Federal Trade Commission
Better Business Bureau
Canadian Anti Fraud Center
Conrad Anderson, 57-59 Sladefield Road Ward End Birmingham, B8 3PF
We had cruise control and an air-con unit installed on our Ford Transit minibus by Conrad-Anderson, 57-59 Sladefield Road Ward End Birmingham, B8 3PF, and have to admit we were ripped off financially and inconvenienced in several quite major ways costing us money and holiday time.
First off, we scheduled both the cruise and air-con installations for the same day, and had driven across the country and arranged an overnight stay to get this accomplished.
When we got there Steve Conrad stated that couldn't install the air-con unit as they were "short staffed". There was no forewarning of this via phone or email . . . and no apology.
We decided to go ahead and have them install the cruise control anyway. When testing a cruise control unit, one needs to get on the open road and test it at various speeds. To achieve this in Birmingham you have to drive 10 miles out of the city, but as it was close to closing time for them they resorted to driving around the block in the vicinity of their premises. If you guessed that the cruise control does not function correctly, you'd be right. That's £531 worth of sub-standard goods we have thus far.
We didn't know it at the time but while installing the cruise control on the steering column they disturbed a 'sensitive' wiring harness that feeds the vehicle head and tail lights, and consequently we couldn't drive after dark while working in Scotland. This created huge problems for us, all of which caused us logistical problems, and could have led to multiple fines for not having lights. More on the wiring situation below.
Anyway, we had to schedule a return to Birmingham to have the air-con unit installed, and consequently lost a few days holiday time.
We had arranged via email to have a new Dometic B1600 unit fitted in our minibus combined with the a DC Kit 2, plus items such as wiring, battery, air-con unit roof plinth, and labour etcetera.
When we arrived at the Conrad-Anderson premises in Ward End, Steve Conrad made a verbal suggestion, i.e., he could sell us the the Dometic B1500 but instead of new, a used ex-demonstration unit with a one year warranty. The promised savings of around a £1,000 was appealing to us, so we decided to accept the offer. The work took almost two full days and we were in danger of missing our Channel reservation, and being late for our next work in assignment in Germany. Let us not forget that we had a previous appointment to get this done, and having to return for this installation had cost us several days of holiday time as we had planned to see friends in Belgium on our way to Munich. We had to cancel all of that.
While the air-con unit was being installed I brought up the issue of the head and tail lights that had not functioned since they had worked around the steering column while installing the cruise control. They had an employee look into this, and I was there when he was checking the wiring with a 12 volt circuit tester. I worked at a garage in a previous life so knew the procedure, and it was apparent to me that the issue was 'localised', i.e. 'juice'/power was being carried to the steering column, but not getting to the head and tail lights. I left the work area knowing that it would be a simple matter for them to locate the issue, but was later told that they had to remove the entire dashboard to fix the issue and the cost would be £160. They reduced that to £108 after I queried the charge, but rather than viewing that as generous, let's look at this more closely . . .
A I was able to see for myself that the issue was confined to the steering column.
B There was absolutely zero evidence that the dashboard had been removed. Besides that, the dashboard was in place each time I visited the van for various items. A job of that nature takes two hours or more! Conclusion, I was lied to to pad out the labour charges.
C Thinking a relay was the problem, they had an employee bring in a used one from home to replace mine.
D The lights failed within a few hours of leaving the Conrad-Anderson workshop, so it was obviously not the relay! Conclusion . . . incompetence or fraud? You decide.
E The actual cause of the issue was discovered during a torrential rain storm near Innsbruck, Austria. I couldn't drive any further without lights without endangering my passengers or other road users, so I spent time removing the steering column covers while my clients waited. What I discovered was a wiring harness coupling with a corroded/bent contact that had been the issue all along. It wasn't the relay that the 'experts' had diagnosed and had me pay for after all. I was able to fix the issue in 15 to 20 minutes and get back on the road with all lights working for the first time since Conrad-Anderson installed the cruise control.
The conclusion of all this is that I was not only lied to, but ripped off by Conrad-Anderson of Sladefield Road, Birmingham on multiple levels.
On day two of the air-con installation it was odd and unsettling to us that Steve Conrad didn't pop into the waiting room to greet us. He seemed such a trustworthy and personable person, but this behavior began to bother us as he was just a room away from us for much of the day. When paying the bill he 'explained' that he had been busy with paying bills . . . you decide.
