RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A South Richmond auto repair shop is the subject of an On Your Side Investigation after viewers called NBC12 for help.
According to customer complaints, Free Miles Transmission and Auto Repair takes people's money, and strings them along for months without doing the work. Owners Mark and Tony Abrahim were unreachable when I first paid a visit to the shop. After talking over the phone on Tuesday, they agreed to meet me this afternoon.
We start with what happened before today's meeting, when angry customers feared the company would close down before they could get their cars and money refunded. I went looking for the owner and found the transmission repair shop virtually deserted except for some angry customers pacing the lobby who called out to me as soon as I walked through the door.
William Lewis wants his 2008 Isuzu back. He showed me a $2,700 receipt and his car isn't fixed. They've had it since January. While talking to him, Josh the service manager came out. Josh told me on the phone earlier he would get the owner to call but would only give me a first name, so I decided to see for myself if Tony was at the shop. Josh and I had couple quick exchanges in the lobby.
"Tell me what's going on Josh. Were you able to reach Tony?
"I don't think Josh is coming out."
It appears everybody abandoned shop. We didn't see any mechanics. All quiet bays. No receptionist, just customers left hanging and keys on a board unattended. Josh came out again, and this time he told me, "I quit. I do not work here no more and Tony will be here in the morning. You have to come in the morning. Come back in the morning to talk to Tony."
I asked if he called Tony.
"I'm working on that right now."
Customer complaints to Call 12 and the Better Business Bureau allege misdiagnosis, unsatisfactory repairs, exceeding estimates, taking money not performing the work and keeping cars causing people to panic. We saw a group pushing a car out of the way on the crowded lot to gain access to another person's car. Lewis says he tried to get his key but Josh wouldn't give them to him. In all that chaos, a truck arrived with a new tow in for repairs.
Customers say free towing and the three years or 100,000 mile warranty attracted them to Free Miles Transmission and Auto Repair. Pam Burford, another unhappy customer, said,"There's nothing free about any of this. Your car gets a free ride to this graveyard of cars."
The owners agreed to meet me Thursday afternoon. They said they were happy for the opportunity to correct any problems.
Owner Tony Abrahim just listened as he stood by his brother Mark Abrahim. Mark did all the talking, Here's how he answered some of my questions: "These problems are all problems that we can rectify. These are all problems we are working on. They are not being swept under a mat and forgotten about."
Mark says most of the cars on the lot are waiting for customer authorization for repairs. The two brothers say they are doing everything within their power to address problems and say it's not reflective of who they are.
"500 customers a month. If I got one customer that's dissatisfied or even five customers, that's less than five percent," Mark said.
He says they plan to be a staple in the community by giving low income customers repair options. He addressed each of the complaints one by one.
If you're wondering, Josh didn't quit. He was working Thursday. He says he was just frustrated.
See more of Diane's interview Thursday at 6 p.m. on NBC12.