After noticing a vibration when applying my brakes, I thought I would try a local business called "Just Brakes", since I had heard a number of their radio advertisements and thought they had what sounded like a good deal. I had not had any brake work done in Houston since moving there over three years ago, so decided to check out Just Brakes on the Houston Better Business Bureau's web site before actually going by in person. After searching the Houston Better Business Bureau reports for Just Brakes, I found a report that stated the following under a section entitled "BBB Customer Experience Record":
"The following data concerns complaints processed by the BBB since the firm's file was opened or over the last 36 months, whichever is less. This company has had no complaints."
Satisfied after reading this, I took my car to the Just Brakes on Fuqua Street in Houston, early Saturday morning, April 7th 2001. When I dropped off my car, I described the vibrations to a service technician named Jim, and he told me that it sounded like the pads and shoes needed to be replaced and the rotors needed to be resurfaced. Jim then went on to explain that for $129.88 plus tax, they would perform something called a Friction Reline, which includes replacing the disc pads and brake shoes, machining the rotors and drums, packing the bearings, adjusting and bleeding the brake system, and inspecting the balance of the brake system for all four wheels. I believed this to be a good deal and so accepted it by signing the $129.88 cost estimate presented to me by Jim. I then told Jim that if any other work was needed to call me first, and he agreed.
Within a few hours, Jim called me and said that both of my rotors were so bad that they could not be resurfaced and that they would have to be replaced with brand new ones. I asked how much that would cost, and he said that because the rotors on my particular car cost so much more than most other cars, it would be pretty expensive. I then asked what the total price would be, and he said that with the Friction Reline and the new rotors, it would come to about $538. When I heard that price I was floored and asked why the rotors on a 1993 Mercury Tracer, which is a common economy car, would cost so much. He said he didn't know and that it didn't make any sense to him either, but the pricing is up to the factory. I was tempted to have my car put back together and then take it somewhere else, but I knew that since it was already taken apart, if I did take it elsewhere I would have to pay for the labor charges at Just Brakes, and then, if what Just Brakes had said was correct, I would still end up having to pay the same price, or possibly even more, for the same work they had already quoted me. As a result, I reluctantly agreed to let them go ahead and do the work.
Not long after Jim's phone call, I left for the day with a friend, and so my wife and her sister picked up the car later that same day. When my friend and I got home that night and looked over the receipt, it was immediately obvious that I had been ripped off. According to my friend, who was a mechanic in the military for years, and who still does all of his and his family's auto repairs, including brake work, most of the work was absolutely unnecessary, and everything was way overpriced. Even more disturbing and unbelievable was the fact that the receipt showed charges for work which had never been mentioned to me and which I had not authorized, and it was this unauthorized work that caused the price to climb from $129.88 to $538.99, and not the "new" rotors, as Jim at had previously claimed. The unauthorized charges included $98.00 for reconditioned Calipers, $49.95 for Disk Hardware, $85.00 for Guide Pins and Dust Boots, and $15.00 for Shop Supplies. Additionally, the receipt showed that only one rotor had been replaced and the other one had only been resurfaced, even though Jim told me earlier on the phone that they both had to be replaced! Unfortunately, by the time I reviewed the receipt, my credit card had already been charged and Just Brakes was closed for the rest of the weekend.
Then, as if to add insult to injury, when I drove the car I noticed that the brake pressure was gradually declining, and then the brake light came on and would not go off. Although the work performed was covered under warranty, at this point I no longer trusted either the integrity or the brake repair capabilities of Just Brakes, and so took my car to a general auto repair company called "Beamer Auto Repair", which had done other good work for me in the past. One of the managers at Beamer Auto Repair, named Steve, said that the Master Cylinder was bad and that Just Brakes either should have seen that it was bad, or it was their work that caused it to go bad. Obviously the Master Cylinder problem was caused by Just Brakes, and to have Beamer Auto Repair fix it cost me an additional $145.00, plus a number of lost hours' wages, totaling another $76.00!
As a result of the frustration from all of this, I complained about my experience to a number of friends and was shocked to learn that two of them had seen a Dateline NBC report on the deceptive practices of Just Brakes in Houston. As a result of now feeling like I had proof that I had been ripped off, I immediately contacted Bank of America to dispute the credit card charge, called "BurrelIe's Transcripts" (1-800-777-8398) and ordered a copy of the Dateline NBC show (which aired May 9, 2000), filed a telephone complaint against Just Brakes with the Houston Better Business Bureau, and began searching the internet for information on Just Brakes. What I found was a trail of evidence indicating that Just Brakes was running a national rip-off operation similar to a classic "Bait and Switch" scam, of which I was obviously not the first victim, and surely will not be the last.
