Monday, January 16, 2006

CarMaximum Pain.

When I bought my car 3 1/2 years ago, along with the vehicle itself I also purchased a 60,000 mile extended warranty- yeah, I'm that guy. Hey, it came in handy- I got a free CD player out of the deal when the one that came with the car stopped working. Oh, and I think they replaced a couple of headlight bulbs, too. All in all, though, the peace of mind one gets from knowing that one won't have to pay for any repairs for the first couple of years one owns the car is quite satisfactory. It's just one less burden to concern oneself with, considering the myriad of other headaches financing and caring for a slightly used car entails. And what's that worth, really? Oh yeah, about $1,500.

Don't judge me. I've made my choice.

Of course, this also meant having to take my car to the dealership to get it serviced, a proposition that I initially winced at. I've heard the stories. Plus, with a car like mine, you can always find a relatively cheap place to get work done. Y'know- hippies turned entrepreneurs. Strangely enough, and even as cynical as I am, especially as concerns dealing with large companies, I found myself leaving the dealership after each repair or oil change pleasantly, well, satisfied with the service I had just received, whether I had paid for it or not.

What was happening to me? Had I gone soft and given in to my unattainable ideals, or had I just been the nth victim of a truly masterful manipulation? I couldn't understand- why was it that I didn't feel ripped off? Why was it that I didn't feel as though I was being lied to when it came to the repairs that needed to be done?

Then I figured it out. These guys aren't getting commission, they're on salary! Therefore, they have nothing to gain by selling me parts I don't need. In fact, the sooner they get me out of there, the sooner they can go on their next smoke break or hang around the coffee machine where Sara from Receptions always goes at 2:09 every afternoon..

Plus, there was Greg: the ASE Certified Technician that always handled my claims. Greg was the kind of guy you want working on your car- clearly smart and capable, rugged, but not too rugged, and with a face as friendly as you might imagine your own mother's would be... were she a mechanic. For over a year, each time I went to the front desk to check in, the receptionist would inform me that my appointment was with Greg. I would then walk into the lobby and faithfully stand in line at his cubicle, and wait. I began to think that Greg was actually requesting me as a customer, as I found it quite coincidental that I should always find myself in his line, rather than any one of the other six technicians always on hand. With that in mind, I began requesting to have him as my technician every time I made an appointment: "Yeah, I need to see Greg about an oil change. Hmm? Oh, today, if possible."

And so it went. Sooner rather than later, "G'morning,Mr. Pool," turned into "Hey, whaddya say there, Jonathan?" and "Oh no, what'd you do that poor Golf this time? Hahaha!" As busy a man as he was, he always made an effort to offer a friendly handshake and a firm pat on the back after the completion of our transaction. I appreciated the gesture, so I even took the time to fill out the customer surveys he would occassionally meekly ask me to complete, "if it won't take too much of your time, pal."

And then, one day, he was gone. I didn't ask what happened to him. As emascualating as it is to take your car in to have something done that you, as a man, should know how to do in the first place, you certainly don't want to humiliate yourself by actually acting like you care about what happened to another man in front of a bunch of mechanics. Sure, you know they wouldn't laugh at you outright- that'd be unprofessional- but you'd see it in their eyes. They might even hang a poinsettia scented car freshener from your rearview mirror the next time they change your timing belt, just so you know that they know.

And so, I never found out what happened to Greg. I imagined him on a hilly ranch somewhere in the green fields of Montana, shoeing horses or installing exhaust fans on hogs. Probably, though, he was just promoted within the company. Guess I shouldn't have filled out so many of those surveys- at least not with all 10's.

I approached any new technician with extreme caution- how could I trust these guys? I don't know these guys! For all I know, they got that ASE patch on their arm from some guy they mugged down at the Firestone. I made no requests for specific technicians. I was fine with simply being shuffled around the office to whomever was available- I need some work done, let's just get it done and get out of here. This place creeps me out, I thought.

Soon, my stormy appointments at the dealership reached a sort of homeostasis. I began to be repeatedly assigned to Jesse, a nice enough man not too much my senior. He gave his customers a sense of comfort by displaying pictures on his cubicle of his children playing various sports. Even though I do not have children and the thought of having them makes me uncomfortable, his magic nonetheless worked on me as well. Even with the fear of being abandoned by another technician that I might grow to appreciate and even enjoy doing business with, I began requesting Jesse for my appointments.

Occasionally, Jesse would be out of the office, and so I would have to deal with someone else when I went in. There were a number of times that Brian, the technician in the cubicle right next to Jesse's, would handle my claim. I'm not sure how many, but it was enough for him to remember my name each time I came in. But, pound for pound, it was clear that Jesse was officially my new technician. Or, at least that's what I thought..

Recently, a few days before a road trip, I took my car in to get an oil change- you know, one of the many obligatory things you learn from your father before driving two hundred miles, along with washing the car (I've since rebelled against this notion- why not just wash it when you return from the trip? Or, better yet, why not just not wash it?). I had stopped asking with whom my appointment was by this point, as well as requesting anyone. I just naturally assumed it would be with Jesse.

When I walked in that morning, Jesse and Brian were both standing at their respective cubicles, waiting, apparently, for nothing, or (and this is the more likely of the two)for the following scenario to occur. Perhaps what happened next had been building up between these two- I'll never know, but, regardless of the reasons, all I know is it happened. With me in the middle.

in chorus.
Jesse- Hey, Mr. Pool! How ya doin'?
Brian- Jonathan! Hey buddy! I'll get you right over here!

Me- Hey... guys.

Jesse- I can help you right over here, Mr. Pool.

Brian- No, I got him right over here, Jesse.

Jesse- I don't think so, Brian- here his name is, right under my name.

