This That and Lies

gengras Jeep
I got to hang out here for a couple of hours.

Last week was a bad week for customer service. A ripple in the force was felt from Cornwall in the UK to East Hartford, CT to somewhere in southern California. I was tangled up in the East Hartford scene, home of my Jeep dealer. It was awful. I’ll try to let my mind calm down a bit before sharing the details, I don’t want to overwhelm you with a long spewing rant. Let’s get back to England.

Ellen published a post about the differences between customer service in the UK and customer service in the US. She seemed to be on the fence. Reading her post, I would gather that customer service in the UK is a little worse than what she remembers from the US. I might point out that her most recent US experience was in the Midwest, where people are nice. It’s true, people in the Midwest are nicer than the people on the coasts. I don’t know why, maybe the tide doesn’t affect them. In any case, unless you’re talking about college football, religion (and we don’t talk about that here) or gun control, I think you can get along pretty well in the middle of America. Then again, Ellen appears to have also lived in New York, so…

Later in the week, my friend Brad Lewis went on a small tear out on the left coast about (the lack of) customer service. Brad knows good service when he gets it, and he recognizes and calls out bad service when he’s the recipient. I admire that trait in him. It’s true. It’s how we met. He got bad service from a bartender and he called the bartender out and a small argument ensued. The bartender was wrong. When a guy drinking expensive scotch tells you that you went light on the last pour, you add a splash. You don’t argue.

If it wasn’t for Ellen and Brad, I might have decided not to share my car-dealer-from-hell story. I actually wrote a draft, filed it away and decided not to publish it. What’s the point? It’s not like the dealership follows my blog or is friends with me on Facebook. They don’t care. They didn’t even send me that stupid:

tell us how we did on your last service call…we really want to know…your opinion matters…please give us all 10s” survey they always send.

On the other hand, the folks at Jeep did send me a survey. Jeep got a few low numbers, ‘cuz some things broke on my Jeep way before similar things have ever broken on other cars I’ve owned. Jeep still got some good numbers, but the dealer? Not so much. In fact, the dealer got a few zeroes.

I guess it’s time for the details. I’ll give them to you thumbnail (expression hangover from Twilight Zone Marathon).

My Jeep was making sounds that machines make before coming apart at the seams. Sounds the Titanic made before sinking. Squeaks, clunks and bonks from both the front and the rear.

I was told that I needed to replace a bunch of things. I agreed to the recommended repairs.

Let’s fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. I had asked on two occasions about the when the car would be available. I had offered to make my arrangements to accommodate them, if they needed more time, but I let them know that my arrangements were complicated and that I needed an accurate estimate. The manager assured me that he understood my concerns and that my car would be available Tuesday afternoon.

My ride dropped me off. Then – I bolded that because it actually hadn’t happened earlier – the manager talked to the mechanic and discovered that the car wouldn’t be ready when promised. I complained. The manager checked and told me “I’d give you a loaner, but we don’t have any.”

This is the point where it gets interesting. It’s 3:45 pm and I’ve just been told that my car won’t be ready until 5:30 and that there were no loaner cars available.

As I waited in the lounge, I heard three other pissed-off customers yelling at my service manager. “You said…this isn’t fixed…you didn’t do…I’ll never be back…” and like that. He offered two of them a loaner car. You know, the thing that wasn’t available to me. He arranged a rental car for the third guy.

See, that’s how you lose a customer, you lie to them. I can handle expensive repairs to things that shouldn’t have broken or worn out yet. I can handle leaving my car overnight. I can handle asking friends to schlepp me around. I can’t handle having my concerns dismissed as if they don’t matter. I can’t handle being given a make-believe answer just to get me off the phone and I can’t handle being lied to.

I’ll have to ask my brother if the dealers in Iowa are nicer than this. I’d ask Brad, but I’m reasonably sure the dealers in LA are only nicer if you’re buying nicer cars than a Jeep.

