Last month I suggested that I would be writing about a situation that kept me busy for most of the month of October. Well folks, I present this entry for your viewing pleasure. As you might recall, the last time I wrote an article this long was last January when I informed you about some of what was going on around me in high school that I had no idea even existed. This time around, I bring you the last month’s worth of my car troubles. I suggest that you go get yourself a drink and enjoy reading this completely outrageous, completely true story.
The Annoying War in My Head
October 1st: I bring my car in for a checkup and because the brake light is on. There’s also a loud noise coming from underneath the car that sounds like the exhaust is messed up. I stress to the nice girl that checks me in that I would like the technicians to take a look around the car while they’re inspecting to see what else needs to be fixed, if anything. She tells me – no worries, Honda has a multi-point inspection that they put each car through so whatever the problem is, they’ll find it.
I leave and get a phone call a little while later from Honda saying the brake light is on because the fluid needed to be topped off so they topped it off. They say the exhaust is making noise because the muffler needs to be replaced and that they’ll order the muffler now and call me when it comes in. Honda also gives my car a full transmission fluid flush or something like that (I don’t know). Oh, and my car passed that Honda multi-point inspection with flying colors. I pay $240+ and go about my business.
October 2nd: The brake light comes back on.
October 16th: Honda calls to tell me that the muffler has arrived and that I can drop the car off at any time to get the thing installed. I ask how long this process takes and the folks at Honda tell me it takes about an hour and a half. Great! I ask them if I can drop it off on Monday, October 18th in the morning and they say sure, but the guy won’t be around to do the install until 1:00pm so I tell them that I’ll see them at 1:00pm on Monday, October 18th.
October 18th, 1:00pm: As promised, I drop the car off at 1:00pm. In fact, I drop it off at 12:58pm, but that’s neither here nor there. As I’m waiting for the service clerk to process the fact that my car is dropped off, I notice a large computer screen hanging from the wall listing out the service appointments for the day. I’m watching the times and names of the customers flip by and I see my name listed at 1:20pm. Weird – my appointment was for 1:00pm. Oh well, who cares? As long as I get the car back within an hour and a half so I have ample time to prepare for a career panel that I’m speaking on at 5:00pm at the local university. When I drop the car off, I tell the folks at Honda that the brake light went back on right after I took the car back on October 1st. They say that they’ll look into it. The cost of the muffler replacement is about $350.
October 18th, 3:00pm: I’m hanging out at my place preparing for the panel later that night and waiting for the Honda call that says, “Hey Joe. Your car is ready to pick up – come on by and get it.” The Honda call that I get instead is, “Hey Joe. We looked into those brakes and it turns out that your brake lines are rusted through and that’s why the brake fluid is leaking. The car isn’t safe to drive. We can replace brake lines for you, but we probably wouldn’t be able to get you the car back until Wednesday. And it’ll cost an additional $700+.”
For a moment, three thoughts try to squeeze themselves into the forefront of my mind and ultimately out of my mouth. The first thought is, “Didn’t my brakes pass some Honda multi-point inspection just two weeks ago? Why wasn’t this picked up at that time?” The second thought is, “How hard would I have to throw this phone to actually break the glass in the windows in my bedroom?” The third thought is, “You clearly need to have this work done – the car isn’t safe to drive without it and you’ll only be without the Civic until Wednesday. Just do it and get it over with. Plus, you’re giving this car back to Mom after you’re done with it and you don’t want her driving an unsafe car.”
The third thought wins the momentary race from my mind to my mouth (you’re welcome, Mom!) and I tell the woman on the phone that I want the brake lines replaced. I ask her about a loaner car since I have that career panel to get to and a job that requires me to actually show up at the office each day (novel idea, huh?). She tells me that Honda doesn’t have loaner cars, but that they have an arrangement with the local rental car place and that she can have a rental car ready for me as soon as I come by. My roommate and I get into his Nissan (which works perfectly fine, by the way), head back to the Honda dealership, and I meet the rental car guy. Turns out the rental car will cost me $40 per day, but they take a $150 deposit from my credit card just in case it goes longer. Weird. The only thought that goes through my mind is, “Son of a bitch. Well, I guess it’s only $80 in total so I’ll deal with it.”
