My frame!
December 28, 2010 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Tire Center replaced my car's license plate frame without my consent or knowledge, and I'm angry!

My mother's car is rather expensive and has the dealership's name on its license plate frames. People around our area know this dealership, and usually want to show off where they bought the car.

Recently I noticed her license plate frame now sports a lovely frame advertising a Tire and Wheel performance center. Apparently when she was getting her tires maintained the tire shop went out of their way to replace her existing frame with their own company name.

I don't really care about having a nice dealership frame on the plates, but the idea of them altering her vehicle in a way that does not fit the job description of what she paid for and without her knowledge really irritates me.

Is this legal at all? (In California) Is this common? What if I paid for that frame? What if it was a personalized frame from my deceased grandfather!? I really feel like yelling at them.
posted by lain to Law & Government (20 answers total)
So do you want the old frame back, or do you just want to vent your frustration? Chances of getting the frame back are pretty slim. They probably throw them out immediately. You should at least contact the owner/manager of the tire shop expressing your displeasure; what they're doing is pretty sleazy. On the other hand, the dealership where the car was purchased would probably be more than happy to give you a new frame. After all, it's (nearly) free advertising for them!

A repair shop once did something similar with my parents' car: they removed the decal of the original dealership where the car had been sold and replaced it with their own. This is not a trivial task like unscrewing a plate frame; those decals usually have to be heated up and carefully peeled off letter by letter. We ended up removing their new decal entirely and the car looked much nicer for it!
posted by Nothlit at 10:20 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. This is not legal advice.

First off, I think you'll want to look at the work authorization form (I'm assuming there was one). It could be that the tire place's authorization form includes a bit about replacing the license plate frame or otherwise gives general authorization for that kind of thing.

Have you asked for the original frame back or to have it replaced? Whether you've got a claim or not, you might consider the friendly approach first.

Beyond that, talk to a competent attorney in your jurisdiction.
posted by jedicus at 10:22 AM on December 28, 2010

You can always take the frame off.
posted by Max Power at 10:27 AM on December 28, 2010

I'd be pissed too! I'd probably bitch about it on the internets and to my friends for a while and maybe even call the repair shop and bitch at them. Then I'd get another frame from the car dealer and eventually forget about it.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 10:27 AM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Is this legal at all? (In California)

No idea - but I'm guessing much eyerolling would ensue if you chose to follow the legal route.

Is this common?

Yep - Althoug I am about half a world away from California, I can't take my eyes off my license plate frame without it changing to a different car-related business.

What if I paid for that frame? What if it was a personalized frame from my deceased grandfather!?

You didn't, and they know it. Therefore, they are betting you won't bother complaining or won't notice alltogether. It's a sleazy marketing tactic, but it (sort of) works.

I really feel like yelling at them.

Don't - you will be wasting your breath and amusing a bunch of bored auto mechanics. I would suggest removing the frame altogether or going back to the dealership and asking for a new one if you care about this - I'm sure they will be happy to oblige.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:28 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd assume the dealership wants you to be their free advertising, so they'd be happy to give you a new license plate frame. They just screw on.
posted by hwyengr at 10:29 AM on December 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

You know, I would be angry too. Fuming, really, which is unusual for me. That seems like such a sleezy tactic, and I would tell everyone I knew about it, and I would write it in online reviews to get the anger out of my system.

First, though, I would go back to the tire place and speak to the highest level manager there. It would be a very calm conversation, no yelling involved, but I would use it to express my dissatisfaction with the practice, and how it had led me to strike them from my list of vendors. Then I would write a very professional letter to the corporate office expressing the same thing.

