Short version: Based on a questionable recommendation, I took a vehicle to Tri-City Transmission in Tempe, AZ for transmission work. Dave, the owner, quoted me $78 over the phone for his “Diagnostic Service.” (Per his website.) But when I got there, Dave said that mine wasn’t a typical case and switched the quote to $300. (I leaned later that mine WAS a typical case.) Another red flag: Dave would not tell me the worst case cost if the transmission had to be rebuilt. | I should have turned around and left. But since I was a little desperate to get the transmission fixed, I reluctantly allowed Dave to change the price and I left the vehicle with him to perform a “diagnostic.” | As soon as I got back from Dave’s shop, before Tri-City Transmission started doing any work (it would take them two days to get around to it) I did some research on the web. It wasn’t good. I came back the next morning to rescue the vehicle and cancel the work order. Dave seemed very angry. | I took the vehicle to a nearby transmission exchange service instead. They did a Scan-Code diagnostic and a test drive for free – while I waited. I even went along during the ride. It was simple to diagnose. The transmission was bad. They put in a rebuilt transmission for $1800 – in one day! | This should be the end of the story. But after my episode with Dave, someone started profusely spamming the email address I had given Dave. | ========================== | Long version: I help an elderly lady. (And am writing this on my own, without her knowledge or consent.) The “Service Engine” light had come on in her vehicle and it felt like a mule kicked when the transmission shifted. (I later leaned that the mule kick is normal for this vehicle when certain Scan Codes get set. (The ECU increases line pressure to the tranny.) Clearing the codes restores the pressure and the transmission will shift normally.) My first call was to Curt’s Auto Repair in Phoenix. | See, prior to this, I had taken the lady’s vehicle to Curt’s for unrelated work. While there, I saw some signage about transmission repair. So I thought they repaired transmissions too. They seemed to have done a good job on the previous work, so I trusted them. Curt’s had also recently won the BBB’s Ethics Award. So I felt even better about calling. But now I’m wondering if there’s a quid pro quo going on here between Dave’s Tri-City Transmission? | It turns out that Curt’s Auto Repair doesn’t work on transmissions. Curt merely “advertises” for Dave, the owner of Tri-City Transmission. (“Advertises” in quotes because I recall hearing the word “free” advertising.) So the helpful employee at Curt’s recommended Tri-City Transmission. And since the only service that Curt’s would do is drop the transmission and send it to Tri-City, we agreed it would be best (cheaper) just to take the vehicle to Tri-City directly. | I was told later by someone reputable in the industry that Dave is on the local BBB Auto Advisory Board. I didn’t check that for myself, and I don’t know if the BBB requires voting members of the board to recuse themselves when voting for shops that advertise for them. But if Dave is on the Board, and if the BBB doesn’t require recusal, then, to me, on its face, the advertising by Curt for Dave appears unseemly. Especially since Curt’s Auto Repair won a First Place award from the BBB this year. Is there a “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” thing going on here? | I didn’t know about their relationship at the time, so based solely on the recommendation from Curt’s, I called Tri-City Transmission and spoke with the owner, Dave. I explained in great detail how I had been trying to solve an idle problem by replacing parts, and that the Service Engine light came on after one of my attempted repairs. And how the transmission started “mule kicking” with that. | As I learned later, it’s not unusual for a Service Light to negatively affect a transmission on this vehicle. A good transmission shop would know that. Nevertheless, Dave told me it would cost $78 for a diagnostic, to see what was wrong. Okay, that sounded reasonable. “Time is money,” right? Although later I learned that other transmissions shops diagnose for free. | Based on Carl’s recommendation, I didn’t do any research on the web ahead of time about Tri-City since Curt’s Auto Repair recommended them. That was a mistake on my part. I gave Dave my email address so that he could send some preliminary information. | The lady and I drove two vehicles to Tri-City Transmissions. When we got there, Dave was on the phone. So I did the initial paperwork with someone at the counter named Tom. As per my earlier phone call, Tom correctly wrote down that the Diagnostic would be $78. (And that they would call me the next day before 5 pm with results.) In the meantime, Dave had gotten off the phone and had been listening to me describe to Tom the same story about my troubleshooting an idle problem that I had told Dave the day before. But now Dave said that there was a lot of “drama” with this case, that it wasn’t the typical run of the mill transmission problem. And that he would have to charge $300 for the Diagnostic! Red Flag #2. (There was a Red Flag #1 when I first spoke with Dave on the phone, but I’m not going to tell him what it was here.) | My gut reaction was “Bait ‘n’ Switch.” I mean, the story I gave Tom was the same story I told Dave the day before. Why more money? | But it had taken almost an hour for us to drive there, we were worried that the transmission could quit at any time, and so I agreed to the change in price. (By the way, I never got any copies of this. Red Flag #3.) Dave said that the cost of the diagnostic would NOT count toward the cost of repair. When I asked him how much it would cost if the transmission had to be rebuilt, he deflected by saying “Let’s not go there with self-fulfilling prophecies.” Red Flag #4. | When I got back home from this encounter, I was angry at myself for giving in for what I perceived to be a Bait ‘n’ Switch. So I did what I should have done before I took the vehicle to Tri-City Transmission. I searched the web for ethics complaints. | I started by searching the BBB’s website. I was relieved to find that Tri-City Transmission did not have any complaints. But then, I hadn’t yet been told that the owner, Dave, was on its board. | I did a little more searching. To my horror, I found that a local, well-respected auto mechanic radio personality had removed Tri-City Transmission from his list of recommended shops. (Do a web search for these words in brackets [Tri-City “this shop has been removed”] WITH the quotes.) And I contacted the auto mechanic to see if he was still getting complaints about Tri-City. (Yes.) | I finally did what I should have done before. I called another trusted mechanic of mine and called the shop he uses. It turned out that his transmission exchange shop would check Scan Codes and do a test drive for free. If they needed to drop the pan to check further, it would cost 2x their shop rate, or about $180. That was better than Tri-City’s $300. | So early the next morning the elderly lady and I drove back to Tri-City Transmission. The vehicle was exactly where I had left it the day before. It hadn’t been touched. I drove it out of the holding space. I went in and told Dave I was cancelling the work order. I gave him some cash for his time. | It seemed to me he was really angry, although somewhat controlled. He hinted that we were “greedy” because we didn’t want to pay $300 for his Diagnostic. (Remember, I had just given him some cash for not doing anything.) | There’s an interesting psychological phenomenon called “Projecting,” where a person accuses another of bad behavior that only the first would think of. (Like when a Republican wins a close election, Democrats accuse him of cheating.) So who’s really greedy here? | Dave even bad mouthed the well-known radio personality with gossip and innuendo. (Later I asked the guy about the accusations. He explained them all to my satisfaction. (As untrue.)) | I asked, but never received, any paperwork for any of this. The final Red Flag.
- Name: Tri-City Transmission
- Country: United States
- State: Arizona
- City: Tempe
- Address: 2005 E Rio Salado Pkwy
- Phone: 480-968-5062
- Website: www.tricitytransmission.com/