Tom and Ray answer a somewhat hypothetical ethical repair question... from a very cheap customer.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2006

Dear Tom and Ray:

OK guys, here is a somewhat hypothetical ethics question, and since you are the most ethical guys in the business, you get to answer it. Suppose that The Jalopy Garage (not the real name) diagnoses a problem dealing with excessive use of fuel (it could be anything, but this will work). Jalopy Garage then makes the repair, including parts and labor, and tells the customer it is guaranteed for 10 days. Nine days later, the customer comes in and states that the repair not only did not work, but it created a worse situation than existed BEFORE the repair -- i.e., more wasted gas. Jalopy Garage, after inspection, agrees, and does the work again without charge. (Yeah, I know that might be hard to believe by itself.) HOWEVER, the customer wants to be reimbursed for the extra wasted fuel during the nine days, saying that the garage, by making the situation worse, is responsible for the difference in what would have been used and what actually was used. So ... it could be a gallon or 20 gallons -- the question is, should the garage be responsible for the increased loss of fuel? Thanks a lot -- really. -- Gene

RAY: Gene, you chiseling weasel! Hypothetical, my butt. I'm guessing you asked your mechanic to pay for the gas, and he threw you out, right?

TOM: As well he should have. Most warranties do not cover consequential damages. For instance, if your new car breaks down, and you miss a job interview and end up with a career at Hammertoes Fried Eel instead of Bank of America, the car company will fix your car for free, but it won't cover the difference in salary and perks for the rest of your life.

RAY: Or if you buy a cell phone, and it fails and you miss a call from your mail-order bride from Kamchatka, the company will replace the phone, but not the bride.

TOM: They're responsible for the work they do. And if they messed up the repair, they have to make it right. If it was clearly their fault and the car was disabled because of their mistake, many garages will cover the towing fee, too. But other than the direct mechanical results of their work, you're out of luck, Gene. So, unfortunately, the gas is on you. Sorry, man.

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