We are issuing a Red Card via this blog. This means we are blacklisting Oaks Vehicle Service Centre in Hersden, a village just east of Canterbury in Kent. This is because they are not, and never have been, a FOXY Lady Approved garage, despite pretending to be by carrying our logo at their website without our permission.
Earlier this year they signed and completed an order form to subscribe to our female friendly garage network. After we’d checked their IMI credentials we set up their FOXY Page and Club listing before issuing our invoice, payable within 30 days.
After 30 days, we nudged the garage for payment several times, by email and phone, without success. This is a rare instance for FOXY because garages usually pay us promptly to get their Subscriber Pack which includes Female Friendly Approved promotional materials and online gift memberships of FOXY Lady Drivers Club for female customers.
Finally we caught up with their elusive business manager and requested a card payment to speed matters up on both sides. We were given card details but the card failed when the bank declined this later on.
FOXY is blacklisting Oaks Vehicle Service Garage in Kent
Having exhausted every reasonable method to obtain payment for their order or to obtain an explanation for a delayed/failed payment, FOXY’s Area Manager referred this to me.
I then left an ansafone message and emailed the business manager, asking for a final explanation or rectification of the situation.
We are not unreasonable people here but we are professionals. Clearly a business that would pass off membership of our scheme and treat FOXY this badly is not one we’d want to introduce to women in Canterbury even when we are perfectly within our rights to insist on the full subscription payment.
After an email explaining Oaks’ options, including our issuing a Red Card within The Club, the garage’s business manager offered to pay our bank charges (an estimated £20) for the failed card payment and remove the FOXY Lady Approved logo from their website.
I agreed to this so we could all move on. We re-invoiced the garage by return (that’s ten days ago now) and requested this payment and the removal of our logo from their website by 18 April 2017.
A week later this second invoice remains unpaid and our logo is still in place at their website.
This constitutes ‘passing off’ in law and we’ll be reporting this to Trading Standards.
Their business manager is also a member of the IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry) which means he has signed the same ethical business promise as I have.
But he has not honoured his by
1) placing a sales order and failing to pay for this
2) using the FOXY Lady Approved logo without permission/purporting to be a member of this scheme when he is not
3) failing to do what he said he would do ie not paying a revised invoice or removing our logo as requested
so we’ll be reporting him to the IMI accordingly.
Fortunately the issue of a Red Card is a rare occurrence for FOXY but I have no hesitation in issuing one to Oaks Service Centre on this occasion because of their evidently premeditated and cavalier commercial behaviour in their dealings with us.
FOXY Lady Approved garages in Canterbury
To avoid any confusion, our FOXY Lady Approved ie female friendly garages in the Canterbury area are
The UK garage industry isn’t regulated which means that anyone can open a garage, set up a used car showroom and service or repair our cars without the latest know-how.
I have a statistic on my wall to remind me why this matters. It is that 93000 of us complain to Citizens Advice centres each year, about a combination of used cars and garage services. That’s a lot, bearing in mind that many of us never take it any further than the garage.
When I first uncovered this unsavoury fact, some 15 years ago now, I was quite shocked. Like most motorists I expected anyone who carried out repairs that could affect my personal safety to be licensed to do their job. As gas fitters and electricians are for example.
Types of Garages
Businesses and individuals who do garage work fit into several different categories in my experience. There are very good ones, ones who hide their light under a bushel, those that can do better and those that’ll never be good enough.
Fortunately the best ones are usually licensed to do their job and do it well or at least adequately. Sadly this doesn’t always make them best at customer service but at least your car should be safe.
Then there are others who are good enough and caring enough to be licensed, but aren’t because they don’t have to be and can’t see the cost benefit. Some of these businesses are among the most friendly I’ve spoken to on the phone and often have excellent customer feedback. But without evidently-qualified ie licensed ie ethical staff in their workshop I couldn’t sleep at night recommending them to female motorists. Just in case their work wasn’t good enough.
But the ones that aren’t good enough to be licensed and couldn’t care less about being so are the ones that really wind me up. This is because they can earn a decent living doing a mediocre or worse job, getting off scot-free because too many poorly informed motorists think it’s a good idea to buy cheap MOTs, car parts, servicing and repairs – not realising what good garages need to pay for licensed staff, the latest diagnostic equipment, car parts and the cost of premises and customer services.
