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Customer, car wash in disagreement

I bought my husband a $40 gift certificate at Mariner Car Wash in St. Petersburg. I purchased an exterior detail that included full wash service, buff and wax, Armor All the exterior, vacuuming and windows for $34.95. We dropped our black 1998 Mitsubishi Montero off on Jan. 29 at around noon and came back at 3 p.m. to pick it up. It had not been touched and we were told to come back in a couple of hours. We ran some errands and driving by Mariner Car Wash, noticed that our vehicle's turn did not come until 5 p.m. The carwash closes at 6 p.m., so an hour was spent cleaning, buffing and waxing it. In other words, it was a rush job, and the detail work was terrible. The total price: $52.75.

Upon leaving the carwash, we noticed our power antenna was all bent and would not go down all the way. The radio was tuned to a station neither my husband nor I listens to.

My husband took the Montero back to Mariner and in the process of examining the broken antenna, the folks there bent it even further and it would only go halfway down. I also took the Montero to another detail company for a "second" opinion as to the job Mariner had done. It said the Montero had not been waxed.

When we spoke to the manager about replacing the antenna, he said he would do it for $30, which was his cost. Concerning the wax job, he also said he would detail the car again. I don't ever want to go back there. The carwash broke my antenna and did a poor job detailing my Montero. I ended up having the Montero detailed at another shop that spent three hours on it. I stopped by Mariner Car Wash to show the manager what a great detail job should look like, but he acted as if he didn't know the situation.

The experience at Mariner ended up costing me $182.75, including $130 for a new antenna. All I want is to be reimbursed for the antenna. Shannon Parham

Response: Richard Lane, president of Mariner Car Wash in St. Petersburg, said you purchased a $40 gift certificate on Dec. 23. You were told that since the vehicle had not been seen, the $40 certificate would only cover the express wax service, a 30-minute hand wax. It was also explained that once the carwash saw your vehicle, it could evaluate what service it needed, which might increase the cost. Lane said it is impossible to price a wax service without actually seeing the vehicle's condition, and most customers with gift certificates end up upgrading the certificate by 25 percent.

On Jan. 29, you and your husband brought your Montero in for service, he said. After seeing it, Mariner explained that it needed to be detailed and offered to provide the service for $49.95 plus tax. It was an extremely busy Saturday, and you were told there were several cars ahead of yours. When you left your vehicle, you left it in the vacuum lane. Lane said highly visible signs are posted advising customers that they are responsible for putting their antennas down. You did not put yours down. He said the carwash generally is able to put down the antennas, but because it was so busy, your antenna was overlooked. The reason customers are asked to be responsible for their own antennas is because some vehicles have after-market radios and most newer cars have switches to operate the antenna that are difficult to find. Also, many power antennas no longer work or are already damaged and the customers often fail to notify the carwash of this. Lane said Mariner Car Wash has no way of knowing whether an antenna is in good working condition when a vehicle is brought in.

According to Lane, Mariner Car Wash tried to resolve your problems. You were offered a second free buff and wax when you said you and your husband were not happy with the work. You declined.

Mariner offered to purchase another antenna at cost and install it. Your cost would have been $30. Instead, you chose to pay $130 for an antenna elsewhere.

With regard to the service you had at the other detail shop, Lane said you paid $107 vs. the $49.95 that Mariner charged. He also said that receipt is dated April 13, yet you claim you showed him the Montero on April 12.

Lane said he is sorry that you would not allow Mariner to work with you to resolve this situation.

If you have a question for Action, or your attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recording. Names not omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length.