Monday, September 20, 2010

I think I'm just an angry person

I was going to blog last week after having a couple great experiences at two favorite Los Angeles restaurants. Then I was going to blog Sunday after discussing those experiences with a friend and in that conversation seeing the common thread that unified the experiences into a focused blog post. But what has brought me back blogging today? GETTING PISSED OFF.

My parents (I think my father specifically) pointed out when we bought my Saturn in 1997 that Saturn had the highest profit margin of any car company on its sales—a consequence of the company's no-haggle policy. I responded that that didn't "bother me" because someone has to and also, I liked the people at the dealership. There was a legit emphasis on customer service: no pressure, extremely friendly, very patient and always honest (as much as car dealers can be).

I loved my first Saturn (1994 SL1). I drove it to 168,000 miles, on dozens of roadies, including a cross-country one. I loved it so much I bought a second one when the first one started dying. (To be honest, though, I had planned to save for a Prius, but the first one died before I had the cash saved for one.) The 2002 SL2 hasn't been nearly as reliable a car and sadly, got me thinking that my next car wouldn't be a Saturn. But at the same time, I loved the peeps at the dealership so I never would have bought a new car without at least giving them a shot.

But then Saturn died as a company last year. And though they promised they'd stick around as a service shop, Saturn of Torrance (ne, the Torrace Auto Center) disappeared. I was worried. I knew I was paying more at a dealer for oil changes and repairs, but I legitimately trusted the service consultants and mechanics not to hose me. And though appointments sometimes took a long time, they always kept me updated, apologized for delays, answered questions I had about any work they were performing and were super upfront with all costs and required signatures on all services and changes to work orders.

This brings me to this blog post's buried lead.

Oil change and tire rotation took five-and-a-half hours. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Several months after Saturn closed, I received a post card from Martin Automotive saying that they were welcoming the marooned Saturn customers. Of course the first sign auspicious sign, this happened to be just after I got an oil change at Jiffy Lube while waiting for someone connected to GM to point me toward a new service center.

Last Monday, four-plus months since my previous oil change, I called Martin to make an oil change appointment. "You don't need an appointment. Just come in. We have 75 repair bays," was what the receptionist told me. I go online and make a 10:30 appointment anyway, but never get any email confirmation or even a "thank you for making an appointment" message on the screen after hitting "submit" that I actually made one. Ironically, I got an email from GM asking me to rate the online appointment scheduler.

I showed up today at 11 a.m. (30 minutes late, but no matter because there was no appointment scheduled anyway, although my contact information was on the computer) and it was BUSY. Virtually all 75 bays looked occupied.

Randy takes my info and I tell him I want just an oil change and of course top off the fluids, and perform the however-many-point inspection. He never says how much it'll cost, though I see on his computer that it's $50 (are you fucking kidding me?) and that my car will be ready at 1 p.m. (um, this is just an oil change right?). He never mentions that to me either. Whatever, they've got Wi-Fi, I've got my laptop, a magazine and a book. So I'll miss the 1 p.m. showing of Catfish, but I can do the grocery shopping after the car appointment and catch the later afternoon show.

1 p.m. No word on my car.
1:15 p.m. I use the word "calcifying" to describe my waiting for an oil change.
1:19 p.m. Randy comes out and brings the list of other things. I should rotate my tires, replace my fuel filter, get new wiper blades and further look at the power steering. I say go ahead with the tires and the fuel filter, pass on the blades (I like in SoCal) and ask what's wrong with the power steering.

"I'm not sure," about that.

ARE? YOU? FUCKING? KIDDING? ME? Why the fuck are you coming to me recommending a repair that you cannot explain. He says that he'll look into it.

Between 1:22 p.m. and 1:50 p.m. I tweet and IM and email a series of emails expressing my frustration, which is transmuting to anger and then Cosby-show style madness.

1:50ish p.m. Randy calls and says that they were recommending replacing the power steering fluid, but that if I wasn't noticing any steering problems it probably wasn't vital. I definitely pass. Btw, no cost was given to me on that.

2:30 p.m. Get a call on my cell from someone in the repair shop, since my consultant is on lunch. (At least someone gets lunch.) They're trying to rotate and balance my tires but they had to call because they needed to ask me where the "wheel lock" is. Saturn NEVER gave me one when I got my car. So at the Saturn dealer they would always ask and then remember when I reminded them and get the wheels off without a problem. The guys here said they would try to figure something out and then asked whether I'd want the wheellocks replaced with standard lug nuts so if I ever had tire problems while driving I'd have nuts that any AAA person could remove no problem. I said yes. I wonder how much those will cost me. Had to share that nugget in the interest of fairness.

4 p.m. Randy tells me that they're still stocking their inventory of Saturn parts so they don't have the new fuel filter and will have to order it. This means of course that I'll have to come back and have them do it. Based on the, they started this and I don't know who might have parts for a dead car company, I agree to have them do it. So even though I had resolved that this was my last time using Martin Automotive Group, I will be back one more time.

4:25 p.m. I'm waiting to pay at the service cashier desk and notice that this service department has won company awards for service and has posted letters from customers praising the consultants and mechanics. I feel like I'm in a Twilight Zone episode, because this was not the place I went to. Five-and-a-half hours for an oil change and tire rotation that cost me about $150 just for those two things and not being apologized to for glacial pace or for not keeping me updated or for not ever actually disclosing costs.

So circumstances are forcing me to take another step into my adulthood and find an independent mechanic on my own.

Later this week I shall write the good blog post about how I have fallen deeper in love with L.A.

1 comment:

Erika said...

I hate going to the car repair shop. I always feel like I'm getting ripped off, unless I TRUST the people there or the person who referred me. So, ask around. Anyone you know own a Saturn or recommend a GOOD repair shop?