It’s just commonsense that the cheapest prices are unlikely to be the best value for money in today’s unlicensed garage industry.
Minimum Garage Standards
So how do you find out who your best local garages are based on signs of measurable quality. Here are a few clues.
To begin with, if you use a franchised dealer you can be sure that their technicians have been trained to provide repair services that are approved by the car manufacturer. And whilst you might pay a tad over the odds compared to a good independent garage, you need to decide if their (typically superior) facilities, customer services and specialist training justifies this. Certainly most motorists driving new cars within their warranty period favour franchised dealers, in case they need to make a claim.
There are two main schemes to check if your local garage is as good as it gets. The first one is the IMI Professional Register where you can check for a licensed garage and/or mechanic near you.
Incidentally if you have a run in with a Motor Codes approved subscriber you can apply to the new Motor Ombudsman to review your case. With that name you might expect them to look after all motor industry complaints but they don’t. Perhaps that’s what they’re hoping to do in time?
It’s a shame that the motor industry feels the need to brag about complaints handling processes but with 93,000 complaints on the horizon and dysfunctional businesses allowed to trade, maybe it’s better to be prepared than let it happen to you.
We hope it’s not you, but if you do get fleeced at any stage, we help Club members sort things out. And if need be (this rarely arises because this is a genuine deterrent), we share the experience with local Club members.
If you’d like to contact me about any of this please email email@example.com or get in touch via the Club’s Twitter account @FOXYtweets.
These are typical cosmetic car damage we ALL collect.
When we’re parking, for example, but just as often (or so it seems to me) caused by careless and short-sighted others wielding trolleys, buggies, opening car doors and reversing recklessly in busy car parks.
Just like the garages women visit for MOTs, car servicing and mechanical repairs we all want to know where the genuinely female friendly accident and cosmetic repairers are in our area.
What are cosmetic car repairs?
Cosmetic car repairs affect the look of your car, your perceived status sometimes and ultimately your driving pleasure. If your car LOOKS good it’s no secret that you FEEL good and it seems to drive better too. Funny that!
Cosmetic repairs are also known within the motor industry as SMART repairs (as in Small to Medium Area Repair Techniques). Few females know of this acronym so perhaps that’s the first point to make here. A SMART* vehicle repairer is therefore a specialist cosmetic car repairer…
*not to be confused with the SMaRT Garage Group that does service and repair work in South London and Salford… and who are part of the #FOXYLadyApproved garage network. Sorry to confuse you!
We all need cosmetic vehicle repairs at some stage.
By that I mean
+ Alloy wheel refurbishment
+ Car interior repairs
+ Car valeting
+ Cosmetic car park dings
+ Paintless dent removal
+ Pre sale tidy up
+ Scuffs and scratches
+ Vehicle recovery service
+ Wheel alignment
Remember that a pristine looking car will sell ahead of one that’s evidently been in a few supermarkets too many. My mother in law had her car tidied up before selling it recently and it flew off the shelf – she sold it to the first caller at the asking price.
What surprised me most, looking at prices recently, is that cosmetic repairs cost less than I imagined, and this price list from the Just Car Clinics group will give you an idea of the costs to budget for….
How to find a good accident or cosmetic car repairer
It isn’t easy to find a good cosmetic car repairer online.
Even Google doesn’t know the difference between a ‘service and mechanical repair’ garage and an ‘accident and cosmetic repairer’. To see what I mean, search for ‘cosmetic car repairs’ and you’ll find loads of ‘service and (mechanical) repair’ garages.
That’s such a waste of our shopping time and very misleading, especially when we might end up handing our car over to a garage that might have a go (but has no skills or license to do the work) or charge us a handling fee to simply pass the work on to one of their chums who may or may not be any better.
Even the motor industry lumps ‘repairs’ into one category when motorists are likely to be searching for ‘repairs’ yet looking for the best ‘mechanical’, ‘accident’ and/or ‘cosmetic’ repairer to suit the job in hand.
When all women want to know is who and where are the best local approved repairers we can trust not to rip us off.
