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The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Paint Job - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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September 23rd, 2009


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02:11 pm - The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Paint Job
Last month, I related the story of how Oak Tree Mazda refused to fix the scratch that was on my car when I bought it. Normally, little old me would have just lived with it, but in my continuing quest to be assertive, b-e assertive, I took the advice of people with more gumption than I and wrote a letter to the president of the dealership group, Big Cheese. I invoked the group's claim of "Project 100," which sought to "provide 100% customer satisfaction to 100% of our customers - 100% of the time!" Clearly, I was...less than satisfied, and I told the sordid tale of my experience with Oak Tree Mazda, including the dialogue with the salesman, Richard Cheese, who was unduly belligerent and snide toward me. It was four pages long.

I had to do a little bit of digging to find the address of the dealership group, as Google listed it under various addresses (corresponding to the dealerships). I called one and asked a woman for the address, and when I told her that I was writing about my experience at another dealership, she said, "You didn't get this from me." And gave me the full address of the business office and Big Cheese's direct line, as well as how to spell his name. (At the name of the dealership, she gave a knowing "Ooooooh.")

In the letter, I included pictures of the scratch at time of purchase and after the shoddy touch-up job and a request that Big Cheese call me within seven days or I would send the letter to Mazda. I also included my business card as proof that I was a professional and not some punk kid. I sent the letter certified mail, so I knew he got it the next day, but seven days passed without any response, so I sent the same letter to Mazda Customer Service with a similar request to be called within seven days to discuss the issue. Seven days passed without any response.

Two weeks ago, I received a hilariously perplexing voicemail from...Oak Tree Mazda. The woman wanted me to make an appointment to fix the scratch on my car, as it must have been "forgotten" or "overlooked" when I had come in before. O RLY? She noted that they'd had the paperwork since February and it was now September, just as facts. I wasn't sure whether Big Cheese had taken action or whether they had internally decided to save face or whether this was yet another issue of their service and sales departments not communicating with each other properly. I didn't return the call.

Meanwhile, I set up an appointment with my local Mazda to look at a transmission issue with my car. I asked the guy there whether a pre-existing scratch would be covered under warranty, and he said that it wouldn't, since it was part of the dealer's inspection and it would have to go through them. Rats.

Then, late night Thursday, September 11, I got an urgent e-mail from Big Cheese himself! It was sent to my work address, which he had gotten from my business card. He apologized for the delay, as he had only just reviewed my letter that evening (which meant the Oak Tree Mazda call was...still perplexing). He sincerely apologized for my treatment at Oak Tree Mazda and promised to review the situation with Richard Cheese personally. He also ensured that he would fix my scratch until I was 100% satisfied, even if they had to send it to their body shop.

I was surprised and pleased, as I had given up any hope of even getting so much as an apology by this point. I replied thanking him for his response and his willingness to fix my scratch. I laid all my cards out on the table, seeing how far he would go. I told him that my body shop guy had said that because of the unique color, he would paint both doors in order to blend the color properly. Although I didn't mention this, I was particularly interested in getting this done because my rear door had been keyed dramatically, so if fixing the scratch on the front door required painting over those scratches as well, bonus. I also asked him whether it was possible to have the work done in the East Bay somehow since it would be more convenient. But if I did have to come down to San Jose, I honestly felt uncomfortable going to Oak Tree Mazda because I didn't want to run into Richard Cheese, especially once he knew that I had told on him.

The next morning at work, I got a phone call from Big Cheese! He once again apologized for the shitty treatment I received at Oak Tree Mazda—which he assured me is one of the top something-or-other dealerships in customer service. He read my letter and thought Richard Cheese's behavior was "ridiculous," and he would be be talking to him and turning this into a learning experience. (Dick is, of course, normally "fabulous.")

He was very amenable, and we chatted quite civilly. He asked me whether the car-buying experience had gone well, and I said it had, for the most part. When he asked why I'd gone to Oak Tree, I said that they offered the lowest price for the car I wanted. He pulled up my record and commented that the price I'd gotten for my car was the lowest he'd ever sold one for, and they'd taken a loss of over two thousand dollars (which is what the dealership had told me when we were trying to push the price down, but I didn't know whether it was truth or tactics). I quickly realized what he was getting at, and he confirmed it: he surmised that maaaaaybe Dick thought he'd "given me enough," but even if that explained his reasoning a bit, it was still obviously unacceptable.

He did say that there was a 90-day policy on things that needed to be taken care of, so Dick thought he was just following the policy, but he understood that it hadn't been made clear to me. He asked me what it said on the paperwork, and I told him that it said to make an appointment for such-and-such date, but he asked whether it specifically said—typed directly on the form—that the work had to be completed within ninety days, and I said it didn't.

I really appreciated that at no time during any of this was he trying to make excuses for what had happened, and at no time did he imply that any of it was my fault.

He had no problem having both doors painted; he didn't try to fight me on that in any way. They would send it to the body shop they've used for twenty years with nary a complaint. And the best part? His response to the fact that I was uncomfortable going back to Oak Tree Mazda was, "The good thing is that I own two Mazdas!" I could go to Capitol Mazda instead and it would be no problem! And he would get me a rental car as soon as I came in. Wow, he really was going for 100% customer satisfaction!

