Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Simple Three Thousand Mile Service and New York State Inspection

Cue "Nova" theme music and title sequence.

Baritone Voice Over: Tonight our tale is one of events spiralling out of control at a suburban car dealership. This is the story of the attempt to get the Steviemobile a simple 3000 mile service and a New York State inspection certificate.

Dissolve to Huntigton Hyundai, early morning. Baritone Voice Over: "It is a few minutes before eight am here at Huntington Hyundai, the dealership from which Stevie bought the red Elantra you see turning into the dearlership carpark. The child beside him is the Stevieling. They are anticipating an hour or so in the waiting room while the car, which has just over 20,000 miles on it, is put through a 3000 mile service and a New York State inspection. The Date is December 28th, a date soon to become one of the darkest in history.

Dissolve to check-in desk. Stevie is booking his car in. We see the dealer representative, later to be identified as the manager of the service department writing on the back of a large white envelope into which he places the keys to the Steviemobile. Stevie's Voice Over: "I checked the car into the dealership and told them I'd wait for it. I explained that I wanted a three thousand mile service and an inspection. I also asked them to check the alignment as I'd driven down a pothole a few days before and the steering had developed a small wobble. Since a three thousand mile inspection is little more than a pull on the belts and an oil change I figured we'd wait. We had books, drawing supplies and a card game to keep the Steveiling occupied. The guy behind the counter took the keys but wasn't signed onto the computer system."

Baritone Voice Over: In fact, this is the point at which things begin to go wrong. The service department manager is supposed to sign onto the computer system and input the details of the car. In fact, he has filled out a form that is usually used when the computer system is not available. This departure from standard practice will result in terrible consequences.

Dissolve to various shots of Stevie and the Stevieling marking time with books and the card game. Stevie's voice over: "We were doing pretty well, but we hadn't eaten at all that day. I suddenly looked up and saw there was only one person in the waiting area that was there when I came and looked at my watch. It was already 11 o'clock. I went round to the desk and asked how much longer the car was going to be."

Cut to frantic searches for car details and keys. Fade up soundtrack. Service manager speaking: "Did you book the car in under a different name?"

Cut to Stevie's bewildered face. He speaks: "No, of course not. Why on earth would I do that?"

Voice over: As we can see here, no-one seems to know what they are doing. The car isn't in the computer system and the schedule is made up from records on that computer system. The car has been sitting in the carpark, and Stevie and his daughter in the waiting room, for three hours.

Cut to Service Manager: "I'm sorry, there's been a mistake".

Stevie: "Mistake?"

Service Manager: "We haven't started on your car yet, but we've put it in as the next one up. We can give you a loaner car."

Baritone Voice Over: Here the chain of events gets more tangled. Stevie's blood sugar is running low and he isn't making good decisions. He will now make a very bad one that will cost him two more hours. He will trust these incompetent people to make things right.

Stevie : "I had an 8 o'clock appointment. How can I still be here? I don't want a loaner car. I drive off and the car will never get serviced. No, I'll wait for it if it is the next one up. And I want the belts properly checked this time. I don't want to have been here for four hours for a simple service and wake up tomorrow to squealing belts like after my last service."

Service Manager: "No problem."

Cut to service department staffer explaining what they say is wrong to Stevie in the waiting room. Baritone Voice Over: The estimate is produced. It includes what Stevie believes to be unneeded brake work, but he is willing to let them do it if the steering wobble is sorted out. They also claim a buckled rim needs to be replaced. Stevie doesn't think the wheels are buckled, but does remember hitting a very deep pothole in the road which is when the steering began to act up, and when the price is explained as being $45 he agrees to replacing it. This is a misunderstanding that will end up costing a considerable amount of money. In order to placate the increasingly angry Stevie the staffer promises an extra mechanic to "get things back on track". This is a deliberate false move, as we shall see. The estimated time given to do the work is another one and a half hours.

Cut to various shots of Stevie and the Stevieling in the waiting room. The child is patient but is clearly beginning to loose it. Stevie waits until one and three-quarter hours has passed and walks around to the desk, and hold his hands out in the universal "So?" sign. Service Maganger Speaks Angrily: "You have to give the guys time to work!"

Stevie: "By my watch they've had four and a half hours to work. How long does it take to do a simple routine brake job? You said an hour and a half. That was an hour and three quarters ago! I had an eight o'clock appointement to get this stuff done!"

