As part of our investigation into AAMCO, the NEWS4 I-Team obtained access to the company's "Service Recommendation Procedure" -- or internal phone scripts that give you an inside look at what AAMCO shops are taught to tell you.
According to multiple franchise owners, managers and former employees, AAMCO requires shops to use these scripts when interacting with a customer. Critics charge their main purpose is to get you to agree to pull your transmission out of your car for a couple hundred dollars, knowing that once your transmission is in parts it is harder for your to walk away from a more expensive repair.
For instance, if you ask what's "the most it will cost," the scripts direct the employee to tell you "the cost to repair will depend on what we find once we get the transmission removed and inspected."
If you want to talk to your spouse about it, you're told if "you keep driving the car" you could "possibly make the problem worse."
The News 4 I-Team even found the scripts being used in documents obtained from the Maryland Attorney General's Office, where a shop told the government it didn't do anything wrong because "The overall results of our external diagnoses service indicate that there is an internal transmission problem that cannot be corrected with a minor repair or adjustment." We found this same language contained in the scripts under the heading "Service Recommendation Procedure Complete Cost."
Take a look at our pictures to read more of these internal scripts:
AAMCO’s internal telephone scripts obtained by the News4 I-Team
AAMCO employees flip to certain pages depending on what the customer says on the phone
Franchise owners and former employees say they were trained to "separate the customer from the vehicle" so they can get your transmission out of the car by using lines like, "The overall results of the External Diagnostic Service indicate there is an internal problem in the transmission that cannot be corrected with a minor repair or adjustment. In order to identify the cause of the problem and give you an accurate and complete cost of repair, it will be necessary to remove and inspect the transmission."
FULL TEXT: Hi_____this is________ from AAMCO. We’ve completed our External Diagnostic Service on your ______(Y,M,M)______ and I’d like to go over the results with you? Is this a good time? Good.
As we identified in the brochure I gave you earlier, the first thing we did was check the level, color and condition of your fluid. We found it _______and______. Next, we drove the vehicle and found found it _______, which was your complaint. We then put the vehicle on the lift and found (leaking/not leaking) from the (right, left, side, front or rear). Finally, we checked all the external controls that could affect overall driving and shifting performance and found ______.
The overall results of the External Diagnostic Service indicate there is an internal problem in the transmission that cannot be corrected with a minor repair or adjustment. In order to identify the cause of the problem and give you an accurate and complete cost of repair, it will be necessary to remove and inspect the transmission.
Many consumers complained to their Attorney General that they were told they would need to replace the "soft parts," but later found out they also needed to replace the more expensive "hard parts" in their transmission. Franchise owners, former employees and automotive experts tell the News4 I-Team that nearly all transmission repairs require replacing the "torque converter," which is considered a "hard part."
FULL TEXT: The labor charge to remove, check and re-install the transmission is $______. Keep in mind, this price includes reassembling the transmission and reinstalling it if you elect not to have any work done. Right now, all we’re asking for is your permission to do the internal examination.
______, our experience is that in the process of bringing your transmission back to manufacturer specifications is a fairly extensive series of rebuilding steps will be required. We call this a “soft parts” overhaul. Soft parts include all the clutches, all the sealing rings, all metal clad seals, all lip seals, all o-rings, all gaskets, the required bushings and bands, and of course the fluid. We replace all of them. Now, as a courtesy to you, so that you can get some sense for what this might cost you, I can tell you that a soft parts overhaul for your transmission is $_______ with a 12 month/12,000 mile warranty. Also your transmission has a sealed torque converter that will need to be replaced and the cost for the torque converter would be $_______. Once we remove your transmission we’ll know if any hard parts need to be replaced and if so, they’ll be additional.
Again, the purpose of the examination is to determine the cause of the problem and to determine the most economical way of getting you back on the road. At this point, I simply need your okay to proceed with the removal and disassembly service. Which number can I reach you at later? May I have your (ID) as verbal authorization?
The News4 I-Team found the language from the scripts in documents we obtained from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. An AAMCO franchise used the explanation in its written response to the Attorney General investigating a complaint filed by an unhappy consumer.
