A Cat & Dog Hospital in Long Beach recently filed suit against Yelp for manipulating their customer reviews in order to extort money from them.  What Yelp does, is remove a businesses positive reviews and “gins up” negative reviews from dubious sources.  Then Yelp calls the business and ask them to buy advertising from them.  In exchange, Yelp will “manage” the negative reviews and promote the positive reviews.  The 9th Circuit Court recently ruled that Yelp actually has the right to manipulate the reviews in order to generate a profit.  The Court feels like the public has no right to expect unbiased reviews, because the reviews are clearly “opinions” of the reviewer.  The 9th Circuit Court said this was just “hard nosed business practice by Yelp”.

I know just how the animal hospital feels.  Yelp does the same thing to us and thousands of other businesses.  We had a one time customer named Mark, that tried to extort a $2500 Supercharger from us.  He said if I didn’t pay for the Supercharge his car needed, he would post negative reviews on every website he could find.  Needless to say, I didn’t “pay up”, and he kept his promise.  If you see our Yelp reviews, you’ll see 5 negative reviews from Mark and one more from someone we never met, that just happened to agree with Mark.  There is another interesting negative review from someone who called with a question and we hung-up on them.   When the Yelp telemarketers call, I generally hang-up on them before they go into their pitch.  I suppose technically, I hung-up on them before they could ask their important question.
Another negative review was posted by a Used Car lot because we told a customer the car they just bought was unsafe.  The car had aftermarket wheels and each wheel had three missing lug bolts.  Aftermarket lug bolts are all different than the original Mercedes-Benz lug bolts and are very hard to find a replacement.  The Used Car lot was forced to buy new wheels to correct the problem.  They blamed us for costing them a lot of money, so they pretended to be a customer posting a negative review.  Yelp refuses to verify if the review is from a actual customer.
Yelp calls me all the time with their offer to handle the negative reviews; for $600 a month.  The 9th Circuit Court said the animal hospital had insufficient evidence to convict Yelp of extortion.  It’s to bad there’s not a place to “review” the 9th Circuit Court.  But it wouldn’t really matter, they have jobs for life and aren’t concerned with public opinion.



Daniel H. - Wiring Harness

I recently bought a used 1995 Mercedes E320. I took the car to Mercedes-Benz of El Dorado Hills for an oil change. I got a call from the Service Adviser telling me I needed a new wiring harness for my engine. They wanted over $1000 for the job. I don’t really know much about cars, so I declined the repair and took the car to another Mercedes repair shop a coworker told me about. When I took the car to Stephen’s Service Center, they looked at the wiring harness and said that it had already been replaced. They showed me what they were looking for and why the wiring harness failed to begin with. At that point I didn’t know who to believe. The dealer should be the authority, so why would they tell me it needed to be replaced if it really didn’t need to be. Stephen’s suggested I take the car to the Bureau of Automotive Repair and show it to them So, that’s what I did. One of the inspectors at the Bureau of Automotive Repair looked at the wiring harness and confirmed that it wasn’t damaged. I guess I know now who I can trust and who I can’t.

Bill G. - Missing Cup Holder

I’ve been going to Tom Stephens for many years and he has always given us excellent service. Recently however, we took our car in for a major service and one of the things that was to be fixed was a broken cup holder. The service was done in their customary manner but they forgot to fix the cup holder. I can somewhat understand how it happened, because they were very busy when I dropped the car off. After I picked the car up, I noticed that they had forgotten to fix the cup holder. Before I had even gotten home, Tom Stephens had left a message on our machine saying he was on his way over with the cup holder. 30 minutes later he had installed the new cup holder in my driveway and for no charge, including the part. This is the kind of service that keeps my wife and I going back. Everyone forgets something once in a while. It’s refreshing not to hear excuses and see a business do the right thing without being told to. Yes, we are old customers and it might be expected. But I have a feeling Tom would have done the same thing if it was our first visit.

Brent T. - Mercedes Repair Cost

In the past, I always had my 1997 Mercedes E320 serviced at the Mercedes dealer, so I took it back because it ran rough and the check engine light was on. They kept my car for 3 days before they told me the number 2 spark plug had become loose and the threads were now stripped. I asked them how it came loose, because they were the only ones to service my car. They didn’t know but it would cost $2600 to take the cylinder head off and send it to the machine shop for repair. I didn’t like that answer, and I had seen a Mercedes repair place near my work. I phoned Stephen’s Mercedes and told them the problem. They sounded helpful, so I took the car from the dealer and let Stephens take a look. They said they could fix it without taking the cylinder head off. They said they could install something that restored the threads for the spark plug. The owner gave me an estimate of $600 or less to fix it. I left the car and at the end of the day, I got a call that it was fixed. Sure enough, it runs fine and the check engine light is out. It ended up costing $2000 less than the dealer wanted, plus was done in one day. The dealer said it would take 2 weeks. I’m now selling the car because Stephens test drove the car and said the transmission was going bad. I had noticed it slipped some times, but the dealer told me it was normal. As I found out from Stephens, the transmission oil had never been changed in all the years I had taken it to the dealer. They said it wasn’t needed. Now I find out it costs $5000 for a new transmission that could have been avoided if the oil had been changed. As soon as I sell it, I’ll buy another Mercedes, but it won’t be serviced by the dealer.

Jim I. - Great Shop for an old Mercedes

I have a 1980 300D. Tom has given me probably $1000 in free advice and do-it-yourself tips. He’ll do a ride-along to listen to a funny noise and not charge anything for it. When the car actually has needed work, the job has been prompt and reasonably priced. If you’re courteous to Tom, he’ll be courteous back, in my experience.


Vick M. - Car Now Runs Cool

I had been complaining to the dealer that my wife’s 1995 S320 had been running hot for over a year. Each time I took the car for service I would ask them to check for a answer to the condition. The “mechanic” could never find anything wrong. I was told that Mercedes naturally run hot. I retorted that it had not until the last year or so. Finally I became concerned enough that I looked for someone else to diagnose the condition. I found Tom’s webpage and was quite impressed by the information given so freely. I took the car to him that day and within a hour it was discovered that the thermostat was faulty. Replaced it and the car is now running cool again. When my Mercedes need service Stephens Service Ctr is where I am going to take it.



Anonymous - Warranty Help

I own a 2005 CLK500 and have taken it to the dealer several times to get repairs made that are covered by the warranty. 90% of the time, the things I complain about don’t get fixed. They say they cannot duplicate the problem. Out of frustration, I took the car to Stephens Mercedes Repair after two different acquaintances told me of their good experience there. When I sat down with the owner, Tom Stephens, he explained how dealerships worked. He apparently worked for Mercedes for 25 years. He said that the reason my car wasn’t getting fixed, wasn’t Mercedes-Benz the manufacturer’s fault, it was because the dealer mechanics are paid only for the work they do. They don’t get paid to research a customers complaint and figure it out. Stephens explained that Mercedes-Benz has a service bulletin with a fix for each of the problems my car has. After he spent several hours looking up the bulletins for each of my problems, sure enough, each complaint I had that the dealer said they couldn’t duplicate, Mercedes-Benz had a fix. I had to pay Stephens for his time to research the problems, but now I have a copy of the service bulletin to take to the dealer and finally get the problems fixed by the warranty. I don’t feel that I should have to pay someone to figure out what the problem is, but I’m quite happy that Stephens took the time to figure it out. I like the car, it’s dealing with a big dealership that makes me wish there was a smaller place like Stephens that I could take the car to.

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“Age doesn’t always bring wisdom.

Sometimes age comes alone.”