October 18th, 4:45pm: As I’m walking into the building where the career panel is being held, Honda calls again to tell me that whoever replaced the muffler last time (Meineke) used parts and pieces that didn’t actually fit the year and model of Civic that I was driving. Thus, I should have some tube somewhere underneath the car replaced so that the new muffler works as its supposed to work. The technician tells me that the alternative is to have the new muffler constantly banging off of the gas tank and have a clanging noise inside of my car. Since I’m crazy enough as it is without having the 2+ hours that I spend in the car each day joined by some clanging sound underneath the car, I tell the technician that I’d rather have that pipe fixed, how much does it cost, and what’s the estimated additional time to have it fixed. The technician says that they actually have the piece in stock, the additional price is about $250 or so, and that it won’t add any time to the repair. Works for me – I tell the guy to fix it up.
October 19th: While I’m at my office, Honda calls me since they promised to keep me updated throughout the repair process. The nice young woman on the phone tells me that they can’t get me the car back by tomorrow because they didn’t actually have both brake lines available in stock – they only had one. In fact, they can get me the car back on Saturday, which is when American Honda will be able to deliver the part.
Much like the day before, three thoughts make a mad dash from my mind to my mouth. The first thought is, “So the same people who did the awesome job on the multi-point inspection must have checked the shelf and reported that there were two brake lines available when, in fact, there was only one. What type of clowns do they have working over there? Why isn’t anyone actually doing their jobs? I mean I’m paying good money here, damn it! And now I have to pay another $200 or so for this ridiculous rental car?! Are you serious?!” The second thought it, “I know how supply lines work. These things are a pain in the ass and can take forever to deliver something as simple as a thimble to somewhere as close by as the room next door.” The third thought is, “I better close my office door because I’m about to blow up.”
As my third thought alludes to, the first thought wins the race to my mouth and as I shut the door to my office, I get a little loud with the girl on the phone. Some mixture of the following leaves my mouth in an ever increasing tone: “Why didn’t your guys check for the required parts yesterday?! Do you realize that it’s not another four days, it’s another $160 or so in rental car fees?! How can you NOT have a loaner program? You guys better be paying for the additional four days since I only rented this car under the auspices of having it for two days! Why should I have to pay more because you guys didn’t do your job?” And yes, I did use the word “auspices” while I was yelling into the phone. At the same time as my voice got loud, so did the girl on the other end – in fact, I expected her to get loud. Hey, it’s her job to protect the company she works for, right? I fully understand and it doesn’t bother me.
We agree that Honda will pick up two days worth of the cost of the rental since I was told that pieces were in stock when I rented the car. As I hang up the phone I think to myself, “I haven’t yelled at someone in a while. That was kind of fun.”
No change here – I’ll add up the rental car fees at the end of this entry
October 20th: My daily call from Honda comes in. This time around, it turns out that American Honda can’t deliver the part until next Monday morning – not this Saturday like the girl on the phone promised the day before. The girl also tells me that it wouldn’t have mattered if the part was delivered on Saturday because the guy who is doing this repair doesn’t work on Saturdays.
That’s right – you guessed it. A multitude of thoughts rush through my mind at this point. The first thought is, “If the guy doesn’t work on Saturdays, then why did you tell me that I’d get the car back on Saturday even if the part was delivered? What’s going on over there? Why am I being dicked around so much? Who’s in charge? I want to talk to a supervisor immediately. This is crap. Why am I being promised things that never seem to happen or – in this case – can’t possibly happen in the first place?!” The second thought is, “I hate you. I hate Honda. I hate everyone right now. Don’t call me again unless you’re telling me that my car is ready to be picked up, damn it.” The third thought is, “Damn it. Whatever. Just fix my car.”
As the third thought is racing towards my mouth and crossing the finish line, the girl on the phone cuts me off and says that she understands that I’ve been put at a disservice and that she’s going to look into paying for another two days of the rental car expenses. If she can’t get the additional two days of the rental car paid for, then she’s going to try to do something about reducing the labor costs. My better judgment immediately picks up the doublespeak going on here – she’s going to “look into” getting more rental car days paid and she’s going to “try” reducing the labor costs. I feel like telling this girl, “Believe it or not, I’m a highly educated guy with a ton of business experience – I know what those words mean.” They mean that this girl isn’t going to do a damn thing or, at the very most, she’ll ask a question to a supervisor and (of course) be told “no” and then stop at that answer. In other words, this girl has a job to do and that job doesn’t necessarily involve fiercely advocating on my behalf to a decision-maker at Honda. Just as I’m ready to let all of these thoughts out, the third thought from a few minutes ago finishes the race and I tell her that I appreciated that she was going to look into the additional days and that I’d wait for her call on Monday to pick up my car.
The same little voice that – just 24 hours ago – told me that I missed yelling at people tells me, “See? That’s why you should yell at people – it makes them look into the obviously legitimate answer (in this case, paying for more rental days) without you even having to ask.” My conscience, with its feelings hurt, tells the little voice to shut up.
