fraud

What It Took To Build Her Was Almost Enough To Kill Her (And Us) Part 2: Wars

 

Art by Rose Haley.

Art by Rose Haley.

Come Thursday, Pandora’s Box HAD to be moved to Jonesboro. (It’s not like the Jackson shop gave a fuck about her.) And while J Loren has the voice of a thousand hurricanes, I’m much bigger than he is and I’d like to think I can muster up the voice of at least a half dozen hurricanes.

Seriously, there simply wasn’t any more time. She had to be moved to HotWired in Jonesboro or she wasn’t going to be finished before J needed to be home. The Jackson shop agreed to move her to Jonesboro for us at the close of business on Thursday. Rose Haley ended up driving from Little Rock, Arkansas (almost 5 hours) to join Lorie Beth, Rickie, and Trevor to do as much as could be done with the ambulance stuck in Jackson.

Linens, safe, and SOME of  the other goodies donated by HURT fans stacked at my house, waiting to be put in Pandora's Box.

Linens, safe, and SOME of the other goodies donated by HURT fans stacked at my house, waiting to be put in Pandora’s Box.

I asked Lorie Beth to stay with Pandora’s Box until she left, to make sure the ambulance made her way to HotWired. The shop owner in Jackson agreed to send his mechanic to Jonesboro on Friday to finish the job for us. It took until just after midnight, Friday morning, for the driver to load up and begin to move Pandora’s Box back to Jonesboro. The last thing the shop owner told the driver who was hauling her back was, “Do NOT unload it without payment in full.” He asked if their shop was going to send a mechanic to work on it on Friday, and the owner responded with “probably not.” Lorie Beth overheard this and let me know. This should have given me barely enough time to formulate a plan, but because the shop suffers from a severe case of incompetence, they actually ended up giving me much more time –

Their truck lost a cylinder while pulling it, so the ambulance didn’t arrive in Jonesboro until 5:06 am, only six hours from when J’s flight was landing.

So if you’re keeping score on this blog:

  1. The truck the Jackson shop used to pick up the ambulance, broke down on the way back.
  2. They couldn’t repair the ambulance, or even diagnose the exact issue in three weeks of working on it.
  3. The truck they used to bring the ambulance back to Jonesboro, broke down.

I was told they had to collect payment in full before they would unload the ambulance. The guy reached into his pocket and handed me a folded up post-it note, and said, “Here’s your bill.” I opened it up, and it was a thousand dollars more than our maximum budget. I loudly used multiple explicative words as I described the utter incompetence I was dealing with. Not only did these guys NOT deliver even remotely close to on time, they didn’t fix the issue, they continued to act like they knew exactly what was wrong, they came in a grand over the maximum that I told them I was willing to pay, and they never gave me a quote until I got the bill on a hand written post-it note.

The hand written post-it note ironically included sales tax.

I had to fight to get her back, I wasn't about to lose her again.

I had to fight to get her back, I wasn’t about to lose her again.

I asked if they were sending their guy to come finish the transmission job in the morning. They assured me they were. That was the last lie I was taking. I wrote them a check that read “Void Void Void” across the currency line in cursive, and filled the rest of the check out as they requested. On the memo line I put a note to the shop owner that read, “Please do the right thing, send your guy here and finish the job.” I handed it to them and thanked them for delivering Pandora’s Box to us at 5:06 am. I parked the ambulance behind a utility truck and a dumpster — the exact fashion the Jackson shop used to keep me from getting her before — just in case they decided a voided check wasn’t sufficient for the job they didn’t do. My intent wasn’t to steal from them, or avoid paying what was owed. However, I couldn’t risk paying them all of our money and them not finish the job. Giving them a voided check would force them to either finish the job or agree to take less than what they were attempting to bill me for since they didn’t actually finish the job, and were almost a month behind schedule.

On Thursday, I had a sneaking suspicion things might go down that way, so I made a quick call to Austin Kelley, and asked him to be ready to go Friday morning on the transmission. Austin is a diesel mechanic, but isn’t a transmission guy. However, at this point he was my only hope. I needed a trained and competent mechanic that might be able to get the job done at the HotWired shop, while teams worked around him repairing the damage from the Jackson shop and finishing her up.

