On 11/11/02, I sent the following letter to Midas Muffler's home office. To date I have not had the consideration of a reply from them. I also contacted them by phone and again have not received a reply
I am writing you in regards to work I had done on my 1993 Chevy Cavalier on 11/07/02 at your 585 Memorial Parkway, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865 phone 908-454-2055 store. The invoice regarding this service is #0000961.
I brought the car to the store because I knew the left front brake had just gone rivets to rotor the day before, and I knew I had recently developed a small exhaust leak which I was able to hear. I walked into the store and spoke with a man named Dave, who appeared to be the manager. I handed him a Midas invoice dated 12/6/99 for a muffler and exhaust pipe that was installed at your 2914 William Penn Highway, Easton PA 18042 store whose phone number is 610-253-9070. The invoice number is E010954. The reasom I took my car there at that time was because the assistant manager, was my manager, when I worked for Strauss Auto Parts in Phillipsburg, NJ.
Anyway, I told Dave at the Phillipsburg store that my front brakes just started to rub and that I knew I had a small exhaust leak starting.
Dave told me to leave the car to be checked out and he would call me in a half and hour to an hour with an extimate. He was sort of insistent in checking my rear brakes too. Although I felt there was no problem in the rear, I gave in and allowed him to do it, so I would know the status of these brakes.
Sure to his word, about an hour later the phone rang and it was Dave. Now, having worked for NAPA, Parts America and Strauss Auto Parts, and having bought many parts while working at those places and many more than that prior to being employed by auto parts stores, I realize there is an over the counter price, and a resell price for all parts, and therefore knew I'd be baying more than if I had purchased the parts and done the job myself, which I would have done if the weather was with me.
I was informed that the muffler installed on 12/6/99 already had a hole in it, the exhaust pipe installed the same day was also "no good, rusty" (which on the invoice is called "close to the end of useful life"). "The front brake pads need replacing, your rotors are no good, they can't be turned. Your rear wheel cylinders are leaking, you need a new disk hardware kit, your catalytic converter has a rattle in it, the entire exhaust system is no good and needs to be replaced. The labor, parts, and tax totals $843.15"
Well... To say I was absolutely speechless would be the understatement of the century. I was in total shock, on the verge of a heart attack with that news. Once I collected my composure enough to speak, the first thing I blurted out was "how could the rear cylinders be leaking, the fluid lever hasn't gone down." He assured me that there were "mini pools of fluid" in the rear drums and I need rear brake cylinders. He cushioned the blow by quickly adding that my rear brake shoes were still good. Next, he was quick to alert me that I could save $212.23 if I didn't replace the catalytic converter, but advised me that it could blow out, clogging the new muffler and cause trouble later, which I realize can happen for it happened to me on a previous car. Still reeling in the shock from this estimate, for I originally figured it would be a high $300-$400 repair rance, I concluded that it would be stupid of me to put a vintage '93 catalytic converter in the middle of a new exhaust system, and realizing this job was going to eat up three weeks worth of clear paychecks, bottoming out my bank account in the process I heard the words come out of my mouth to go ahead and do the job. The feeling of sickness in the pit of my stomach as I gathered my available cash and went to the bank, nearly depleting my swavings account to pay for these repairs, and await the call to pick up my car can not be tastefully written at this time. The call came around 4:00 that my car was ready and could be picked up. I obtained a ride to the shop, where I presented a $20.00 off coupon from the phone book and $824.00 in cash, which he took and put in the drawer and started to explain warranties, without having given me my change (I guess I didn't pay enough for the job). Anyway, I reminded him of my change and he apologized and handed me back the difference.
"So" I said, "I have and all new exhaust system now, right". "no" he said, "the catalytice converter on back is new, the front pipes were okay." This is the moment where my age, wisdon and experience kept me from pulling him over the counter, and tearing off his head and sticking it up his "tail pipe". The whole and only reason I agreed to pay this much for an exhaust job was because I was made to understand that the whole exhaust system was rusty and no good. I am sure that if I looked in a dictionary, the word "whole" would be defined as "all or in its entirety" and I'm sure anyone else would probably think the same. Now I'm being told half of my exhaust system is still G>M> installed, vintage 1993. After retrieving my lower jaw from his counter, in my stat of shock and disbelief he says "those front pipes are made of a different steel, they never rust out", (Excuse me, unless they are stainless steel, and they are not, eventually, on day they will rot out and drag on the road underneath me.
He then quickly laid out three warranties for me to sign, life tim pads, catalytic convertor 5 year/50,00 miles, and 1 year exhaust pipe. At this point I was literally steaming, yet I managed to keep my composure. The only reason I had paid out this much money, was because I was mad to understand I was getting an entirely new exhaust system(entirely, see "whole").
At that point I started asking replacement costs,and realized why I had been charged so highly. He started going down the invoice. The price of a pipe, labor to install that pipe, muffler, labor to install it, cataltic converter, installation labor, brake pads, labor to install them, rear wheel cylinders, installation labor and of course the hardware kit. The one that absolutely slays me is the labor charge of $10.00 to rmove and replace the rotors. According to my 82-96 Chilton manual, part #8269 on page 9-18, removal is done by simply grasping the rotor with both hands and pulling it from the hub,(as described in figure 40 on that page). This is of course accomplished after being charged $62.24 to remove the calipers first. There are no wrenches, pliers, or screwdrivers needed to remove this rotor, it simply pulls off.
