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Oil change scams: Hidden camera investigation on what really happens to your car (CBC Marketplace)


(♪♪) >>Tom: This week on “Marketplace.” >>Oh, boy, came in for a $20 oil change. >>You’re about to see a fast lube franchise pull a fast one. >>If you can, try and get your transmission fluid changed. >>Is it necessary? >>No, I just did a transmission service. >>Tom: That’s what I thought. We go up on the hoist to show you what’s really going down at these oil change shops. >>Let me tell you a little bit about fraud. >>Tom: Insiders share the secrets of shaking you down. >>I’ve never worked for a more shady, crooked, deceitful company. >>Tom: And we track down the man behind all this greasy business. >>That’s him right by the door. Do you want to just go get him, Tom? >>Yeah. >>Just go, just go. (♪♪) (♪♪) >>Tom: We’re heading to this Economy Lube in Guelph, Ontario. (♪♪) >>Tom: It’s part of a chain of oil change garages that promises fast and affordable service. (♪♪) >>Tom: Ten minutes, 20 bucks, and you’re done, according to their ad. (♪♪) ♪ Just $19.99, at Economy Lube♪ (♪♪) >>Tom: Catchy but maybe not that simple. >>Hi there. >>Need an oil change? >>Yes, please. >>Tom: Who hasn’t worried about turning over their car to some gearhead and getting back a big bill. And a lot of gobbledygook. >>Tom: We’ve been hearing there’s reason to worry at Economy Lube. That’s why we’re putting it to the test. (♪♪) >>Tom: Right off the bat, they’re upselling that $20 oil change. >>Tom: Recommending a more expensive package than advertised but does it get any worse than that? These guys say you can bet on it. >>I have never worked for a company like Economy Lube, for a more shady, crooked, deceitful company. >>Tom: They’re insiders, former employees of Economy Lube, who still have ties to the industry, and don’t want to be identified. >>I totally rip people off and I did that for a number of years for the dollar and the money. >>Tom: Their years of ripping people off at Economy Lube ended in a bitter fight over wages. You had issues, you went to the labour department and argued over money, that sort of thing. >>Everything we’re saying is a hundred percent true. There would be many more people besides us that would be, you know, willing to say so as well. >>Tom: They have no axe to grind, they say, just a conscience to clear. >>This is our chance to right our wrongs and bring awareness to what’s going on. >>Tom: So they’re blowing the whistle on a company that they say tops you up and rips you off, all because the boss wants it that way. >>I couldn’t remember questioning him about the practises as far as sales go, and his exact words were go save the whales somewhere else, and he told me it was an upsell world. >>Tom: But we’re not just talking their word for it. We’ve assembled a team of testers to help us see for ourselves. All of them work for CBC. Anu, Steve, and Ryan. Each driving a car with one thing in common: They all need an oil change, and nothing else. They will be heading to that same Economy Lube in Guelph. And what’s about to happen has lessons for us all. Our home base for the day is Conestoga college. They train a lot of future mechanics here, and they have agreed to let us use their massive garage. >>Tom: Morning everybody. Nice to see you. So the plan as you know is we’re going to head down to Economy Lube and you’re going to just be customers. >>Tom: Helping us with our test is expert Mark Sach-Anderson. >>They shouldn’t be offering you anymore than just the oil change you’re going in for. Everything else is fine on the car so it should be a nice simple, easy, in, oil change, and out. (♪♪) >>Tom: Mark has been in the industry for more than 20 years. He began as an oil change technician himself. Became a mechanic and worked his way up the ranks. He now runs this garage in Toronto’s west end. >>There are a lot of good oil change facilities. Unfortunately, there’s a few bad ones, and it spoils it for everybody. >>Tom: The oil change industry knows it has a bad reputation. >>It seems like mechanics are always out to get you. >>Tom: Jiffy Lube, for instance, plays off customer worries in this ad. >>But at Jiffy Lube, we don’t fix vehicles, we help keep them running right to help you leave repair shop worries behind. >>Tom: So if the industry knows we’re suspicious, can we really finally leave worries behind? If only. (♪♪) >>Tom: To do our test properly, it’s