My girlfriend owns a small Gift Shop on the outskirts of Preston, I have been helping her with her website recently and it’s given me an insight into customers in general other than just the people buying cars that I have dealt with over the last 40 years, My verdict is that all customers are largely the same no matter what they’re buying.

I thought used car customers had become more demanding since the advent of the consumer programs, they expect an unbelievable amount of service but they don’t want to pay for it, I am convinced that in some cases they have no intention of keeping the product, they just want to use it for a while and then return it for a full refund, I stopped thinking that a deposit was to secure a vehicle a long time ago, and am now of the opinion that it’s an interest-free loan from the customer until such times as they demand it back.

I was there when a lady bought a bracelet from the gift shop mid-December she had use of it all over Christmas and the  New Year then she brought it back and asked for her money back, there was nothing wrong with the bracelet, it wasn’t faulty in any way but after 3 weeks she had decided that she didn’t like it, My Girlfriend gave her a full refund but I would have seen her in hell first.

Another customer had returned a Gents Toiletries bag because the zip was broken, apparently it had broken when her young lad was “looking at it” when I examined it I found that the zipper had been ripped off, and even the brass retaining tags were missing and the braid was torn off the leather, it looked like someone had tried to force a Bowling Ball into it, I concluded that either she thought my girlfriend should give her a refund or a new item because her son was an idiot, or she had damaged it on purpose so she had an excuse to return it

Both incidents may have been completely innocent (Not)  but after all my years in the Motor Trade I have seen everything, the most laughable incident was when a customer demanded his money back on a car because the head gasket had gone, I had offered to repair it straight away, but he was adamant he wanted a refund.

When the head gasket goes it allows water to seep into the oil and vice versa, when water and oil mix the combination emulsifies and makes what is often referred to as Mayonnaise, again the consumer programs tell you when you’re looking to buy a car you should  remove the oil filler cap and if there are any traces of “Mayonnaise” you should walk away (what a load of B#####, if that was the case virtually every car would need a new head gasket)

When the customer brought the car back, I asked him what made him think that the Head Gasket had gone, I expected him to say that he had discovered Mayonnaise on the bottom of the filler cap, and I would have to explain about “Short runs, condensation, detergent-based oils, and annoying presenters on consumer programs that know sweet F A about cars, he told me there was Oil in the Radiator Expansion Tank, this would be a lot more difficult to explain so I went and examined the car, there was no trace of Oil in the water, or water in the oil, there was no trace of “Mayonnaise” around the filler cap, I carried out a gas test which proved that there were no exhaust gases leaking into the coolant, I was 100 percent satisfied that the Head Gasket wasn’t leaking but he still wanted his money back, so I asked him to show me where he’d seen the oil and he showed me.

He was right there was oil in his water, it was fresh clean oil which had come straight out of a can and had never seen the inside of an engine, but the bottle he pointed to wasn’t the radiator expansion tank, it was the windscreen washer bottle, there were 2 possible explanations for this, either the Experienced Mechanics had filled the washer bottle up with oil when it had its pre-delivery inspection and service and  in the 6 weeks that he’d had the car he’d never had occasion to use his washers and squirt “Mayonnaise” all over his windscreen (possible but unlikely) or he knew enough about cars to fake a Cylinder Head Gasket Failure by putting the oil in hoping to get a refund but he’d put it into the wrong container if he had spiked the radiator with used engine oil I would probably not have examined the car and replaced the Head Gasket at a cost of about £450.

If the Jury is still out on how the oil got into the washer bottle, I would like to add that he had also phoned me a couple of weeks prior to tell me that he wanted to sell the car because he had bought it without his Wife’s consent, she didn’t like it and had refused to drive it, word of warning to any “New” Salesmen it’s a bad sign if a guy is looking at a car, and his Wife walks off with her arms crossed, mumbling to herself, or if the last thing he says as he leaves the office is  “I’ll go and see the Boss (Wife) or “I’ll work on her tonight and see if I can talk her round” you will never see him again unless he gets divorced, the Sad truth is Guys don’t wear the pants, as much as they’d like to think they do.