If a customer asks how much it will cost or wants the worst case scenario, the telephone scripts read: "The cost to repair will depend on what we find once we get the transmission removed and inspected. The bad news is that some of the parts are bad. The good news is that not all of them are bad. At this point, we need to know which is which. I just need you (ID) to get started on finding out what parts are bad."
FULL TEXT: MOST IT WILL COST?/WORST CASE?/HOW MUCH? #1
That really depends on two different things:
1. What hard parts, if any, need to be replaced, and
2. What type of coverage you decide on.
Now, where can I reach you at ______ o’clock?
MOST IT WILL COST?/WORST CASE?/HOW MUCH? #2
In any given automatic transmission, there are between 300-500 parts. All of these parts are interrelated with each other. All these parts are interdependent with each other as well. All the parts are sealed in a hydraulic unit that works under pressure. The cost to repair will depend on what we find once we get the transmission removed and inspected. The bad news is that some of the parts are bad. The good news is that not all of them are bad. At this point, we need to know which is which. I just need you (ID) to get started on finding out what parts are bad.
The phone scripts also have answers if you "want to think about it," "talk to your spouse," "can't afford" the repair or think the repair cost "too much money."
FULL TEXT: I appreciate your _____. (tie back to customer concern)
Let's talk about where your indecision lies.
I want to help you make the right decision. Unfortunately, you only have a few options:
1. Keep driving the car and possibly make the problem worse,
2. Get rid of the car
3. Or look for a cheaper price somewhere.
Which way are you leaning now? Is that the only think that’s keeping you from having AAMCO repair your vehicle?
If you decide the repair isn’t worth it and just want to get rid of the vehicle, the scripts prompt the employee to tell you, "if I can fix this in an affordable manner, I'm sure you'd want to keep the vehicle. We'll have all the information after we remove and check the transmission."
FULL TEXT: Selling or trading your vehicle may, in the long run, be in your best interest. However, before you can make that decision you’ll need all of the facts, including, what it will cost to repair the transmission because if I can fix this in an affordable manner, I’m sure you’d want to keep the vehicle. We’ll have all the information after we remove and check the transmission.
FULL TEXT: PUT A USED TRANSMISSION IN #1
I can certainly understand wanting to minimize your costs but there are a few things to consider. You really have no idea of the condition or quality of the transmission, what kind of driving the previous owner put it through, or how many miles it has left. And if it does fail and you have to incur the expense of paying to have another one installed, you could end up paying more in the long run than if you went ahead and had it rebuilt in the first place. Fixing your transmission is the best way to go. To get started I just need your okay.
PUT A USED TRANSMISSION IN #2
______, in the long run a used transmission will cost you more. Here’s why, the transmission itself will cost $______. Add to that the price of a rebuilt torque converter, which is $______ and resealing the transmission because it has been out in the elements, along with the labor charge you’ve already incurred here and you’re looking at $______ for a used transmission. The best way to solve the problem is by rebuilding it the right way, the first time. I just need your okay to begin repairs.
FULL TEXT: Hi (Name), this is (Name) from AAMCO. We’ve finished our External Diagnostic Service on your car, and I’d like to go over the results with you. Is this a good time? (Pause) Good.
Now (Name) when you dropped off your car, I explained that our diagnostic procedure is a three-step process. Do you have the brochure I gave you handy?
Okay, as we talked about, our first step was to check the level and condition of your transmission fluid. We found....(review results...)
(With driving malfunction)
Next, we took your car on a road test. Remember the (complaint) you told me about? Well my technician experienced it, too. He also found the transmission was (other malfunction).
(With no driving malfunction)
Next, our technician took your car on a road test. He didn’t find anything unusual, so...
Our final step was to put your car up on the lift and check all the external controls that affect the transmission’s shifting and overall performance. We found...(review results...)
These results confirm that the problem with your transmission cannot be fixed with a minor repair adjustment. Your transmission has an internal problem and it needs to be rebuilt. (Name), do you have any questions up to this point?
Some AAMCO shops use telephone scripts provided through their internal computer system.