Saturday, January 31, 2009

Okay, I'm done.

KITT, my pet, has been overdue for maintenance by some months, so now that I have paycheque once more I took it in to what was supposed to be the most reputable dealership in the city. I have been to almost every one in Edmonton. The first wanted to charge me to replace the seat belt mechanism that I later learned was lifetime warranty on Toyotas. The next couldn’t find anything wrong with a car that wouldn’t start, and told me that they don’t even enter my car anymore, they just “lean through the open window, turn the key and the car roars to life” – and wanted to charge me $85 bucks for it. The third, which I didn’t go to personally, supposedly completed an oil change on a friend’s vehicle. When the friend’s engine seized the next day because there was not a drop of oil in it, the dealership insisted that it wasn’t necessarily their fault. The fact that my friend's vehicle left their service department drained of oil which was not replace was apparently my friend’s responsibility. I guess she was supposed to have specifically asked “okay so you actually put some oil back, right?” So that leaves me one dealership.

Which does not bode well for KITT, because thanks to today, that means I have completely exhausted my options for someplace to take him in Edmonton when he is under the weather.

The first time I took KITT there, I left him at 7:45 a.m. while I went to work. When I returned after work at 5:00 p.m., I still have to wait 45 minutes for him to done his oil change. Apparently the only equipment at the mechanics' disposal was an eye dropper, because it took 10 hours for them to get rid of the old oil, and put in new.

(Based on my friend’s experience, I guess I should be thankful they put back oil at all. Although, I guess I don’t know that they put in new oil – or that they even took out the old. Perhaps their mechanics just sat in KITT and listened to his radio for 10 hours, then charged me labour for their siesta. You may think I’m being overly cynical ... but read on:)

The second time, they called to say they recommend doing a wheel realignment, but it would take an extra forty minutes to complete because the underside of my vehicle is “so rusty it will take longer to even begin”, so it will be an extra charge for labour. When I said no, I don’t want the realignment, thank you, they said it was already done. In other words, they had completed the realignment without asking if I wanted it. When I complained that they were admitting they had just done unapproved work – and charging me even more than usual for it – they tried to explain that it isn’t their fault because “the lady at the service desk, who would have usually called customers, was at lunch, so the technicians just went ahead and did the alignment.” She didn’t know about it to tell me about it until after she got back from lunch. (Which, quite frankly, is not my problem! But I get ahead of myself in the story...) Then, rather than call to admit they had gone ahead with unapproved work, the lady called to ask for approval. Except I didn’t give my approval. Then they told me I had to pay because it was already done, whether I approved it or not. Naturally, that did not go over well with me. So the service desk lady said she’d have to talk to her manager – after which she called to say that “to appease” me the manager had agreed to not charge me for the work. To appease me. Really? Not to cover their ass for doing unapproved work? Hmm.

I would so never step back onto this dealership’s welcome mat but for my family’s assurance that it is the place for me to take KITT here in Edmonton. So I returned.

Same frickin’ service counter lady greets me. But fine. It’s a new day. Bygones. I’ve been having problems with my battery lately, so in addition to the oil change/filter check, I had asked for my battery to be checked. When I agreed KITT is probably running on his original 10 year old battery, the lady explained that I could pay the $39.95 for the check, but if the battery ends up having to be replaced it would cost an extra $24.95. That is precisely how she explained it to me. $39.95 plus $25.95 if the check proves the battery has to be replaced, or just replace the battery for $24.95.

Now, of course I’m thinking, sounds like a no-brainer. Go for the $24.95 option. So I say, have at ‘er. Replace the battery and I’ll pay the $24.95. Now I’m sure my brother and my father are way ahead of me here – but I don’t know what I’ve just stepped into.

To bring the rest of us up to speed, the $24.95 is only for the replacement ... not the battery. So when the work is done, my work order costs $139.95 more than I had been led to believe it would!

I am quite beaten down at this point. Yes, a smarter customer than I obviously am would have known to ask the service lady “Are you sure? Is there something you’re not telling me about this bottom line? $25.95 for a battery and labour to replace it?” At which point the service lady could have had her opportunity to laugh in my face and said “Ha ha ha! No no no you stupid customer. The battery is a hundred and forty bucks ON TOP of the $24.95 I told you you’d be paying!”

I’m not the smart customer, obviously. I have no idea what a battery costs. I had no indication I should be pressing the service lady on the cost comparison she quoted me. Pardon me for trusting that a service lady is reputable enough to just be honest. For expecting that a dumb customer can be treated as well as a smart customer. For thinking that I didn’t have to educate myself on parts and labour charges before taking KITT anywhere, and that where I take KITT will just be honest about what it will cost to fix him.

If I knew about vehicles myself, I would service my vehicle myself. I need someone to look me in the eye and just be blunt. Not to be shifty with the quotes and the work and assume I just won’t notice, or at least won’t catch on until the “shift work” is done.

So I stared at the work order that now included the price of the battery. My stupidity for thinking it would be $24.95 revealed, I signed the work order. I gave them my visa. I signed my charge. I’m not looking to be a difficult customer. I’m actually not overly fond of revealing that I am a stupid customer. Still, once everything was signed, I pointed out this was a vastly different payment than I had been led to expect.

When I explained my understanding of the cost comparison, the service lady did actually stifle a laugh when saying “But you can’t get a battery for $24.95”. Basically, she laughed that I had believed her quote. (Again, not the way things should work. But what am I going to do? Burn the place down? Don’t tempt me.) I responded, quite honestly, which is all I ever wanted from her, “But I don’t know that!” So her coworker comes over and explains that they can put the old battery back in and test it. Yeah. I was one of the first people in the waiting room at 8 a.m. this morning. I was dead last out of the waiting room at 9:30, even after every soul who dropped off their vehicle after I did. The oil change and battery replacement took 90 minutes. I’m going to wait 90 more minutes while they accommodate anyone else who walks in after that before they get to me again? No.

I tried to explain (– and trust me, being beaten down as I already was because this kind of repetitive bait-and-switch at this place is just so very tiring to me, I was not explaining with a raised voice or even much energy at all –) that I probably needed a battery replacement. I wasn’t arguing with that. And had I known about the cost, I may have asked for it to be replaced anyway (maybe not, money’s tight at the moment, but maybe). I wasn’t disputing that. I was saying that not telling me about the cost when explaining the comparison between check and replace was so very obviously an unacceptable oversight I just wanted an acknowledgment that they knew that.

They “agreed” to let the service manager know of my “dissatisfaction” (as if I had nothing to be dissatisfied over but they are, once again, trying to “appease” me) so that if what I had thought were problems with my old battery are not resolved by the new battery, they will check the new battery free of charge. Did I have the energy to point out that if the problems I thought were caused by the old battery were not resolved by a new one, a check of the new one would not reveal the problem? No I did not. I left. Even responded “Thanks, you too” after the service lady called out “Have a nice day” at my exit.

If you bitch, you’re a bitch. If you respond thanks, you too, you’re a patsy. Why is there no middle ground? Why do I have to have a father/brother in the business to have a hope of getting decent, frank information and service? And why do I have to live in Edmonton, where “the most reputable dealership in Edmonton” doesn’t translate into “a reputable dealership”?

To not be completely acidic to the core of my being over this, I must admit at least I’m still ahead of the game in that I have a hope of getting decent, frank information and service as long as I am willing to continually bother my family.

I’m now going to stuff my face with fried chicken and potato salad. Pray I do not go out for ice cream.

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