I thought that maybe a little shift in gears would be in order here so I want to share my report on two local businesses that I would personally tell all my friends and family in the area to avoid: Cheeseborough Automatic Transmissions (C.A.T.) and ACACIA Augusta Auto Auction
. In fact, the latter business disgusted me so much that I simply had to blog about! Check out my blog about Augusta Auto Auction
and things to look for when buying used cars (or just looking for a deal in general):
*** CONSUMER ALERT: Avoid ACACIA Augusta Public Auto Auction *** « Yogizilla’s Blankity Blank-Blank
Now, you know how it is: bad news travels faster than good news. People will usually let emotional investment get in the way of being objective so complaints will be blown out of proportion. I will try to be as fair as possible here but I simply do not want anyone screwed by either of these companies! ;o)
Let's look at each of these companies a bit, shall we?
Cheeseborough Automatic Transmissions
At first glance, C.A.T. seems like a very credible and reliable place to get transmission work done: they are backed by the BBB and ATRA, they always have a steady very stream of customers, their prices are competitive, and they back their work with a 2-year 24K warranty. How can you go wrong?
Well, for starters, C.A.T. only has one person that seems to care about customer service and that is Julie. She is very pleasant and professional for the most part but I noticed she tends to get more and more "brief" with folks after they already paid. As a whole, C.A.T. is like most other shady mechanic shops: they'll say anything to get you in then, once they have your vehicle you are committed, you are on your own.
Now, when I dealt with them, I made sure I asked around, talked to trusted mechanics (ones that unfortunately won't touch transmission work), checked online reviews, visited the place, and asked every question I could. Of course, little did I know that the owner of the company is apparently very well-connected with the right people. He's sort of like some redneck mafioso
. With his leverage, he has been able to almost completely erase any negative reports and complaints out there.
What I've learned over the years is that the BBB and other means of third-party validation
are not always accurate. The Better Business Bureau allows businesses time to "resolve issues", at which point the most strong-armed companies will buy out or threaten anyone that has anything bad to say. In fact, when I called ATRA about my concerns, they tried to lean towards the possibility that my expectations may be a little bit unrealistic... So let's stick to the facts, play-by-play, blow-by-blow
1. The Owner Is An Arse
- Lee (not to be confused with Mark, the son he is apparently feuding with to fight for the tarnished Cheeseborough business trademark) is about as good with people as salt is good with slugs. I've had kicks to the groin that were more pleasant than this guy. As a professional with a significant amount of sales and marketing experience, this guy rubs me as a good example of how marketing efforts often start (and end) with the business members themselves.
2. Priced To Go
- Pricing and turn-around around CAT's main selling points. They are about $800-1200 cheaper and they can fix most transmissions in about 3-5 business days. It's not a bad deal in a pinch, which I certainly was in. Of course, you get what you pay for...
3. Full Rebuild According To Whom?
- Even though the ATRA (Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association)
web site and other leading experts on transmission rebuilds all pretty much agree on what a complete/full transmission rebuild is, I still had both people at ATRA and C.A.T. tell me that they followed standard procedure. Interestingly enough, by inspecting the car myself and having a mechanic that knew what they were doing (and wasn't lazy) look at the transmission parts, it was painfully obvious that everything was NOT pulled out and inspected, as per SOP.
4. The Hidden Cost
- For me, the money I saved ended up being about what I needed to have the job finished properly. The guys over at AAMCO said that they always get former C.A.T. customers due to their half-arsed work. Fortunately, they cut me a deal so I go to fix the stuff that should have been done to begin with.
5. Simple Little Things
- C.A.T. could have at least won me over by getting the job done right the first time around but they couldn't even do that. I had to return several times to have the mechanics "look" at it and tell me everything was fine. I'm sorry but I should not hear my transmission shifting gears. According to C.A.T. I was only noticing it because I was looking for something to complain a bout. ROFL!
Upon further inspection, it turns out that they did not put all the parts back and cut several corners. In fact, they didn't even bother replacing a older/obsoleted solenoid pack that is known for having problems nor did they cover it with the rubber housing meant to muffle noise. On top of that, they considered hard shifting, vehicle jerking, engine strain, and other symptoms as "normal". Naturally, they didn't want to put the parts out on the bench again for proper inspect so they'll tell me anything to get me out of there.
