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Auto repair shop refunds family $2,299 after foreman's 3am joyride

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Two days after the On Your Side Investigators revealed an auto body shop foreman took a Canby family's car for a 3 a.m. ride, the shop provided the family a full refund for the services they provided on the car.

Steve Spinnett, the owner of Steve's Imports in southeast Portland confirmed Monday that he gave the family back the $2,299.05 for the full cost of repairs while their Mitsubishi Montero was in his shop.

A Canby mother of two - who did not want to be identified - first brought the KATU On Your Side investigators her story on Wednesday.

"After speaking with Steve Spinnett at length on the phone on Friday, and expressing my frustration with his business, the lack of transparency, the lack of communication, and clearing up the false information he gave in the interview, we received a full refund of $2,299.05," the family said in an email statement to KATU on Monday.

"At this point, we are thrilled to have our money back and ready to move on. Again, we want to really thank you for stepping in and helping in this extremely difficult and frustrating situation. We really appreciate all you have done on our behalf."

The family said it took two separate trips to Spinnett's family-run business in mid-October to make some repairs when her car didn't pass an emissions test.

The second time the family brought the car into the shop was the day before Halloween, a Thursday. The mom told KATU that an employee told her they would not be able to work on the car until Monday.

During that time, an employee called the family to warn them that they would soon be receiving a traffic ticket since another employee, who was driving the Mitsubishi, ran a red light at an intersection with a red light camera.

The mom didn't think twice about it, she said, because she assumed her car was driven during regular business hours. According to the website, Steve's Imports is closed Saturday and Sunday.

The day after she brought her car home, the mom received the citation in the mail. Several pictures were attached, showing a man behind the wheel and a woman in the passenger seat. The citation showed the pair ran the red light at at the intersection of Southwest 19th Avenue and East Burnside at 2:59 a.m. the morning after Halloween.

The On Your Side Investigators discovered the driver was Steve's son and body shop foreman, Thommy Spinnett. The woman was Thommy's friend, who Steve said Thommy was picking up from a concert.

"It is alarming," the mom previously told KATU. "Why is there a lady in my car? I get the technician (driving) during the work day, but not in the morning with a female. That is just not OK. If you need to pick up a friend, go use your own car!" She added, "Nothing good happens at 3 in the morning the day after Halloween."

When asked if the pair were drinking or partying, Steve replied that he didn't know.

Steve originally defended his son and told KATU that his shop had a long-standing policy that allowed three of his employees - including himself - to drive customer cars after regular business hours.

"We drive home, we drive here, we drive there - a lot of hours - because you can't always diagnose a car just by driving it for an hour, especially when you have an intermittent problem, especially when you have a drive cycle problem on a car," Steve told KATU on Thursday. "You need to put a lot of miles on it."

Driving cycles are commonly used by auto body and repair shops to assess the performance of vehicles in various ways, including fuel consumption and polluting emissions.

Steve admitted Thursday that his son made a bad judgment and would now change his policies so that employees could no longer drive customers' cars after business hours. He added that both he and Thommy would apologize to the family.


CANBY FAMILY STATEMENT TO THE ON YOUR SIDE INVESTIGATORS:
(The family's names have been removed at their request)

"On behalf of my wife, and myself, we want to thank you and KATU for your support and the work you did on our recent incident with Steve's Imports. When this all took place we were at somewhat of a loss at to our options concerning how we could rectify this bizarre situation. At the time, we felt like our privacy had been violated and that we had been taken advantage of. Even when I called to express my frustrations with the company and how our vehicle was handled there was very little reciprocation offered. Basically we were left with a ticket to mail in, using our own postage, and a tank of gas that was filled up on our way in there and left nearly empty.

Much of the information Steve shared in his interview with you was incorrect and it did not tell the true and full story. When we dropped off our Montero the second time, on Thursday, October 30th, to have things fixed that should have been taken care of the first time, I was told our vehicle would not even be looked at until Monday. I did not give them permission to drive it all weekend! Plus, they did not call me on Monday to tell me about the ticket infraction and give me an update on the car, I called them, and through the course of the conversation it came up that a technician, whom they did not name, had received a ticket while driving it that weekend. Nothing was said about driving it at 3:00 AM, and nothing was said about there being a female in the car.

Needless to say, we were shocked when we received that ticket in the mail and saw all of that information printed on it. It was as if our vehicle was being abused and used as a local taxi service. Not to mention, we had filled up our vehicle on the way in there and nothing was said about the used gas.

Had you and KATU not stepped in, we would have been left with a huge bill to pay and no written apology or even a verbal one from the owner. We also would have been left wondering who had driven our vehicle that weekend and who the girl passenger was.

After speaking with Steve Spinnett at length on the phone on Friday, and expressing my frustration with his business, the lack of transparency, the lack of communication, and clearing up the false information he gave in the interview, we received a full refund of $2,299.05. At this point, we are thrilled to have our money back and ready to move on. Again, we want to really thank you for stepping in and helping in this extremely difficult and frustrating situation. We really appreciate all you have done on our behalf.

Below is the written apology I received on Friday from Steve and his son Thommy, the driver of our vehicle"


EMAIL FROM STEVE SPINNETT TO FAMILY:

(Names have been removed at family's request)

Re: 2001 Mitsubishi Montero

Dear (family),

You entrusted your vehicle to us. Our actions violated that trust.

Our employee's lack of judgment along with his failure in telling you the important details when he called letting you know of the traffic incident was unacceptable. Along with that, I was slow to respond to this incident in any kind of satisfactory way.

I want to apologize for our unacceptable actions. I hope you can accept my apologies.

I want to make this right, please let us know what we can do for you.



EMAIL FROM THOMMY SPINNETT TO FAMILY:

(Names have been removed at family's request)

Dear (family),

I'm deeply sorry for the way I treated the situation with your vehicle. It was a lack of judgement on my part. I humiliated my family and those involved in our family business.

This incident has really helped me to understand the seriousness of being entrusted with someone's vehicle.

I'm really sorry for making you feel like you were slapped in the face. It has taken some time for me to realize the reality of this situation that I caused, the news articles certainly have been a megaphone in my ear to understand this.

Again, I am so sorry.

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