important to establish a base line. So Mark spends days going over test vehicles. He knows the kind of additional services routinely offered by places like Economy Lube, such as fluid and filter changes, and he wants to beat them to the punch. He makes sure none of our cars need anything more than an oil change. (♪♪) >>Tom: Our hidden camera specialist. Rob, is hard at work making sure we’ve got all the angles covered when it comes to capturing our test. >>Tom: Cool. And where is that going to go? >>Under the hood of the Uplander. >>So the guy working under the hood, we’ll be able to see his hands working. >>We’ll be able to see his hands reaching to all the different — stick and engine coolant. >>Cool. >>Tom: So wondering what to expect? Back at Conestoga college, our first tester, Anu, is wired up and ready to go to see if what we’re hearing about Economy Lube holds true. >>I’ll open the door for you. >>Okay, thank you. >>All right, good luck. >>Thanks, Tom. (♪♪) >>Tom: The Economy Lube shop is less than five minutes down the road from our home base. As Anu approaches, our surveillance camera across the street picks her up and follows her in. Our insiders say at Economy Lube, the technicians count on your ignorance, even though they might not know much more about your car than you do. >>When I started, I’d never worked on vehicles, never popped a drain plug, never did an oil change, no experience. >>Tom: How about you? >>I had experience from a previous oil change places but I worked with people who didn’t know anything about cars at all. >>Tom: They soon learn the way things work at Economy Lube. Who trained you? >>Actually, the owner of the company Steve Moxey. >>Tom: And what did he teach you? >>How to sell all the different services, upselling. >>Tom: What did that mean at Economy Lube? >>To sell as many services and get as big of a bill as you possibly could on every single vehicle. >>Because he didn’t care if you did the work, he cared if you got the money. >>Tom: And were these services that were needed? >>Uh, majority of the time, no. (♪♪) >>Tom: You can find a photo of owner Steve Moxey right on the door as you enter Economy Lube. Moxey has built a chain of 12 shops throughout southwestern Ontario. And according to our insiders, he’s done it through dishonesty. >>Just need an oil change? >>Yeah. >>Tom: Inside the shop, our first tester is hearing she needs a lot more than a simple oil change. >>Couldn’t have smelled burnt and it certainly wasn’t brown because I changed it. >>Tom: And later, a former fraud cop weighs in on our findings. >>I have told people all my life that fraud is theft with a smile. (♪♪) (♪♪) >>Tom: We’re inside a quick oil change shop called Economy Lube. Like all these types of shops, they say they specialize in fast work at affordable prices. (♪♪) >>Tom: Insiders tell us they do a lot more than that. Like sell you services you don’t need. >>Engine flush. >>Tom: Charge whatever they can get and often not even do the work. >>Gimme some examples of where you might do something that wasn’t really the real thing? >>One of the easiest things to sell is power steering fluid. Take a sample and you can tell a person that it should be clear, you could tell a person that it should be red, or you could just go by the smell of the fluid, smell this, the fluid is very burnt. There’s a very easy sale. >>Tom: With each lie they tell, technicians earn money. >>They were on a commission system as far as what you sold, so if I sold, say, a coolant flush for $59, I would get $2, if I sold it for 69 bucks, I get three bucks. >>Tom: The bigger the lie, the more money. That’s why they do so much lying. How often would those things happen where you do a trick every day. >>Every day. >>Multiple times a day. (♪♪) >>Tom: So will it happen to our first tester? Anu’s car has been up on the hoist for a few short minutes. When she gets the prognosis. >>Most of your stuff is in good shape. >>Okay. >>Tom: The car needs more than an oil change, he says, it needs a brake flush and power steering flush, two procedures that involve time and the complete replacement of fluids. But why? >>Tom: Burning fluid. Just like our insiders talked about. >>Tom: Remember, our expert mechanic has checked out this car and assures us it needs no such work. But in keeping with our test, we give the go-ahead. >>Tom: In reality it takes them half that time. In less than eight minutes, we get the bill. >>Tom: More than 