Reeling in disgust, I went home and picked up a phone and called Advance Auto Parts 2525 Nazareth Road, Easton, PA 18042, whose phone number is 610-250-9770. Advance Auto Parts occupies the space of what was once a Parts America Store I worked in. (I set up and worked in 3 Parts America stores, before moving on.) I asked for a price for rotors fo my car. I remembered when I worked there, a particular GM rotor was under $20.00, and wondered if they were to ones used on my car. Well, my guess was absolutely right. I was told, "yes sir, we have them in stock and the price is $15.74 each". Going for "broke", I questoined the price for wheel cylinders, and again the man replied "yes sir, they are in stock, they ar $8.38 each". I asked "how about a catalytic converter", he replied "I do not have the direct fit converter" (as I thought I was getting from Midas when I was under the assumption I was getting an entire exhaust system), "however I do have a 'universal' fit in stock, priced at $106.99" "One more price" I asked, "the best brake pads you have". "In stock, Bendix titanium coated riveted $32.99" I thanked him very much and ended my call.
Now, as I said previously, I can understand the need for a shop, in order to be profitable, adding on to the cost of a part, but...Rotors available at $15.74 and you charging $151.98 per pair,wheel cylinders avaliable at $8.38 each, billed to be at $96.92 for the pair, brake pads (which I'm sure are of better quality then those installed) at $32.99, not $69.99, less we forget the $62.24 labor charged twice per axel, and the $10.00 change to put rotors on, after lifting the old ones off, $11.97 for three muffler clamps that are worth about one third of that. $67.99 for and exhaust pipe, which is probably worth around $35.00, $15.00 labor to install it and $149.99 for the catalytic converter and $62.24 labor to install it. I consider this nothing short of piracy, price gouging and literally bordering on grand larceny!!!
It was at this point a wave of cold shock came over me as I thought, "Oh my god, I wonder if they used one of those worthless, universal fit catalytic converters on my car!!!" I grabbed a flashlight, ran out to my stone driveway, which was wet from the weather and shone the light up under my car. To my horror, the worst nightmare came to light before my eyes. There it was, a universal fit, grade B, conplete with an emissions tube capped, catalytic converter, roughly one half the size of my original equipement, direct fit converter it replaced. In order to make up the length difference an exhaust connector pipe was added to the front of this converter with two clamps approximately 10 to 12 inches apart, of course this was all tightened to what remains of the original 1993 exhaust forward of the converter that I had been under the impression was also being replaced when I okayed the job. Let me tell you what I know about universal converters. During my time at Strauss, and the 3 Parts America stores I set up and worked at (the NAPA I worked at wasn't crazy enough to carry these in stock), I can't even give you a number of how many irate customers slammed one of these up on the counter, screaming that "it's all blown out, my muffler is clogged and I butchered the tail/exhaust pipe removing it." It would probably be the same number which we replaced not only the convertor, butr the muffler, pipes and clamps free of charge, wheter we sold them to them or not, so as to keep up "customer satisfactio" and hopefully not lose a customer in the process. I myself fell victim with my predecessor car, a 1978 Chryler Cordoba. I went through 3 clogged mufflers from the cheap waffle like media in the convertors blowing into them, and two tail pipes (2 sections each) in less than twa and a half years. After the third one blew and clogged the muffler, I got rid of the car. That's what I know about these grade B, universal converters. And, now there's one on my Cavalier, does this mean that every year to a year and ha half, I get to go back to Midas and be told, "well Mr. Tolotta, your catalytic converter is uner warranty, your muffler is also under warranty, however your exhaust pipe is 'approaching the end of its useful life' so therefore it will be $62.24 loabor, $15.00 more labor, $67.99 for the pipe, and $11.97 for the clamps plus tax. You're back on the road for another year or so, thank you". And that's going at the present invoice rates, as the exhaust pipe cost more this time than in 1999, and I even received a free muffler hanger then.
In closing, I would like to add the following, the only old parts I was shown were my two rotors. I did not see my rear cylinders , and, further more, the bill shows "wheel cylinder", not plural, though Dave said it's a pair. For all I know, I may have been charged $96.92 for one! Also, the prices I gave you are verifiable with the phone number provided for Acvance Auto Parts. Parts stores in this area, (with the exclustion of NAPA) are fairly competitive and fluctuate a dollar or two one way or the other. Do you remember when paying a little more for a superior quality Midas muffler was the smart thing to do? I do.
There is a 1964 Studebaker Lark Daytona 259 CID, V8 maching in my garage. It had been off the road since 1989. Within its exhaust system is a gold toned, diamond plate designed Midas muffler, whose shell could probably withstand gun shots. I start it once a month and it still sounds quiet. So I ask, what happened to the Midas muffler that I remember, seeing that its life expectancy is approximately two and a half years now?
I await a reply ion this situation I have detailed to you concerning whether or not I am to forward copies of this letter to those listed below.
cc: Phillipsburg Chamber of Commerce
Better Business Bureau
The Morning Call letters to the editor
Phillipsburg, New Jersey
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on MIDAS