In short, we want a repairer that’s best qualified to do this specialist job, but few women (or men) know what the best standard is.
We might choose a national network like FOXY Lady Approved Just Car Clinics or favour a specialist repairer for a make of car, like Ford Accident Repair Centres (a handful are FOXY Lady Approved to date). Or a specialist in a particular field such as upholstery or alloy wheel repairers.
When it comes to more major car accident repairs, FOXY looks for the Kitemark specification (known as BS10125) in bodywork repairs. Most of the leading insurers require this for their repairer networks.
Another sign of measurable quality is membership of the VBRA (Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association) that operates the only Trading Standards Code of Practice scheme. And if you can find an expert for the work you require listed at the IMI’s Professional Register at least you know that person is licensed to do the job.
When it comes to cosmetic repairs some say a mobile resource (one that might assemble a tent outside your home or office to complete the likes of spray paint repairs there) is less able to achieve the same consistent paint finish because of the outdoor/weather variant. But it might suit you better and be a quicker solution?
Needless to say, after an accident and all the stress this brings, you want a business that has invested in quality standards first and is female friendly to boot – an accident can be very unsettling.
Remember that the motor industry doesn’t require individuals to be licensed to carry out bodywork repairs so, whatever your foxy choice, go for a business that has clearly invested in licensed/trained staff who are more likely to provide higher standards than others.
Very often a good accident repairer will be a good cosmetic repairer because of the synergy in skills. They are likely to be experts in panel sourcing/beating, paint spraying and/or the economic supply of the best value (NB: be wary of the cheapest…) replacement parts.
You’ll also find networks of specialist often franchised services offering car valeting, alloy wheel repairs, windscreen replacements and such like. Needless to say perhaps, it’s the same old jungle out there for females so choose a female friendly approved one, where given the choice.
If we can help sort things out, we’ll add our voice to the female cause.
By choosing a FOXY Lady Approved ie female friendly accident repairer and/or cosmetic car repairer everybody wins in the end, just as soon as women realise they have a female friendly choice and don’t make do with repairers that clearly aren’t.
Please help us spread the word by telling your friends…
NB: Sadly cars that were accident write offs are allowed back on our roads without an insurance bill of health (see eBay for examples of this). Whilst that’s a subject for a different blog I couldn’t live with myself if a repairer I chose to repair my car did the job SO BADLY that this caused a serious accident to the person I next sold my car to…
A growing number of women are conquering their concerns about being ripped off by garages, confirms whocanfixmycar.com a site which helps car owners find mechanics in their local area.
Their findings are that more women than ever are taking to the roads in their own cars. Vehicle licensing statistics state that in 2012, about 40 per cent of privately registered cars had a female keeper with this proportion increasing by 70 per cent since 1994.
This motoring independence also coincides with a steady increase in women living alone. In 1996, there were 3.9 million females living alone, a figure that rose to 4.1 million by 2012. According to the Office for National Statistics, a further two million single occupancy households are predicted by 2020.
Ian Griffiths, CEO of Whocanfixmycar.com, said: “We’ve noticed that many more women are now taking charge of their vehicles and liaising directly with garages, rather than asking their partners to handle the work.
“For some women, a visit to their local car garage can traditionally be quite a daunting experience, with many dubious about the prices they’re quoted for repairs and services. We’re hopeful that the tide is starting to turn. The mechanics on our site work hard to promote themselves as female friendly garages and some are running courses for women to help them learn more about the mechanics of their cars. Others have a high concentration of female staff members on board.”
This is good to hear and reflects our business stance. To be FOXY Lady Approved by sister business, FOXY Choice and promoted as female friendly to women drivers, garages need to demonstrate their quality credentials (usually ATA/Professional Register and/or TSI approved Motor Codes) and sign the FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women anything they don’t need.’ We then monitor their quality, value for money, cleanliness, welcome and genuinely female feedback in a biennial compliance visit so we can be as certain as possible that they are delivering to our standards.
Genuinely good garages that organise women’s evenings can contact us to promote a specific event at the FOXY Lady Drivers Club website.
Mobile mechanics are also welcome to join the FOXY Lady Approved scheme providing they are members of the IMI’s Professional Register and are subject to rigorous reference follow ups.