Over the next several hours Friday morning, my calls to the shop in Jackson went unreturned. It wasn’t until shortly before I picked up J that the shop owner called and accused me of check fraud. I quickly unloaded a month’s worth of built up frustration with him as I went into detail explaining their lack of professionalism, inability to do the job asked, and how they fucked us over on being able to do this job at all. I also told him that in NO WAY was that check given to him in any fraudulent manner. It clearly said VOID on it THREE times, and had a note written to him on it. I let him know that if his guy fixed it today [Friday] as agreed, I would pay him his extremely high bill, in full, IN CASH. I explained if his guy was able to get it fixed Saturday, I would pay him my original maximum, and he could deal with the rest because he never gave me an estimate or a quote, and just demanded a grand more at the end. I concluded my conversation by saying if he was unable to fix it by Saturday night, I’d give them exactly half to cover the parts, and I would have to pay the rest to someone else to cover their labor.

I hung up the phone and sent him a recap of our conversation via text message, including the amounts and the time frames to make sure there was NO misunderstanding.

He didn’t respond, and they never sent a mechanic.

Within minutes of talking to the Jackson shop owner, I picked up J Loren from the airport. He hadn’t slept the entire night before, and he felt terrible. I was equally as grouchy and sleep deprived, but slightly more stressed.

I took him for energy drinks and BBQ. Once we sat down, I explained to him what was going on with the transmission, and that the entire project might not be 100% as advertised because I simply fucked up by not getting the ambulance moved sooner. He acted like it wasn’t a big deal, but I’m not sure he fully understood the gravity of the situation. I didn’t want to stress him out anymore and ruin a weekend he had been looking forward to, and I had faith in team HotWired, Lorie Beth, and Austin Kelley. They have as much heart as I do.

Alana made J an awesome birthday cake.

Alana made J an awesome birthday cake.

Friday night was scheduled to be the night J would hang out with the Jackson team and thank them for their efforts. However, I knew if I was around any of them I would lose my cool. So instead, we had a quiet evening at my house. My kids gave J a Paper Jamz guitar and asked him to play for us, so he did some stunning renditions of the preprogramed rock/pop songs. After dinner, we relaxed and had a few drinks. I had to ask J his opinion of his songs being put into Gizoogle and posted on the HURT Forum. He wasn’t sure what I was talking about, so I read him the lyrics to ‘Rapture.’ He laughed, and quickly asked me to pull up ‘Role Martyr X.’ I did, and had him sing us the “Gizoogle” version. I can still hear him singing “since I be da most thugged-out humble playa up in tha ghetto. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass” as I type this.

The HotWired team grew dramatically Friday night. Brandon, the store owner, put out an “all hands on deck” post on Facebook. They worked throughout the night and made tremendous progress. I felt very guilty hanging out with J while everyone else worked their rear ends off tirelessly all night.

To be continued…

Bo

What It Took To Build Her Was Almost Enough to Kill Her (And Us) Part 1: Stonewalled in Jackson

This is what was left of the transmission after 280,000 miles

This is what was left of the transmission after 280,000 miles

On August 5th, I made the last blog post that ended with a live status update of Trevor and Pandora’s Box stuck on I40. It was a light hearted post because we were in really good shape. The ambulance only needed another day or two’s worth of interior work. The Jackson crew told me their part would only take two days. J was planning on coming August 15th. We were in great shape to not only be finished early, but to be able to do significant road testing to work out the quirks and bugs that are sure to show up on a one off build of a 23 year old vehicle with 280,000 miles on it.

This little relay almost burned everything up. It was stuck ‘on’ and gave constant power to the transmission, frying everything around it.

And… we were basically on budget. Which is vital when you’re working with other people’s money. J decided to book a flight for August 22nd to give us an extra week just in case things ran behind.

Then everything just fell apart for me.

Planning the transmission work was the hardest part of this entire project. I know countless mechanics and car dealers across the country; this was the most critical part of the project. We had to find a shop that had the proper equipment to do this job, and I wanted to find a place that had experience doing the kind of custom transmission a project like ours required. The shop in Jackson, TN seemed to be the perfect fit. They came recommended to us, I knew a mechanic that worked there, and they specialized in upgrading light and medium duty diesels. I asked them for a quote and was told there would be no way to give a quote without tearing into the transmission and figuring out what needed to be repaired or replaced first. I felt like that was fair, so I let them know our MAXIMUM budget. I asked them to do it as cheaply as possible and explained that we didn’t need overkill, we just needed a transmission that was designed for hauling the weight we needed to haul, daily, across the country.

