Video: Is Your Mechanic Cheating?
May 2006 - NBC Los Angeles shelled out a lot of cash at repair shops across town. But were the repairs paid for really done?
"Does this happen to customers a lot?" NBC Los Angeles's Joel Grover asked a former employee of America's biggest Lube and tune chain, Jiffy Lube. "Every day," the insider replied.
To conduct the investigation, NBC Los Angeles wired two test cars with hidden cameras in places mechanics wouldn't find. Then, NBC Los Angeles drove one of the cars to an Encino Jiffy Lube, to get an oil change.
A service advisor named Leo recommends repairs, like changing the fuel filter. "Fuel filter, every 48 months or 60,000 miles," Leo tells an NBC Los Angeles undercover producer.
NBC Los Angeles pays $240 and asks the technician what they did. "Oil change, air filter, fuel filter," the technician tells the undercover producer.
But they didn't change the fuel filter. We know that, because before taking the car in, they lowered the gas tank, and marked the fuel filter with a big "four." After leaving that Encino Jiffy Lube, we checked the fuel filter, and the original one with the "four" was still on the car.
"It's so easy to get away with, so why go through the trouble of doing it," a former Jiffy Lube employee tells NBC Los Angeles.
When we took a test car to a Jiffy Lube in Canoga Park, a manager named Anthony recommends a top of the line transmission flush.
"How does that work?" NBC Los Angeles undercover producer asked. "We do it with the machine," the technician replies. A machine called T-Tech, which they're supposed to hook up to the transmission lines under the car, to suck out all the dirty fluid.
But the entire time the test car was being serviced, no one ever touched that machine, and NBC Los Angeles' hidden camera shows no one ever touched the transmission lines underneath. They charged for the T-Tech service anyway.
It happened again at Jiffy Lube locations in Glendale, Sherman Oaks and Burbank. We got stiffed at five out of nine Jiffy Lube locations, and no one would explain why.
When Joel Grover asked Leo at the Encino store why he charged them for a fuel filter and never put it in, Leo replied, "I don't remember." After Grover showed him the undercover tape he did remember.
"How do you explain this?" Grover asked Leo. "I don't know, to be honest," he replied.
"Were you trying to make an easy buck off us?" Grover asked.
While Grover was there, Leo called his district manager. "Channel four is right here. They caught us on camera. They didn't change a fuel filter on a Jeep," Leo told his district manager on the phone.
Grover went to Canoga Park to talk to Anthony and asked, "You charged us for a transmission service that you never did. Why?" "You can talk to my district manager," Anthony replied.
So NBC Los Angeles tracked down the district manager, Steven Ayoub at a Glendale store.
"Are you Steve Ayoub?" Grover Asked. "No I'm not," he replied. "Are you the district manager?" Grover asked. "No I'm not. I have a vehicle here," he replied.
He denied his identity and told Grover he was a customer.
"Which one is your car?" Grover asked. "That one," Ayoub replied. The red one?" Grover asked. "Correct," Ayoub replied.
But that red car belonged to another customer.
"That's your red Camaro back there?" Grover asked another customer. "Yeah. What's going on with it," the customer replied.
The district manager was lying.
"I think you're the district manager," Grover said to Ayoub. "I'd like for you to turn off the camera and I'd appreciate it," Ayoub replied.
The Jiffy Lube corporation also wouldn't speak with NBC Los Angeles on camera, but in a statement said:
"Jiffy Lube International and its franchisee Heartland Automotive Services take KNBC's allegations seriously. Pursuant to its franchise agreement, Heartland Automotive Services will investigate this matter fully and take appropriate actions, as necessary, to prevent further occurrences. Additionally, Heartland Automotive Services will implement a mystery-shopper program to ensure all of its customers receive the quality car care they deserve.
Jiffy Lube International
"Heartland Automotive Services"
Video: Is Your Mechanic Cheating?
Tips from NBC4's insider to avoid being schemed:
- Stay near (but not in) the service bay and watch your car while the technician works on it. You can question the technician to make sure he's doing all repairs you agreed to.
- If the shop is replacing parts, ask for all your old parts back.