73 thoughts on “This That and Lies

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  1. Customer service really isn’t complicated: find out what the customer wants or needs and then give it to them. If you can’t, then offer them the next best reasonable option. It astounds me how many companies just don’t seem to understand that – especially car dealerships.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s so true Norm. I deal with our customers infrequently, but I always look to see what I can do to make them happy. I even told these guys that if they thought they might need an extra day, or couldn’t get it done, that would be OK. I could have taken my wife’s car on Tuesday and arranged a ride for Wednesday. I was doing ok with taking it in stride, until I heard him offer the loaner to the other people – then it became personal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. See, you’re nicer than I am. I would have challenged them on that. Of course, the guy would have said, “We didn’t have a loaner then. It just got back. Since your car is almost ready, I didn’t figure you’d need a loaner.” And I would have said, “You still should have offered it to me first.” And I’d look like a crabby old lady and he’d exchange Looks with the other customers and they’d like him better. ~sigh~

    Liked by 2 people

    1. After he offered to arrange the rental car for guy #3, I got a little ugly. I did challenge him and I did call his attention to the fact that he only didn’t have a car for me. The other people were still there, and none of them liked him any better when I was done, but I do recognize that as a risk ;)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We had several problem with our camper trailer, one very serious: the electric brakes only worked on one wheel. So we took it back to the dealer and waited and waited and waited. Four months later, no kidding, they called us to say everything was fixed. Nothing was. Not a single thing. To their credit, they had it all fixed in three hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh I feel your fury! That’s awful!
    My weekend customer service complaints: The restaurant manager wouldn’t let me finish my sentence — FOUR TIMES she cut me off. Later that night I listened as the ISP man on speakerphone cut my husband off. It seemed like a bad weekend for hearing what the customer has to say.
    After reading your post, I should be glad no one lied to me. Or at least, I didn’t catch anyone in a lie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I want you to know that I read your entire comment before starting this reply. I don’t like being cut off, especially when someone cuts me off so they can jump to the wrong conclusion. I usually restart by saying “if you had let me finish…” I am usually too nice to these people, but there’s a line. Once you cross the line, I’m not nice at all. I figure most people at a car dealership are lying about half the time, but I still don’t like it when they lie to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. One of the things I learned during my career was to always under-promise and then over-deliver. This seems to be a mantra that my car dealership also follows. If I’m told the wait will be 90 minutes, I have my car back in an hour. As a customer I appreciate that kind of ‘managing expectations’.
    The kind of lie and implied indifference to your inconvenience, I would have taken personally too. How can you not interpret his actions as meaning he thought your problem wasn’t important enough?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly! Making a customer feel like they are important goes a long way to managing problems like this. Even when I went back up at the end, he tried putting me off by saying “I’m sorry, I’m dealing with some fires right now.” I looked at him and said “yeah, and I’m one of them so you need to deal with me.”

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! – I lived in Queens for a little over one year. Then I moved to Seattle, WA and I wanted to smack people for about the first month or so. Transactions seemed so slow and there seemed to be an unnecessary attempt to be nice – who needs that?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In the early 90s we lived in Rochester, Minnesota for a year. My husband and I were blown away by the quality of customer service there. It was the same when we visited the bigger city of Minneapolis on many occasions. We were told it’s the mid-west, folks are proud of their job and care to do it well. In 1996, we moved to upper New York state in the very small town of Malone (about 12 000 habitats). Service there was also quite good, not top-notch as in the Mid-west but good. Now if you could experience the service in Montreal, QC, it would make you miss the US. It’s pretty bad here. When you come across good service, you feel elated, it’s quite sad!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder if it’s they way people are or the level of what people will expect/accept? Everything I’ve ever read says it costs 5-10 times more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. It doesn’t make any sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s terrible, Dan. Can’t blame you for wanting to rant after THAT.

    It seems ironic that so many businesses do these surveys (automated, of course) about customer service, which is almost universally pretty bad these days. Oh, there are some companies I deal with that are good — sometimes VERY good — but the majority are so-so at best, if not terrible. You can see it in the move to hide contact information on websites, something that I’ve learned is quite deliberate. You have to be very determined to track somebody down. Of course, I know they want and expect people to give up, so I try even harder.

    Maybe they’re playing the odds, figuring that they’ll please three customers for every one they torque off, but whatever the reason, it’s a lousy way to do business — one that I can’t help but feel will backfire on them in the end. And I’m not even talking about something as reprehensible as outright lying to a customer. You don’t mention confronting the service manager about that, but I hope you did. I’d make sure he knew why he’d never see me again, and that I’d be sure to steer as many people away from his business as possible.

    Hate to leave on a down note, so let’s enjoy a two-minute clip from “Seinfeld” on this very topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T2GmGSNvaM

    Like

    1. I love the Reservations clip, and it’s so very true Paul. the surveys are annoying and it’s even more annoying, actually insulting, when they ask for “all 10s” which they routinely do. I guess they took one look at this mess and decided not to ask.

