Sunday, August 1, 2010

Customer Service: Once a Joy, Now a Joke

FOR SALE: 7,000 lbs. of Crap Evenly Distributed Above Four Wheels.

That is how car dealerships should advertise their used trucks. I know I'm cheap, but I had the impression that for $5,000 a decent, sound, reliable truck could be purchased. I realize $5,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the price of a new vehicle; on the other hand, $5,000 is hard-earned and, for me, not discretionary income that I can toss away because I have so much more where that came from. Here's what $5-6,000 will get you:

** It will get you ignored. I guess Car Huckstering 101 has changed. Back in the day, as soon as you drove onto the lot of a dealership you had a salesman pounce on you and shake your hand before you turned off the ignition. Now, apparently the philosphy is to give the customer his space and time--like three hours before they acknowledge your existence. I went to one dealership, walked into the building and stood there, rolled my eyes, stood there some more, and finally in order to get someone's attention I cleared my throat in such a guttural manner that mothers whisked their children away. No luck. I was on the verge of walking out when apparently by random chance a salesman approached me. By now I was disgusted and momentarily shed my therapeutic empathy as well as my Christian hospitality and asked him, "So, are you this busy or this disorganized?" He assured me they were that busy. If you're too busy for the customer, you're too busy. See ya.

**It will get you a gas gauge on EMPTY. Not a single vehicle we test-drove had any gas in it. Invariably, the gas gauge needle indicated about enough gas to test-drive the truck around the dealership parking lot. If I had decided to take it out on the Interstate I'd still be walking back into town.

**It will get you stuck. My beloved wife, for some odd reason I have yet to figure, hates to go vehicle-shopping with me. Nonetheless, she hiked up the wading boots and accompanied me to another dealership. A salesman showed us a beautiful truck in the $6,000 range. Though above our budget it so attracted us that we decided to test-drive it. We hopped into the truck and as is customary the gas gauge was below the E. I informed the salesman who acted shocked that they would allow such a travesty to take place. In the spirit of excellent salesmanship and service he apologized and said, "If you good folks can wait just a minute I'll have a technician put some gas in it for you. Could I get you something to drink while you wait?" NOT!!! In my dreams he said that. In actual time and space he said, "I'll get you a $10 certificate and YOU can drive it a a few blocks down to the Shell station and YOU can put gas in it and YOU can take care of that for us."
I thanked him for the privilege and before I could say or do anything to him my beloved wife--the one who for some odd reason hates to go vehicle-shopping with me--restrained me, smiled at him, and we drove to the Shell station. I put 10 bucks in, hopped in the truck, turned the ignition and click click. Nothing. After a number of attempts resulting only in further click clicks I raised the hood and attempted to assess the problem. I figured that if the dealer wasn't going to take it upon himself to put 10 bucks of gas in the truck he certainly wasn't going to repair it. I solved the starting problem--loose battery cable. But once it started, the truck wouldn't run; it would die, which, at that point, is what I wanted the salesman to do, as well. I called the dealer, the salesman showed up, got the 6 you've-got-to-be kidding-thousand dollar truck running, and I returned the truck and, after profusely thanking them for a wonderful time, left the premises. For six grand THIS is what you get?

**It will get your blood pressure checked in the ER. My wife and I went to yet another dealer; this time she had a paper bag over her head. ( I'd have put a plastic bag over the previous salesman's head, but my sensitive wife informed me there is some obscure law prohibiting that. Go figure.) We test-drove yet another very nice-looking truck. I'm not exaggerating--thirty seconds out of the dealership parking lot I'm driving along, my foot is on the gas pedal and the engine rpm's are revving up but the speed of the truck is not correspondingly increasing. Vroom!! Vroom!! The blood vessels in my neck are the size of pulsating celery stalks. I turned the truck around, went back to the dealership and informed the salesman what the truck was doing and tactfully expressed my curiosity as to why he would send us out in a piece of crap like that to begin with. At this point, my wife is over-heating inside the paper-bag, but at least has maintained her anonymity. He apologized and since it was late in the day he would not be able to have their mechanic check it out, but would do so the next day and would call me with a diagnosis and resolution of the problem. Yeh, right. To be fair, he did call me. And to be fair again, he offered me no diagnosis, no resolution. He explained, "Our mechanic told me a number of trucks run like that; it's just the nature of that truck. He had a Chevy S10 pickup that did the same thing." I kindly informed him that I would not own a truck of that nature even if hemgave it to me, much less attempted to sell it to me for $5,000. By now I'm so worked up I'm hyper-ventilating and I rip the bag off my wife's head and gasp into it before I go postal and reduce the dealer's sales crew by one. We hurried out of the dealership; she's embarrassed to death and I'm hyperventilating--I'm convinced--to death. Another fairy tale ending.

I have now sworn off and at all car dealerships. "Customer service" may be part of their advertising but they don't have a clue about providing it. If I owned a car dealership I'd be absolutely embarrassed to offer to the public the crap on wheels they display.

But then embarrassment implies a conscience. Silly me.


Anonymous said...

Danny and I really enjoyed this post. Very funny the way you worded everything. We hear you on the used car hunt at dealerships. We were looking for one for our daughter a while back. We have very similar stories. One car for $5,000 didn't have working air conditioning. We asked if they could check it out and see if it was just low on freon or if it was a major problem. They said it would cost us for them to check it out. Unbelievable. What would you do without your wife? She's a gem! Sharon

Bongo said...

Go ahead get it all out don't hold back!!! Feel better now??? My sympathies to your wife ^..^

Anonymous said...


Zach P said...

Tough break! I haven't had the *pleasure* of having to shop at a dealership yet...I bought my car from family. I'm not looking forward to it though.

You could try ebay. I bought a Mercedes on ebay a couple years ago. I bid $2000, thinking that there's no way I would get it for that little (it was an old one). Turns out, that's a really dumb game to play. I won the auction...accidentally...and had to contact the seller and ask him to let me off the hook as I had just bought the car without my wife's knowledge and she was not thrilled. I offered to cover his seller's fee if he would relist. He was nice enough to do so. It was a $200 lesson in not bidding on cars "just for fun."

At least the customer service was good:)