Part of my day job is recognizing fraud in automobile dealerships. As the warning signs started to mount with this particular shop, our team was pushed to the breaking point, and my stress level began to rise. The first sign of trouble was the date they picked up Pandora’s Box. She was supposed to be picked up a week prior to that, and every day I would get a phone call telling me they would come get her the next day. After consulting with the rest of our team, we decided it was best to not have the Jackson shop do the work, so I lined up another shop instead. We just didn’t feel like they were motivated to do the project. When I called the Jackson shop to let them know I was going to take the ambulance to an alternate shop, I was told they were less than 30 minutes from being in Jonesboro to pick her up. Sure enough, they were, so they got to keep the job.

Transmissions for a project like ours can run upwards of $6,000-$8,000. We didn’t have that kind of money and we still needed to spend a bunch more on the creature comfort elements. They called me after she was picked up, and agreed to have a quote for me first thing Wednesday morning. A quote on Wednesday and having the work done on Friday turned into a quote on Thursday, with work done on Saturday. My phone calls on Thursday, August 7th, and Friday, August 8th, weren’t returned. On Saturday, I was told she would be finished Monday, that I could pick her up, and the work would be “well under my budget.” Monday, August 11th, I drove almost two hours to get her, only to be turned away because she wasn’t shifting properly. Every day from August 12th through the 14th I was told she would be ready the next day, that they couldn’t get me a quote, but they knew what my budget was and wouldn’t be over it. Finally, on August 15th, I was told I could pick her up at the end up the day. I drove there, and waited almost two hours before the shop owner came to talk to me. He assured me that she would be done before I left Jackson that night, even if his guys had to stay until midnight. He told me he was going to donate about $500 of the labor in exchange for throwing a logo on the side of her, and I told him that’s great. I explained to him again exactly what our time frame was, told him exactly what we planned to do to her, and I let him know what J’s flight plans were.

I told him I’d stay in Jackson until she was done, and to call me ASAP so I could go home. I got in my car and immediately drove home. I knew I wasn’t going to get a phone call from him. I’m trained to spot liars, and I knew I was being lied to. Phone calls to the shop that night went unanswered. At this point, panic started to set in for me. J was flying here in a week. We still had plenty of time to get everything done, but I didn’t know how much I could spend on everything else we needed to order, and I no longer had any confidence in the Jackson shop’s ability or intent to get the job done.

The Hot Wired Crew moved this safely to the inside.

The Hot Wired Crew moved this safely to the inside.

By Monday, August 18th, I couldn’t wait any longer. I told them I would have to pick up Pandora’s Box by close of business even if she wasn’t done. I explained that if she wasn’t safe to drive, I’d need to tow her back to Jonesboro because there was just enough time left to do everything else we needed to do. I drove there to pick her up — they had moved her between a fence and the building, then parked a truck behind her to trap her there. I’ve seen dealers use this tactic before with customers. I took it as a battle move. They wanted to make sure I’d pay before I had a chance of driving away with her. They knew my budget upfront, but to this point they’d refused to give me a quote. I sent a mass text message to our team to let them know that the Jackson shop was about to try and screw us out of money.

The owner seemed nice enough about the situation. He agreed to donate the hours of a couple of his crew guys and give them a list of odd jobs to be done on the ambulance. He also agreed to install a donated muffler for us, since the delay was entirely on them. We agreed that if the transmission wasn’t 100% ready to go by the end of the day on Wednesday, that he would truck her to us Thursday morning and finish the job in Jonesboro.

His crew honestly ended up making things harder on us. Vinyl was torn, everything got over spray on it and our fridge was dropped and scuffed up.  The wiring for the solar panel was installed outside of the ambulance and was not protected from the elements in any way. They did help us paint, and said that they fixed the cruise and got the muffler on.

This was her final coat of paint. Hours before she left Jackson.

Pictured are Rickie and Lorie working their asses off in what was a difficult situation.

 

Thursday, Pandora’s Box was in shambles. It was too late for me to have J get a later flight, and almost everything was going to have to be redone on her. All of our hard work was crumbling away.

Epic failure was certain. … And everything just fell apart.

 

Bo