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The Kwerky Guide to... Car Service!

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Wildly Exaggerated: The Kwerky Guide to... Car Service!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Kwerky Guide to... Car Service!

I’m writing this post in an actual car service center, so you know I’ve done my research this time. For once.

Until 2 years ago, the car I drove technically belonged to my parents. And since my parents are not complete morons, they also took responsibility for making sure it got all the necessary service in a timely manner. But then I bought a nearly-new car from them, and now I have to maintain it myself. I don’t mean I physically lie down on the ground and change oil - AS IF. I mean I do this:

Step 1: Realize you are roughly 1,000 miles overdue for whatever service you’re supposed to have. This step is crucial. If you don’t do this, you’ll never get to step 2. But don't worry - even if you miss it, you'll get helpful hints like your dad saying, "Hey - what's the mileage on your car now?" And then you'll say, "You're just asking because you think I don't KNOW because I'm not paying attention and it's overdue for service! I am an adult now, dad." (NOTE: you have no idea what the mileage is, but you're pretty sure it's waaaaaay overdue for service. It usually is.) Another helpful hint will be if your car explodes.

Step 2: Make an appointment for the appropriate service. You can do this one of 2 ways. The first is to call, which means you have to talk to a person, but it also means the appointment gets made pretty quickly. The second is to go online, which means you get to avoid talking to a person AND you get to yell at a computer AND the appointment may not even go through. Naturally, I opt for the latter option every time. Take this morning, for instance, when the booking software wasn’t working properly. The only way to get through the seven-step booking process was: complete step 1 --> go back to the home screen --> return to the booking screen --> complete steps 1 and 2 --> go back to the home screen --> return to the booking screen --> complete steps 1, 2, and 3 --> go back to the home screen... I booked an appointment 29 minutes from the time I started this process. By the time I confirmed it, I had 10 minutes to get to the service center. Web-based booking + my stubborn refusal to use telephones = Convenience!

Step 3: Argue with condescending jerks who aren’t listening to you. I might need to mention here that I’m a girl, though I realize some guys get similar treatment in these situations. And in addition to being a girl, I have the further disadvantage of having a decorative Georgia Tech plate on the front bumper of my car. It’s not mine; it’s a remnant from when the car belonged to my mom. But since I couldn’t care less one way or the other, it’s still there.

For those of you who don’t live in Georgia (or indeed in the US): Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia have a longstanding and very intense rivalry that I have never understood since it seems like UGA always wins the stupid football game which, as it happens, is another thing I don’t care about. But there is apparently a strictly enforced law stating that every mechanic or “Car Service Advisor” in the state has to be a UGA fan. Lucky me.

So when I pull into the service center bay, I’m greeted by my friendly Car Service Advisor, and the conversation goes a little something like this...

HIM: Good morning!

ME: Morning!

HIM: What can we do for you today?

ME: I have a 10:30 appointment for...

HIM: WHOA! Let me guess! You came in to have that nasty Tech plate taken off, right? Heh heh heh. We can take care of that for you.

ME: Yeah, ha ha. No, actually, I came in for an oil change. I have an appointment. 10:30? Under “Welsh”?

HIM: OK, yeah. We’ll do you an oil change...and we can replace that Tech plate with a UGA plate at no additional charge.

ME: No thanks.

HIM: If you leave the Tech plate on there, we might have to charge you extra! Ha ha!

ME: Actually, that’s my mom’s. I graduated from UGA.

HIM: Oh yeah? GO DAWGS!

ME: Right. I don’t care about football. I just need my oil changed, PLEASE. And I was also wondering if you could clean the air ducts? Terrifying demons sometimes come out of the vents and spit acid on my face*.

HIM: Oh yeah. Uh-huh, sure, we can do that. And we’ll put a UGA tag on the front free of charge!

*Obviously I’ve never had this exact problem - my car's maker is known for its commitment to demonic possession-resistance - but I usually have some additional request, ranging from a car wash to getting the front seats vacuumed to having them change the actual, state-issued, DMV license plate on the back bumper. My point here is that it doesn’t matter what I said, because he hasn’t heard a word of it.

At this point, it’s time to sigh loudly and follow him into the office part for the hard sell.

HIM: It says here you haven’t gotten your [insert any number here]-mile check yet!

ME: Indeed I have not.

HIM: Did you want to do that today? Here’s a list of the services included [hands me a volume roughly the length of Gone With the Wind, but mostly including things like “Test Bass Levels in Speakers” and “Polish Shift Nob”].

ME: Uh-huh. And how much is that?

HIM: $300.

ME: That’s OK.

HIM: [Makes Disappointed Paternal Face at me, even though he’s at least 2 years my junior.] Really? Because it’s pretty important. If you don’t get this service, there is a very real risk that your car will spontaneously disassemble itself in the middle of a busy intersection during rush hour. What if that happens on a day when you have an appointment to get your nails done? Or your roots touched up?

ME: I’m willing to take that chance.

I always say something relatively polite, but what I'd like to say is: “Really? This car that your company makes and sells is such a massive piece of crap that you are absolutely certain that even now it is developing a serious issue that will inconvenience and possibly kill me? It’s THAT bad? I mean, it’s not even 5 years old, it has well under 50,000 miles on it, your technicians are the ONLY people who have ever touched the engine, and even so, you have zero confidence in its ability to safely convey me from here to the street? Wow, what a horrible piece of unreliable junk! Don’t worry; I’ll notify the Better Business Bureau that your employer is knowingly selling lemons. Alternatively, you could just do what I asked you to do and stop trying to scaremonger your way into a commission.” But I digress [often and with great enthusiasm].

HIM: [Sighing with grave concern for my safety] Alright, if you’re sure. So just an oil change. That comes to...

ME: oil change AND an exorcism, remember? The acid-spitting demons? I mentioned them outside not 3 minutes ago?

HIM: Oh right, and the exorcism. Oil change and an exorcism...$50. Should be about an hour.

ME: Great.

Step 4: The waiting room. I actually really like car service waiting rooms. They're generally pretty quiet, they almost all have wifi now, and there's free coffee! Sometimes doughnuts too! It's like Starbucks minus the obnoxious yuppies! I get a lot of writing done in car service waiting rooms.

Step 5: Coughing up. This is the part where the same guy you argued with before takes you back to his little stand-up desk. He could say any number of things - he might let you off scot-free, might try to convince you there's more work to be done, might try to sell you an entirely different car. Your job here is to firmly but politely extend your card and continue to hold it in his face until he swipes it through the damn reader and gives you the keys.

Step 6: Car Hunt! Your car will have been parked somewhere on the premises of this here car dealership, which is basically like a huge parking lot except that it has a much higher than average percentage of "cars that look exactly like yours". (Always wear comfortable shoes). Once you find your car, it's time to assess the work. You have to take their word for it that the oil was changed, but what about the demons? Are they gone? Get in, turn the key and find out! Ah, I can almost hear the acid burning through your face right now. But I bet you don't have a Tech plate on the front bumper anymore, do you? It's all about priorities.

(I would like to stress that my car is well looked-after, contrary to what you might think based on the above. It's just that all the real services they perform at various mileages are things I get done regularly at non-dealership locations. I do endorse regular maintenance and preventive care. I just don't take kindly to commissioned salesmen foisting unnecessary, overpriced car care at me.)

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At July 17, 2011 at 12:47 PM , Anonymous Thomas said...

I, by comparison, was recently pleased to discover that my "Check Engine" light has multiple settings. It used to be solid yellow all the time; now it flashes.


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