Inside the Panthers

After dispute, Panthers’ Mike Tolbert pays $3,900 car repair bill in coins

Mike Tolbert explains decision to pay auto shop $3,900 in coins

Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert explains decision to pay auto shop $3,900 in coins.
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Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert explains decision to pay auto shop $3,900 in coins.

Consider this a public servant announcement: Don’t ask Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert if he can spare some change.

Evidently, he can.

Tolbert said he paid his $3,900 bill at a Charlotte auto shop in coins this week after a dispute over the services and cost.

The spat played out on social media this week, with Tolbert taking to Instagram to voice his complaint and urge residents to avoid Motion Lab Tuning, located on Nations Crossing Road.

Tolbert said Wednesday he took his 1975 Chevy Caprice convertible to the shop in June to have his old motor switched out with a new one he provided. He said the original invoice was $2,700.

But when Tolbert and a friend checked with shop employees Monday on why the work still wasn’t done, the bill had gone up to $3,900.

“I was like, ‘Where’d that come from?’ And they were, ‘Blase’ this, work for this, this and this.’ But my car’s not finished,” Tolbert said. “So we had an argument about that. I tried to pay them with a check. They said we’re not going to take your check because we’re not sure it’s going to clear the bank. I’m like, ‘OK, if that’s what you feel.’”

Tolbert said the shop owner told him he could pay with cash or a cashier’s check.

So Tolbert went to a bank and withdrew $3,943.93 in coins and returned to the auto shop.

“They didn’t want to take it. The police officer made them take it,” he said. “I got my car out of there and I’m shipping it somewhere else to get it fixed. It’s not even done.”

The shop had a different version of events, which it posted on the business’ Facebook page. The post claimed Tolbert tried to have the work done for free, although shop owner Todd Marcellini said in an interview Wednesday that was not the case.

Marcellini removed the post and told the Observer the problem was a miscommunication involving Tolbert's friend, who served as a go-between for the player and the business.

They say the increase of nearly $1,300 from the first invoice was for the purchase of parts that Tolbert's friend was supposed to supply.

"The whole thing's silly, really," Marcellini said.

But Marcellini, who opened the shop in 2009, and another shop employee say they did nothing wrong. And now they're concerned Tolbert will use his celebrity profile to try to ruin their small business, as they claim he threatened to do Monday afternoon.

Charlotte police say they responded to a complaint about persons making threats around 4 p.m. Monday at Motion Lab Tuning. Officers banned Tolbert and his friend from the property, but did not file a report because it was a civil matter.

Tolbert said he had his car towed to his friend’s auto shop.

As to whether he was concerned unloading nearly $4,000 in coins on a local business would put him in a bad light, Tolbert said he didn’t care.

“They wanted to get rude and disrespectful. And I handled it the funniest and simplest way I could,” he said. “I paid them what they asked for. How else can you defend it?”