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PARTS DON'T ADD UP TO WHOLE CHAIN SAW

Q I TOOK MY CHAIN SAW to a hardware store to repair the choke and carburetor. After about two and a half weeks, just before I was about to call to see if it had been repaired yet, I received a postcard estimating it would cost me about $124 to overhaul the saw. I didn't ask for an estimate, but decided not to have them do the work.

When I went to pick it up, they handed it back to me taken apart and in a box. They said they would have to charge me $15 if I wanted them to reassemble it. I agreed to let them do that, but after a few days the work still hadn't been done so I picked up the pieces and took them home to try and assemble them myself, but all the parts weren't there. I finally gave the saw to my son to see if he could find someone to fix it. Meanwhile, I called the store to tell them that all the parts weren't there and they just hung up on me. I don't know what to do now.

--W.C., E. Amherst

"A "OUR STORE POLICY," says the owner, "is to give an estimate for approval by the customer before we make a repair that is above normal.

"In this case, as in any other case, if the customer decides not to repair the unit, we do not charge for the tear-down of the unit or the estimate we make for the cost of repair -- as a goodwill gesture.

"Even though we pay our mechanics to do all this, we do not charge the customer. However, to reassemble a piece of equipment that needs repair is totally ridiculous. Extra time is wasted because whoever repairs the unit later must take it apart anyway.

"We have no reason to keep his old parts. We have four full-time mechanics, have been in business for many years and have an excellent reputation in the service business.

"We spent the time to tear his saw down; the time to look up parts, costs and to figure an estimate. We did all of the above, including writing this explanation, at absolutely no cost to this customer. He has no complaint with us."

The only complaint you might have with the store is if they have not clearly posted their service and repair policy -- in particular their $15 fee for reassembling a unit they have taken apart if the customer chooses not to have it repaired there. If that policy is not made clear to the consumer, it might lead some to believe that they are intimidating the consumer to have them make the repairs at their estimated cost rather than carry home a box full of funny-looking parts.

Absent that disclosure to the consumer and your claim that you never asked for an estimate, you might find reason to take the store to Small Claims Court -- if not for the cost of repair -- then certainly for the cost to have your saw reassembled. Keep in mind here that, even if you succeed, you will end up with a reassembled but unrepaired chain saw. If you feel uncomfortable with them doing the repairs, you might have your son take the parts to another location and ask for an estimate of costs for completing the repairs. If their estimate approximates the $124 estimate you've already received and you still don't want to pay that sum, you might as well trash the saw and buy a new one.

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