200 bucks? How did that happen? >>Tom: We push for a better explanation and get a better deal in the process. >>Tom: Our tester pays up. And heads back to home base. (♪♪) >>Tom: So how did it go? >>You know what? They were really nice. >>Tom: Can we see the bill? >>Yeah, sure. >>Tom: Nice is nice but our expert mechanic Mark Sach- Anderson says there’s nothing nice about that final bill. In your view, the power steering flush and brake fluid flush were not needed? >>No. The fluids were up. All of this was checked when I had it at my shop. Not three days ago. >>Tom: Not only was the work not needed, Mark suspects it wasn’t done. Given how little time it took. Mark shows us the four points behind the wheels where it would be clear if a brake flush had been carried out. >>There’s so much rust on the back of this bleeder or on the bleeder here, and around the seal, it hasn’t been opened. That tells me that the system’s not flushed. >>Tom: All right, Mark, let’s go to the videotape, shall we, and see what they did. Our videotape confirms Mark’s suspicions. >>Tightening the filter, wiping off any oil. >>Tom: That $90 brake flush never happened. >>Tom: Still nothing on the brakes. >>Nothing on the brakes. >>Tom: Same for the power steering flush. Our hidden hood cam shows no evidence it was performed. >>But reality is you were charged for it. And it wasn’t done. (♪♪) >>Tom: Time for test number two. Our man Ryan is pulling up for his oil change. And who knows what else. >>I’m here for the engine oil change. >>Yeah, no problem. >>Tom: Just like last time, that $20 oil change they advertise becomes 29. >>Tom: And just like last time, it doesn’t end there. After a quick inspection, they tell Ryan he needs more than his oil change. >>Tom: The brakes, again, and the transmission? Our expert, Mark, just did that a few days ago. A messy and lengthy procedure we captured on camera. Our insiders tell us this kind of deception can really add up. >>As much as you didn’t want to do it but at the end of the week when you get a thousand dollar paycheque take home. >>The money was just too good. With a high school education, where are you going to make between 65 and $100,000 a year? >>Tom: Now Ryan is handing over his money at Economy Lube. After just ten minutes of work on his car. >>Tom: On his way with some air fresheners and a bill that stinks. >>Thank you, bye. >>Tom: Back at home base, we have a look. How was it? >>It was, yeah, pricey. >>Tom: We’ll see what you came up with. 218. >>Yeah. >>Tom: You asked for a $20 oil change? >>Right, yeah, I did. >>Tom: $218, Ryan’s bill is ten times when he went in for, including 80 bucks for the transmission. Was that needed? >>No. I just, just did a transmission service on this. >>Tom: That’s what I thought. We check our hidden camera tape to see how they sell that one. >>Tom: There’s that burning fluid line again. Our expert is appalled. >>It did not smelled burned because it was all fresh fluid. But I mean there’s absolutely no way that this service was needed. Good sales pitch. But it’s completely false. It’s almost like a script, it’s almost identical to the service that we had on car number one, the same it’s dirty, it smells. >>Tom: So how about that expensive brake flush? They didn’t actually do it the first time they charged for it, how about this time? Mark checks and says no. They didn’t do a flush? >>They couldn’t have done a flush. >>Tom: Two for two. Two flushes paid for that didn’t happen. (♪♪) >>Tom: Our third and final tester Steve pulls in towards the end of the day to get his oil changed. But will the upsell happen again? The answer comes minutes later. >>Tom: The technician promises to flush out the entire engine block and the radiator, and of course, the braking system. Back at home base… >>Tom: How was it? >>That was the most expensive $19.99 I ever spent. >>Tom: Really? >>Oh, yeah. >>Tom: Let’s see. 251 bucks? Good Lord, that’s the highest of the day. What was the sales pressure like on you? >>They start off sounding like you can choose, but they sort of — they gradually move it into you really should get it, we can do it for you right now. >>Tom: But did they do it? Mark is interested in the full system coolant flush they charged for. He says this car uses a special coolant called dex-cool which is orange. He shows us what’s in the resevoir. >>Look at that, bright green. >>Tom: Bright green. That’s not the proper coolant? >>That’s not the proper coolant for