October 21st: I realize that even though the Chevy Aveo which I’m renting is the absolute bottom of the line in terms of features, it’s not that bad of a little car to go zipping back and forth to work. When I say bottom of the line, I mean NOTHING on this car is automatic other than the transmission. Later that night, I start pricing out how much a brand new Chevy Aveo might cost me.
October 25th, 3:00pm: I’m at the office and, at this point, I actually like the Chevy Aveo. One of my coworkers and I were just having a conversation about how we like the Chevrolet brand because it’s pretty durable and provides a good value when Honda rings my phone. My coworkers are happy that Honda is calling because they feel for me on this situation with the dealership and everyone in the office agrees that I’m getting dicked around by Honda. No matter, Honda is calling me with the good news that my car is ready to pick up.
I pick up the phone and the girl that I’ve been working with is back. She tells me that she looked into having the dealership pay for a few extra days on the rental and the answer is no. I immediately motion to my coworker who happens to be standing in my doorway to get out and close the door behind her; it’s about to get loud in this office again. The girl on the phone does her typical spiel of talking loud and talking nonstop so I can’t get a word in edgewise. In the midst of her talk she says, “Unfortunately, American Honda didn’t deliver the part today and they won’t be able to get it here until Saturday.” At this point, I’m convinced the clouds covered the Sun because even our closest star would be blinded by how bright I’m about to light this girl up on the phone. The girl ends her talking points by saying that this is a rare circumstance and this usually never happens and that she apologizes that the dealership can’t pay for more than two of the rental days.
Now it’s my turn to talk and there are no thoughts racing to my head – I have this response down already without having a mental war with myself. My response goes something like: “I have no major problems with you guys and your shop. [In fact, I do.] I have a major problem with American Honda. Why are they telling me that the part will be delivered on Saturday, but actually that means Monday, but actually it’ll be the following Saturday? What’s going on over there? Why can’t they deliver a part when they say they’ll deliver the part? This is absolutely unacceptable.” The girl on the phone says that she understands and agrees, but that this is a rare occasion and that she’s sorry about what’s going on. With a notable increase in my tone, I ask her: “Who did you talk to about paying for the rental car days? The service shop manager? The manager at the dealership? Who?” She tells me that she spoke with both of these guys as well as the district manager (whatever that means) and American Honda and no one was able to provide additional days. Knowing exactly what I’m going to do here I respond with: “Good. Give me the number of the district manager’s boss. I want to talk to that person.” She is audibly startled and after a quick verbal stutter step says, “Oh. That would be American Honda. Hold on. I’ll get you the number.” I get put on hold for about two minutes during which the following thoughts start going through my mind:
- This is absolutely ridiculous.
- That’s another $200+ for this rental in addition to the $200+ that you’re already paying. We’re getting to a point where you can’t afford this excessive expense.
- Why does no one at Honda understand that each day this repair gets prolonged it costs me an additional $40? This is outrageous!
- Did she say the part will be delivered on Saturday? Didn’t she tell me last week that the guy who is repairing the car doesn’t work on Saturdays? Wait a minute… I’m getting bamboozled here again!
- Hold on – didn’t the muffler take two weeks to get delivered? Why didn’t I think of that last week when I dropped the car off? American Honda can’t deliver a part in under two weeks…
- I could probably drive the car without the new brake lines installed. I drove the car onto the Honda lot with the rusted through brake lines and the car drove fine. It’s just that damn brake light…
- Maybe I can find a way to just turn the brake light off?
- I should just pick up the car this afternoon. To Hell with it all. The car drives fine.
- But what if the brake lines are really in bad shape? I could get into an accident and nobody needs that crap. But what are the chances of that happening? Well, they might be good – who knows?
- What the hell is a brake line anyway? Let me get on Bing for a minute and search this thing out…
- You know what? That’s it – I’m picking the car up today and bringing it somewhere else. Wait a minute – one of the guys that I advise in the fraternity owns a car repair place – I’ll bring it there! Why didn’t I think of that in the first place?! Damn it!
