Monday, 25 February 2013

When’s a FULL Service History not a FSH, when the Worlds not Enough!


I had only just used the service stamp a few minutes ago but I’d searched high and low and I couldn’t find it, We only had one and it was used to authenticate that the customer had had his car serviced by a Main Vauxhall Opel Dealer, in theory a Main Dealer fully stamped service record should make the customers car worth more money when it came time for them to trade it in or sell it.  


The rubber Service Stamp is one of the most valuable things in a Main Dealers and if it had fallen into the wrong hands although it would only cost a few pounds for us to replace, it could make someone else a lot of money, the last Service Book I had stamped with it belonged to a guy called "Elliot Carver" (that wasnt his real name but it was very similar, shame "Elliot Carver was a baddy in the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies rather than "The World Is Not Enough" or it would have been really pertinent and fit in well with my story :-) he was loaded he’d just hit the big time when he invested in a local franchise, it’s share price had gone through the roof and he had made a Fortune. He was having his Vauxhall Senator serviced by us for the last time as with his new found wealth he had ordered a high spec BMW. As an old friend of mine used to say“The World was his Lobster” 


As a small family owned main dealer we kept our overheads to a minimum and even though British Telecom had changed our telephone number to 6 digit’s by prefixing our number with a 2, we still hadn’t had a new rubber stamp made, or for that matter window stickers, number plate logo's, stationery or invoices I'm surprised that anyone could even find us let alone buy a car or have it serviced, we may as well have gone ex directory too. So our new self inking rubber service stamp was long overdue and compared to our last stamp it was state of the art and had our correct telephone number on it.

If you are not familiar with the Motor Trade or your an idiot and are wondering how could a Rubber Stamp that costs about £10.00 to replace be so valuable? Well the more unscrupulous “Dealers” build up a collection of them, they buy a car cheap with a dubious or none existent Service History, then they use their rubber Stamps, some various different coloured pens to fill out the details making it look like its been done over years, not minutes and then they retail the vehicle with an impeccable Full Service History for a substantially larger profit than the car deserves to generate.

That’s the lesser of two evils as it can also mean that they have destroyed the original service history because the car is a "High Mileage" example, and then they've made a new one to match the mileage on the milometer that they’ve tampered with and turned back, "given a haircut" or “Clocked” as we say in the trade, you can’t trust anybody, If you're buying a car off some Private/Home Trader or you don't know who you're dealing with even a car with a fully stamped Service Book really need’s to be backed up by copy invoices, or a bit of detective work and a few phone calls, in this day and age it’s my opinion that the government or an organisation like Experian or HPI should have a centralised database with details of every cars service history, this would go a long way to combating the fraudsters.

In the old days the only way you could check was by looking at the cars service book for the date and then going into the garages archives to dig out the manually written service instruction or diary.I t’s a little easier to check now as everyone’s invoicing is done on computer. Sadly though there are a lot of reputable Dealers who have been around for years but the economic climate has caught up with them and they’ve gone out of business, an unscrupulous dealer can soon have a stamp made and have a full main dealer service history made up by tomorrow and if the car you are looking at has been previously serviced by one of these garages please beware as unless you find an ex member of staff with a photographic memory you will have no way of checking it’s legitimacy.

One of our competitors had fallen foul of Trading Standards and their reputation as a trustworthy Ex Main Dealer had gone by the wayside,they had been caught red handed with a collection of other garages Service stamps that they had either procured or had made, they admitted falsifying service history's and they were fined, they had made the headlines of all the local news papers. I knew them well and was amazed that they had stooped to such despicable tactics to make money, a fine and a headline or 2 hurt them but they were allowed to carry on in business I think they should have been closed down, what about the cars that they had sold that were out in the market, they would in future return to the network of honest dealers and make them complicit in an on going scam.

About 3 years after our service stamp had mysteriously disappeared I received a call from a guy who was checking to see if we had replaced the Cam belt on the last service of the BMW that he had just bought privately  (BMW’s still had cam belt’s in those days) He was shocked when I said “No we didn’t, but that’s because we never serviced your BMW, and he must have had the wrong telephone number” He didn’t believe me and I’m sure he thought that I just couldn’t be bothered checking for him, he replied “No I got your new number from the Operator, and you’ve done every service on this car, so please could you check for me or put me on to someone who will”

The new number was the first clue and it was a welcome one as it’s not unknown in the trade for a member of staff to stamp their friends Service Book or even a complete strangers for a few quid, we had had some people working for us in the past that we found to have questionable morals and could not be trusted, so hand on heart I couldn’t be certain that we were totally in the clear. I answered the Guy honestly, but not knowing really if I could be dropping our garage in to some sort of trouble. “I’m sorry Sir, but I’ve been coming here since I was 12 and in all that time we have never ever serviced a BMW for anyone other than our sales department, do you mind me asking who you bought the car from?

I breathed a sigh of relief, the name he gave me was a memorable and unusual one "Elliot Carver" and coincidentally it was the same as the one on the last ever invoice that I had imprinted with our original service stamp, it vindicated us and all our current and ex members of staff. "The World was not enough" for the guy who had made it big with his shares and had bought a new BM, he still wanted to make more money by falsyfying his service history to increase the value of his car and make it more saleable. His World was about to come crashing down on him, the next rubber stamp he would get would be a Red one and it would say “Guilty”



 
Even more worrying these days is the fact that you can buy a "Set" of "Service Stamps" on Ebay, the advert is worded so as to almost invite or suggest they be used for wrong doing, and I quote "Any colour Ink pad can be used, for those times when you want all the stamps to look different. This one seller has sold 284 of them. What you have to ask yourself is "Do You Feel Lucky" or could it be that has he sold one of his rubber stamps to the guy you're buying that low mileage car with the Full Service History from?


Buyer Beware !
Barrie Crampton

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