A day after being handed a 100-page complaint from the state Bureau of Automotive Repair alleging inappropriate business practices at Maurice "Mike" Glad's 22 Midas auto repair shops, the Modesto businessman said he still is in shock.
The bureau's complaint claims Glad's valley and Bay Area shops sold unnecessary or undelivered parts and services, made false and-or misleading statements, and failed to follow accepted trade standards. The report is based on a three-year investigation in which the bureau sent 24 cars to Glad's 22 shops.
"I knew about it 22 hours before seeing it on the front page of the paper," he said Tuesday during a phone call from his Modesto home. "I haven't had a meeting with the BAR in five years. They've been doing this investigation for three years. Why wasn't it brought to me before yesterday? Why didn't they tell me before telling the world?"
The Department of Consumer Affairs' Bureau of Automotive Repair considers that 2003 meeting the "warning," said Consumer Affairs spokesman Russ Heimerich.
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In July 2003, the bureau held what it refers to as a "proactive" conference with Glad, 61, regarding a shop in Clovis. Tuesday, Glad said the meeting had nothing to do with the allegations disclosed this week.
The report states that the bureau told Glad it had investigated complaints that the Clovis shop had tried to sell $993.54 worth of unneeded repairs to two customers. The report says "future violations may result in formal disciplinary action."
Before taking that action, the bureau conducted what Heimerich called one of its bigger investigations.
While an administrative law judge has yet to suggest how the director of the Department of Consumer Affairs should discipline Glad, if at all, the shops' business licenses could be revoked.
County district attorneys will decide whether to pursue the allegations further.
Glad likened the bureau's investigation and Monday's news release about the report to a "setup."
"It's not right. Forget about the (report's) content. It's not fair that they would just set us up," he said. "You think the average person is out trying to take advantage of people? That's bull."
Glad wouldn't discuss specific accusations in the report because he said he is looking into them, checking them against his invoices and securing a lawyer.
He said he doesn't know whether it's smart to talk to the media at this point, but he doesn't want people to think he has a reason to keep quiet.
"I'm not ashamed of myself, and I'm not going to hide."
Glad said customers can call 1-800-936-4327 with concerns, "and we'll deal with it immediately."
"We've always had that number," he said. "Obviously, we're more sensitive to complaints now."
At least two of Glad's Midas shops have unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau because they didn't respond to complaints, said Frank Whitney of the region's Better Business Bureau.
"We advise people to check out a business first," Whitney said, recommending his agency's Web site.
At the same time, Whitney said he was surprised Glad's Midas shops didn't have lower ratings, given the report's allegations.
Glad said complaints like the bureau's tug at customers' confidence in their mechanics.
"It's so damaging," he said.
Auto mechanics are among the most frequently complained-about businesses in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, Whitney said.
About 46 percent of U.S. residents fear their mechanics aren't charging fair prices, according to a survey commissioned by San Francisco-based DriverSide and conducted by Kelton Research.
"It's not uncommon for large auto repair chains to take advantage of consumers. Frankly, consumers are sick of being ripped off. They're already paying high prices at the gas pump, now they've lost trust in their mechanics," DriverSide Chairman Trevor Traina said in a news release.
Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2382.