The girl gets back on the phone and gives me the generic 800 number to American Honda. As she begins to tell me that the piece will be delivered on Saturday I cut her off and tell her not to worry about it because I’m picking up the car today. She says, “You want to come and get the car? It’s not safe to drive.” I say, “I drove it onto the lot and it drove fine. I’ll drive it off this afternoon.” She says that they’ll top off the brake fluid for me, but that I’ll have to sign some disclaimer since the car isn’t safe to drive and they alerted me to that fact. I tell her that it’s fine with me and I’ll see her at 6:30pm. She also gives me the quote on the final bill (about $610 or something like that), which would be a reasonable expense for the work that the shop performed up until this point – a muffler replacement and having some tube under the car being replaced. But when you factor in the hundreds I’m spending on this rental car…
When I hang up the phone, part of me is proud that I pulled my business from a company that clearly doesn’t want to play fair with its clients and that clearly doesn’t give a damn about this client. Another part of me, though, isn’t happy at the thought of driving a possibly unsafe car off of the Honda lot. I know what the next move is here…
October 25th, 3:10pm: I call my buddy with the repair shop and he thinks the entire story with Honda is a complete joke. Not only is it crazy that the part wasn’t in the shop at the time when I brought my car in, but the piece should be easily delivered in a short period of time – i.e. not two weeks later. My buddy does tell me, though, that the car is probably unsafe to drive and that I should get it fixed before taking it a long distance. I ask him to ask his father about the timing on getting the car fixed if I drop the car off later tonight. He’ll call me back.
October 25th, 3:15pm: Honda calls back and now one of the managers is one the phone instead of the girl that I’ve been dealing with throughout. The manager says that he’s reviewed my previous discussions with the young woman I was dealing with and he’s sorry that American Honda has been so goofy with delivering the brake lines. He reiterated that this was a rare event and that he’s sorry that it happened.
I tell the manager that it’s not the fact that the shop at the dealership isn’t delivering on their promises to me (although that’s not helping), but that for a week now my car has been sitting on their lot and – like most folks who are without their car – my life is somewhat put on hold until I get that car back. He understands and asks for another 24 hours to work with the folks at American Honda to try to put together an arrangement where they’ll pay for some more rental car days given the fact that they’re the ones causing the unnecessary delay. In exchange for giving him and his staff another 24 hours to work with American Honda, he’ll pay the rental expense for the additional day. I thank him for the offer and say that I accept the offer, but that I’m not happy with the way my business has been treated by American Honda and that I’ll be by tomorrow to pick the car up. He asks me to wait until they call tomorrow to allow them to work with American Honda on those extra days. I agree and the manager apologizes again for this outrageous delay.
October 25th, 3:25pm: My buddy calls me back and lets me know that his father doesn’t think it’s a good idea to drive the car, but if I could get the car to their shop tonight, I’ll definitely have it back by the end of the week if not mid-week. As my buddy goes into the details on how the brake lines can be fixed (about 80% of which I understand) a few thoughts go through my mind. First, I’m bringing my car to this guy’s shop from now on. Second, no one at Honda bothered to get into the details with me on what needed to be fixed with the brake lines. Third, how the Hell would I get my car down to his shop? I explain the conversation that I just had with the dealership and my buddy asks me to give him a call tomorrow when I know more.
October 25th, 3:30pm: While I was on the phone with Honda and the young man that I used to advise, I looked up what a brake line actually was and am almost sick to my stomach. Have you ever looked up a brake line? No? This is what it looks like:
That’s it! That’s what I’m waiting for the great folks at American Honda to deliver! Why couldn’t they drop those brake lines in a little box and send them off in a FedEx to the shop at the dealership?! FedEx will get it there overnight – guaranteed! Unreal. Absolutely unreal. The supply chain that is used by American Honda absolutely sucks and that company ought to be ashamed of itself. It’s not like I’m asking for a new transmission to be delivered or like I need a new steering column or something that doesn’t fit into a FedEx-sized box. Come on already!
October 25th, 3:35pm: I decide that this experience is too ridiculous and too full of completely outlandish and outrageous statements to not share it with my readers on JerseySmarts.com and I begin writing this entry. Once I began writing this blog entry I didn’t stop until it was 5:30pm – way past my time to leave the office. However, the angry little voice in my head appreciates the therapeutic power of writing and is now at ease, much to my conscience’s contentment. All of the information written from this point forward comes from a different writing session than everything written above.
October 25th, 5:50pm: Apparently, I’m really at ease from the writing because I find myself listening to some shitty dance music on one of these garbage terrestrial radio stations and actually dancing in the Chevy Aveo. If you don’t find the humor in this, then it must be because you don’t realize that at 350 pounds I’m about the same size as the Aveo. Somewhere in my subconscious the voice of wisdom says, “You clearly like driving this car – stop the work on the car at the Honda shop and go buy a brand new one of these. You can afford it – just do it.” And while the Nike-inspired voice of wisdom would seem to make perfect sense, my conscience reminds me that I’m engaged in an epic battle against the two headed monster that is my student loan debt and that I’m literally weeks away from destroying one of the heads on that monster. The voice of wisdom retires for the day.
