Amazing story of Larry Duncan the transmission schemer

Larry Duncan offers cheap transmission repairs. Then he gets your vehicle, takes it apart and tells you it will cost two or three times the promised amount. And he wants you to pay him $2,000 or $3,000 that day. In cash. At his bank. Or he will start charging you $40 a day storage.

Can you believe the chutzpah of this guy?

Larry Duncan in his Grand Prairie, Texas garage.

Larry Duncan in his Grand Prairie, Texas garage.

Exterior of Larry Duncan's transmission shop in Grand Prairie, Texas

Exterior of Larry Duncan’s transmission shop in Grand Prairie, Texas

And he’s been doing it for more than a decade without apparent serious trouble to hundreds of vehicle owners.

Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber first wrote about Larry Duncan in 2007.

But in his latest expose in the Dave Lieber Watchdog column in The Dallas Morning News, he shows how Larry Duncan does it — in his own words, with scripts and audio tapes.

Read the entire piece here:

Watchdog: A car repair upselling playbook goes national

Vehicle repair sales scripts show every car has the same problem, no matter the truth. And yeah, the price is now double.

Watch the video and listen to Larry Duncan, in his own words.

Watch The Watchdog share the latest about Larry Duncan on NBC5.

Check out Larry Duncan’s actual selling scripts:

“How to Get Started” By Larry Duncan

“Upsell Presentation Script” by Larry Duncan

Earlier Watchdog Nation reports on Larry Duncan include:

“Transmission repair deals too good to be true”

“Grand Prairie, TX auto repair owner Larry Duncan is not BBB accredited. Hardly!

Here are The Watchdog’s 12 Ways to Avoid this Kind of Experience

Simple stuff, but when your car breaks, you tend to forget.

Clip and save.

• Don’t shop on price alone.

• Try to avoid shopping by phone and Internet. Visit a garage.

• Ask a car dealership for ballpark prices to get an idea.

• Don’t get lured by a free tow.

• Get estimates in writing.

• Don’t pay a parts deposit.

• Find out if a sales person and the shop are local. Ask for their number and call them back.

• Get multiple bids on big jobs.

• Waiting for a vehicle to be disassembled before getting repair estimates is risky.

• Be suspicious of a business that requires a wire transfer or payment by cash. That means customers can’t cancel their payments.

• Before you make a decision, search names and business names for any online complaints.

• Get complete names of people you deal with. If they hesitate, you should, too.

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Grand Prairie, TX auto repair owner Larry Duncan is not BBB accredited. Hardly!

A roofer had his truck towed to a Grand Prairie auto repair shop for a $900 engine diagnosis. But when the truck owner was told that the repairs would cost nearly $9,000, he balked. He wanted his truck back.

Larry Duncan, owner of Einstein Transmission Repair, refused to give it back to him for the $900 diagnosis charge. He said he wanted several thousand dollars for dismantling the engine, towing and storage for a couple of weeks in the shop.

So the roofer hired a lawyer to call the repair shop on his behalf. The lawyer, H. Charles Hamm III of Fort Worth, called Duncan and tried to negotiate a settlement. Things did not go well.

Hamm describes the phone call with Duncan as “20 high-strung minutes.” He recalls that Duncan told him, “Maybe we should have a face-to-face meeting or we could even handle it around the corner in the alley.”

A frustrated customer of Larry Duncan's took this secret photo of him and published it on the Internet.

I called Duncan a few weeks ago. He cursed at me and said, “I don’t care what you write.” Then he hung up. For this report, I sent him an e-mail describing the facts as told to me by the lawyer and his client, roofing company owner Scott McCall. Duncan has not responded.

In September 2011, Watchdog Nation reported how Duncan told another vehicle owner that he had to pay $2,500 in cash or by cashier’s check to get his truck back. Duncan originally promised a $1,500 repair job, the vehicle owner said. (Read “Transmission repair deals too good to be true.”)

In a brief interview in September, Duncan said he sometimes has to face angry customers, but that’s part of doing business.

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Promises and untruths

As readers of the Dave Lieber Watchdog column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram first learned, in this latest case, McCall has been without his work truck for more than a month. Before going to Duncan, McCall got a repair bid from another shop for $7,000. But McCall’s father found Duncan on the Internet, where Duncan attracts many of his customers, and Duncan promised a $5,000 price for the repair, Scott McCall said. Duncan’s business also goes by the names Transmission 33 and Transmission/Engine Shop.

When Duncan told McCall later that the repairs would cost $9,000, McCall asked Duncan where his shop is so he could deliver the $900 and pick up the truck. But he said Duncan refused to tell him the address, which does not appear on the invoice for the diagnosis. McCall says Duncan told him, “I don’t meet with my customers.”

McCall found the address — the shop is in the 1800 block of South Great Southwest Parkway — on a website that lists numerous complaints against Duncan. He visited the shop, and Duncan told him he could get his unrepaired truck back for $2,700.

Later, Duncan placed a mechanic’s lien against McCall, increasing the cost of returning the vehicle to $3,700.

