This article is the archived version of a report that appeared in the June 2009 Consumer Reports magazine.
It is with considerable concern that I read your report on auto-repair rip-offs (Don’t Get Dinged: 5 Auto-Service Rip-Offs, April 2009). With nearly 30 years of hands-on experience under the hood, I advise that the single most important thing to ensure long vehicle life is maintenance. I look at factory recommendations as minimum service simply because manufacturers are always trying to reduce ownership costs. While I concede that those services are often lucrative and that there are shops that abuse customer trust with unnecessary service, be careful about making sweeping statements that might put all recommended maintenance in jeopardy. Ask your mechanic how often he changes the oil in his wife’s car.
We agree that regular maintenance is critical to keeping a car running properly, but manufacturers we contacted assured us that following the manual’s maintenance schedule is all that is necessary to optimize its service life. We believe any extra work should be at the discretion of the consumer.
Your April issue hit the nail on the head. A dealer tried to foist a transmission flush on me. Later, to my dismay, I found I had already paid for previous (devious) flushes to just about every part of my car except the glove box and the ashtray, none recommended by the manufacturer. And how am I even to know whether they actually flush anything at all?
Delta, British Columbia
A being visiting here from a distant galaxy, upon encountering your Annual Auto Issue, might ask itself, "Why so many different cars and SUVs when most of them look and perform alike anyway? Do the Earthlings really need 250 to choose from?" As a 30-year-plus subscriber, I must confess that it is at times like this that I sometimes wonder if the magazine might more aptly be titled Consumer Excesses.
Selling It (April 2009) has an item about $500 in free gas. I thought you would want to know that the company has been sued by the Florida Attorney General for deceptive and unfair business practices and won’t be handing out gas cards to anyone, including me.
Although the company that administered the program was sued, we checked with two businesses that offered these coupons, and they’re honoring the payments through new administrators. So ask at the place where you signed up whether you have that option.
Debt Settlement USA has helped thousands of customers get out of debt through a structured and proven process for years. Importantly, as stated in Financial Traps Are Flourishing (March 2009), we do advise them to limit their communications with creditors?because more often than not, creditors do not have the customer’s best interests in mind. We do not tell clients to stop sending payments to creditors. While it’s impossible to speculate why the customer you interviewed suggested otherwise, our procedures for client intake make it clear that repayment by customers is absolutely essential. There are many companies in the debt—settlement industry that do not look out for the interests of clients. We are not one of them.
Founder, Debt Settlement USA
In our March issue, we noted that anecdotal user reviews at ConsumerReports.org cited some durability complaints for the Hoover WindTunnel Bagless S3765-040 and Kenmore Progressive 27514 canister vacuum cleaners, both CR Best Buys. When we recontacted consumers who responded to our Annual Product Reliability Survey, we found that people who owned the machines reported that the models were not repair-prone. Our advice is to follow our Ratings and survey data, and use user reviews to round out your research.
To send a letter to the editor, go to www.ConsumerReports.org/lettertoeditor