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Unfair Shop Supply and Waste Disposal Charges

recommended maintenance notice
Recommended Maintenance Notice

Shop supplies and waste disposal charges are not new to the auto repair business. But after my recent visit to a General Motors dealership for a recall it reminded me just how out of control these extra charges can become.

I went into a Cadillac dealership to get the SRX recall performed on my 2009 model year crossover. Although I am a certified mechanic I still need to take my vehicle into a dealership auto repair shop for any recalls that are required by the manufacturer.

Keep in mind I do not announce that I am a certified master technician with 30 years experience to the service adviser at the time of write up. So I was not surprised when the service writer approached me with a list of things “the mechanic” thought should be done while the vehicle was in for the recall.

I wrote about this in more detail on last week’s post about my Cadillac recall experience. But what I didn’t mention about the nearly $400 of recommended repairs was the shop supply and waste disposal charges that were included in the estimate of things the mechanic wanted to do.

Recommended Auto Repairs Estimate

There were a total of three recommended services that the dealership wanted to bring to my attention. In my professional opinion none of these services were actually required and the dealership spokesperson didn’t say they had to be done, they were just recommended.

Each recommendation was broken out separately on the estimate which included parts, labor and shop supply and or waste disposal fees. To make this clear, there was not a single charge for shop disposal, there were three separate charges for shop supply and waste disposal.

throttle body cleaner
Throttle body cleaner

This meant a grand total of over $30 for supply and disposal. After looking closely at the estimate it was clear to me that the dealership was taking these fees and turning them into a healthy profit center. In my case the recommended auto repairs did not result in significant disposal of any kind.

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And as far as shop supplies go, for the throttle body service there was a parts charge of $10 for cleaning solvent. So I asked my service adviser what shop supply and disposal activities were included in the $30 charge. He stated that this would cover things like rags and the cleaning of those rags.

This may be a valid point that rags are required to perform a throttle body service. Let me be clear that I also believe in proper disposal of automotive waste of all kinds. However, what I don’t see is why this charge isn’t included in the parts and labor estimate. I also didn’t believe that they were going to use $30 worth of rags to perform the operations.

Car Repair in the Old Days

Back in the day when somebody brought their vehicle in for auto repairs, shop supplies where considered a courtesy and usually included in the estimate of repair. Back in the day waste disposal was not covered by as many environmental regulations and was not as costly, but they still needed to pay somebody to get rid of things like waste oil.

This part of doing business was just included in the prices that were quoted to the auto repair consumers. Now all too often they are broken out into a separate line item and in my case where applied to each individual recommended repair. When I pushed the service adviser to explain further about how these charges are calculated he stated that they are a percentage of parts and labor automatically added by the dealerships auto repair estimating software.

Ask Questions about Shop Supply and Waste Disposal

As I was sitting in the waiting area with about 10 other people. The service adviser came out and tried to up sell the same exact services to the other customers that were waiting for their cars. In one case a nice lady was there to have an alternator light diagnosed.

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cadillac alternator
Cadillac alternator

When the service adviser approached her to discuss the repair and provide an estimate he stated that the alternator did need replacing. As the lady looked over the estimate she noticed a separate charge for shop supplies and waste disposal.

When she asked the service adviser about this charge he stated that things needed to be thrown away properly and that some chemicals may be needed to perform the repairs on the Cadillac.

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with what it takes to replace an alternator on a 2007 Cadillac DTS, but I don’t think you need any chemicals to complete the operation. I also don’t think there is anything to throw away when this repair is performed. In fact the alternator is returned to the parts supplier to be reconditioned and then sold as a re-manufactured unit to another customer. Correction: The radiator has to come out to do these repairs. Therefore, coolant disposal is necessary.

Nevertheless, you have the right to question and negotiate these extra repair charges with the service adviser and or the dealership. If you are being charged for shop supply and waste disposal you have the right to know what they’re throwing away and what kind of supplies they’re going to use. You can also ask for these charges to be removed from your estimate and go somewhere else if they don’t comply.

The above article just covers my opinion about the subject of shop supplies and waste disposal fees that are in some cases automatically created by a computer program. In my opinion they should be handled on a case by case basis and not as a percentage of the ticket total. Of course I grew up in a world where this use to be a cost of doing business. If you would like to see more of my opinions the next link will take you back to the homepage for this auto repair information blog.