When I told him I had set up an appointment to have my transmission issue looked at, he said that they could also look at it while they had my car, which was much more convenient. He was being so courteous and polite that I felt comfortable letting him know that, just for the record, I had sent the letter to Mazda but if they contacted me I would let them know he was handling it, and he was not angry or anything. He told me to touch base with him on Monday to schedule an appointment; his main concern was just to get the car in. Things were going so well I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

On Monday, I called Big Cheese and scheduled my appointment for Tuesday. He had not yet talked to Dick yet, but he would. He was glad to have gotten to speak to me and hoped I was happy with them. I said that he had definitely raised my opinion of him, if not Oak Tree Mazda. He couldn't throw one of his dealerships under the bus, of course, so he did put in a good word for them in general, hoping that I would reconsider my permanent boycott, but he was not pushy about it, which I appreciated.

Tuesday, I drove down to San Jose to Capitol Mazda. My contact there was Government Cheese, head of the service department. He was also very cordial, and he sent the car off without even looking at the scratch! I had expected him to look at it and decide, oh, it wasn't that bad, they weren't going to fix it after all. He had gotten the précis of my situation, which sounded like a nightmare, but he liked to start fresh when he got a car, so he asked me give him the rundown. I told him the story. Funnily enough, he didn't know about this 90-day policy, but he agreed that, come on, the scratch was on the car, they should fix it whenever I brought it in, no questions asked. He mocked Dick's bitter claim that he'd paid for my five-dollar bottle of touch-up paint himself (and derided the quality of touch-up paint in general). Interestingly, even though he seemed to think his behavior was as "ridiculous" as Big Cheese did, he, too, could not throw a fellow dealership under the bus and mused that what I was describing didn't seem like something to damage a long-term relationship over, even though I had probably told fifty people this story already. And while it was true that this whole debacle had been a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, that didn't change my feelings. (For instance, I got a kick out of the fact that the work was being billed to Oak Tree Mazda.)

He drove me to Enterprise in his Mazda3, and Enterprise put me in a Mazda3. Gov't Cheese called me on Thursday to let me know that his best estimate of Friday was not likely to come to fruition, which was fine since Friday was not a fun day to go down to pick up a car anyway. I told him that if it wasn't done by Friday, I'd rather it go till Tuesday since I had plans on Monday.

Also on Thursday, I got a call from...Mazda! Who was now finally following up on my letter. I called back and left the woman a voicemail letting her to know that Big Cheese was taking care of it, and she could call back next week to make sure everything was done to my satisfaction.

On Saturday, Gov't Cheese called and said that the paint job looked great but they couldn't really do anything about the transmission issue since they couldn't replicate the issue. But he said it was perfectly fine if I picked up the car on Tuesday instead of Monday! Man, this was awesome.

On Tuesday, I went down to pick up the car. This was it. Maybe they had really only painted one door. Maybe they had only blended it a little bit but left the big section that had been keyed. Maybe they hadn't matched the color properly and the doors looked funky.

They looked beautiful. Good as new. Shiny. Pretty. Sexy. It was like I had bought a car without a scratch that hadn't been keyed a few months later.

Gov't Cheese was busy with someone else and couldn't give me the royal treatment he had before, but I supposed I couldn't fault him for that. Big Cheese had made good on his promise; the other shoe had never been dropped. I had gone from being screwed over to being screwed very slowly and pleasantly.

The saga was finally over. Poor Caprica. I never even wrote about the guy who scraped my bumper a couple months ago. His insurance gave my bumper a brand-new paint job. My car has been in and out of mechanics and body shops for over six months.

Now it's time to really enjoy her.
Current Mood: relievedrelieved
Current Music: Tracy Bonham - Thumbelina

(19 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 23rd, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
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And Big Cheese just called to make sure everything went okay and I was a happy customer!
From:sainfoin_fields
Date:September 23rd, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
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Congratulations and many happy returns.
[User Picture]
From:kibarika
Date:September 23rd, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
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You are my hero.
[User Picture]
From:sabra_n
Date:September 23rd, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC)
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Yay for a happy ending!

Also, cheeeese. Now I have to go make a sandwich with Muenster or something.
[User Picture]
From:prophetkristy
Date:September 24th, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)
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\o/ victory!
[User Picture]
From:latropita
Date:September 24th, 2009 12:28 am (UTC)
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I am terrible at following up on stuff myself, so I am doubly proud for you that you did! Well done.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:September 24th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
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Victory is yours! Muahahahahahaha!
[User Picture]
From:hsifyppah
Date:September 24th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
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Richard. Cheese. OMG you are twelve years old.



..aaaaaaand so am I. BWAHAHAHA
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 24th, 2009 01:24 am (UTC)
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:gymble
Date:September 24th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
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Excellent, a happy ending. I'm always a little bit relieved when I hear a tale of good customer service.
[User Picture]
From:cmbarrytx
Date:September 24th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
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I love government cheese.
[User Picture]
From:mycenae
Date:September 24th, 2009 02:18 am (UTC)
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It's like they slighted your honor as an intelligent consumer and you challenged them to a duel and won. Congrats!
[User Picture]
From:punzerel
Date:September 24th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
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YAY!
[User Picture]
From:lareinenoire
Date:September 24th, 2009 12:48 pm (UTC)
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Well done, you! It's too easy to get strung along by bad customer service these days.
[User Picture]
From:ashfae
Date:September 24th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
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WHOOO!
[User Picture]
From:adnirem
Date:September 26th, 2009 05:09 am (UTC)
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Two words: road. trip.
[User Picture]
From:thetheatremouse
Date:October 14th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
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You are such a rock star.

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