PLEASANT HILL, Mo. — You know life isn’t going well when three police officers show up as you try to get your truck back from a repair job.
The ugly mess started about two months ago when Derek Dixon noticed on his way home from work that his 2006 diesel pickup was having problems.
A trusted mechanic told Dixon he had a split piston and would need his engine rebuilt by a diesel expert.
It was a serious blow to Dixon, a young business owner, who said he relied on the truck for hauling equipment for his lawn and yard service company.
No diesel repair shop could take the truck for more than a month. So Dixon said he felt lucky when he found Lunsford Auto Care on 7 Highway in Pleasant Hill. He said the shop promised to finish the job in two weeks for about $11,000.
“That was pulling the motor, taking it to the machine shop and putting it back in,” Dixon said.
The shop wanted $10,000 down — an unusual request since most repair shops don’t require a deposit because they have your vehicle as collateral.
Dixon paid the deposit but never received a statement showing what the repair would entail.
That turned out to be a serious mistake.
After more than a month passed and Dixon still didn’t have his truck back, he grew concerned.
“He kept coming with problems,” said Dixon, referring to the shop’s owner Derek Bartholomew. “He needs a new turbo. He needs new head studs in the motor. He said he didn’t realize what he was getting into.”
Dixon said he asked several times how much more he would owe, but weeks passed before he ever got an answer. When he did, it wasn’t good.
Instead of $11,000, Lunsford Auto Care wanted $16,000. Bartholomew insisted that Dixon had approved additional parts raising the price substantially. However, the truck still wasn’t drivable and has an oil leak.
“So he wants me to give him $6,000 for a total of $16,000 for a truck that he doesn’t think can be driven off the lot,” Dixon said.
Dixon said Bartholomew told him if he didn’t fork over the cash, Lunsford Auto Care would sell his truck.
That’s something Lunsford Auto Care denied, but it’s just another reason Dixon called FOX4 Problem Solvers.
We paid a visit to Lunsford Auto Care, which has no business sign and was given a C-rating by the Better Business Bureau. We met Bartholomew’s mother, who told us her son wasn’t there and wouldn’t return until late that night.
Ten minutes after we left, we got a call from Bartholomew, telling us he would talk to us as long as we didn’t record anything he said.
Bartholomew said he had paperwork proving every bit of work he’d done on Dixon’s truck and every part he’d purchased. But the documents he showed us didn’t have any customer’s name and weren’t dated. He wouldn’t allow us to make copies.
He did, however, offer to lower the total price of his bill by $1,500 so that Dixon would stop complaining. Dixon refused the offer.
A few days later, we were back at Lunsford Auto Care with Dixon who was demanding he be given an itemized bill by Lunsford Auto Care. He planned to turn the bill over to Pleasant Hill police as part of a complaint he’d filed.
“Are you going to give me an itemized bill for my truck?” Dixon asked as FOX4’s camera rolled.
Instead, Lunsford Auto Care called Pleasant Hill police, who had been to the shop twice before trying to mediate this same dispute.
A lieutenant arrived and told the men he wanted this problem settled. He told Bartholomew to hand over an itemized receipt, which Bartholomew did.
Dixon claimed it included charges for items he’d either paid for himself — like $600 for an injector — or hadn’t approved, including a water pump and an air filter.
The lieutenant told Lunsford Auto Care to reduce the bill by $3,000, release the truck and settle any remaining dispute in court.
It looked like this problem was on its way to being solved.
But then the lieutenant left, another officer arrived and everything changed. The new officer told Dixon to pay the entire bill or leave the shop without his truck.
Reluctantly, Dixon paid.
So let’s add this up, including the money Dixon’s already paid, it cost Dixon $16,000 to get back a truck that still doesn’t run and has an oil leak.
Dixon brought the truck to a diesel mechanic who told him the engine had been installed incorrectly. He fixed the problem for $500, but it will cost Dixon another $1,000 to fix the oil leak.
So what can Derek Dixon do?
This is no easy problem to solve. Pleasant Hill police said they’re planning to refer the case to the county prosecutor for possible violations of Missouri’s Consumer Protection Act.
Bartholomew continues to insist he has done nothing wrong. He said he treated Dixon fairly, and it’s not his repair shop’s fault that Dixon’s truck has serious issues.
As you can probably guess, Dixon doesn’t agree.
But he said he learned an expensive lesson: Never pay for a repair job in advance and always get everything in writing.