles caught them in May 2006 at a Jiffy Lube in Encino. Before taking a test car there, NBC Los Angeles marked the oil filter with a happy face. A technician there told an undercover producer they were going to change the fuel filter and oil filter. But hidden cameras capture a technician bringing over a new oil filter, Setting it down on the car, and then take it away without putting it in. After NBC Los Angeles visit, the old filter with the happy face was still there.

 "The problem comes from the top," says a former jiffy Lube employee. Insiders say management, like the district manager Steven Ayoub, push employees to meet internal quotas to sell at least $66 of services per car. These targets are known as budgets.

 "If you don't meet the budgets, you're not going to get your bonus. Your job is on the line," the insider tells NBC Los Angeles. He also tells us the only way they can meet their quotas is to sell as many services as possible. "They don't have the time to perform each and every single service they sell," The insider says.

 Which could be why Jiffy Lube employees caught undercover wouldn't talk on camera. Even the district manager tried to duck NBC Los Angeles' questions by pretending to be someone else.

 "You're not Steven Ayoub? Joel Grover asked. "No," Ayoub replied. "I think you're Steven Ayoub, the district manager," Grover said. "I'm not Steven Ayoub and I'm not a district manager," Ayoub replied. "Can I see some ID?" Grover asked. "No," Ayoub replied.

 Jiffy Lube and its franchisee, the Heartland Corporation, wouldn't speak with NBC Los Angeles on camera. But in a statement they said:

 Heartland Automotive confirmed that KNBC's identification of the district manager is correct. Like many retailers, Heartland Automotive offers a manager incentive program. Bonuses are discretionary and based on customer satisfaction survey scores, customer volume and sales.

 NBC Los Angeles received a check from those Jiffy Lube stores refunding the money they paid for the repairs that were never done.

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