      Sometimes, I think car dealers only care about the pile of money currently in front of them. My father bought almost all of his cars from the same dealership. Loyalty mattered, and even though he usually bought used cars, he was always treated like a friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t like the fact that someone lied about your possible rental, Dan. I also feel that there is less training in diplomacy and less courtesy in general. I feel bad for you. I live in a smaller town and appreciate certain places which go the extra mile and seem to “know” me. I would take the time to go up the chain of command and get compensation. A free future oil change or free car rental for a week. Take care! :)

    Like

    1. I did take this up with one of the owners. The initial response was nice. I’ll report back if there’s anything unexpected. I think you’re right about people not being trained to handle these situations,

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That really was appalling, Dan. There can never be an excuse for just bald lying to a customer like that. Well, not if they want repeat custom and ergo to maintain their business.

    Sadly your tale was quite familiar to me. Last year I took my car in for a service at a local garage-cum-dealership. I was phoned to say the car was ready for collection. When I went to collect it, the entire driver’s side of the front bumper and part of the driver’s side wing was dented. No, beyond dented. It was completely pummelled. Someone had either driven into my car, at high speed to cause that degree of damage, or else someone had driven my car at high speed into an object. Either way, I was spitting feathers and ready to get some heads a-rolling. The monkey was not much help – just all “I don’t know what could have happened” shrugging – so I asked to speak to the organ grinder. I explained that since the car had entered his forecourt in near perfect condition, something had to have occurred while it was left in the care of his establishment. He was apologetic and stated that, of course, they would repair the car free of charge. Great. Not free of hassle, of course, because I have four kids, a busy life, and now no car. I asked for a loaner car. They said they had none to give me. I explained that I would accept a smaller car than my own but that I absolutely needed a car that would fit at least five people. Again, I was told that there was no loaner car they could give me. Absolutely fuming by this point, I am afraid I abused my Scottish accent and put some aggression into my hard consonants and clipped vowels as I provided an appraisal of the situation and spelled out what they needed to do to improve on their (non) offer. Amazingly, they then had the wherewithal to phone a nearby hire car company and shortly thereafter I had a car at my disposal while they made the repairs to the damage they had likely caused to my car. Damage extensive enough that it took them three days to repair. Three days when they were going to leave me without a car.

    Well, that was long. But it was also therapeutic. Thanks for letting me rant in your comments.

    As to your poll, I hope I am wrong and that I just have a glass half empty disposition when it comes to such things, but I rather feel as if businesses have forgotten that customer care is key. I have lost count of the number of business or trades people who I have used once and never again because I had such a lousy experience. I think too often they forget that repeat custom, word of mouth, and brand loyalty are important and sometimes even critical to success.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rant away. I too had a car damaged while being repaired and the dealer was very little help. A delivery company did the damage. Feel free to add to any rant. I can’t imagine treating you like that. They should have called as soon as that happened and had backup arrangements already made.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh do I hear you, Dan. We have concluded in this household that the service and the quality of how a job is done, is terrible at a dealer. When hubby bought a certain PU he took out extended service so he would not have to change the oil anymore. Well, when the dealership put the WRONG oil in hubby’s PU, which requires a special oil, hubby exploded and refuses to let a dealership to even touch his vehicle. We totally lucked out that there was no damage done to the PU becuase hubby drove all the way home with the wrong oil. That is when he noticed something was wrong when he arrived home. We have just recently been recommended to a private business who fixes cars and who does maintenance. And yes it has been decided to use this business. Dealers used to have the BEST service but NO LONGER TRUE. How awful that you were lied to. Now that would make MY blood boil and I would have said something which that manager would not have liked. Start asking around for recommendations. I would if I were you. Dealers for service have totally lost our business!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a good mechanic. I should have used him. The dealer is (was) convenient because they are close to where I work and have shuttle service starting at 7:00 am. This is too high a price to pay for convenience. I can understand your hub’s upset. I had two PUs. Those are special vehicles