6. Running The Warranty
- ATRA only backs the C.A.T. warranty using their lame "Golden Rule Warranty" provisions. That means you're truly only cover for 1Y-12K, which isn't much unless you stay local. Beyond that, Lee will "honor the warranty" and "pay out of his pocket" should there be any "real problem". His play on words makes it seem like he is doing his customers a favor, rather than running a legitimate business.
Needless to say, the inspection that comes with the warranty is a quick little road test to shows all of nothing. At best, they'll connect a diagnostic tool to the D-terminal and see if any errors come up. Many issues will not be found this way, especially if they are sporadic but, hey, who am I to argue? I didn't earn my Master's in mechanics, after all! =oX
What's more of a kick to the genital area is the fact that they will apparently stall until your warranty runs out, doing anything they can to appease you until then, short of actually doing some effin' work. LOL... It's a brilliant strategy and a lesson in unethical effectiveness!
7. A Bad History
- Most mechanics of integrity will recommend Weeks Transmission or Steve over at AAMCO. C.A.T. is one of the runner-ups but folks always seem to be hesitant to make the recommendation due to their track record. Some remember Cheeseborough when it was a much older company and everyone in the family was keeping it running in tip-top condition. Since those old days, a lot of drama and family feuding has apparently tarnished the Cheeseborough name.
I've noticed some of the mechanics at C.A.T. moonlight, offering services on-the-cheap after hours. It would seem that the high standards of quality service are not really there since they don't really screen their employees. Local stories state that C.A.T. has thrived off people that simply cannot afford better service. That certainly seems to be the case.
The staff at C.A.T. is pretty notorious for being condescending and cutting corners on jobs. I'm surprised there are not more complaints out on the Internet about them considering they have such a bad history. Until the company goes under new ownership and actually stands by their guarantee, I'm afraid this is one of those good deals you should skip!
ACACIA Augusta Auto Auction
Well, as one would expect, auto auctions are always a bit iffy. You have to be willing to invest in "project cars" and buy as low as possible to offset such repair costs. Augusta Auto Auction, however, is particularly suspect in my book. I go into full detail about it on my Yogizilla-branded WordPress blog
so check it out!
And Now For The Ranting
Poor customer service is one of my pet peeves. I believe customer service is the biggest component of marketing as it is projecting an image for your business and creates one of the longest-lasting impressions customers will ever develop. I know that "the customer is always right" can only go so far but you shouldn't feel stuck or bullied when dealing with any credible business, IMHO.
Quite honestly, C.A.T. was such a bad experience that we didn't even want to bother going back there to have them fix the problems that were confirmed (and documented) by other mechanics. Knowing them, they'd simply say that the other mechanics just wanted our business or damaged their work. What a terrible feeling it is to have that gut feeling nagging at you saying, "Hey, we don't really care what your issue is.. We got your money already so move along, please."
In the gravy days of sales, when papa-and-mama shops were the mainstays, the owners and managers of businesses would come out to shake hands, kiss babies, and make sure everything was running in tip-top condition. Nowadays, the owners and upper management folks rather play golf and have affairs than tend to their business. It's a shame, really, because it makes consumers more jaded and less receptive to honest business people, like myself.
C.A.T. had several opportunities to fix their mistakes, making up for lackluster repairs and horrid customer service, but, instead, they decided to play the role of know-it-all "experts" and belittle my knowledge of cars. Really, if I had the tools and facilities, I'd gladly fix my own transmission. I've put together jigsaw puzzles with thousands of pieces in it so how hard could it be? =oX
In all seriousness, I hate seeing customers burned so heed my words. Develop rapport with those in the service industry and make sure you make allies out of them. I am fortunate that I have some good mechanics I can trust now and, ultimately, the damage and monetary loss was minimal but the waste of my time was definitely big. Hey, it could have been worse!
Hope my little local business reviews help! Don't let this be a reflection of how Augusta businesses, as a whole, operate.
For the most part, I've been very impressed with how friendly and professional business owners are out here. 8)
Anyone else have experience with the arsehats at C.A.T. and Augusta Auto Auction.. or perhaps a similar experience?