Part switch­ing dur­ing ser­vices: is it a re­al­ity?

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

SO the sce­nario goes like this: “I took my car in for a ser­vice. I had just put a new bat­tery in. When I col­lected my car af­ter the ser­vice, my bat­tery lasted a few days and then stopped work­ing. I’m con­vinced my new bat­tery was switched for an older bat­tery dur­ing the ser­vice. But I have no proof.”

Les McMaster, chair­per­son of the Mo­tor In­dus­try Work­shop As­so­ci­a­tion (MIWA), says this com­plaint crops up from time to time and for the large part is a per­cep­tion. “Re­peat business is es­sen­tial for re­pair work­shops so break­ing a cus­tomer’s trust through switch­ing parts doesn’t make good business sense, be­sides the fact that it is a crim­i­nal act.

“Hav­ing said that, there have been in­stances where work­ers have stolen or ex­changed parts in the work­shop with­out the owner or man­age­ment’s knowl­edge. This is pun­ish­able with sum­mary dis­missal and charges of theft.”

Look­ing at the bat­tery switch ex­am­ple, McMaster says that cus­tomers need to un­der­stand that there may be times when a ve­hi­cle has been in the work­shop for a while and the lights or other power con­sum­ables have been left on. In such cases, the bat­tery can dis­charge. “This, on an old bat­tery, causes the re­gen­er­a­tion of the charge state to fail and the bat­tery has to be re­placed. The work­shop will then con­tact the cus­tomer to re­place the bat­tery.”

So how do car own­ers guard against this threat? Should they be mark­ing items that could be stolen in their ve­hi­cles? McMaster says do­ing this se­cretly af­fects the trust be­tween the cus­tomer and the business and could tar­nish the re­la­tion­ship.

He sug­gests that when book­ing the ve­hi­cle into a work­shop for a ser­vice or re­pairs, have it men­tioned on the job card and book­ing-in sheet that the bat­tery, tools, jack and spare wheel are marked for your and the work­shop’s ben­e­fit. “Be­ing up­front about it does no harm,” he said.

He adds that it is also es­sen­tial to re­move all valu­ables and loose items from the ve­hi­cle such as cell­phone car charg­ers and the like. “We’ve found, on many oc­ca­sions, valu­ables in cars and I’m talk­ing about Rolex watches, large sums of money in plas­tic bags, rings and so on. Re­move the temp­ta­tion,” he said.

The best way, how­ever, to guard against part switch­ing is to use a rep­utable and ac­cred­ited work­shop. “Us­ing an ac­cred­ited work­shop means, firstly, that checks and bal­ances are in place to en­sure that a level of cus­tomer ser­vice is ad­hered to. Se­condly, it means that the work­shop can and will be held ac­count­able by the ac­cred­it­ing body. MIWA, for ex­am­ple, has an ethics com­mit­tee that deals with work­shops that are sus­pected of fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­ity. Cus­tomers have a go-to chan­nel with com­plaints and can be as­sured of a res­o­lu­tion.” If you find your­self in a sit­u­a­tion where you feel a part has been switched with­out your con­sent, McMaster says it’s im­por­tant to speak up im­me­di­ately so that the work­shop owner knows and un­der­stands your con­cerns.

“In many in­stances, the is­sue can be re­solved through a frank dis­cus­sion. If found to be sub­stan­ti­ated, lay a crim­i­nal charge or in­sist that the owner does.” — Sup­plied.

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