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When Stars Collide

This repairer was excited when former NFL running back Harlan Huckleby walked into his Michigan shop. But repairing Huckleby’s car turned out to be more of a headache than a hoot.

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Celebrities often are like French fries. They come in large and small packages. Some “big fries” are recognizable by just about anybody and typically have an entourage of bodyguards and go-fors surrounding them. Then there are the small fries, who are known in certain circles – the local-boy-done-good types who, at times, forget their packaging altogether.

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Regardless of stature, often enough, it’s the ego of the celebrity that comes in one super-sized package.

In one such case, a Michigan shop owner was more than a little excited to have the chance to fix the car of a former University of Michigan rushing star and former Green Bay Packer running back.

As is the law for anyone born and raised in Michigan, Doug Young – then owner of A.M.T. Autobody, in Plymouth, Mich. – was a University of Michigan fan. So, right away, Young knew who Harlan Huckleby was when he strolled into the shop in 1997. He’d played for Michigan in the late ’70s and for Green Bay from 1980 to 1985.

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As the proud coach of a little league football team (with all the wall decorations and plaques to prove it), Young thought he hit it off well with Huckleby.

“He wasn’t a jerk the whole time but maybe a little arrogant,” says Young. “We talked at length about what football had done for him and how important it was to keep kids involved in sports at an early age.”

Huckleby needed work done on his wife’s ’97 Dodge Intrepid, which had suffered an average front-end hit, and he decided he wanted Young’s shop to do the job.

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The repairs turned out to be about $1,800 plus a supplement for an A/C condenser. When Huckleby picked up his car, he was happy with the repairs, paid his deductible and left.
Young was happy, too, until …

“His deductible check bounced and when we called him about it, he acted like he was mad at us over having to come back by to pay us,” says Young, who ended up sending his wife out to pick up the deductible payment.

Then came the next problem. When the insurance company sent Huckleby the check for a supplement by mistake, he cashed it – and told Young to sue him for the $400.

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“I said, ‘See you in court,’ ” says Young.

Not long after, Young got a call from the local car dealer that had referred Huckleby to his shop.

“[The dealer] said if I ever wanted another job from them, I wouldn’t embarrass his friend,” Young says. “We were a new shop, so having a local Dodge dealer sending us work wasn’t anything I wanted to blow for $400. So, I just let it go.”

Young has since sold his shop and now manages a shop in the same town.

“We’d certainly do another celebrity’s car,” he says. “One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole barrel.”

But it sure does stink!

Click here to read Harlan Huckleby’s response

Writer Cheryl McMullen is the former managing editor for BodyShop Business.

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