*Brian walks over, attempting to act casual, but there are already tiny beads of sweat popping up on his forehead, and he smiles the way you expect a skeleton would if it found a suit of flesh- 'Just show all your teeth- that'll convince 'em it's genuine!'*

Brian- That's a mistake, Jesse. He's supposed to be under my account.

Jesse- No, Brian -----. *At this point, Jesse began to call Brian by his full name, for emphasis, I suppose. I've omitted it here.* Here's his name- RIGHT HERE, where it should be. What can I do for you today, Mr. Pool?

Me- Um, I just needed to, uh-

Brian- No! Jesse, *appalled at this injustice, and growing ever angrier* what are you doing, man?

Jesse- I'm taking care of my CUSTOMER, Brian -----.

Brian- *laughing nervously and, quite reasonably, embarassedly* Your customer? He's been coming to me for three years! *We all knew this was a lie, but he was simply trying to gain ground in a futile argument. I respected him for it.*

Jesse- I don't think so, Brian -----.

Brian- I do think so, Jesse -----. *Turnabout's fair play, and so out comes Jesse's last name!*

Jesse- Well, you're wrong.

Brian- Check the history, Jesse. *All through clenched teeth and severe eye contact, by this point.*

And now, the two desperate men realized I was still standing right there in front of them, and witnessing this awesome display of whatever it was that was happening here. As uncomfortable as I felt at that moment, I couldn't help but to smile inwardly at the knowledge that, while I may always be a pauper, I will never have to have an interaction like this.

Jesse- We'll be with you in just a minute, Jonathan. *The two men go about clicking buttons, pointing fingers at screens, and claiming victories.*

Brian- See? Right here. He was just in here a month and a half ago- and look whose name!

Jesse- Well, Brian -----, look at this. *He sets about pointing his finger to all sorts of points of contention on the 13" monitor.*

Brian- So what?

Jesse- So, he's my customer, Brian -----. How can I help you, Mr. Pool?

Brian- No, Jesse, no!

Me- I just need to get my oil changed..

Brian- Yeah, Jesse -----, let the man get his oil changed!

Jesse- Sure thing, Brian -----. Can I just get your keys, Mr. Pool?

Brian- Yes, I'll take your keys right over here, Jonathan.

Jesse- Brian, no. Stop- Who do you wanna work with, Jonathan?

*Just now, I feel like a child who is forced to choose between living with his mother or father, as the bickering couple selfishly brings him into their dirty war. Awkward!*

Me- I don't, uh-

Brian- He doesn't care, man. Just let it go, Jesse.

Me- I just want to get my oil changed.

Jesse- Okay, Brian -----, fine, if that's what you wanna do.

Brian- I'll get you all taken care of over here, Mr. Pool.

Thinking the firestorm to be over, I cautiously approached Brian's cubicle, though not before casting a furtive glance towards Jesse's cubicle, to ensure that my safety was not in jeopardy. I also made a solemn internal promise to always ask for Jesse from this point on. I always go for the underdog, and besides, he was right in the first place- I'd worked with Brian only a few times. Brian knew this, but his anger and pride got the best of him. I can't have a loose cannon like this working on my car! I might wake up exploded some morning!

After exchanging all the perfunctory information that is required for an operation such as this, Brian asks, "Will you be needing a ride home today," to which Jesse quickly replies, "No, he always waits in the waiting room. He never gets a ride. He waits." And so, the battle raged on.

During my stay in the waiting room, both men approach me seperately to apologize for the boorish behavior of their counterpart, offer me a cup of coffee, and hand me a business card with their personal cell phone numbers handwritten on the back. I assume they both went to the same customer service class.

When my car was finished, I climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine. I looked to my left as I pulled out of the garage, and there, in the office window with glaringly open blinds, were Jesse and Brian, screaming at one another, while a man at a desk, presumably the boss, listened, mediated, or laughed. Behind his head on the wall of his office was placed a large, white markerboard that had names in one column, numbers in another, and stars in another. Somewhere, "Monthly Leader" was written on the board. I guess these guys do get a commission, after all. Innocence is lost.

Having failed to mention previously that while I was told when I made this appointment to be at the dealership at eleven a.m., but that I was not told that the mechanics go to lunch at eleven a.m., and was therefore made to wait an extra hour for a service that should not take more than thirty minutes, I hasten to add here that I have since found a mechanic quite near my house that specializes in vehicles of my sort, and is much cheaper to boot. My warranty expired 70,000 miles ago, anyway.

this post was submitted to action! everydayhogwash.


Allie D. said...

Are there really poinsettia-scented car fresheners?


Anonymous said...

Great story. Congrats on the daily win at

matt said...

I miss Greg....

akos said...

Nice story. :)

Anonymous said...

You are very descriptive. ;)
-that girl

claudette said...

A great story...I'd vote for it anytime! Your voice always come through clearly in your writing. Very good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Your story has allowed men everywhere to open up.....Thanks man!!!

Chuck & Ann said...

Your story-telling ability simply must be inherited.
Fabulous article!

Anonymous said...

you should have won.

Jonathan said...

Thanks, anonymous. I thought so too, but obviously I'm biased. It's good to know that at least one other person feels the same. I guess when it comes to internet polling and popularity, a missing pop-tart will always hold more clout than trouble at the auto shop. I guess I know what direction to go now.. Or maybe I just need to get more friends with internet access. Lousy squatter punks.

Anonymous said...

you got robbed and I helped I helped by voting for the sweet Tart lady she's a lot hotter than you dood and shes got kids to feed so quit complaining lol

Anonymous said...

If only you had included the part about the missing pop tart from your backseat and not knowing which one of your service advisors took it. I bet then you would have won.

Anonymous said...

ok, i'm sorry for saying that. please come back now,