Zen and the Art of Crappy Car Maintenance

Monday, April 29, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

The perks of small town living are almost identical to the corresponding downsides of small town living.  While knowing your neighbor leads to a more intimate and community-based lifestyle, it also often means everyone knows everything about everyone.  Often, you end up knowing things about your fellow townspeople that you would have never even wanted to know.  Nevertheless, like an information compactor, the closer everyone is to each other, the more everyone’s life becomes an open book.

I chose to see this closeness as a good thing.  Admittedly, it becomes much easier to ignore the gossip and rumor mill now that I’m happily settled into my life with a wife. (rhyme time!).  Additionally, 98% of the embarrassing details of my life I end up writing about at length, so the number of secrets I have left is rapidly dwindling. 

Here’s a quick story of the benefits of small town livin.

I bought my car locally.  The place I bought it came highly recommended by a few of the higher ups in my then graduate department.  The business itself only sold Volvos, and I wanted a Volvo.  It was a match made in heaven and I quickly became the owner of a slightly used, low-mileage, 2004 Mattmobile II.   I named him Brutus. 

The other wonderful quality about this dealership was that they had a service department connected to their business that specialized (obviously) in Volvos.  And the only thing better than buying a car from a place you trust is having a trustworthy place to bring it for repairs and service.   And for the next 5 to 6 years everything was moving along quite swimmingly.  When I needed the occasional oil-change or repair, the service guys, whose names I knew, identified the problem and repaired it for a reasonable rate. 

Then two years ago, one of the large local Subaru dealerships (which my wife bought her car from incidentally) struck up a deal that involved the merger of the Volvo and Subaru dealerships.   My wife and I thought that this would be the best of both worlds; A consolidation of our automotive destinations.  

Both businesses involved in this merger had healthy track records of both honesty during sales and reliability in repairs.  This would seem obvious, as these are the two qualities paramount to having repeat customers.  Somewhere in the stitching together of the two companies, however, they seem to have added 3 or 4 parts intestines and left out most of the brains.  Which is to say that the newly merged car dealership is almost completely shit.

Last time my wife went to Steve Smith Subaru (close but not the actual name) for an oil change they rotated and balanced her tires without asking.  Considering that her tires had been put on elsewhere the previous week, this added expense was not appreciated.   When she contested the addition service, they apologized, promised to send her a refund and to give her a free oil change next visit.  Two weeks later, she had to call them back to ask for the refund to be mailed, which they apologized for “forgetting”.

My wife’s previous visit to Steve Smith Subaru had been to purchase and change over to new snow tires.  She made and appointment and when she arrived they informed her that they didn’t have snow tires to fit her car (which, again, they sold her).  Considering she had called to confirm her appointment to put these very tires on her car, she was understanbly pissed to waste her weekend afternoon.  She has since taken her business elsewhere for her tire needs.  

When I showed up for my recent oil change, I had low expectations.  Besides the elongated wait, with my oil change Steve’s Subaru showed me a bill totally over $3,000 in necessary repairs.  I was crestfallen.  I got that nauseous gas acid feeling in my belly.  Three grand is a truckload of moolah and this woman was casually explaining how important they are and then asking when I want to set up an appointment to repair all of these issues.  I told her I would call to make an appointment. 

I guess the people at the new dealership don’t realize that the internet exists.  Or perhaps, they realize that most people will take the easy option (fixing their car at the dealership) over doing any leg work at all about prices.  Hell, if you can repair my car for anywhere near a reasonable amount, I too would probably go the easy way.  But somewhere way before “$3,000” I do a quick internet search to see what the ball-park price is for similar repair jobs. 

This Subaru (and ex-Volvo) dealership is so far out of the ball-park, they are playing cricket.  What on the internet (same make and model and repair) was listed as a few hundred dollars was written down on my repair sheet as 2,000?!?!  All up, the repairs seemed as if they should be closer to one grand rather than three (still no small sum, granted). 

To Facebook I went.  Needed: Trustworthy local mechanic/auto-repair shop

An hour later, a number in hand, I called my friend's “go to guys.”  My friend has lived in the area for well over a decade, and if she gives a place her stamp of approval, I automatically trust them.   This friend does not suffer fools. 

When the guy picked up the phone he was friendly and helpful and asked what the problem seemed to be.  I told him I had a number of problems that needed to be checked out, and that I wasn’t sure what the severity of any of the issues might be.  Feeling cryptic, I continued that my dealership had identified a number of expensive problems and I was fairly certain that they were trying to screw me over. 

He replied without pause, “Steve Smith Subaru?”

“Yes,” I said, a bit shocked and laughing into the phone.  “They really are that bad, aren’t they?”

“We’ll take a look at it and see what’s what,” is all he said.  Very professional, but telling at the same time.  “How bout Tuesday?”

I can’t wait for tomorrow.  

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