Service Manager: "We had people come in here at seven!"

Stevie: "I don't care. I was here in good time for my appointment that was booked weeks ago! You've had me here for hours because of your mistake! How much longer is it going to take?"

Service Manager: "You were offered a loaner car. I can't do more than that!"

Stevie: "I don't want a loaner car. I want my car!"

Baritone Voice Over as Stevie goes back to waiting area: Stevie is beginning to suspect the truth. The mechanics are at lunch and he will not see his car for another hour or more. But there is news.

Cut to staffer coming to see Stevie. Baritone Voice Over: The staffer explains that the delay has been caused because they are waiting for a wheel rim to be delivered from "down the road". They don't keep them on site. Stevie is incensed that he has been kept waiting again while no work is done on his car, and loudly and angrily says that he doesn't expect the labour costs of this wait to be on his ticket. More time passes. At one o'clock he finally breaks and goes to the desk to demand the loaner car they offered him hours ago. As if by magic, his car is "almost done", though it will, in fact, be about twenty minutes before he gets it.

Baritone Voice Over as bill is presented and Stevie becomes agitated: The bill is considerably higher than the estimate, by about a third of the total. The rim has cost an additional $125 dollars. The $45 originally mentioned was only a "fitting fee". Not only that, the extra mechanic offered as a way of helping resolve the original mistake has billed his time to Stevie.

Stevie Voice Over: "It was a damn cheek, but the priority was getting the Stevieling something to eat. She was a real trooper throughout all this hassle. I figured to write to the dealership owner about this disgraceful behaviour and let it go at that."

Cut to Steviemobile arriving at diner for meal. Cut to Stevie getting out, looking at the rear bumper and then screaming "I don't believe it! Baritone Voice Over: " The dealership at Huntigton Hyundai had one last joker to play.

Stevie Voice Over as we cut to close up of inverted "L" shape sliced into bumper: Those bastards had kept me waiting for three hours before they got their bloody fingers out, then f***ed around for another two and a half hours before smashing a hole in my bumper and then letting me drive off the lot without so much as a by-your-leave! F***ers!"

Cut to Stevie returning to dealership after lunch, calmer, and meeting staffer.

Stevie:Could you come outside and take a look at something?"

Staffer: "Certainly!"

Cut to exterior shot. Stevie points at cut in bumper and says: "What do you think made that?"

Staffer: "That wasn't there when you brought it in?"

Stevie: "Come on! I've been bringing this car to you to since I bought it here. Every dollar I've spent on it has not only gone on Hyundai parts but they have been fitted by your mechanics. I've been more than a good customer to Huntington Hyundai and I think I deserve better than this. No, the car did not have any holes in it when I brought it to you at eight this morning."

Staffer: "Let me talk to my manager. He'll want to take a look."

Baritone Voice Over: But in fact, the manager doesn't need to look. Within a few minutes the staffer returns, appologises and asks Stevie to bring the car in after New Year's Day. He says they will fix the damage at their expense and appologises again. He also says that regretably the car will be needed for two days, so a loaner vehicle will be supplied. Two days later that is what happens, and eventually the car is returned looking much as it did before the Simple Three Thousand Mile Service and Inspection was done.

Stevie Voice Over: It looked to me like the car had been backed onto either a partially raised ramp or an open toolbox. Something sharp. At first I thought maybe an SUV towing bracket, it's about the right height, but the damage was sliced into the bumper. These ABS bumpers tend to shatter if the damage is done by blunt-force. They get ragged holes in them like any plastic thing does.

It doesn't really matter in the end. All that matters is that they damaged the car and let me drive away without saying anything. You could tell they knew it was a scandalous thing to do because of the speed at which they decided to fix things. They did a nice job fixing the car, I'll admit, but I picked this dealership because they were the best one on Long Island for Hyundai cars. If this is the behaviour a regular customer gets from the best, well, it's a sad thing. A very sad thing.

You want to know something funny? They told me to bring their car back with gas in it. When they gave it to me it had three-quarters of a tank, and I brought it back full. My car was returned with a tank so empty it took fourteen gallons to fill it, more than I've ever managed to squeeze in before. They couldn't spare me so much as a cupfull." (Laughs, ruefully). "The belts don't squeal though. At least that bit was done right."

Dissolve to title sequence over distance shot of Huntington Hyundai. Cue music. Fade to black.

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