Updated:ATLANTA - There are more than a dozen Mr. Transmission stores in metro Atlanta owned by several local franchisees. This story is about one owner with two stores and multiple complaints, including one that got WSB-TV's attention.
"I didn't have the money to just waste like that. It cost me so much money," said Terese Lackley, a local day care operator. She told Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland that it took three months and $2,400 to get her '99 van fixed at Mr. Transmission in Chamblee.
She suspects that at least some of that work was not needed. "He would say, 'Oh it will be fixed tomorrow," and then when I would call tomorrow there was something else wrong with the car," said Lackley.
Strickland showed Lackley our undercover video and asked her if the man who we encountered was the same man that she had dealt with. Lackley told Strickland, "That is him!"
Lackley dealt with assistant manager Josh Bledsoe. Bledsoe also served a Channel 2 producer driving a 2009 Toyota. The car had already been certified by mechanic Clay Brooks. He works across town at Cooperlake Automotive in Cobb County.
"It is perfectly fine; it's almost like a new car," said Brooks.
Dealership mechanic Frank Mestanas, with more than 40 years of Toyota experience, checked everything. "All systems OK," said Mestanas.
Mestanas drove the car himself. "All four shifts were within the parameters."
Our producer asked Mr. Transmission to check out a strange noise. Bledsoe told her, "On the computer the line pressure is off on it, so it is messing up your shift points, making it an erratic shift. That is why it shifts hard every now and then."
Beldsoe told our producer what his solution would be. "But what we need to do is pull the transmission out, just do a simple inspection and find out what is causing the line pressure to be off," he said.
Bill Rimmer, owner of Cooperlake Automotive said of the Mr. Transmission diagnosis and treatment, "Taking the transmission out, yeah, I would say that is pretty extreme."
Bledsoe warned of further damage if we did not leave the car with him. Our Channel 2 producer asked, "Is it OK if I come back?" Bledsoe responded, "Yeah, it's OK, but I mean, I just wouldn't advise driving it. You're not gonna die, but you could break down."
Strickland went to shop owner Alan Polson who agreed to watch our video. "You think your guys made some mistakes?" asked Strickland. "Absolutely," Polson responded.
Polson said his shop would have done more thorough testing before pulling the transmission but that Bledsoe did not communicate that well.
"I don't want to sell customers things they do not need on their vehicles. I want to sell them what they need," said Polson.
Our Channel 2 producer asked Bledsoe how much the work would cost, he told her, "Um, labor you'll be looking at $698."
The paperwork said $798 when we returned to the store. Strickland asked Polson, "Why the extra hundred bucks?" Polson responded, "That I don't know. If he quoted her $698 it should have been $698."
Polson told Strickland his assistant manager will go through retraining. Polson also was not happy how Bledsoe handled our visit.
Strickland confronted Bledsoe and asked him, "You can't tell me anything about the diagnostic on this car?" Instead, Bledsoe closed the door on Strickland.
Our Channel 2 producer took the Toyota to Polson's second location in Duluth. Even they said the car was fine and gave us back the keys, no charge. As for Lackley's van, Polson defends his work.
He said the price and the time needed were fair given the condition of the van and its multiple problems. Polson said the Chamblee shop has a new manager, and Bledsoe goes to management school in April.