Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dear Budget Brakes

Dear Budget Brakes,

You got me. You got me good. If there were an award for getting someone the goodest, you guys would get it. Yeah. Goodest.

I know that from the outside, I look like a professional, respectable (despite what my friend Meg Whalen may or may not say about my skull and crossbones belt buckle) and even somewhat handsome guy. I'm not lighting the fashion world on fire and I'm certainly not going to be walking down a New York City runway anytime soon. That being said, during job number one I dress pretty well: pressed shirt, black leather shoes, nice pants. Hell, some days I even wear a vest. Like today. I actually like wearing the vest as it elongates my almost non-existant neck. Plus, I think it throws people off a bit which, as many folks who know me know, is part of my charm. The Good Lord put me on this earth to do three things: be funny, be smart, and be really good at air hockey. As of yet, He's never mentioned anything about being good looking. I need every competitive advantage I can get.

I want to point something out to you, my dear brake shoppe, in case I was too subtle in the above paragraph. Judging by the fact that I know I can be too passive-aggressive in my writing, I'm assuming that's the case. I mentioned that I dress nicely at job number one. You would be correct in assuming that I have multiple jobs. To borrow from a writer much more qualified than I, "I'm gonna spread it out for you in a nutshell":
Job one: Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. Insurance.
Job two: Saturday (and occasionally Friday nights... and occasionally Saturday nights... and occasionally Sunday nights... and whenever the delivery van needs to be taken to your rival Pep Boys at the boss' behest), 9 to 5. Flower shop.
Job three: Thursday, 6-930. Bar trivia.

You would think that with three jobs often putting me over the 50 hour per week mark that I would be rolling in the dough. This is not the case. I work three jobs so I don't have to live under a bridge which is something that I think we all can appreciate. I should get a knighthood for this. Maybe call it the Order of the Employed or something.

My point? Yeah, I've got one. My point is that I try to be thrifty with my money. I don't have cable. I 'borrow' my internet from a neighbor's unprotected wireless signal. I don't ever adjust the temperature in the house. I volunteer at a thrift store whose owners are gracious enough to let me have the occasional free piece of clothing or two. Naturally, when my brakes began to grind about a week ago, I decided to take what little money I had and visit you. Why? Because the word "budget" is in your name, because I'm thrify, and because I had seen your ad on TV a few times over the past several years indicating that you've got brakes with a lifetime warranty "starting at just $78!" Talk about the perfect storm!

I grew up around the auto industry. My dad worked for and retired from Ford. My grandpa worked for and retired from Ford. Various aunts and uncles worked for or are still working for Ford. I've had my fair share of maintenance done on vehicles. I know that whatever price I'm being quoted on TV, that I should add at least $60 for labor and throw in another $20 for miscellaneous parts and that's the real price. I walked into your shop expecting to pay about $160 for brakes.

Take a guess what I was quoted for a brake job. I guess you don't really have to guess since, you know, you are the shop. But since I plan on sending this to several friends as well as posting a blog about it complete with funny pictures, I'm going to let you know: $384.00.

It was pointed out to me by the shop's manager that I needed new front brakes (each running $78.00 for just the brakes themselves) , new brake rotors, new hardware, new somethingelsethatIforgetwhatit'scalled, and the labor... of course. As you can well imagine, I was none too pleased. Remember... budget... thrifty... $78.00.

I told the manager that that quote was "way too fuckin' high." I felt like swearing because that's what guys do in auto shops, right? I then thanked him for my free brake inpsection and told him to please put the wheels back on my car. He, being the decent manager that he is, told me that he might be able to work something out for me... and came back with a quote of (ready for this): $344.00.

Lord, in heaven, my prayers have been answered! Still more than double what I wanted to pay. Oh, boy! Can I? Can I, please?! Yes, that was sarcasm. And thus ends the subtlety.

I again informed the shop manager to put the wheels back on my car. As I was turning around to sit back in your rather plush leather chairs, the manager stopped me halfway with, "Well, what can you afford?" I had no idea that the manager of your shop was Monty Hall. This came as a particular surprise because I would have thought that Monty's Canadian work visa would have long since expired and that certainly he could get better work than a brake shop manager. Maybe he has multiple jobs, too... but I doubt it. I know times are tough for everyone. I turned around and told him, flatly, "$220.00". That's it. That literally left me enough money for gas and food the rest of the week. He replied quickly with "Ok." A gentleman's agreement!

What I wanted to know, dear person from Budget Brakes who happens to be reading this, is why the manager would so willing and eager to give me what amounted to a 43% discount. The only thing that possibly came to mind was that the first two sets of brakes must have contained multiple lifetime warranties. Apparently my strange manner of dress must have thrown the shop's manager into a fit of confusion whereupon he mistook me for the Dalai Lama. I'm not. I'm not Tibetan, I'm not a monk, and (as evidenced that I was in one of your stores buying things for my car) I have a need for worldly possessions. The meek may inherit the earth one day but until then the rest of is need to get to work and need to do it safely.

Going forward, I think it would behoove you to change your ads. Don't allow the TV commercials to say "$78.00" when it's damn well going to be significantly more than that. Don't trick hard-working Joes like myself into thinking we're going to get out of there with both arms and legs only to find out that we're gonna have to get our nuts replaced, too. What? Nuts are the extra hardware you're charging us for.

Sure, I could go to the Better Business Bureau with this. Sure, I could raise hell with my local news outlet. Sure, I could go put some dog poop in a paper bag, set it on your doorstep, light it on fire, ring the bell, and then run away. Hell, that last thing just sounds like fun and I might do it anyway. But none of those will probably be as effective as sending you a letter and posting this on the internet.

Good luck in the future, Budget Brakes! Gunga ga-lunga!

Stephen P Bohn


  1. quote was for pads alone (front or back only, not both), no labor or shop supplies (which you knew about), but where they get you is the rotors. Thems is expensive and never quoted, because a basic brake job is just pads. Add rotors and 350 doesn't seem that bad, if you actually got rotors and only paid 220, then bravo, great deal. besides budget brakes is a notorious scam of a company, just search for them on the internet.

  2. "spread it out for you in a nutshell"... is that aaron sorkin making fun of mixed metaphors? i can't remember...

    regardless, $220 for pads and rotors ain't bad. they must be hard up.

  3. * 1 Jack borrowed from autozone.
    * Borrow some hand tools if you don't have them.
    * 1 set of brake pads (around $40 after taxes)
    * Remove your calipers and rotors.
    * Get a friend to drive you to O'Riely's
    * Have them "turn" your rotors for $10.
    * Reinstall your rotors.
    * Install new pads.
    * If you're feelin frisky, top off you brake fluid.
    * Return jack and hand tools.

    Est. Total: $60 - $70
    Time spent: A Saturday afternoon.
    Collateral benefits: Not having to deal with grease monkeys.


pull the mctrigger