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Investigative reporting without investigation or common sense

Written by maryp posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

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Last night, at 11 p.m., a local news station’s consumer/investigative reporter, was asking the following questions: Why does the price of a Smog Check vary from one Smog Station, to another? And, since the State mandates it, why can’t they “regulate or fix” the price, so it’s the same everywhere? (So like many others, I was cajoled into watching this segment, by their claim that they were “going undercover”. They made it sound so sinister, and sucked me in).

There was no “undercover” reporting! It was not even necessary, since the price of Smog Checks are always posted at Smog Check stations. This is a State regulation, and believe me, the Smog stations have more visits a year by the Bureau of Auto Repair than usual, inspecting equipment and signage.

The report cited Arizona, where there is a regulated flat fee for a Smog Test, and it’s less that $30. The Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Automotive Repair representative, (who’s name was never shown on the screen), stated correctly, that due to the number of cars in our State, it is not feasible and that it is a “free market”. (Not exactly what the so called “reporter” wanted to hear).

A few facts that were omitted as follows: the substantial expense that is put upon Smog Check Stations for equipment that is mandated by our State, (average of $45-55K). And when the State upgrades the test requirements, (and they always do), another piece of equipment has to be purchased. Of course, other states that have the fixed prices may not require that cars be run on a Dyno, or have the new “Evap test” that went into effect this year. Our Smog techs in California also have more rigorous education and testing requirements, and licensing. Have you looked at your last Smog Test printout? Do you understand any of it?

Think about it, the only way to “fix” the price of the Smog Check, is to “fix” the expenses necessary to run a Smog Station. So all Smog Techs are going to be paid the same? All rent for a building is going to be identical? What is this, besides ridiculous!

So, this great investigative report was interviewing people at gas pumps who are outraged at the price of gas and the prices of Smog Checks! Yeah, we are pretty outraged too. We are outraged that is has somehow become “bad” to try to pay off equipment that we have purchased to serve our customers. Why is that a bad thing? (If you want to experience long waits at Stations, just let a few more go out of business, and see if those prices get lower).

You can’t have clean air and have the processes to get there, “FREE” or cheap. All of this environmental “stuff” that everyone wants has a price. We are all paying for large departments in the State that are designing, implementing, and regulating these processes. People, you simply cannot have it both ways. Yes, there is a cost to have clean air. Breathe in and suck it up!

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