A week ago, the lawyer and his client sent by courier a letter demanding the return of the truck. The letter included a $900 cashier’s check. But a shop employee told the courier, “We know your tricks,” and refused to sign for it, Hamm said.

When McCall called the shop again, Duncan told him, “Now I’m going to play hardball because your lawyer is involved and you’re wasting my time,” McCall said.

On Duncan’s website, he says his business is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. That’s not true. The BBB website says the business is not accredited and shows that his shop has an “F” rating. The state comptroller’s office also lists the business as “not in good standing” because it is not up to date on a business tax.

Larrry Duncan's website claims his shop is BBB accredited, only it's not.

The fallout

McCall has been borrowing a truck from an employee for his roofing business and driving a rented Toyota Corolla. He went to the Grand Prairie police but says he was told that this is a civil matter and police cannot help him unless there is an argument or a fight on the premises.

McCall says he will never shop again based on price alone. “I’m going to research the heck out of people,” he said. “Anything involving substantial money, I’m researching now.”

If he had, he would have seen Watchdog Nation’s September report on the Internet describing Duncan’s business. These days, it’s not hard to steer clear of business owners who may want to settle expensive matters in a back alley.

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Transmission repair deals too good to be true

Something about Doug Stouffer’s story sounded all too familiar. He took his truck to a transmission shop because the deal offered by the owner sounded good: a low $1,497 for repairs, a two-day turnaround and the work guaranteed.

But when Stouffer got his truck back five days later, he had to pay $2,500 (cash or cashier’s check only). The original problem wasn’t fixed, he says.

Yes, The Watchdog had heard this story before, but that was about a transmission repair shop in Denton, Texas. This happened at a Grand Prairie, Texas transmission shop.

As readers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Dave Lieber Watchdog column first learned, turns out that the same owner is involved — Larry Duncan. Duncan, 58, moved his Denton business to Grand Prairie. The Transmission and Auto Shop is in the 1800 block of South Great Southwest Parkway.

I first talked to Duncan in 2007 after a 22-year-old woman told me that he promised her a $1,000 repair and a two-day turnaround. Three weeks later, she had to pay $2,600 in cash to get her car back. It still didn’t work, she said.

After her story appeared, Watchdog readers reached out to her. One reader donated money for her repair. Several transmission shop owners offered to repair her car for free.

Duncan’s business has operated under other names, too — and Transmission/Engine Shop.

A frustrated customer took this secret photo of Larry Duncan

When someone calls the Grand Prairie shop, a taped message from Duncan promises, “We have a two-day turnaround on transmission work.” There are no qualifiers.

In a recent phone interview, Duncan told me: “Let me explain something to you briefly. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this because this is crazy.

“The $1,497 price is providing everything is rebuildable. The man had things that were not rebuildable. He had to pay for those things. He clearly understood that.

“So for the two-day turnaround, when things are not rebuilt, we have to order those parts. It takes time for the parts to arrive. Of course, he was told that.”

Duncan sometimes faces angry customers, he says, but that’s part of doing business. He denies Stouffer’s claim that the transmission in question wasn’t properly fixed.

Although Duncan doesn’t explain all the details to customers when making his pitch, his paperwork that he asks customers to sign fully explains the rules in 46 lines of fine print beneath the vehicle information.

Stouffer says Duncan assured him that any added costs would increase the bill by a few hundred dollars. Turned out to be a thousand. Duncan says there’s no way he can know what the real price is until his techs take apart the transmission. “I’m not a messiah, so I can’t know what’s wrong with a vehicle.”

When Duncan called Stouffer and said the bill would increase by $800, Stouffer said, “I reluctantly agreed and actually felt like I didn’t have a choice.”

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More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

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What to do?

What can a vehicle owner do when facing a major repair?

The Better Business Bureau suggests getting bids from multiple shops. That’s smart advice that I now follow. Twice in the past year, I got bids. For one job, the original quoted price was $1,700, but I found a shop that would do it for $325.

On a second repair, I was given a $1,200 written estimate from a repair shop, but when I took it to a second shop, I was told that nothing was wrong with my car. When I returned to the original shop and explained what happened, I was told that the technician who made the estimate had been fired. So getting estimates for those two jobs saved me $2,600.

When it comes to a transmission repair, two readers shared what to do.

Robert Graves of Fort Worth taught me that a service department at a new-car dealer that specializes in that make of automobile is more likely to make an intelligent diagnosis because the techs know the vehicle. If a quoted repair price is too high, shop around for a better deal.

David Fusco of Arlington told me that if a car needs a transmission repair or other major work, the first stop should be a dealer to learn whether there has been a parts recall by the manufacturer. That might pay for part or all of the bill.

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Are you tired of fighting the bank, the credit card company, the electric company and the phone company? They can be worse than scammers the way they treat customers. A popular book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, shows you how to fight back — and win! The book is available at as a hardcover, CD audio book, e-book and hey, what else do you need? The author is The Watchdog columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Visit our store. Now revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber