Tampa, Florida - Many of us take our car to a shop to get an oil change or other work done, and we assume they are doing the job correctly. But when one local express lube company was accused of doing dirty practices and an employee tried to stop it, he was attacked. That's why Ulysses Marshall filed a federal law suit.
Marshall says, "We have a whole lot of evidence and a whole lot of proof."
Marshall works for Texaco Xpress Lube, one of the largest express oil and lube companies in the world. He says the company is clueless to the amount of information he has.
Marshall, who worked for the company for several years, says in the lawsuit he objects to the company practices of routinely taking advantage of customers like Paula Moran.
Moran says she doesn't know a thing about cars and that's the kind of customer that Marshall says the company liked to take advantage of. He says in the lawsuit Texaco Xpress Lube profited off of Moran and others customers.
Moran had an oil light come on and went to the Discount Auto Parts next door to the Texaco Xpress Lube on Gunn highway. She says two people from the Xpress Lube came over and solicited her and told her they could fix her problem.
She says she believes when some mechanics see a woman, they think they are stupid and take advantage of them.
Marshall says Moran needed a new air filter, but the company didn't carry one for her Mercedes. So they installed a filter intended for a Chevy Malibu that didn't fit.
"When you put the wrong air filter and it doesn't fit, instead of helping with gas mileage, it makes it worse," he says.
We showed Moran how the wrong filter creates an air gap, decreasing her mileage and how the company took advantage of her and she said it was absolutely disgraceful.
Brian Fowler is the President of North Florida Lubes, which owns Texaco Express. He says he wasn't aware of the allegations about his company until he read it the federal lawsuit, and that the accusations don't appear to be true.
Marshall sends Fowler emails detailing the practices at the shops, and when Fowler says he doesn't believe what Marshall is saying is true, there are videotapes to substantiate much of what Marshall says.
One video shows company vice president Arnold Frankie appearing to berate employees at one of the Xpress Lube locations, because they were falling short of the $62 average charge the company wanted every customer to pay.
Marshall says to maintain that ticket average on each customer, the employees have to do what it takes, even if it is a service the company can't do or doesn't provide.
For example, Marshall says that's why the company charged one customer for a transmission flush even though it couldn't do it because of the make of the car. As the video shows, workers placed a machine in front of the car and billed that person for the flush.
Marshall also claims the company swiped the customer's credit card twice, once for services and once for cash.
Marshall says the key thing is the deceptive practices of misleading customers are to what they really need.
He says when the company didn't have the correct tools to repair several cars, Marshall says they found anything they could to try to perform the service.
For example, he says they damaged the engine to one Lexus when they banged on it with the wrong tools to get to it. The company has recently agreed to pay for damages to the car.
Marshall says he doesn't think the company can hide anymore as to what they are actually selling customers and what they are doing. Meantime Moran says it makes her furious that they are ripping people off.
North Florida Lubes sent us an email saying it wants its customers to know it regularly trains and advises employees on ethical practice and procedures and asks employees to sign an integrity statement as weekly training meetings. The company says it does not tolerate employees using improper parts or otherwise acting inappropriately.
So here are some things we've learned in this story that can protect you:
If you are having a filter changed, ask to see the box it comes in and you can Google it to see if it is the right one for your car.
Secondly, if your car is getting its system flushed, don't sit in the car with the hood up. Stand where you can see it is actually attached to your car and doing what it is supposed to.
If you buy five quarts of oil, make sure you see the empty cans after they are put into your car, so you know you are getting what you paid for.