One of our adult children (I won’t say which one) needed some very expensive auto repairs performed. We try not to step in and help if they want to take care of something themselves but we are always here to offer advice. In order to save money, they hired a co-worker, who I will call Dimwit Don. Dimwit said he ran a small auto repair shop out of his home garage on the side. After being paid in cash up front, Dimwit then kept the car for four months, after originally quoting “2-3 weeks” for the repairs to be done. During that time, the entire family was shuffling while sharing our two remaining vehicles. With so many drivers in the family now, you can imagine how much of a pain that became after just the first few days. After two months, it was ridiculous. After four months, and one excuse after another, Dimwit was fired from his regular job (for other reasons)…meaning our adult child no longer had daily contact with this individual. That was more than worrisome for us…especially since that’s when Dimwit stopped returning phone calls.
I was finally able to convince our adult child they’d been scammed. I then said, “I can get your car back in 48 hours. I promise.” They finally agreed to let me step in to help. I told them the first thing they need to do is to leave a message on Dimwit’s phone on Friday night. Tell him “the parents” (us, of course) were going to call the police on Monday morning to report the car stolen by Dimwit. They were then to also tell Dimwit they would drop by his house at 3:00 the next afternoon to “have a talk.” Operation Auto Rescue had begun.
Of course, we had no intention of coming by at 3:00. We went after dark. That way, Dimwit had the entire day to worry about the confrontation…and a few extra hours to wonder why his victim had not arrived after all. Also, after dark the house is lit up so you can tell if anyone is really home or not.
We arrived with back-up (other family members) and Dimwit’s wife answered the door. She looked like she was going to say he wasn’t there but, when she realized how many of us were there, she turned and called for him. She then left us standing in the cold. It was 16 degrees outside.
After about five minutes, Dimwit finally came to the door and stepped outside. He said, “Let me show you what I did today.” I had already hit the record button on my iphone recording application.
We followed him into his garage and, probably due to the threat about contacting the police, he’d finally managed to paint two items that he’d promised to paint weeks before. He also said he only had a couple of things left to install and that the car would be ready by noon the next day. Wow! After four months, a simple phone call threat made him get this far on the repairs?! I also got him to admit out loud that he’d been paid all but the final $300 (the original fee was $3K) up front, in cash. He confirmed more than once that the balance due was only $300 and that we could pay him $300 cash the next day, and pick up the car.
I confirmed we would be by at noon the next day (Sunday) with $300 cash. It sure would have been nice if that had been the end of it…
The next morning, Ditwit called to say the car wouldn’t be ready until sometime between 2:00 and 3:00. Hmmm… He said the paint was still tacky. Okay, I accepted that. We left at 2:15 to get the cash and headed for his house. At 2:40, when we were 5 minutes away, he called to say it wasn’t ready yet. We informed him we were five minutes away and that we were coming over. He said he was out but that he’d be there in 10 minutes.
We pulled into the driveway and there was an older guy standing on the back step, talking on a cell phone. He obviously didn’t think we could hear him through our van doors…but we could. He said, “But he pulled up just now! He’s here!! What do you want me to do?!?!”
He then stepped inside the house and I quietly said, “This is NOT looking good.” He was apparently the partner of Ditwit – somebody the victim had never even met before, nor talked to on the phone. I’ll call this guy Shakedown Shane.
Shakedown came back outside, all smiles, and invited us into the garage. I once again pressed the record button on my iPhone recorder application. He explained what still needed to be done. I told him we would wait. He got noticeably agitated and said, “It’ll be another three or four hours.” Interestingly, later, when he was wailing on and on, he said it would be another two to three weeks.
Anyway, I replied, “Then we will pay our $300 cash, take the parts we have already paid for, and have the car towed away right now.”
He raised his voice and stammered, “Ain’t nobody takin’ this car anywheres until I gets my thousand dollars!”
I said, “We pre-paid your partner everything that was quoted. He said the balance due is only $300 and that we could have the car today.”