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dan, it has gotten to a point in all aspects of life, when you find someone GOOD, don’t change! Quality and service is so horrible these days that when I do find someone good, I jump up and down for JOY!!! My hubs loves his PU. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  11. That was a hard vote because it’s all over the place. I’ve had great customer service and horrible customer service. My latest problem is with the old US Postal Service. Can they possibly lose any more mailed books (6) and letters (2 with return receipts)? The people are always friendly but the problems never get resolved. How do I rate that? Blah, now I’m getting my hackles up. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I find that customer service is a matter of getting to the person empowered to make decisions to make the customer happy. The first line (either manager or customer service rep) do not have the authority to make exceptions. I had a problem with my daughter’s car, and the service manager told me to pound sand since it wasn’t covered by warranty. The issue was a repair that was to be made on the car that should have been taken care of while it was under warranty and the mechanics LIED when they said it was done. I thanked the service guy and walked into the sales manager’s office and threw the keys on his desk and told him I wanted the car fixed. (I have purchased five cars from this guy). It was done, and I got a loner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good for you John. That’s the kind of story I love to hear. Unfortunately, my sales person has long since moved on. The good news is that I send an email to one of the owners, and I got a nice professional reply with a promise of some sort of action. I’m not getting to excited, but I thought it was a nice reply.

      Like

  13. I think the average consumer can handle the truth, it’s the BS that drives us to rant. One company I have to deal with leaves me on hold for 45 minutes every single time and then the human being is in Bangladesh or another non-English speaking country. So, the conversation is like a wrestling match to get anything communicated. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had to call SilverScripts last week and after working through the original Q&A, I actually had a human being for whom English was a first language. I was so shocked I agreed to take the survey so I could say thank you. But, please don’t ask me why I called in the first place because it would be another post. LOL :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This started out as a good news bad news post Judy, but the bad news was simply too bad, I also had a surprisingly good experience last week and I intend to write about that a little later. It is a crap shoot these days. The problem is that I also find loyalty becoming less and less of a valued commodity. That’s another post for the future.

      You are right about the average person being able to handle the truth. It’s such a simple solution but so often ignored or avoided.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It seems this car wasn’t built for the long haul. One of the things that had to be replaced was the emergency brake cables. I’ve never had to replace those in any vehicle I’ve ever owned. I bought my first car over 40 years ago and I put upwards of 200,000 miles on some.

          Liked by 2 people

  14. Many companies are quite comfortable saying the customers matter. And as long as they keep saying it they are quite content to spindle, fold, and mutilate the customer. And so far I have been quite content with my local car dealer. And even more so with my local mechanic.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. There are some retail/service organisations who really understand that their customers matter. That’s often because they’re a start up or a small local outfit, or they value getting repeat business – it’s easier (and cheaper) than seeking new customers. And on the other hand there are the organisations whose ethos is “there are plenty of other mugs (idiot customers) where you came from”. So why should they care about customer service as long as there’s enough demand for their products /services for them to make a healthy profit. And if they’re a monopoly, or effective monopoly (e.g. power company, water company, government department, local authority…), then customers become just profit units and/or number to be processed. That’s how it is in the UK, and from the above discussions, it looks as though the US can be as bad. Brits don’t like to complain about bad service to the people dishing it out (it’s a cultural thing about not offending others or being embarrassed in public). Americans do – and good for them! It’s the only way to get things changed.

    In the UK the Consumers Association (Which?) has the power to make super complaints about large organisations. They’ve recently lodged a super complaint about supermarkets (grocery stores) conning customers with price reductions that aren’t really any such thing. And they’ve named and shamed the power companies with the worst customer service and most expensive prices. Long may they continue campaigning on our behalf!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make some very good points John. After the recession in 2007-08, the number of car dealers collapsed to the point there are very few with overlapping market areas, even in cities. I do have an alternative dealer for Jeep service, but it’s 10 miles north of my house. This one is 15 miles south but closer to where I work. The promise (by sales person) of shuttle service and loaner cars was compelling when I bought the car, but once they have your money, the story changes.

      This is a very large dealer, very high volume and losing one guy who bought a low-end Jeep, probably isn’t going to make a difference.

      Our state government just announced they they are going to form a department to focus on fraud, but, ironically, they are looking at fraud within the state government itself, not consumer fraud. We have a department for that, but it has to be a large or systemic issue to get their attention.

      As a rule, Americans are quick to complain. My English roots must have taken over that part of me. I have to be pushed pretty hard before I say anything.

      Like

  16. Dan, what happened to you was deplorable. There may have not been a loaner car available at the time you were told that, but you should have been first to get the next one available, even if you decided to just wait for your jeep. I think you may have a small delusion going on about where customer service is good. In the bigger cities, customer service is pretty much nonexistent — all of them, no matter where they’re located. The service gets slightly better in the small towns, although after living in one for over seven years now, it still is wretched, and it could be that because the pace is a little slower, I’m more patient.