this vehicle. >>Tom: Is what’s in there in here? >>We don’t know that. >>Tom: Mark wants to take a sample from the radiator. He says if an actual flush was done, the fluid coming out will also be green. >>That looks orange to me. Oh, yeah. Look at that. Okay. So that’s coming out of the radiator. >>Tom: Right. >>That is what is throughout the system. What we’ve seen changed here is the stuff in the resevoir and it’s been changed with the wrong stuff. >>Tom: And what does that mean for the vehicle? >>It can cause damage to the sensors, it can cause damage and premature wear inside the engine. We should really be pulling that stuff out of the resevoir before it causes problems. >>Tom: So not only was the coolant publish not needed, it was not done right, causing cross contamination which means we have to fix it. And yet we paid $250. What do you think about what they’ve done? >>Certainly not right. Certainly gives us in the industry a bad name. >>And it’s certainly time to get some answers. >>Tom: Oh. >>What? >>Tom: He’s coming. So after the break, we show up at Economy Lube’s warehouse uninvited. Mr. Moxey, Tom Harrington from “Marketplace.” (♪♪) (♪♪)>>Tom: Our investigation into oil change shops run by Economy Lube takes us to a former investigator himself. >>Let me tell you a little bit about fraud. >>Tom: Mark Simchison used to lead the major fraud division of the Hamilton police. at Economy Lube. we were sold >>Tom: And what our expert mechanic discovered. >>It hasn’t been opened. That tells me that the system’s not flushed. >>Tom: So what’s his verdict? >>I have told people all my life that fraud is theft with a smile. >>Tom: Putting it right out there, you’re saying what they’re doing is fraud? >>If they are charging for, and accepting, money for and receiving money for services that they did not perform that you paid for in all honesty, that’s fraud. >>Tom: And that’s exactly what we found. Time to take our evidence to the top. (♪♪) >>Tom: We’re as close to the lot as we can possibly be so we can see the door. We’re outside Economy Lube warehouse in Cambridge, Ontario. >>He’s in the car sitting. >>Tom: Is he really? >>Yeah. >>Tom: Looking for some answers. Okay, he’s gone in. We’ve already made repeated requests for an on-camera interview with president and founder Steve Moxey. He’s now inside. He backed in with his Range Rover inside that closed door garage door. Given him weeks to think about it. >>So if he sees the camera, I don’t think he’ll come to the door. >>Tom: Right. More details when requested. >>I don’t know exactly how we should proceed because we’re across the parking lot right now. — But Moxey still won’t come on camera. >>Tom: Oh. >>What? >>Tom: He’s coming. >>Do you want to go get him, Tom? >>Tom: Yeah, why don’t we try now. So when we spot the man who greases the wheels at Economy Lube… >>Okay here he comes, he’s out. Just go. Just go. >>Tom: We decide to roll. Mr. Moxey. But Steve Moxey — Tom Harrington from “Marketplace.” — doesn’t want to talk about why his company is ripping people off. (♪♪) >>Tom: A few days later, we reach Moxey by phone and he denies any wrongdoing. >>I have a real hard time believing that you took three cars in and not one of those cars actually had the service done because I’m in stores every day. You know, I could be wrong, you know, it’s a hundred employees, anything’s possible. If it’s in fact the case, I agree with anybody that that is fraudulent. >>Tom: We contact those Economy Lube employees caught by our hidden cameras. This one denies working on any of our test cars. >>There you go, sir. >>Tom: But the other fesses up. >>I’m not proud of it, but that’s how we were taught to do stuff. In that company, you are forced to rip people off basically because all the owner’s looking for is money. If he’s not making money, then you’re no use to him. (♪♪) >>Tom: As for lessons learned in all this. Here’s a few tips from our “Marketplace” survival guide the next time you need an oil change. Familiarize yourself with the service schedule recommended by your car’s manufacturer. They built your car, and probably know best when it needs maintenance. Quick oil change shops are fine for a quick oil change. For anything bigger or unexpected, stick with a mechanic you know you can trust. And finally, be on your toes and know an upsell is coming. That way you won’t be caught offguard by any greasy business. (♪♪)

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