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Dinged door can put dent in your wallet

Sarah S. Chung

Got a scratched fender? A ding in your car door?

You may end up paying to fix the damage twice if you take up an offer from “marauding body men” working the Roaring Fork Valley, according to area body-shop owners.

Local body shops are reporting a rash of victims of a roving repair shop that offers minor body work while you wait – in a parking lot or on the side of the road. The outfit apparently approaches individuals who are driving dented vehicles and proposes “priming” cars for a much cheaper price than traditional body shops charge. They offer to knock out dents, apply plastic filler and primer or sealer, said local auto-body technician John Stock.

“I have had quite a few people come in thinking all they have to do is have their vehicle painted. The fact is we would have to remove the work the marauding body man has done and repair from the start because their work is so bad,” Stock said. “The repairs now cost more money than if they had never touched the vehicle.”

A case in point is a dented fender one of Stock’s customers paid $300 to have “primed” in the Aspen City Market parking lot. A job that normally would have cost about $900 ended up totaling $1,500.

Stock had to bill the customer $1,200 to remove the faulty work and replace fender.

At Hightone Autobody in Basalt, where Stock is the manager, eight such victims have recently brought in their cars, expecting to just need a coat of paint. Across town at another body shop, a local ended up paying more to repair the damage caused by the roving body shop than the cost of a new fender.

“You’re going to get what you pay for,” advised Valley Collision owner Kevin Kinzel. “When you put color on is when every imperfection will show up. There’s no respectable body shop that’s going to just paint over someone else’s shoddy work because the paint’s the signature.”

Vehicle owners who fall for the cheap body work take a hit not only in their wallets but in the condition of their autos, since faulty work can weaken a vehicle’s exterior. The industry standard for the amount of “Bondo” or plastic filler used before the primer is 1/16th of an inch. Kinzel has seen work done by the roving repairmen exceed one-quarter of an inch.

“If there’s too much on, the next time you’re in a fender bender, the whole chunk will fall off,” Kinzel said.

These “gypsy repairmen” can reportedly be quite persistent when making their sales pitch. One of Kinzel’s customers ended up having the work done on the side of Highway 82.

“At first, my customer didn’t want the work done, but they kept at him until he gave in,” Kinzel said.

Victims of the shoddy workmanship needn’t contact the police though. The act of performing the bad body work isn’t a crime, according to Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills.

“You received service in exchange for payment rendered, so it’s not fraud,” Wills said. “They did the work, they just did shoddy work. If anything, it’s a civil claim – if they can find them again.”


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