But then I would go back to the dealership, get a new frame from them, replace it, and try not to think of it again. Don't let them ruin your day, they are not worth it.
posted by gemmy at 10:40 AM on December 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

This happens all the time, and always happens to me when I have a frame that is either a tire place, a dealership, a body shop...they all do it. They apparently think that business card frames are this interchangeable and disposable game of rotating advertisements, which they usually are. I have to say that I sympathize with them in not realizing you actually gave a crap about which business card was on the car. Call the dealership and ask them for another one. Heck, they'll probably even put it on for you.
posted by rhizome at 10:41 AM on December 28, 2010

I had this happen to me once, also in California. I was pretty mad about it too! I called the auto shop and they had a big box of the license plate frames they had removed, so was able to get my old one back. You definitely should complain to the manager and corporate office, like Gemmy suggests, and you may be able to get the original frame back like I did.
posted by apricot at 10:45 AM on December 28, 2010

It is illegal in CA if the frame they installed covers any portion of your registration sticker or the letters and numbers on your plate.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 10:48 AM on December 28, 2010

Apparently, you like the dealer for its name not its service. Call the tire center and tell them you want your frames back. If they don't have them, next time you go to the dealer, ask for new ones. Frames are not necessary. I ask the dealer not to put them on in the first place, but I could be outside of the norm on that. Why would I want to give the dealer or anyone free advertising?
posted by AugustWest at 10:58 AM on December 28, 2010

I had something similar happen, where I bought my car specifically without a dealer plate frame (or decal), and some time later my local mechanic decided to add one when they serviced it. It was bolted on rather tightly and I didn't have the tools to remove it, so I calmly called up the garage and they said I could stop by anytime and they'd remove it right then. And sure enough they did, with no wait, and I felt better when even a burly dude with the proper wrench had trouble getting it off. They supposedly even made a note in my file for next time, though I left the area before I got I chance to test that.

I suspect that your tire center will do the same. It's dead easy for them to remove it and they want your repeat business. They'd probably even be willing to put your dealer frame back on, which I'm sure your dealer will give you for free. (They may think you're a little weird for that, though.) But if it's just held on with screws I'd do the replacement myself.

In any case, I think the important point is that this is a common practice and as obnoxious as it is you probably shouldn't hold it against them. Whoever you next go to for service make sure to have them make a note about keeping the frame, and if they still replace it then you have a reason to take your business elsewhere.
posted by serathen at 11:42 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Odds are they don't replace frames that say "I do it in my Subaru" or "Musicians Will Blow You Without Missing a Beat" or the like, so if you're mad about the hypothetical, they're probably smarter than that.

I generally remove adhesive stickers from my trunk lids, will keep a license plate frame (our state's plates have ugly, unfinished edges), and would kill someone at a mechanic's shop who stuck another decal on my car.

Nthing - the dealership will give you another frame faster than you can ask for one.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:58 AM on December 28, 2010

I wonder if they compensated your mom on the invoice for all the "free" advertising she's now giving them??

As a car owner in California, this is exactly the sort of info I would want to know from a Yelp review and the like. Thanks in advance for posting this information on any relevant internet consumer review sites!

Nthing you can get a new frame from the dealership instantly.
posted by jbenben at 12:13 PM on December 28, 2010

This happened to me way back when and I visited the shop to give the owner an invoice for renting advertising space on my car because clearly, I had a lot of free time on my hands and felt like poking some eyeballs. The owner was unrepentant and lost my business (and my old frame) forever. Nowadays, it's exactly the sort of thing I would bitch about on Yelp & FB instead.
posted by jamaro at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2010

This is right up there with dealerships that slap their sticker on the trunk lid. I hate that crap. I'd take the frame off, break it into a billion little pieces, and mail it back to the tire center with a little note requesting they keep their marketing crap off my car.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:36 PM on December 28, 2010

My frame was from my dad's small town dealership and he'd just retired and the dealership had changed their name, when another garage replaced it during a break job. I drove right back to the garage, crying.

They pulled it out of the garbage and put it back on for me.
posted by vitabellosi at 12:49 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you really want to get back at them, you could get a "X TIRES REALLY SUCKS (and they stole my other plate frame)!!" plate frame made.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:45 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is (to those that notice) an annoying thing for a garage to do, and not worth your time legally pursuing.

Forget it or have the dealer put on a new frame. And the next time you get your car fixed, tell whatever shop you go to not to do this, and check your car before leaving the shop

strangely, it never happens to my car, but I drive a beater.
posted by zippy at 7:01 PM on December 28, 2010

Call the shop, ask for the manager, and ask them to replace the frame with the original or, if that's not possible, no frame at all. Explain that you do not wish to have their advertising on the car, and that the lack of permission is especially annoying. Be calm, polite and firm.
posted by Mom at 9:32 PM on December 28, 2010

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