Ontario woman says mechanic took her car on 100-km ‘joyride’

Click to play video: 'Ontario woman alleges mechanic took car for 100-kilometre joyride'
Ontario woman alleges mechanic took car for 100-kilometre joyride
WATCH: An Ontario woman is alleging her long-time mechanic took her convertible for a 100-kilometre joyride. Sean O’Shea has the story – Aug 14, 2021

Karen Bliss loves her car, but she says she’s not happy that her long-time repair shop appears to have used her car for a joyride that caused damage to her prized convertible.

The Toronto music journalist invested about $1,000 to enhance the look of her 2006 Pontiac Solstice. It included colour correction, scratch removal and a three-year ceramic coating on the vehicle’s exterior.

The initial work was done by a company in Vaughan, north of Toronto.

“When I went to pick it up it looked like it was right off the lot,” she said.

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Her friend, Toronto music and business entrepreneur Kenny Sprackman saw the results of the work and agreed.

“It was beyond immaculate. There was not a mark on that car,” Sprackman told Global News in an interview.

Then, planning to use the vehicle for the summer months, Bliss brought the convertible for a routine oil change at a nearby mechanics shop, Starling Automotive. It was alleged someone from Starling took the vehicle for a ride.

She’d been a customer at the shop for about 25 years.

“I’ve been going to them since my late teens,” Bliss said, adding she’s given the shop, owned by Mike Roth, referrals to many other consumers during that period of time.

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Shattered sunroof complaints on the rise in Canada

But when Bliss retrieved her car after the oil change and some brake repairs, she noticed something was amiss upon arriving home, which was about a two-kilometre drive away.

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“It’s got all this white crud all on the bottom of it, as though someone had taken it through a construction site,” Bliss said.

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When she examined the vehicle more closely, Bliss said she found scratches and other damage near the Pontiac’s wheel wells.

How could the vehicle look this way after just a few hours at the shop, she wondered?

Then, Bliss recalled that she and a service technician had made note of the vehicle’s odometer reading when she dropped it off earlier in the day.

“I actually made a little joke about the Global News story that, Sean, you did, on the guy who’d taken his car to Nissan and someone had taken that on a joyride,” Bliss said in an interview.

In May, Global News reported the story of Frank Statti, a Milton man whose onboard insurance tracking device showed how a dealer mechanic had driven his 2017 Nissan Altima 90 kilometres from the dealership.

The car had also been driven at a speed of up to 148 km/h. It had been in the shop to diagnose a problem with the backup camera.

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Bliss noted the Global News story and recalled the odometer reading earlier.

“I came home, remembered the odometer thing, looked at the odometer, and it had over 100 km more than when I dropped it!” Bliss exclaimed.

According to the work order at Starling Automotive, Bliss’s car was brought in with 79,148 kilometres on the odometer. When she got home and discovered the damage, she took a photo showing that the odometer had reached 79,256 kilometres.

“I did the math … someone took it on a 100-kilometre joyride,” Bliss said.

She approached Roth, she said, to point out that someone in the shop must have used her vehicle that day.

“He said, we wrote it down wrong,” Bliss added.

When Global News went to the shop to get Roth’s side of the story, he denied that the car looked near-perfect when it was brought in.

“It wasn’t in bad shape but it wasn’t pristine,” Roth said in an interview, after initially declining to comment and refusing to take phone calls from Global News.

Click to play video: 'Ontario man takes car to Nissan dealership for repair, app shows it was taken for 90-km trip'
Ontario man takes car to Nissan dealership for repair, app shows it was taken for 90-km trip

Roth claimed his staff’s reading of Bliss’s odometer was incorrect.

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“It was a clerical error, that was it, it was a clerical error,” Roth said. “We wrote the incorrect mileage down.”

However, the explanation doesn’t appear to be correct. According to the work order at the Vaughan company, which previously performed the exterior paintwork, the vehicle’s mileage was recorded at 79,114.

Accounting for the distance of an approximately 27-kilometre trip to her home, Bliss’s numbers appear to hold up.

Roth denies he, or any one of his staff, used the vehicle, even though he acknowledges it was possible.

“Absolutely physically possible, I will not dispute that,” he said.

“We had an opportunity to drive the car 700 kilometres,” Roth added, denying that anyone had time to drive the vehicle at all through the workday.

“You can go write your story. I would just like to say that it seems there are a lot of important things going on in the world that could use news coverage and I don’t think this is one of them,” said Roth.

“What’s your name again? Have a good day, OK? Thanks. Are we good?” Roth concluded, before ending the interview.

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Bliss ended up paying several hundred dollars to fix the damage. Roth refused to pay anything toward the repairs.

Bliss said she hoped other motorists could learn from her ordeal, and take precautions.

“The reason I want to do this is, this obviously happens a lot more than we think. I just feel like — just like they do when you rent a car — maybe we should do a walk around and we should take photos of odometers in front of the mechanic, so we do have proof.”

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