Saturday, July 28, 2012

Adventures With Walker's New Emissions Testing Program

Earlier this week, I wrote about the problems that are already occurring with Scott Walker's new vehicle emissions testing system. Walker decided to put the foxes in charge of the hen house by having auto repair garages do the testing. Since the change happened only a few weeks ago, there are already problems, from an inordinate amount of cars failing to pass the test to the very same garages doing the tests trying to overcharge customers by upselling them repairs they don't need.

The state and the new company that Walker contracted to do the testing, Systech, pushed the change as making it even faster and more convenient. They need to be brought up on charges of false advertising.

What I did not mention in the previous posts was that one of our vehicles was due to be tested so that we could get the tags renewed. And this set off quite an adventure.

Under the old system, we would drive to the nearest testing station, which was about three or four miles away. Sometimes we'd have to wait up to 30 minutes, but often it was only 5 or 10 minutes. The car would be tested and we'd be on our way.

Under the new system, we first had to look up the new testing places. There were four places listed in our area. We knew of all of the places, but were only familiar with two of them. One was the dealership where we bought our cars and the other was a local garage where my dad had his oil changed a few times and did some work on one of our cars once. The other two was another dealership and a garage that we knew already knew had a bad reputation.

My wife, who would be taking the vehicle in for testing, wanted to go to the garage we were familiar with, Cleveland Auto Repair. We both thought that the dealer would try to upsell her services that she didn't need or want.

It turned out to be what we thought a good idea since my dad had to take his van in for an oil change and to have a 'check engine' light checked out. We could each take care of our business with one stop. Or so we thought.

My dad made an appointment for Friday morning, and my wife met him there so he could leave his car for them to work on.

By mid afternoon, the van wasn't ready yet, so my wife went back to the shop just to get our car tested. When she arrived, they told her that their machine was broken so they couldn't do any testing. They told her to come back the next day. This raised a red flag for me. Just how does one break a machine that doesn't have any stress put on it in just two weeks?

By the end of the day, my dad's van still wasn't ready and he had no word from the garage on its status. When we drove to the garage, there was a mechanic there working on his personal collector's car, but he couldn't give us any information on the van. Both my father and my wife remarked on how it didn't look like they had even moved the van all day.

Saturday morning, my wife picked up my father and they went back to the garage. His van still wasn't done. They said that they couldn't figure out the cause of a problem that didn't even exist with the van. When my dad confronted them, they copped an attitude and was very rude to my father. Needless to say he chose to take his van and go elsewhere. The odd thing is, even though they said that they had worked for hours on my dad's van, they had never even moved the seat. We know this because my dad keeps the seat far up and the mechanics were too tall to even get in the car much less drive it without moving the seat.

At the same time, they told my wife that the emissions testing device was still broken.

She then went to the dealership and got the car tested (it passed) but that took her an hour. And, as we had suspected they would, they tried to upsell her some services that she didn't ask about and didn't need.

So all told, it took my wife two days and two different places just to get a test done. And this doesn't include the aggravation from all the unnecessary chasing and hassle dealing with rude people and people trying to push unwanted and unneeded services. Not exactly what I would call convenient, much less quicker.  It's definitely a matter of Walker and company trying to blow smoke up our tailpipes.

That said, it's probably just as good that the garage didn't have their machine working (if indeed it truly wasn't), considering the crap they tried to pull on my dad.

After all this, I decided that I wanted to file a complaint about this. The one thing I noted immediately is that the website for the program, which is supposed to be a state program, actually belongs to the Systech. As you imagine, it has their logo and a whole page dedicated to self-promotion. That makes me wonder, are we, the taxpayers, paying the company to advertise themselves on our dime?

It would fit in with the theme of Corporate Fitzwalkerstan. As does the typical routine of Republicans "fixing" what ain't broke, thereby breaking it but good.

UPDATE: I found that the garage had a Facebook page, so I left my complaint there.  There response was less than professional, to say the least:


  1. You know I loves ya, Capper ... but your comment wasn't very civil either. Having said that, that establishment is just around the corner from my place. Won't go there, that's for sure.

    1. I wouldn't go there.

      Good garage owners will take the time to explain to you what they have going on with your vehicle.

      While your post was not kept in the most informative, factual fashion, the response was that of a stuck up elitist of some sort.

      There response really makes me wonder what they think about my car, and if it is up to their par to be serviced by their golden hands!

      Will definitely avoid this shop here!

  2. Regardless of your personal experience (which was clearly not good), I've had experience with this kind of program in other states and I have to say, if properly implemented, works fine. In Virginia, where I last lived with a system like this (it was, in fact, more rigorous involving an overall safety inspection as well!), the garage or dealer doing the inspection was not allowed to perform the repairs. That ensured (for the most part) that the work recommended was not padded with extra fluff.

    I don't think expanding access to the emission control process can be a bad thing in the long run provided it's done with the proper level of regulation and supervision.

    1. Like weights and measures with our fuel pumps?

      Look at who is in control of those inspections and who they are hiring!

  3. An enterprising television station in the Milwaukee area that isn't owned by a rabid Republican --a daunting qualifier there-- might do a consumer fraud segement in which a car that has been checked out by an expert to verify it's in fine working order is taken around to a series of shops to see which ones try to swindle the owner. Investigative reporting anyone?

  4. The principle problem with "privatization" of this service is the inherent conflict of interest. It seems to me that honest businesses selected by government would be working very hard to counteract any suspicion of corruption, i.e. the opportunity to take advantage of their state-appointed duties of the state emissions program through fraudulent business practices. The garage emails crudely imply a sense of privilege that that like old Soviet-style communism in America, to me.

    On the other hand the facebook complaint was more heavy-handed than I would have written. Was "rathole" descriptive of fact or your emotion? (“Write, wait, reread, rewrite, than send”, is a good watchword.) The tone of the garage reply could have been expected. A simple “sorry” would have been more business-like, but, please, let's not misuse the term "elitist" to describe the words and intent of the exchange. Still, the second reply was the voice of a common thug and shouldn’t be excused as a response from a tired business person who temporarily forgot the rules of public relations.

    1. That garage owner is elitist. Every car that is maintained to sub-par standards is a joke to these people.

      They have more than enough comments that you will most likely never hear, nor would you be happy to hear, while they are "working" on vehicles. And it is not limited to comments about the vehicle that you brought them.

      These are elitists, who make plenty of money, hang out with their fairly well-to-do car-buddies, who all have very, very nice vehicles, and a lot of money into them all.

      Anything less is low class to these guys, and this makes them elitist since they are better than the low class people with no mechanical skills who bring them sub-par crap to fix.

  5. sorry, typo correction

    ...The garage emails crudely imply a sense of privilege that sound like old Soviet-style communism in America, to me...

    “Write, wait, reread, rewrite, than send”, is a good watchword.

  6. FYI This shop is out of business.