How to find a smog-check station that will cheat and pass your rickety ranfla?

The brilliant researchers at USC seem to have figured this one out.

In a study of 28 million tests conducted by 11,000 smog check facilities, the Trojan academics came to this conclusion:

Smog checkers who have a lot of nearby competition tend to cheat more — in your favor.

The resulting paper, “Customer-driven Misconduct: How Competition Corrupts Business Practices,” is slated to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Management Science.

According to a USC summary:

The study found that smog check firms that were clustered among other competing firms were more likely to be lenient, ensuring that customer cars passed when they should have failed. The study also found that firms new to the business were more likely to pass cars that likely should have failed.

While researchers, including partners from UCLA, Harvard and Washington University, focused on New York smog facilities, some of the conclusions seem like they would apply here.

One key theory is that because of fixed pricing, which California does not have (but which seems to exist in practice anyway, if you've shopped around here), the facilities feel they have to keep customers happy by passing their cars.

So, then, the answer to the question regarding how to find a smog check facility that will pass your funk-mobile is to look in areas where there's a lot of competition (they seem to cluster around DMV offices, for example).

Not that we'd encourage breaking the law.

Victor Bennett, assistant professor of management at the USC Marshall School of Business, says competition …

… makes firms more efficient, makes service quality and products better, and drives down prices. But it works through giving customers what they want, and sometimes doing so is bad for others.


[@dennisjromero / / @LAWeeklyNews]

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