He yelled, “You paid him his part but you ain’t paid me mine yet! Ain’t nobody takin’ this car until I gets my thousand dollars!”
Obviously, and not surprisingly, we’d found ourselves right in the middle of a shakedown. I actually expected it when I saw the old guy standing on the back step, getting so nervous. I said we’d wait until Ditwit showed up to settle this. And, Ditwit showed up right then. I was hoping to be able to pit them against each other to our advantage. I knew Ditwit was nervous about us calling the police…but he’d apparently failed to shared that phone message with Shakedown. Or, maybe Ditwit never paid Shakedown what HE owed him and was hoping we hadn’t told Shakedown we’d already paid everything but $300 up front.
I explained to Ditwit that his partner was trying to get another thousand out of us. He started giving me a line of excuses, like that the “estimate” was just a “rough estimate”, how he’d lost “so much money” on this job, etc., etc. He then told us Shakedown rents the garage from him and that he could indeed keep the car on his property if he wanted. I knew we could eventually get the car back for nothing because we had no deal with Shakedown at all…but that might take days or weeks to resolve with the police, etc. I wanted to avoid that so I remained calm. I just kept repeating that I wanted to pay the $300 cash right now and take the car off their hands “today.” I talked only to Ditwit, not to Shakedown, who continued to rant. I ignored Shakedown, even turning my back to him, and refusing to look at him. I had effectively removed him from the negotiation. Shakedown kept trying to argue, even with other family members, but he realized he’d become invisible to all of us and he finally shut up.
I ignored the garbage spewing forth from Ditwit’s mouth, and kept repeating that I wanted to pay him $300 and take the car “right now”. I’m sure I sounded like a broken record but it worked. He finally figured out that I wasn’t going to fall for their shakedown scam. He probably also remembered that I intended to call the police the next day. That’s when he started arguing with Shakedown, telling him to just take the $300 and to let us take the car.
Shakedown argued back at first but finally lost it, yelling, “Get it out of here! Now! Get it out! Get it out!!” He was seriously disturbed. We remained calm and continued to ignore him.
The car was missing a part that keeps it from overheating but it could be driven a short distance. I leaned over and whispered to a family member, “Just get it OFF this property as fast as you can!”
While the keys were grabbed and the car was started, I pulled out a receipt I’d printed up, which said the $3K in repairs has been paid “in full”, along with the mechanic’s name, etc. Ditwit looked surprised but he did sign and date it. I counted out the $300 to him (not to Shakedown, of course) and then I walked to our van. Using my iPhone, I videotaped both Ditwit and Shakedown guiding the car (with our family member driving) out of the garage and through the ice…so they could never say it we stole it when they weren’t watching.
We drove the car across the street to the grocery store, and had it towed to the house. It’s now at a reputable garage (someone we’ve used many times before) and it’ll be done in just a few days.
We found out later that Shakedown is on full disability…yet he is healthy enough to work as a mechanic for cash only? You can bet we’ve already reported him. Those guys won’t be scamming any other unsuspecting young people anytime soon!
UPDATE: We got a preliminary report from the new mechanic today. Just from the initial examination, he had already filled a 8.5″ x 11″ page of paper listing all the parts needed to repair the car correctly. Turns out Dimwit Don and Shakedown Shane were taking whatever good parts they did buy and attaching them to slightly bent and damaged parts still in the car. The result makes the car not only potentially unsafe to drive, but damages or destroys the good parts, too – pushing and pulling those parts in ways they shouldn’t be moved. For example, one part has bolt holes that had turned from circles into ovals just from the engine running for a few minutes. It will likely be at least another $3000 to fix it correctly – which is as much as our adult child paid Dimwit to “fix” the car in the first place. We are very thankful that we were able to intervene. These “repairs”, had they ever been finished, may have caused an accident someday that might have hurt our killed our child or another driver.
I have a Masonism for you this week!
Mason woke up the other morning and started rubbing his eyes against the sunlight coming through the window. He still hadn’t opened them a few minutes later so I asked him what was wrong. He said, “The outside is in my eyes!”
Hugs to all!
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