Costly car repairs threw Kathy Spadt’s life into a spin she can’t maneuver out of.
She shakes her head miserably as she tries to figure out how she lost control over her life. Things were going so well until her car broke down last October.
“This has just put me dead in the water,” she says.
Now, her 1988 Plymouth Sundance is locked up in Spokane, although she had left it with a mechanic in Post Falls. Her car, worth about $1,000, is the proud owner of $2,259 in repairs Spadt says she didn’t authorize and can’t afford.
“The dumb female,” says Maynard Buck, the Post Falls mechanic to whom she took her ailing car.
Spadt isn’t surprised at Buck’s assessment of her. She admits it may be the root of all her recent problems.
“Maybe I was naive,” she concedes.
Spadt, who’s 52, celebrated after she paid off her car loan a year ago. Money always was a struggle for the divorced woman and her daughter, but she managed without aid.
The car was no limo, but it took her from her Post Falls home to work at a financial company in the Spokane Valley. At least until October, when it began overheating.
A dealership mechanic found her engine beyond repair and offered to replace it for $2,600. Spadt decided to shop around.
Her son-in-law recommended Buck, who works out of his home in Post Falls, as a good, reasonably priced mechanic. Buck says he told Spadt he doesn’t repair cars anymore. Still, he gave her an estimate of $1,700, which she told him she couldn’t afford.
She says Buck offered to find her a better deal so she left her car with him and waited to hear a price. After 10 days, Spadt says she finally called him and was told he was still looking.
A week later, Spadt says Buck called to tell her the car repairs would cost an extra $350. She told him the car wasn’t worth it. But he said the work was almost finished.
“She never told anyone to do anything with her car,” says Harry Denenny, a friend who gave Spadt rides nearly every day while her car was at Buck’s. “She got screwed royally. Her car’s not worth that much.”
A half-hour after Spadt spoke with Buck, Kevin McGlocklin from TDK Custom Engine in Spokane called her to find out if he should finish the work on her car. She had no idea why her car was in Spokane.
Buck swears he told Spadt he was taking her car to TDK for $1,800 worth of work and that she approved over the phone. But he has nothing in writing and doesn’t need anything in writing. Idaho and Washington don’t require customer signatures on repair estimates or work orders.
McGlocklin says Buck has brought him cars for nine years with no proof of owner approval. McGlocklin rarely sees the car owners because he says Buck handles the transaction.
Spadt says she explained to McGlocklin on the phone that she couldn’t afford the work. His bill came to $2,259. She says he offered to work something out with her if she wanted him to finish the job.
“She got off the phone and told me that he sounded really nice, that he’d work with her,” says Kathy Blair, Spadt’s former co-worker.
“She gave me the go-ahead and I finished the job,” McGlocklin says. He also has nothing in writing.
When the car was finished, Blair drove Spadt to TDK and left.
“I wouldn’t have left her there, but she was sure she was getting her car,” Blair says.
Spadt offered McGlocklin the title to her car and $500 as a down payment for his work. He refused both.
“I don’t know her from Adam,” he says.
Distraught, Spadt called Blair, returned to work and quit. She’d begged rides and borrowed cars for weeks thinking she could work out her car problems. But she gave up that day.
“I wish I hadn’t got so upset and walked off the job, but I had no way to get there anymore,” she says.
She stewed for weeks and fell behind on her bills. She bummed rides to some temporary jobs, but needed her car to find steady work.
In mid-January, Spadt decided her car had been stolen and called the police. She was told a mechanic had the right to keep her car until she paid her bill.
Last week, the mortgage company foreclosed on Spadt. She says her daughter deserves a better life than Spadt can give her right now, so she’ll probably send the teenage girl to her father.
Spadt took her problem to Phil Colozzi, who runs a foreclosure prevention program. The majority of his clients are single women. Spadt’s dilemma is not unique, he says.
“At least one client a month has been hurt by a mechanic or someone in home repair,” he says. Colozzi scoffs at Buck’s insistence that Spadt approved the costly work.
“If she’d had $2,500, she would’ve bought another car.”
But there’s nothing he can do except use Spadt as an example for others. As long as owners’ signatures aren’t required for repairs on their cars, it’s the mechanic’s word against the customer’s.
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