Spilt grease: Customer lathered over oil change

Daniel Van Orman got his oil changed at SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-up on Seminole Trail on February 26, then left for a weekend on the Outer Banks. The next day, he claims, he realized that "oil was leaking from the engine, and little to no oil was left in the car. Luckily, I caught this before my engine was seriously damaged." After adding five quarts of oil, he returned to Charlottesville.

When he took the car back to SpeeDee, he says, "They gave me a hard time and were extremely rude about the whole situation. After much ado they quite unwillingly redid the oil change, but I will never give SpeedDee my business again."

I spoke with manager Boyd Lasch, who remembered Van Orman well. Lasch conceded that they'd made a mistake– "We put in a bad filter"– but was mainly concerned with what he considered Van Orman's bad behavior.

"If you want respect," he said, "you need to come in with respect." Van Orman, he claimed, said that Lasch "had a bunch of goofs" working for him and generally "talked down to Lasch" and "refused to listen."

Did Van Orman come in with that kind of attitude? I asked. No, Lasch replied; "He started out real nice." So what happened? Why did Van Orman morph from "real nice" to someone Lasch claims he felt verbally "beat up" by?

According to Lasch, things turned nasty when Van Orman said that he not only wanted to be reimbursed for the oil he'd had to add, but for the botched oil change as well. Lasch says he was happy to pay for the extra oil, but refused to refund the cost of the oil change. Instead, he would redo the oil change– and make sure it was done correctly– but would not simply give Van Orman his money back.

And yet the leak had interrupted a holiday weekend, and if Van Orman hadn't noticed the problem in time, it could have ruined his engine. Why not just give Van Orman what he wanted: a free oil change?

"Maybe we handled it wrong," Lasch said– but then, a few seconds later, returned to explaining why, in his opinion, Van Orman had failed to merit respect.


The latest on Lethal

 Two weeks ago I wrote that March would be a busy month for George D. Morris, owner of Lethal Wrecker ["Towed to Court," March 3], what with all the court dates on his calendar. I can now report on the first three. Here's the short version: April's going to be another busy month for Morris.

Duke Chute's suit for $1,560 was heard by Judge Robert Downer in Charlottesville General District Court on March 1. Chute was towed from a parking lot on a Saturday last July, for which Lethal charged him $155. That's $60 more than the maximum allowed by Section 46.2-1233.1 of the Code of Virginia. By violating that section, Lethal also violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, which allows the consumer to sue for more in damages than just the amount of the overcharge.

Unlike in previous cases for overcharging, this time Morris sent a lawyer, Larry Miller, to represent him. Miller requested that Chute be required to submit a "Bill of Particulars" to the court that outlines his assertions. Downer gave Chute a deadline for that of March 21; Morris and Miller, in turn, have until April 11 to respond with their "Grounds of Defense." On April 22, the two sides will meet again in court.

Keith Welty got identical results on March 8, when his suit for $500– in which he alleges Lethal overcharged him $285 for towing and storage– was heard by Downer. In Welty's case, after each side has filed their respective documents, they'll return to court on April 22.

Three's a charm: Also on March 8, Morris got a continuance in his assault and battery case, in which he's accused of threatening a driver from a rival towing service. That case will resume in Albemarle County general district court on April 19.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second St. NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.

George Morris


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