On Thursday, June 19, 2008, my daughter and her boyfriend arrived at Legacy Infiniti in Lynbrook, NY for what they assumed would be a simple transaction. Her vehicle, a 2004 Infiniti G35X, had been brought in for repair on Monday, June 16, 2008, and she had been told it would be ready that Thursday. This was her third time bringing the vehicle in for the same problems, a metal on metal grinding sound while braking, and a constant vibration felt throughout the entire car while driving, both of which were neither detected nor resolved by the mechanic on either visit.
Upon going to the service counter, my daughter was given a bill for $1,273.92. This was to include labor and parts costs for front and rear brake pads, a right rear rotor, a brake line flush, and a transmission flush. There were also other items that were replaced, such as both front rotors, and a defective caliper on the right rear brake, but these items were covered under the extended warranty that I purchased with the car in December. My daughter told the girl at the desk that she felt that she was not responsible for any of these charges, and she was directed to speak with one of the service managers, Mr. Francesco Terrasi.
As my daughter and her boyfriend headed towards Mr. Terrasi's desk, he met them and asked them to have a seat. He then turned towards my daughter, and asked what the problem was. She replied that she did not feel that she should have been charged for the repairs, as we had purchased the extended warranty. Mr. Terrasi explained to them that brakes were not covered under the extended warranty, nor were the flushes, to which my daughter replied that she was not made known of any charges for these services when the mechanic called her on the phone, informing her of the work that needed to be done. Mr. Terrasi stated that it was he who had called my daughter, and he also agreed that he had not informed her of the charge, but hinted that, "She should have known there would be a charge, otherwise why would he call and tell her what they were going to do to the car."
Upon questioning the rest of the bill, Mr. Terrasi explained that the second time that the car was brought in, the mechanic only changed the left rear caliper, and so this time he replaced the right rear as well. Mr. Terrasi stated that the mechanic should have done this when he replace the left, as it is generally standard practice to replace these in pairs. He also stated that the front rotors were warped, and that this coupled with the bad right rear caliper, would cause the car to vibrate and make a metal on metal scraping sound. This was because the brakes were always at least somewhat engaged since the caliper was ceased, and the warped areas of the rotors would intermittently rub on the brake pads, leading to their eventual total wear. He next stated that brake pads were only under warranty until 36,000 miles, and then told us that when the car was brought in the second time, in the end of April, that the mechanic had replaced the left caliper, but had kept the same brake pads on, since they still had "enough" pad on them. He said that this time, the pads were worn down to almost nothing, and that they needed to be replaced. My daughter's boyfriend then stated to Mr. Terrasi that if the rotors were warped, they had to have been prior to the first visit, since the car vibrated now the same as it had before the initial visit in February. Had the vehicle been properly repaired in February, that is having both of the front rotors and both rear calipers replaced, not only would the brakes have worn away more slowly, but the brakes would then have been covered under the 36,000 mile/4 year warranty, and there would have been no discussion of charges. Furthermore, I could not believe that at a luxury car dealership, it is not standard practice to replace the brake pads whenever working on the brakes, as having unevenly worn pads could certainly cause a vehicle to pull to one side or brake unpredictably, causing unsafe driving conditions.
Upon questioning the flush charges, Mr. Terrasi stated that it is routine maintenance to flush the transmission every 30,000 miles. When I purchased the car, the mileage was at about 31,000, and it is now at 39,000 miles. If this car needed a transmission flush at 30,000 miles, then why wasn't it done prior to the car being sold? Is the transmission absent from your alleged 142-point inspection? When asked about the brake flush, Mr. Terrasi explained that this procedure is generally done once a year. When asked why this "important" procedure wasn't done the first time the car was brought in, nor the second, he explained that the brakes were bled, and then the reservoir was topped off. This, as far as I'm concerned, is the usual procedure after any brake work is done, along with changing the pads. I have never heard of the necessity of an annual brake flush, nor did I feel that this procedure was necessary to stop the car from vibrating.
After discussing the absurd charges for some time, Mr. Terrasi finally agreed that some of the charges were bogus, and negated them. This brought the invoice down to about $770, which was still unacceptable. I received a phone call from my daughter, at that point in tears due to the ludicrous business practices of this dealership, and I asked to speak with Mr. Terrasi myself. My daughter attempted unsuccessfully three times to hand the phone to Mr. Terrasi, who each time stated that I would have to wait a few minutes while he attempted to "modify the invoice". It was at that point that I decided to go down to the dealership myself to settle the problem.
Once there, I could see that Mr. Terrasi had a definite attitude about him. I walked in and asked what the problem was, to which he rudely replied that there was no problem. Obviously I did not leave work early, losing pay in the process, to handle something that I felt was no problem. Throughout our discussion, he huffed and puffed repeatedly, and did not seem to care about the fact that it took he and his crew three attempts to fix my daughter's vehicle, and that now we were being charged for their mistakes, omissions, and ruses. He maintained that the charges for the flushes and brakes were justified, and that it was my responsibility to pay for the repairs. I argued that the oversights of his mechanics, paired with the mechanical flaws of the vehicle were the cause for the quickly worn brake pads, which were now no longer under warranty. I also let Mr. Terrasi know that I did not appreciate the dubious practice of telling customers that flushes were necessary as part of a repair, when in fact they are but an elective procedure, and also informed him that there would have been no problem had he just been up-front about the charges involved in the repair, rather than attempting to dupe my daughter into agreeing to unnecessary procedures. Finally, after wasting an hour of my time, and almost two hours of my daughter's time, Mr. Terrasi spoke to a higher power, and the invoice was negated.
What I feel happened here was the age-old case of pulling the wool over the customer's eyes. Mr. Terrasi called my daughter, told her what needed to be done to the car in order to repair it, and did not mention any charges. Had any charges been mentioned, my daughter would have asked my permission before agreeing. At the least, I feel Mr. Terrasi could have informed my daughter that these flushes were not pertinent to the repair at hand, and were only elective procedures.
This lack of customer service is something that I would expect from low-end dealers, but never from a luxury car dealership. I have been purchasing luxury vehicles for the last twenty-five years, and I have never had a problem until now. When a customer brings a car in for a repair, they expect that the car be returned to them fixed, and in a timely fashion. When it takes a dealership three tries to fix a simple problem, and then on top of it they attempt to make a buck off of unnecessary elective procedures using methods of deception, it really leaves a bad taste in the customers mouth. This experience leaves the customer wondering if they should ever do business with this company again, and for me, I think I know my answer.
Rockville Centre, New York