Martins Volks Werks of North Farm Road, Tunbridge Wells, offer a very polite and friendly service, but their invoices can be almost three times their initial quote without warning or explanation either while they have your car or when you are querying the invoice.
If you are not in the Tunbridge Wells area then this will probably be of much less interest to you, but when my wife, Ladan, wanted a service and MOT for her VW Golf in Tunbridge Wells she initially wished to use the main VW Dealer, but as their quote was well over 200 pounds she was encouraged to hear from an employee at that dealership that other VW specialists may be of similar quality but cheaper, she was even given a couple of names. One of those names was Martin’s Volks Werks Ltd. Ladan called them and got a quote of “about 120 pounds” for a service and MOT on her vehicle. Ladan liked the sound of the man on the phone and chose them over a slightly lower quote elsewhere.
The job was done within one day and Ladan arranged to collect the car, the owner of the garage offered to pick her up half way between home and the garage using her serviced Golf. He was very friendly with her and chatty and said that he had even found a problem with the rear brakes which he had fixed free of charge. Ladan, expecting to pay there and then, asked how much the work had come to and she was told that an invoice would be put in the post and she should not worry because it had not come to much as the car was in very good condition. The car’s driver side wing mirror had been broken while in the garages possession and they replaced it with a smaller one as the specialist did not have the correct size for her car in stock.
I know that the motor trade has had a bad reputation in the past for trying to get extra money out of people, in general this is done by phoning the customer part way through a check-up or service to announce that something serious has been found wrong with the car and that it will cost several hundred pounds to fix. I say “in the past” because I have received excellent service and spot-on quotes from Brake Thru in Tunbridge Wells for many years now, and even Kwik Fit are now proving excellent at carrying out only the work that is needed and giving clear, VAT inclusive quotes, in advance (they later phone you and try to sell car insurance on the back of their good service). I was working from home on the day of Ladan’s service and Ladan had her mobile phone with her, we were relieved to receive no such calls from Martin’s Volks Werks. A few days later an invoice arrived, and ‘not much’ against a quote of “about 120 pounds” turned out to be over 300 pounds.
Having just got married and had an exotic honeymoon money was in short supply for us. Ladan visited them and asked what had gone wrong, the man she spoke to said that he did not understand why we had not received a call during the day before they proceeded with the extra work that added the extra costs and apologised for the error, but he said the invoice was correct and that they would split it into two invoices and allow her to pay it over a long period of time without any interest if she wished.
I analysed the invoices that we had been sent, beyond a service and an MOT the only additional cost I could see was a single wiper blade. We decided to write and ask them what they believed cost the additional sum over and above the quote, because everything on the invoice, apart from the actual figures, seemed in keeping with their earlier statement that the car was in good condition and had not required much work. As a show of good faith, which I am now unsure was justified, we sent them a cheque for about 200 pounds with this letter.
That letter was sent in August, the reply was received several months later and did not contain any justification for charges being nearly three times the quote other than, in addition to a wiper blade, the changing of a set of spark leads and an emissions test. Their letter also now claimed that, whilee they did acknowledge that they had no authorization to carry out the additional work (an emissions test and spark leads?), they had tried to call before proceeding with it – a claim which I, having sacrificed my lunch-time walk that day, knew to be false. I was slow in replying to this letter, Ladan had fallen into a coma several weeks before this letter came and I was not sure then whether her condition would be improve quickly or not. That said, I still face every day with the optimism that Ladan may make a substantial recovery during the course of it. Another couple of months on, Martins Volks Werks wrote again saying that if Ladan did not pay the remaining amount within 7 days then they would take legal action. I wrote back immediately informing them of Ladan’s condition and stating that while, if they wait for Ladan to recover she might have another opinion, I did not feel their reply had referred to any work that should not have been included in the original quote. I gave them my mobile phone number in case they wished to further try to settle the matter through me. Although I replied immediately it was still two weeks on from the date of their letter because most of my mail is being forwarded from Tunbridge Wells to Newcastle by a neighbour and there is therefore a delay in correspondence reaching me.
Martins Volks Werks did not, however, try to take any legal action, but nor did they try to contact me, instead they forwarded the matter to a debt collection agency called Network Debt Recovery who have persisted in sending threatening letters addressed to Ladan in spite of me contacting them several times and them assuring me that the matter would be put on hold. Included among the threats was a letter, sent after I had informed them of Ladan’s condition and location, threatening that somebody would come to visit Ladan and if she did not pay the requested amount (doubled by fees) before that visit then she would not be dealt with amicably, Network Debt Recovery’s staff were unable to tell me exactly what this threat had meant and the man I apparently needed to speak to in order to understand what this meant, a Mr. D. Steele, has never been available for me. Thankfully this threat was not carried out. I sought legal advise on whether I should pay or not and I was told to send a letter by recorded delivery to Network Debt Recovery explaining the whole situation, my advisors said that any reputable debt collection agency would drop the case but that in any case I should get back to the legal advisors with their reply. Network Debt Recovery ignored my letter and continue to send threatening letters addressed to Ladan, even though they are clearly fully aware that Ladan is in a comatose state and the letters only serve to cause me additional distress. All further attempts to contact Mr. D Steele by email and by phone have also been ignored. I may blog some more about Network Debt Recovery and their methods at a later date, if you have found this article and are receiving threats from them at the current time, especially if it is also over a claim that you have disputed, email me via firstname.lastname@example.org with “blog” in the subject.
For the record, Martins Volks Werks are fully aware of the kind of actions that Network Debt Recovery are taking on their behalf as they were copied in on my letter to NDR in which everything to that date was summarised. Asking what seemed like a simple question over how an invoice was triple the price they had led us to expect it would be has resulted in Martins Volks Werks taking actions, while aware of Ladan’s inability to act, for which they have added over 200 pounds worth of additioonal fees, this will make the matter difficult to settle even if they finally extend the courtesy of explaining what the original charges were actually for.
If you have any comments to make about Martins Volks Werks of Tunbridge Wells, good or bad, please do add them below.