If you’re an honorable person, you can’t believe that anyone would stoop so low and you think my story is a little farfetched  let me tell you about a friend of mine who has an  Automotive Warranty Company, I have touched on the subject of buyer’s remorse before and customers are a lot more informed and devious these days, a lot of Dealers have started to get  specialised companies to underwrite their warranties when you sell the car you give the customer a booklet with a list of conditions, what’s covered, and what’s excluded.

The policy is registered usually via the Internet to commence immediate cover, the dealer has complied with all the customer’s rights and legalities, it provides peace of mind for the customer and also to the dealer as he knows that the deal is finished and that he won’t be hit for any possible expensive repairs that will eat into his profits, with the high cost of parts these days it is possible for a deal to go from making a small amount to making a big loss with the failure of 1 ECU (Electronic Control Unit) an ECU should last the lifetime of a car but they just don’t! Even simple things like to replace 1 diesel injector on a VW Passat costs £500 and the car has 4, In the old days when an injector failed the car would keep running on 3 cylinders, today for some unknown reason the cars ECU shuts the car down, this makes it almost impossible to diagnose the fault or even which injector it is if you managed to guess it, and the Dealer is also left facing a charge to recover the vehicle back to his garage.

A customer had bought quite a high powered BMW and after running it for a few weeks he had decided that he no longer wanted it, I don’t know his reasons, perhaps his Wife may not have liked the car, he may not have liked the bumpy ride or the fact that it would pass anything on the road except for a fuel station, but there was nothing wrong with it, he rang the dealer (which wasn’t me) and asked for his money back, without a valid reason the dealer refused, mysteriously a couple of days later the car’s engine seized up, this was a catastrophic failure in more ways than one, the car had been sold for £7000 the cost to repair the engine would be in excess of  £4000, the dealer would have been up Shit Creek without a paddle except for the fact that he had put and “Unlimited Warranty” on the vehicle, effectively he’d just procured a paddle from my mates Warranty Company.

When I operated this type of warranty system I found it was a waste of my money, my customers never made 1 claim in a 12 month period, my cars were prepared to a very high standard before they went out and I am proud of this, however, I know many dealers  send cars out knowing they have faults and then claim from the warranty company, this amounts to fraud it’s hard to prove but it is rife in the motor trade, the warranty companies got wise very quickly and they started to employ expert “Forensic Mechanics” to examine failed parts, and check that the story given by the customer and the dealer is consistent.

Due to the suspicious timing of the BMW ‘s catastrophic failure and the price of the repair, my friend suspected that the Car Dealer had sold the car knowing that there was a fault  and he despatched his “Forensic Mechanic Troubleshooter” to examine it and hopefully save him some money, what he found was a shock to everyone and should be a warning to anyone in the Motor Trade

The big end bearings had gone on the car they had got so hot that they had melted to the crankshaft and the engine had ground to a halt, the “Little Ends” which allow the Pistons to move on the Con Rods had also seized, the same had happened to the Camshaft,  there was no oil in the hydraulic valve lifters or the oil channels or in any of the parts that relied on lubrication in order to function, this type of failure would normally be attributed to lack of oil pressure, and would also only happen to a Deaf and Blind driver who had no sense of smell,  long before the engine seized there would be an array of warning lights on the dashboard, the engine would be “knocking” and the smell of burning oil and hot metal would permeate through the air vents and into the passenger compartment.

The engineer was left scratching his head until he stripped Oil Pump down and the pieces of the jigsaw fell into place, he found the pump was still working, the Oil was the correct specification and there was enough in.

The Forensic engineer came to the conclusion that there had been NO oil in the engine at the time of failure. To try and obtain a full refund from the Car Dealer the customer had drained all the oil from the engine, run it till it seized solid, then to cover his tracks he had poured the existing oil back into the engine, the customers nearly foolproof plan which could have cost the Warranty company or the dealer £4000 had backfired, literally!