Giammalvo Files
Mark Giammalvo

Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.   

Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE  Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).


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Three Options

(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP) 

Have you ever gotten into a conversation that you wish you hadn't gotten into, only to realize that during the conversation, your too far into it in order to bail out? Wow! That's a run on sentence if I ever heard one, happens. Today we received a call that fit that criteria. This customer had purchased a 95 Jeep Grand Cherokee from us back in January of this year. Since she lives about a half hour away from us she has her vehicle serviced with a shop closer to her home. No problem there. She brought the Jeep into a shop in her area for service. Her complaint was a rattle under the car. When she went to pick up the car she was somewhat surprised at the invoice total. She was calling to ask me some advice. She wanted to know if I would call her for authorization before replacing a $265.00 part. I told her that many of our customers, unless they specifically give us unlimited authorization, like knowing approximately how much a repair will cost before hand.  (This is not unreasonable in today's day and age anyway. I know personally that I like don't like being left in the dark regarding costs whether its with a plumber, electrician or whomever.)

Anyway, I told her that we do ask the customers permission in most cases, especially with a part of that expense. The shop had replaced the catalytic converter for the rattle. I suspect that the cat probably had broken substrate inside, causing the rattle. As our conversation was progressing I thought about the emissions warranty. I told her that federal emissions mandates that the catalytic converter falls under an emission device that is covered under a 5 year 50,000 mile warranty. Actually, since this is a 1995, the emission warranty on the cat should be 8 years 80,000 miles. Regardless, the Jeep was not 5 years old and it only had 28,000 miles. In my personal and professional opinion, any shop that has been in this industry for any amount of time should at least know about the 5/50 emission warranty. Although I did not want to get between her and the other shop I advised her to call the shop owner. I was confident that the shop owner and the customer may be able to come to some kind of mutual agreement over what is obviously an oversight. After an hour or two, my customer called me back. She reported to me that the owner did not feel that he should have called her and in any event had never heard of  emission warranty. Now I don't like to get upset in situations like this but....COME ON! NEVER HEARD OF EMISSION WARRANTY? HOW ABOUT NEW CAR WARRANTY?  "Excuse me"....I said to the customer..."let me regain my composure". {Mark is observed taking a deep breath}. Silently, I thought to myself....maybe they knew about the warranty but wanted to sell the cat anyway? 

    The customer wanted to know if anything else could be done. On occasion, in the past, when customers have had a part replaced that should have been warranty, we have been able to petition the manufacturer for a refund. However, from my experience, the manufacturer will only reimburse an independent shops work under several conditions: If the customer needed service when an independent shop was open at the same time the dealer was closed, and, that the symptoms would be consistent with a car that should not be driven. I told her that I would consult the service manager of the Jeep dealer in her area who I happened to know personally anyway. I called the service manager and explained the whole situation. Together we came up with some ideas. I called my customer back and advised her that we came up with three options.
Option # 1 (the harsh option): Contact American Express, (how she paid the invoice), and have the amount put in dispute and let American Express challenge the merchant (shop).

Option # 2: (the nicer option): Have the shop remove the new cat and give her the old one plus a refund of $265.00 for the cat. The shops keeps the labor. At that point the dealer will return the defective cat and put on a new one for free.

Option # 3: (the "I goofed but this won't cost me" option): Have the shop give her a new invoice dated on a Saturday and have the symptom line on the invoice read: "car is low on power & customer is afraid to drive"  (This way the manufacturer will honor the reimbursement since it is outside of dealership hours and the symptom is consistent with having to park the car). With that advice, she was somewhat relieved. I don't know what the outcome will be but I hope everything works out. I also expressed my apologies for our industry for this event. As shop owners and human beings we all make mistakes, it's owning up to them that can be hard to do. We spoke about automotive credentials and how the automotive industry is actually getting better every day and how training, technology, and information access should keep things like this from happening in the future.

As a side note, I happened to be asking my fried Steve Rehm, from Northeast Automotive, his advice regarding this situation. Steve brought up another thought that slipped my mind: Since the cat failed at such an early mileage, did the shop check to see if fuel mixture is in control? Or, did the cat fail for another reason? Good questions which could help prevent a repeat cat failure. Thanks Steve!




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