October 26th, 2:00pm: Thankfully, I’ve recovered from that bizarre dancing episode and for some awful reason I have a headache which probably won’t go away any time soon since my Excedrin is at home. Note to self: don’t dance in the car any more – it’s not worth the headache. The Honda dealership makes their daily call to me and since I’m in my office I opt to close the door so that my yelling doesn’t bother my coworkers. That’s right – I know before I answer this phone call how I’m going to approach the discussion which is, namely, either American Honda pays for this absurd rental or I’m taking my car back this afternoon. Period.
The girl says hello on the phone and I return the greeting. Sorry folks, there aren’t a bunch of thoughts racing to get to my mouth this time because there are already words on the tip of my tongue: “I’ll be by after work to take my car back.” Before I have a chance to use this quick verbal barb, though, the young woman on the phone says that the manager talked to someone “above” and American Honda will pay for the three days on the rental that they already agreed to pay for as well as paying for every day of the rental starting with today up until the job is finished.
As you might expect, the “I’m taking my car back” jab punches backwards instead of forwards and for a split second I’m not sure how to respond. Internally, my mind is thankful that someone up the chain of command at American Honda understands that the company hasn’t done right by me as a good, paying customer. I respond with a thanks and a brief statement that goes something like, “This is good news, but when do you expect to have this piece in the shop and the car repaired?” The young woman tells me that the piece should be delivered by Friday (I thought it was Saturday?) and that hopefully it’ll be installed quickly. At this news, a tremor of “Go get ‘em, cowboy!” builds up in me since yesterday it was Saturday and today it’s Friday and I have no reason to believe either day, but I did just get a free rental for the remainder of this repair so I keep it shut.
My conscience wins a roaring victory by silencing the tremor and I thank the young woman for her assistance and let her know that I’ll be by later that day to take some items out of my car that I need for work (EZ Pass, GPS, hands-free headset, etc).
October 27th, 12:00pm: The local car rental company charges me an additional $222. I call and ask what the problem is and they say that it has to do with me having the car for over a week at this point. The anger begins to build within my mind, but my conscience is having a wonderful day and no battle ensues.
October 29th, 4:00pm: I’m up in North Jersey celebrating my Mother’s birthday which was actually the day before. My Mom and I think that the Honda dealership will probably call me while I’m up at the family party for her birthday since she lives about an hour and a half from the dealership and there’s no way that I’d be able to pick up the car that night. Almost as though if someone had set this up ahead of time, the Honda dealership calls me and says…
Bad news – They need to do more work on the car that will require a new rear wheel cylinder to be purchased and installed. They also need to replace the the rear brake shoes and resurface the drums. Good news – They took the liberty of going down to the AutoZone to get an aftermarket rear wheel cylinder instead of having me wait a few more days for American Honda to deliver the part. Also, the brake shoes are already in the shop and they’re not going to charge me extra labor to get the job done. After asking how much this is going to cost (another $285), I tell them to go for it. Then I ask how long it will take to get this done and they say that it’ll be done today.
Later that night my family decides that since we all have various financial goals that we’re aggressively pursuing, we don’t think it would be wise to waste any money on useless Christmas gifts this year. We decide, instead, that we’ll do something as a family and I hear my wallet audibly applaud the decision.
October 30th, 10:00am: I gladly pick up my car, sadly drop off the Chevy Aveo, and angrily pay for the repair.
In total, here is what I spent on repairing the car and paying for the rental car:
Absolutely, without a doubt, 100% completely unacceptable. Completely unacceptable. In fact, the total cost of this repair is ridiculous. In all truth, the car rental place refunded me $210.40 (remember, American Honda and the dealership were paying for a few days of the rental) so that my final cost for this repair and rental was $2,079.83, but that doesn’t make it any less heinous that I was treated like nothing more than easy money for American Honda.
And that’s the story, folks. I’m not totally mad at the people working at the local Honda dealership (though to not have a loaner program when you have a lot full of unused cars is unacceptable), but I’m furious at American Honda. I think that this entry appropriately displays my aggravation and all of the reasons why I’ll never purchase a Honda. Sure, Honda might see me as a single customer in a sea of potential customers, but I hope that this entry changes at least one other person’s mind about purchasing a Honda. The truth is that American Honda doesn’t give a damn about you as a consumer. All they care about is you as potential income to them.
And that, in this economy and for this consumer, is absolutely unacceptable.