Then, when I received the Dateline NBC transcripts on Just Brakes, I discovered the most upsetting travesty of all, which was the fact that not only had I been ripped off by a deceptive business, but that my victimization had been aided by the Houston Better Business Bureau. As I stated above, the Houston Better Business Bureau's own web site indicated that Just Brakes had no customer complaints filed against it in the last 36 months, however, the Dateline NBC transcript, which aired less than 12 months ago, contains a quote that reads, "At the Houston Better Business Bureau, Deanna Wade says the complaints started rolling in as soon as Just Brakes started running it's ad. Normally, people go in, they want the $99 special. They come out with a higher bill."
After discovering that major contradiction, I did some more research and found that Just Brakes is headquartered in Dallas, and so checked the Dallas Better Business Bureau's web site. Unbelievably, the Dallas Better Business Bureau claims that,
This company is a member of the Better Business Bureau and has agreed to the Bureau's membership standards. These standards encourage truth, honesty & fairness in the marketplace, as well as responsive customer serviceOur file experience shows that this company has a satisfactory record with the Bureau. The company has been responsive to any complaints brought to its attention by the Bureau.
even though the very same Better Business Bureau report later states,
Our file experience shows that this company has been the subject of complaints alleging dissatisfaction with the repairs made by the company and deceptive selling practices. Any complaints brought to its attention have been addressed promptly.
On May 1, 2000 the Dallas Better Business Bureau met with the company regarding the pattern of complaints alleging deceptive selling practices. The company's radio advertisement offers a special to replace disc pads and brake shoes, resurface
rotors and drums, pack bearings, adjust and bleed the brake system, and inspect the balance of the brake system for four wheels at a price of $99.88. Complaints allege when the special offer is accepted, the customer is charged for additional services and parts not needed or requested.
So which is it!? Does the Dallas Better Business Bureau's "File
Experience" show that Just Brakes is a rip-off company or not!? If not, then why would they be engaged in the deceptive trade practices identified in the Dallas Better Business Bureau report? If so, then why would the Dallas Better Business Bureau claim that Just Brakes has a satisfactory record with the Bureau!? Does this contradictory statement not wreak with
the blatant stench of fraud!? Of course it does, and after looking at both the Houston and Dallas Better Business Bureau web sties, it is very obvious what is going on.
Without looking too hard, you'll see that the Better Business Bureau is performing a balancing act designed to serve only its members and itself. In order to prevent losing Just Brakes as a good paying member, and also to protect itself from fraud litigation for failing to report the truth about Just Brakes, the Better Business Bureau report provides only the absolute minimum amount of information regarding the deceptive practices of Just Brakes, and does so in a very clever way.
The Houston and Dallas Better Business Bureau reports are both clearly designed to prevent readers from developing a negative opinion about Just Brakes. A reader who is checking up on Just Brakes, before doing business with them, is likely to go ahead after reading the statement which indicates that the company has had no customer complaints. Unfortunately I fell for this trick. Also as a result of this false and misleading statement, a victim of Just Brakes' deceptive trade practices is likely to feel as if they lack enough supporting evidence to pursue their case in a court of law.
Finally, since the Better Business Bureau reports give no indication as to how many other victims may exist, this may leave a victim feeling as though their experience with Just Brakes was an exception, when in fact it is very much the rule. In fact, I've learned that the Better Business Bureau company reports will indicate that there are no complaints against a
company as long as the company is "responsive" to the complaint, even though being "responsive" does not necessarily mean that any of the complaints have to be addressed to the satisfaction of the victimized consumers.
As a result, my complaint is also against the Houston and Dallas Better Business Bureaus which are clearly operating under a fraudulent pretense, and which are both as deceptive and corrupt as the member companies they are clearly engaged in protecting, in effect aiding and abetting the unscrupulous businesses that plunder the finances of trusting consumers. I would suspect that this applies to most if not all of the nation's Better Business Bureaus, and if so, the Better Business Bureau organization as a whole is nothing but a disgusting stain on the capitalistic fabric of American society.
Finally, the only thing I find more revolting than having my money stolen by corrupt businesses which are aided by corrupt organizations disguised with the mask of "consumer advocacy", is having to also pay protection money to a Mafia-like government whose impotent fighters of consumer fraud (The Offices of the States' Attorney's General, etc,) continue to allow us to get screwed on a regular basis.
WERE YOU MISINFORMED BY THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU
Anyone interested in forming a class action lawsuit against both Just Brakes and The Houston and Dallas Better Business Bureaus OR any other BBB office of the Better Business Bureau, Please contact us at: BBBLawsuit@badbusinessbureau.com