Fast little loans
This article was first published in the second-quarter 2012 edition of Personal Finance magazine
Traffic-light shopping has to be the highlight of my day. In Gauteng, you can do your monthly shopping at the traffic lights and receive pamphlets for every service under the sun. The pamphlet that always catches my eye is “Major service … from R495”.
After I stop laughing, I take one and skim through it.
The claims are laughable, because the garage would be working for free if it carried out all the checks and replaced the parts as stipulated in the leaflet. It is a sure way of getting a cash-strapped customer into the shop and then bushwhacking him or her.
The first claim is that the garage will use genuine replacement parts. What on earth is a genuine replacement part? The part is either genuine – original equipment purchased at a dealership – or it is a replacement part bought at an after-market parts place. Genuine replacement parts … what a crock of sh*#@*t.
You know your car has been neglected for a while, and you have R495 because the wife left her bag on the dining-room table, so, with all good intentions, you take your car to this god-sent repair shop.
Ten minutes after you’ve dropped off the car, your phone rings. I will give you one guess as to who it is. Got it in one ... yes, it’s the repair centre, letting you know that practically every other part on your motor vehicle has to be replaced. The service is still R495, but all the other items that are damaged or broken will cost you R5 000. Did you have any idea that you were driving a death trap?
This is just another form of false advertising and of misleading the uninformed client into a financial disaster. The vehicle may need all the extra work, but did you budget for it? A sure-fire way of getting you to do the repairs is to tell you that the extras they are now quoting you for are safety-critical items. Not one of us unsuspecting road users out there wants to drive a death trap, so we agree to the entire repair.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a sucker is born.
Let me give you an example of what it costs to service what is probably the cheapest car on the market, the Golf I, carburettor model.
Air filter: R37
Oil filter: R42
Fuel filter (plastic in-line): R15
Four spark plugs (Bosch): R60
Five litres of engine oil: R150
Labour: one hour: R456
This totals R760 (including VAT). The bill does not include the fact that there is no mark-up added to the parts. The parts are given at cost price to a service centre just to show you that a major service can never be done for R495, under any circumstances.
The after-market service centres or non-dealerships that are in the know and that do really good work are well aware of the fact that ridiculous claims of servicing your
vehicle cheaply are misleading.
The old saying is absolutely perfect for this situation: “If something looks too good to be true, it is.”
The workshop’s claim of a 62-point check on the vehicle will, in itself, take an hour if done properly. Remember, the cost of labour is more than R450 an hour, so is this service centre going to work for free?
Then, before you take your car there, ask if the price applies to all cars and bakkies – four-cylinder and six-cylinder vehicles. When it comes to bakkies, you would want to know if the price is applicable to 4x4s and 2x4s.
If I were a betting man (I am), I will bet anything that the service centre will tell you to take your vehicle somewhere else once you have asked these questions. Okay, I cheated. I did call and ask, and I was told not to waste their time with frivolous questions. The choice of language is mine and not what they used.
They also claim that the price includes a wash and vacuum. Which price? The one with all the work done or the “from R495” price? A wash and vacuum at the cheapest car wash is R40.
This workshop would close in a month if it actually did what it claims on the pamphlet.
The absolute best for me is the so-called “visual check on driveshafts, steering, fuel lines and cooling system”. So these guys are so damn good they have
X-ray vision and can check the state of wear on the CV joints on the side shafts. What they mean to say is that they will have a five-second glance at the state of the steering rack boots and the CV joint boots. This is all subject to the fact that your car is a front-wheel drive and that it does have a steering rack.
The fuel lines may have a few superficial hairline cracks on them, but, if they were leaking, you would have already known it because you would have got high from the fumes.
The cooling system, on the other hand, is completely different and needs to be pressure-tested to determine if the pipes are still in good condition and to make sure that the radiator does not leak.
You have to be a psychic to be able to determine their state just by checking them visually.
The pressure test on your cooling system and a removal and check on the radiator cap may save you a very costly repair. A visual check can be done only by Superman.
The claim that the workshop will adjust the handbrake and test the brakes is a little vague. Are they going to remove the rear drums on certain cars and adjust the brake shoes or are they going to wind the adjusting screw up on the inside of the vehicle to take up the slack in the parking brake cable? The reason for this simple question is that the one exercise is 60 minutes long and the other takes three minutes and is not as effective.
Testing the brakes I can only assume is going to be done during the road test and not on a brake machine. If done on a brake machine, it means that the garage, in its infinite wisdom, spent R375 000 to buy and install the test equipment, so I can only applaud such diligence for a low price of R495.
Even better are the electrical checks. What electrical checks? If you mean checking that the lights work, that the battery is okay and that the alternator is charging, those checks are already included in a normal service and are nothing special. If you would like a proper check on all the electrical components and control units, the proper diagnostic equipment must be plugged into your car. For this check, any reputable service centre will charge up to R800.
So, let me give you a piece of advice. Don’t look for bargains when you want to service your vehicle – they don’t exist (the bargains, that is). Go to your regular mechanic and ask him to give you a written quote to repair your car. If the quote is reasonable but you have a problem with paying the entire amount, ask him which items need to be fixed urgently and which items can last until the next service. This is a sure way of ensuring that your vehicle is always safe and that you never miss a service.
* Sagie Moodley owns Sagie’s Auto Performance, a workshop in Midrand. He is also a talkshow co-presenter on 567 CapeTalk and 702 Talk Radio.
WHAT THE CPA SAYS
“The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) Prohibits misleading advertising,” Trudie Broekmann, a director of Grant Gunstons Attorneys in Cape Town, says.
“If a supplier does advertise in a way that is reasonably likely to imply a false or misleading representation about his services, he is breaching the Act.
“If you report him to the National Consumer Commission, a fine of up to R1 million or 10 percent of his turnover, whichever amount is higher, can be imposed on him.”
With regard to replacement parts, the consumer has to be clearly informed if they are after-market parts. Broekmann says a supplier must apply a conspicuous notice to such parts stating that they have been reconditioned, rebuilt or remade, or are grey market goods, as the case may be.
The handing out of pamphlets at an intersection amounts to direct marketing. In terms of section 16 of the CPA, a consumer has a cooling-off period during which he or she may cancel a transaction for the supply of goods or services, without giving a reason and without incurring any penalty, if the transaction results from direct marketing.
Broekmann says consumers who have a vehicle serviced in response to the pamphlet advertisement have the right to cancel the transaction within five business days of the date of the service. The transaction must be cancelled by a written notice (such as an email to the garage).
If the consumer has already paid for the service, the supplier must return the payment within 15 business days after receiving the cancellation notice. If any goods were delivered to the consumer (for example, new spark plugs fitted), the supplier has to pay back the money within 15 business days after the consumer has returned those goods.
“This is a major legal risk for a supplier, and a wonderful remedy for the consumer,” Broekmann says.