One of the oldest tricks used to sell people things is to offer them something for “free.” And one of the best examples of this bait-and-switch is the “free” 32 Point (or however many points) Inspection that you’ve probably seen offered by places that fix cars. It’s a tool used to fix you, of course.
Actually, that’s not entirely fair. All of us are potential suckers when it comes to things we don’t know much about. Your Libertarian Car Guy, for instance, knows cars but knows next-to-nothing about computers. So, he is vulnerable to being sold a bag of bull by a computer fixer.
Similarly as regards those who don’t know much about cars, especially as regards their workings. Such people can be told all kinds of bull about their cars – and it can sound believable as well as alarming.
Show the sucker a dirty engine and tell him those leaky gaskets ought to be replaced – at $300 a pop. Imply that if they aren’t replaced, something really bad might happen. Do not tell the sucker that, as a car is driven, the engine will inevitably get dirty and minor oil seepage around valve/cam cover gaskets is inevitable, normal and harmless. Never explain the difference between nothing-to-worry-about seepage – and a genuinely serious pressurized leak.
Bring forth a checklist of items the dealership recommends be serviced every so many miles and convey the importance of having every item serviced right away. You wouldn’t want to drive around in an unsafe car, would you?
The worst case scenario is agreeing to the automotive equivalent of exploratory surgery when all you thought you were going in for was a routine check-up. Once the car’s transmission is on the garage floor instead of in the car, it is hard to drive the car away for a second opinion.
But you have to lure ’em to scare ’em.
Enter the “free” however-many-point inspection. It is often offered along with what seems to be a really good deal on an oil change or tire rotation. And it often is – for the place making the offer. The psychology of the thing is well-known. People love to think they are getting something for nothing – hence the popularity of “buy one, get one (here it comes) free.”
In fact, you’re usually paying for both in the higher cost of one.
When it comes to “free” (or unusually low-cost) oil changes what you’re actually getting is probably lowest-common-denominator “bulk” oil and the cheapest, lowest-quality filter the shop can buy. If you want to gauge how much a proper oil and filter change ought to cost, go price a quart of the brand and type of oil recommended by your car’s manufacturer and times that by the number of quarts your engine takes; then price the cost of a high-quality filter such as those made by Wix and Mobil1. Add it all up and reduce that by 10 percent to reflect the wholesale cost a shop pays – and then add back that ten percent to cover the shop’s labor cost to do the oil change and you will have an idea what a proper oil and filter change ought to cost.
If the shop is using name-brand oil and a quality filter but advertising they’ll only charge you $20 for it, anticipate the “free” inspection as part of the deal. Expect that you will be presented with a list of things that need doing – in order to make back the loss on the $20 oil and filter change.
Now, it is entirely possible that there is something that needs to be done. It might be something that could affect the safety of the vehicle. Not all shops are run by crooks – whether they fix cars or computers.
But if you don’t know what they’re talking about, it is easy to get talked into something.
There are two ways to prevent that from happening.
The first way is to know more about what you’ve got, even if just conversationally. If you sound informed when you bring your car – or your computer – in for work, it’s less likely you’ll be paying for work you don’t really need.
The second way is to not take whatever you’re told as gospel, especially if it comes “out of the blue” – i.e., you car (or computer) was working fine when you brought it in for some minor thing and they tell you it needs a major thing. Thank them for letting you know – and get a second opinion. If that opinion confirms the first, the first was probably legit.
If not, you might want to think twice before authorizing the repairs your car – or computer – may not need.
Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in! Or email me at EPeters952@yahoo.com if the @!** “ask Eric” button doesn’t work!
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