At one point I was out at the van to find a jacket and was stunned to see that during the making of an opening in the roof for the air-con unit, that dust and debris was allowed to fall freely onto our passenger seats. They had just not bothered to cover the seats before commencing work! There are many blankets on our minibus they could have used, but they never asked.
While waiting that afternoon I enquired after the manuals for the items we were having installed. I noticed right away that one of the manuals was for a different air-con unit to the used ex-demo version we had verbally agreed upon the previous morning. I felt it was just a 'wrong manual' error, but no, they swore up and down that the used Waeco Easycool 1500 was the unit I had agreed to purchase. Not! It was the Dometic B1500. Steve Conrad's assistant went back and forth talking to him in a nearby room but he opted to stay aloof from us rather than walk a few feet into the waiting room and resolve the issue. What does that tell you? You decide.
After that we suspected that our invoice would not be presented to us until right before we left, and not reflect the rate we had agreed upon in writing. This is a known and unscrupulous business ploy adopted by some less than honest folk. So, I requested that we see a copy of the proposed bill so that we could review their charges, pay the bill, and be able to get away to the Chunnel as quickly as possible when the van was ready. Our suspicions were confirmed, i.e. included in the bill were the excessive charges for the van head and tail lights 'fix that wasn't', plus the air-con unit we didn't agree to purchase in the first place. However, with closing time approaching, and our time crunch of Conrad-Anderson's making, we felt we were obliged to pay the bill and hope that everything was better than it appeared on the surface at that particular time. Of course, it wasn't to be as our problems were just beginning.
The first thing we noticed was that the DC Kit 2 carrying high voltage/ampage had exposed terminals/cables, and would provide a very nasty electric shock if touched. Covering the DC kit 2 is yet another expense that Conrad-Anderson had left us with.
Then days later we are on the road with passengers in mainland Europe with the air-con unit performing grossly under par, and the voltage system/DC Kit 2 giving off a piercing shrill whenever there was a slight drain on the air-con voltage system. This happened with either the engine running, or turned off. Incidentally, I had asked Steve Conrad how long we could run the air-con unit when stationary, and he responded "30 to 45 minutes". Given that the installation 'stresses' with or without the engine running, we assume he must have meant seconds.
Consequently while traveling around Europe on business we corresponded via email with Steve Conrad regarding the voltage issues, and it was suggested that we "allow the batteries to fully charge by not running the air con unit with the engine running, then try the AC." We did this over and over with no improvement, and at the end of a long drive from the Munich airport to the Chunnel on our return, some 605 miles for both of our batteries to top-up, the system gave out yet another shrill despite the £180 battery they installed being new - so they said - and our own minibus battery being heavy duty, and just a few weeks old.
On face value, all the voltage tweaking should have been performed by Conrad-Anderson before declaring our minibus ready. They charged us a total of £1,989 for everything related to the air-con unit, and given the performance of the product, it is our opinion that the cost is nothing less than criminal.
When our traveling concluded we decided to investigate what Conrad-Anderson had installed in our minibus and wrote to the manufacturer regarding compatibility. They responded, "Our technical department have said that the DC Kit 2 would not be compatible with the now discontinued EC1500. They have suggested that you might be able to buy the DC components to convert your existing units."
Great, so in summary, not only have we been utterly ripped off, inconvenienced and ignored, we now have to make additional purchases to right the wrong despite spending £1,989! There is no way we are going to lie down and let that happen.
Of course, Conrad-Anderson ought to right the wrongs themselves, but in view of the way were treated, and after careful, and painful, consideration of their business ethic, no, we will NEVER going back there. However, financial compensation is definitely in order.
The Conrad-Anderson website states, "We have built up a reputation over our 15 years of business for trading in quality products, quality service and technical support and having a friendly and thorough approach." Google that sentence, and you'll see that a variation of that has been used by many online businesses. It all sounds so good, but the reality is that we were treated like sh*t.
One last thing I'd like to add is that the area surrounding the Conrad-Anderson premises is not the kind of place you will feel comfortable spending your time. The rubbish issue is horrendous, especially in nearby Ward End Park, and my lady and I were constantly on edge whenever we walked from A to B. This just happens to be a perspective from someone who lived in the area several decades ago, on Cotterills Lane, and went to high school on the very same Sladefield Road. Frankly, anyone's valuable property, such as a motor home/caravanette, is at risk in this area, and not just from Conrad-Anderson. We strongly urge you to take your business elsewhere.
57-59 Sladefield Road Ward End Birmingham, B8 3PF
Conrad Anderson review
Bait and switch
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