The owner of Artie Green's Body Shop in Alexander called me out to a fight today when I insisted he pay for the rip-off job his mechanics did on my wife's car. I asked Artie to "take a shot and make it a good one," but he never swung. Here is the full story:
I had already lived in the neighborhood for ten years when Artie Green expanded his home business and opened up his body shop where Pamela Way and Highway 5 Intersect in Alexander, AR. His new business was immediately plagued with vandalism from teens who would target the only business in this residential area. Being a car guy with several project hotrods, I saw the immediate opportunity for a win-win friendship; I could help keep an eye on his shop as I passed by several times daily, give good PR for him in the neighborhood, and hopefully score some bartering opportunities to help get my old projects roadworthy.
The friendship worked great at first; I was able to trade him some car parts I had on hand for discount repair rates. He would even deal in cash with me so he did not have to pay taxes on the income. He said we were just doing this as "one friend for another". I have not checked the legality of that yet- btw….. Anyway, at first, he did good quality work for me and at very fair tax-free prices. When he did mess up, he would always make it right. I referred several of my friends/family there. At first, when they were unsatisfied with the value and quality of his work, I would defend my friend, Artie, explaining that the problem must be from his hired help.
Come to think of it, I had to have FOUGHT TIRE re-do the tie rod end work and front-end alignment on my station wagon…… and I never understood the $1,500 head job he did on my stepson's Dodge Truck without authorization…… or why Artie drove it home during the time he had it. I even made excuses for him when he parted out the truck when my stepson could not pay for the unauthorized work…… My wife's car and my son's car had been there a few times and in Artie's words, "I never could please your son about anything, and he's very blunt about it."
Soon, I was the only one I knew who would do business at his shop. I paid little attention to that, however, because he had a Mustang I was bartering for. I had traded up to the point where Artie said we needed to figure out when to move it to my house. However, I did not want it until I had the title and could find the missing back wheel that had vanished a few weeks earlier. BTW: A few months later, he sold that car to someone else.
During this time – this is where it gets good- my wife hit a curb in her car after it had come back from our NEW MECHANIC in Cabot, AR. She was stranded and Artie's tow truck happened by. The oil pan was busted and the car could not drive. Artie said he owed us a favor anyway, and so he towed the car back to his shop for free. (We are very grateful for that). I went to Pick and Pull to get a used pan since the 3.1 liter pot metal pans cost $175 new. I had NO IDEA what you have to go through to get one of the pans off…. WOW! I spent over half a day under another Grand Am and almost gave up twice. When Artie quoted $200 labor to do the job, I checked with my NEW MECHANIC who was covered up in work. He said that was a good price and with what I had gone through, I agreed. So we let Artie's shop have this job…. Taking a chance…… Hoping things would go good for us this time…… Listening to warnings from others who had been burned by him before, but selectively believing that this one job would turn out fine.
A week later, my wife went to check on her car. They informed her they did not have it; that she had picked it up a few days ago. "Hello?" she said, "If I had it, I wouldn't be getting a ride here to pick it up." …. They found it out back, offered a cash ticket so she didn't have to pay taxes, and let her drive it home….. It rattled, squeaked, popped and jerked all the way. She took it back saying that something was bad wrong. They drove it and said it was fine. She had her son drive it and he agreed it was still sick. I drove it and then crawled under it to see two loose K-frame bolds (one barley hanging on). I tightened it, but that did not fix all of the problems. I called him and he apologized about the bolts. My wife took the car back again and --- again, they said it was fine.
She parked the car while we were able to trade vehicles and we were going to wait for the new mechanic to go behind Artie's guys and fix it. However, for a few weeks, she HAD to drive it and noted that the problem became very bad. She parked the car in fear after there was a shift of mass under the hood and a grinding noise. It sat two more months waiting for the new mechanic to get free to work on it. Finally that day came.
I wanted to see if the car could drive half the distance to the mechanic's house so he could pick it up from my primary job. I drove down the driveway listening to the grinding and was going to turn around on the street and bring it back to park it. I gave it a little gas, there was a "pop", and I saw a big bolt rolling on the street behind me. After I got the car on jack stands, I saw the problem. The bolts had come out of the front engine/transmission mount and the whole assembly was swinging loose in the engine compartment.
When I shined a light up under the car to see where to install the bolt, I saw a trickle of oil running out of a big glob of gasket glue at one corner of the oil pan….. Hmmmmm.
I put the bolt back in, tightened the other one and was able to drive it this time to my primary job. The new mechanic picked up the car last night and drove it home. This morning, he had a camera phone picture of the oil pan. The mechanics at Artie Green's Body Shop had broken the oil pan during installation and had literally glued one corner of the pan back on with gasket glue.
I went to see Artie today and told him I needed the $200 back and another oil pan so that my mechanic could re-do the job. He cursed me and threw two one hundred dollar bills out of a money wad and demanded that I leave. When I told him that did not cover the oil pan, he said I should be glad to get the $200. When I asked him if he wanted a lawsuit, he said, "No. I want a fight. Come outside!"
I said, "Okay, let's do this" and followed as he called me every dirty name he could think of in as loud a voice as he could manage. His father was chasing us… His wife was exiting fast with his infant son. We made it to the parking lot and he turned toward me while calling me the name of the female sex organ.
In a calm businesslike voice, I asked him to take a shot and make it a good one.
He froze for a second as he waited for his dad to catch us and get between us. He then stood there cursing with newfound bravery like a dog that barks behind the safety of a fence. I then ignored him and talked business with this father in a calm manor.
Artie then snatched the $200 out of my hands and went to his main building while putting on a shouting show for his customers and employees. His father said he is taking anger management classes, and I agreed that is not the Artie I have come to know.
Funny thing, I failed to get angry or even get an adrenaline rush from the incident. I just felt pitty…. And I will admit, even a little disappointment; you see, you just don't call a former US Marine out to public fight, curse him and then back down. I know that fighting over such matters is silly and wrong, and yes, it wouldn't have been enough of a fight to peak the interest of many, but still….. if you call a Marine into a fight, at least give him the excuse to use you as a punching bag for a few seconds. I miss those kind of workouts. Now I feel at a loss….. Anyone want to be a sparing partner? C'mon, please?
Oh well, the experience will still cost him big bucks in the upcoming lawsuit. Cha Ching!
Cody G. Carson