    In my opinion, I’d have to say that this disgraceful behavior of discourtesy and aloofness has come about because of the internet. Yes, this is the age of unadulterated self-centeredness. Companies don’t deal with customers or customer service on their websites. The customer doesn’t have a face or name, just an email address and a credit card.

    Welcome to “the end of days”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re on to something Glynis. Companies feed on the data they gather online. But, when they push people to “give us all 10s” they aren’t getting real data and the aren’t getting all the data. They didn’t even send me a survey until I complained to one of the owners. So, they skew the participants and then further skew the answers of the people they choose and then they look at the numbers and say “we’re doing a great job!”

      Anyone standing in that customer service area last Tuesday could tell that this place is in trouble. To have four customers complaining about very similar issues, isn’t a good sign.

      Like

  17. How frustrating…just my thoughts from living in different parts of the country…can’t speak to the east coast, but midwest is friendlier… that seems to carry over into Denver area…in So Cal…San Diego is way friendlier than Los Angeles….Seattle is the least friendliest place I have ever lived (again…not lived in the east)…Phoenix is really friendly and service levels have been good…might again be that midwest thing….I do think overall it has gone south, even with the surveys, etc….end of the day…it’s a quarter to quarter money making mentality…very short sighted…that’s my two cents!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I agree that the customer should never be lied to because it will always come back and hits you. We’ve some great companies here in the UK that go out of their way to give good customer service and I’ll be honest and say that I have been impressed. I sometimes think that our biggest fault is that we don’t complain enough. I could scream when people say they’ve had terrible customer service and then never do anything about it. That makes my blood boil just as much. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The good news is that the owners/managers of this dealer seem to agree. Although the damage is done, I have received apologies and explanations galore and offers, albeit it small, to make amends. Sometimes, complaining does get their attention and perhaps can change habits. I think we have to push back as companies approach or cross the bright lines in the sand.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I think a lot of businesses have forgotten that customers matter. It’s much worse over here. Much, much worse.
    There is a supermarket where, if they don’t have change, they give you sweets, without asking you first! The guy just pours that stuff into your bag! Some cheap sweets that they force on you at four times the price. I got so mad one day I called the manage and told him to eat those sweets while I watched. They had to give me my change!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m trying to imagine you telling the guy to eat them Peter. That’s totally unacceptable behavior, but it people let them get away with it, it will be the norm. I am slow to cause a scene, but this was one time where I felt I had been pushed too far.

      Like

  20. Oh, wow, that is terrible, Dan! I swear, car stories are usually among the worst. I think that every single visit I’ve ever had to make to a garage has ended badly. Years ago, a job that the garage promised me would take one afternoon to complete actually took three separate trips to the garage and four weeks. My dad ended up in the hospital (we had intended to do these necessary repairs ourselves and then suddenly he was stuck 4 hours away for an entire week) and so I was forced to take the car to a garage. We only had the one set of wheels, so when they barely touched it the first day, I had no choice — I had to go and get it and reschedule. Couldn’t leave it there. When it was FINALLY done, they then charged me nearly $300 MORE than what they swore the top estimate would be. “At the VERY MOST, it’ll be $xxx.xx, Wendy. And honestly, there’s no way it’s going to be that much.” Yeah, famous last words. I’ll never go to that garage again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh – I hate when these things happen at times when, for unrelated reasons, you can’t make the decision you want to make. That was this case. It would have been less expensive at my regular mechanic but these guys were supposed to be way more convenient. I will not go back for any work that requires me leaving my car. They can do an oil change while I wait, but that’s it.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I can go on and on with this, but I won’t. I love handling irate customers. I have done it for years now and done well. However, India is way too behind in terms of customer support. Indians treat foreigners with better service because every foreigner is a walking dollar machine, but things are different for Indian customers in India.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. Not sure if you’ll get it, but I’ll try my best. In Hindi, mer means ‘die’ which can also be used as ‘go to hell’. The word customer has the word mer towards the end. So the line I said means – In the word customer there’s a disclaimer that you’ll go to hell. Which sort of indicates that once the customer has bought the product the companies don’t care about ‘you’ or the ‘customer’. Or should I say when you become a custo’mer’you are destined to go to hell because companies don’t care about you.

            Liked by 1 person

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