Thursday, April 21, 2011

Catching Kings

In preparation for an upcoming road trip, I took the wife's car in to get its oil changed and fluids & tires checked out. Normally, we take our cars to a little place down town that always seems terribly appreciative of our business and also does a great job. I should have gone there this time, too, but we only like to take our cars to the down town place when we're not going to have to wait around. They have no waiting room to speak of, other than an old bench car seat outside and it's not the sort of neighborhood in which you'd really want to do a lot of wandering. So I went to King Subaru/Honda, the place that held my car hostage back in December. Yeah, we knew it would be more expensive, but they have a nice waiting room and we needed a little more done than an oil change. One of the wife's headlights had a burned out low-beam bulb. Now, I've replaced headlight bulbs before on my own, but it seemed like an easy enough thing to just have King do it while I was there already. I called ahead, and made an appointment.

One home car repair I already had in the bag was the replacement of the wife's rear windshield wiper. The old one has been useless and floppy for quite some time, but it's taken nearly a Homeric quest to find a replacement blade in this town. After searching three different autoparts retailers, I finally locate one yesterday, so before I left for my King appointment, I popped the new one on, fresh from its package.

At King Honda, they explained to me in advance that in addition to the oil change, they would do a 6 point inspection to determine if there were any other things that needed fixing, which they would talk to me about before proceeding. They also pointed out the astronomical amount of money they would charge for the replacement of the headlight bulb, in case I wanted to back out. Again, probably should have, but I decided that it would be worth it to have it done after all these weeks and not have to hassle with it myself.

I settled into their waiting room, where I waited for probably 40 minutes, making jokes in my head about how doctor's appointments and car repair appointments have about the same waiting time. But the waiting room was nice, with plenty of coffee and a snack basket full of very tasty granola bars.

Eventually, one of the King guys came out with their printout of their 6 point inspection. Again, he pointed out the insanely high price of the headlight and again I didn't blink. Then he pointed to the place in the inspection report where his mechanic had noted that both the front and rear windshield wipers were in need of replacement. Seemed an odd thing to have noted for a brand new wiper blade on the rear, I thought. My eyes fell upon the price they were looking to charge for the replacement, which was in the $20 range, and I was pretty sure I knew why these wipers had been determined to be bad.

"The back wiper is brand new," I said.

"It's new?" he asked.

"Yep. Put it on this afternoon. Never even been used."

I let that hang there in the air for a bit, allowing my suggestion that perhaps the wiper in question had not been inspected using the mechanic's entire ass, or perhaps any ass at all, to settle into the guy's head. He seemed a bit unsure how to proceed, but then pointed to the front wiper box and said, "So, do you want to replace the front ones then?"

"Uh, no," I said.

I was feeling pretty smug about this. I was of half a mind to cancel the headlight and just depart with some new oil. And, really, I should have, but I was pressed for time that late in the afternoon and still needed to find a place to get a haircut. I settled in to wait for another 20 minutes.

While checking out, a different King Honda rep passed me a copy of their report on the vehicle. He said that it contained the problems they had fixed marked in green and the ones they had suggested needed to be fixed, but which I had declined in yellow--the implication being that I was supposed to feel bad about that, because clearly I was not following expert advice. "Yeah, about that," I said, flipping to the yellow boxes for the windshield wipers on page 2. "The rear windshield wiper on my car is brand new."

The man looked a bit confused at first, then said, "New? Did we put one on?"

"No," I said. "I put it on, earlier this afternoon. It's fresh from the package. Never been used before today."

While that was sinking in, I glanced down at the report and saw that in both the front and rear wiper boxes, the report claimed that the reason they were recommending replacement was because the wipers were streaking.

"I see it says here the rear one was streaking. Hmm. I guess a new wiper might streak... fresh out of the package. Interesting."

"Um, yeah," the guy said.

I gathered my receipt, told the gent to have a good day and went out to the waiting car. I started the car and then fired up the rear wiper, hitting the window with a spray of wiper fluid. Nary a streak to be seen. I even got out and walked around to the back to inspect the window. The only smudges on the window were from the dog's snart (nose art) on the other side of the glass. The snarts didn't look like streaks either.

For a moment, I considered going back in to happily point this out to the guy. It would be satisfying, I thought, to say, "Yeah, that's very very interesting... how the brand new wiper blade isn't making streaks. Must have been a one off freak occurrence when your mechanic did it. Twenty bucks, you were going to charge? Yes, very interesting." Then I thought, Ah, what good is really going to accomplish?

I drove away with mixed feelings. I was glad to have caught King before they gouged me any more than he did, but annoyed that now I'll think twice before going there ever again. They have such a nice waiting room. And those granola bars were very good.


chaniarts said...

yeah, and reporting them to the local tv news consumer affairs person would be pretty snarky.

if they're doing this to you, they're doing it to everyone. it's almost your duty to turn them in.

Rider I said...

Do you have any stories with regards to how the Communist Chinese act exactly like the Soviets did?

I mean the Communist Chinese are following exactly in the Soviets foot steps. From everything from creating a Bloc which is now called the Bric, to trying to implement a single world currency, to literally going on a resource domination campaign.

n Nomeni Patri Et Fili Spiritus

Rider I