Meineke Ripoff Warranty
Here is my story, sad but true.
My mechanic, while underneath my van, noticed I was in need of a muffler. Being an honest mechanic (yes, he really is) he told me he could simply replace the muffler, as the exhaust pipe (the pipe immediately after the catalytic converter and before the muffler) and the tail pipe (the pipe that comes out of the muffler) were still useable. I thanked him for being honest with me but told him I had a warranty with a Meineke Car Care Center. I would simply have it replaced at Meineke for the cost of labor and the three clamps necessary for the job. So, off to Meineke I went.
I walked into the Meineke Car Care Center with my 2 previous receipts (including warranties) from the mufflers they had installed in the past. A little history about my vehicle is important here. I bought my 1994 Chevy Astro van in September of 1993. It wasn't until March 30, 1998 that I needed the first muffler replaced. That's 4 1/2 years. At that time the Meineke Car Care Center said I needed everything from the catalytic converter back. That includes the muffler and the tail pipe. No problem, right? Meineke is a reputable business and I trusted them. So I told them to do the job, to the tune of $230 in 1998 dollars.
Fast forward to September 11. 2000. My van needs a muffler again. That's 2 years and 6 months after the very same Meineke Car Care Center did the first replacement. With my first receipt and warranty to protect me (laughable) the very same Meineke Car Care Center said I needed everything from the catalytic converter back. That includes the muffler and the tail pipe. The muffler is covered by the warranty but not the pipes and clamps. No problem, right? Meineke is a reputable business and I trusted them. So I told them to do the job, to the tune of $165.57.
Now, around this time my wife and I got another car so the van saw much less use. The kids had grown and the van took a back seat to the family car. Pun intended.
So, it wasn't until this May, 2004, that my mechanic noticed I needed a new muffler. He noticed that the muffler wasn't rotted from the outside but that it had ballooned, or had been over-inflated/exploded from the inside. This seemed strange to him at the time but the reason became apparent afterwards. Again, he said the pipes were all in fine condition for continued use. Only the muffler had to be replaced. So, off to the same Meineke Car Care Center for the 3rd time since March 30, 1998. That's 3 times in 6 years. That's a pretty faithful customer by any standards and a pretty abysmal record of reliability for Meineke.
Lets play a little game here, ok? What do you suppose the Meineke Car Care Center told me when I brought my van to them for the 3rd muffler replacement? You guessed it. You need everything from the catalytic converter back! This, even after I told them the pipes were fine and that my mechanic told me so. This absolutely reeks of a rip-off. I was an unsuspecting victim the previous 2 times I used the Meineke Car Care Center service, but not this time. I took my van and left to go home to contact the Meineke Corporate offices. Surely, they would want to know about this ongoing scam being perpetrated by one of their franchises, or so I thought.
Let's review the Meineke warranty, specifically, this statement:
When warranty service is requested, this warranty shall not be valid if the customer does not permit Meineke to install all necessary parts and/or perform all necessary services needed to restore the vehicle to safe operation or that would allow the warranted part to operate in the manner it was intended.
What does this mean? Well, I'll tell you. It means that Meineke has you by the short hairs. Meineke simply has to say you need the exhaust pipe and/or tail pipe to release them from honoring the warranty. If you simply want the muffler replaced, as in my case, then you have to pay for it because of that clause in the warranty, even if you DON'T need them replaced, as in my case. This warranty protects every Meineke Car Care Center. This warranty does NOT protect the faithful customer, or any other customer.
Ok, back to contacting Meineke Corporation. Like any other Customer Service Department, you first get connected to the lowest level representative. In this case, this person's name was A.J. After telling my story to A.J. I asked to speak to the supervisor. Of course, the supervisor was in a meeting. Her name was Janet Laver, and to her credit, she did call me back. That was the extent of her trying to satisfy me and make right this wrong.
Janet Laver, when not working on the wording of the next warranty to rip off Meineke customers, told me she could not order any Meineke Car Care Center to replace just my muffler. This is an outright lie. Anyone that knows anything about corporate doings knows this is untrue. She referred to the warranty many times, the warranty that protects Meineke, not the customer. I explained to her that my mechanic told me I didn't need anything but the muffler replaced. She told me Meineke does not accept my certified mechanic's expert opinion. In fact, Meineke will NOT accept any certified mechanic's opinion. There is not a mechanic in the world that can make the critical judgments that only a Meineke Car Care Center worker can. Huh? You heard that right. When you stop laughing, I will continue. This gets even better.
Janet's final, ridiculous solution to my problem was to choose another Meineke Car Care Center to bring my van to for a second expert, Meineke evaluation. Are you getting this? I am NOT kidding you. Call them for yourselves and try to get some satisfaction. You won't feel appreciated when do.
Ok, so, rather than be subjected to some more humiliation and scam artists, I returned to my mechanic to have the muffler replaced, honestly. He took me under the van and pointed out some rather interesting and disturbing things about the last Meineke Car Care Center installation done to my van. My 1994 Chevy Astro van specifications call for a 3 exhaust from the catalytic converter to the muffler. The intake of the muffler specs at 3 diameter as well. Well, Meineke decided they would change the specifications without my knowledge. My mechanic explained how they took a 2 1/2 inch exhaust pipe and stretched one end more than a 1/2 inch to accommodate the connection at the catalytic converter end. From square 1 they are weakening the piping through the stress of widening the pipe. This also left a 2 1/2 inch end to connect to a 3 intake at the muffler, specified by Chevy for my van. Lets play that guessing game again. What do you suppose Meineke did at this point? No, they didn't stretch the other end of the pipe to connect the correct 3 intake muffler required by my van. What did they do, you ask? They installed a smaller, less expensive, incorrectly specified, small car muffler on my van. My mechanic held up the new, correct muffler and pipes next to the incorrect, inferior parts that Meineke had installed so I could see just what Meineke had done.
Now, you're thinking, You said you didn't need the pipes! right? Well, I didn't, if Meineke didn't put the incorrect muffler and pipes on in the first place. Can you blame me for wanting the correct exhaust system on my van? The system specified by Chevy. Forgive me if I don't think a Meineke Car Care Center muffler installer knows more about my van than the company that manufactured it.
So, my mechanic smiles and says he now knows why my muffler looked ballooned, over-inflated/exploded from the inside. The process of stretching the smaller incorrect sized pipe by Meineke is to blame. When you use a smaller diameter pipe you increase the pressure in the pipe and the pressure in the muffler. Stretching the pipe also stresses it. Does the term metal fatigue ring any bells? Compound that with the fact that they installed an ordinary, small car muffler instead of the heavier duty van/truck muffler. The lower end small car muffler simply cannot tolerate the increased pressure.
Finally, Meineke Car Care Centers and Meineke Corporation want your business, they want your money but they don't want to honor their warranty. The release clause is evidence of that. Should you use their service, they will put inferior, stretched, stressed pipes on your vehicle as well as an inferior, incorrect muffler. The entire system will not be up to your vehicle manufacturers specifications, if they treat you as they treated me after coming back to them 3 times. And what about any long-term effects to the van from having the wrong exhaust system for years? The increased backpressure from the use of reduced diameter pipes and muffler surely isn't in the specifications from Chevy. And if you think you're owed some consideration because you are a faithful customer you had better look elsewhere than Meineke Corporation. You won't be getting any satisfaction there.
But hey, you'll get a lifetime warranty!
Staten Island, New York