Road Trip Hell

Given that it is a five and a half hour drive from my house to my car dealership, I’m sure you can imagine that it takes a bit of planning to get there. While in the planning stages, I made a phone call and scheduled an appointment with the service department. In this first phone call, I asked for the sunroof TSB to be applied to my car, I explained that my power windows rolled themselves down in the middle of a blizzard and that I wanted them to do an oil change and warranty service inspection. This was about a month before I intended to actually go to the dealership. I needed to get a date and time on my calendar because, with a new puppy coming home soon and two teenagers, stuff tends to fill up quickly. At this time, I told the gal on the phone to make sure that it was noted that I would need a loaner car. I explained to her that I was coming from Spokane and I was assured that they would reserve one for me.

Flash forward almost a month. I called on Wednesday to verify that they would have a loaner for me. On the phone I was told that they had only scheduled me to apply the sunroof TSB. I corrected this with the gal on the phone, explaining that my power windows were haunted, that I needed to do my warranty inspection and that my car needed an oil change before the stuff turned into sludge. She said she corrected my file and then I asked her what the status was on my getting a loaner. She hesitated and said, “Do you need one?” I explained that I did, that I had asked for one in the previous phone call. I was told, “Okay. We’ll definitely have something here for you when you arrive on Friday.”

Friday rolls around. I hit the road at 7:30 am with my co-pilot. We have planned to use the loaner to go run up and down Broadway, to go to Uwajimaya to pick up a 40$ bottle of sake that my husband fell in love with, then we were going to hit up a couple of other stores that we don’t really have in Spokane, like Ikea and of course, Babeland. We were excited and having a good time on the road. 1:20 pm. we arrive at NW. MINI. Terry, my SA for this weekend, walked around the car with me, discovered that no one put my power window problems on my file, even after I explained to the girls who answer the phones for the service department TWICE that my power windows were not functioning properly. I knew that the sunroof TSB took two hours, I knew the oil change was an hour or so, I knew that it was going to take at LEAST two hours per side to replace my foot well motors for the power windows, because I know that’s what they have to do in order to fix my power windows and that a TSB was issued for them some time this spring. So I knew… they would probably have my car overnight. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was the following:

Me: “Okay, where do I sign the paper work for the loaner?”
Terry: “Um… did you need one?” *shuffles through paperwork* “We don’t really have any because Seafair called up and got all the loaners from all the dealerships in the area and rented them out and things have been kind of tight in this economy… ”
Me:”Okay, so you don’t have a loaner right now. Are you expecting any back, could you work something out for me?”
Terry: “Sure! I’ll try to scare something up for you, at the very least I can get you a ride to your hotel.”
Me: Not pleased… but I say, “Okay, fine. Just call me the minute you find something.”

I did not hear from Terry again until almost 6 pm, when the service center closes. He explained that they were keeping my car overnight because the foot well motors had to be replaced and this requires reprogramming the OBC. I understood this. That was fine. I asked him about the lack of transportation issue again and he said that I would have my car back first thing in the morning. He promised to call me as soon as he got in at 7:30 and that they would have me back on the road.

Now, realize that up to this point, this was all within my plans. I expected this to happen which is why I checked into the hotel that is right down the street from the dealership. I expected to be able to go to the dealership and pick up my car the next morning because I knew that replacing those motors meant reprogramming the OBC. I expected that it probably would have to sit plugged into a computer all night. I expected to have to eat unhealthy food at a diner with great customer service and stick to your ribs meals that reminded me of the crap my grandmother used to feed my grandfather. Up until this point… I could have forgiven them… I was annoyed, I wanted someone to get written up for promising me a loaner that did not exist, but I was willing to get past that. I wanted to get in touch with a friend from Coopernation and find out who I needed to talk to in Service to make sure my car was being properly repaired but I was upset and it was hard to type on my iPhone so I don’t think I communicated myself very well to anyone.

Saturday morning:

I woke up at 6:30. I got in the shower, got ready, and hopped on my iPhone and looked up the service dept hours because it seemed odd to me that they opened at 7:30 on a Saturday morning and I discovered that I was right. They didn’t open until 8. The hours ticked by. Nine rolled around and I had not heard from Terry or anyone at the dealership, so I called. I was put on hold for 15 minutes, at which time the gal answering phones explained, “I can’t find him. Let me call you right back, it will just be a few minutes.” An hour later, Jen and I decided to walk over to the gas station to try to come up with some breakfast. On the way over, I called the dealership again and was told that I would again, be called back. At 11, I finally got through to Terry. I got the impression that he never even received my messages when I talked to him. He had a car come pick us up and we got to the dealership to be told that loaners had been returned overnight and that we could take one, but that my car would be ready in half an hour. Why didn’t anyone call me at 8 when the service department opened to offer me a loaner? Why did I have to walk to a gas station for breakfast?

At this time, a friend from one of the MINI forums I frequent arrived. It was sooo nice to see a friendly face at this point. I felt like I had been given the runaround, but most of all, I felt like my trust had been completely betrayed. My previous service experience with NW MINI was great. Bert called me every time at the time that he promised he would call me at, he kept me in the loop on what was happening with my car. He made sure that I had what I needed and if I didn’t and there was nothing he could do, he let me know that he CARED that I was not getting what I wanted, even if it happened to be that they were out of diet coke in their vending machines. He offered to send a gopher to get me one from a gas station, in jest, but he offered, that’s how awesome Bert was.

This time around, I had to beg and plead to get information on what was going on with my car. The only comfort that I had was that my friend had called the shop foreman and asked him to take care of me. I was informed when I finally did get in touch with Terry that the shop foreman had taken over the repair on my car. I knew that my friend trusted his work, so I felt like at least.. my car wouldn’t be completely fucked up by the time I got it back. Terry, however, didn’t even apologize for my situation until my friend looked at him and said, “Hey, you are going to say you’re sorry to her, aren’t you?”

I can appreciate that Terry probably DID get busy and didn’t have time to call me until 11, but if he had been told that I had called three times, I doubt he would have left me hanging at all. My motoring friend made my day by showing up and shaking my hand and talking to me. It relieved a lot of stress for me to meet another MINIac.

When I sit back to analyze this thing, I realize that the phone staff at Northwest MINI completely screwed up. They dropped the ball every single time I talked to them. When I was dealing with someone who actually had to get their hands dirty or deal with the guys who got their hands dirty, I was treated with a little bit of respect. When I was dealing with people whose entire job description was dealing with customers, they were completely inept at doing that very thing. Someone who understood anything about customer service would have felt like a complete jerk for leaving me stranded with no car and no place else to go. Someone should have cared enough about that to change it, even if that was just to say, “I am so sorry that this has happened. We must have screwed up somehow.” Those words were all it would have taken to put me in a place where I would not be sitting here right now, typing what I am typing to you.

On Wednesday when I called, I suspect that the gals answering phones already knew that they would not have a loaner car for me. Why didn’t they say so? I don’t actually expect dealers to have loaner cars every time. I only expect to receive a loaner when I am promised one, otherwise, I’ll figure out my transportation arrangements on my own. In this case, I was promised one and should have had one, even if that meant the dealership going out and renting a car for me on their own dime, but I would have been happy… if someone had just said that they were sorry without someone having to ask them to say it for me.

The only saving grace of this trip was that they DID fix what I asked them to. My car runs better than it did before I took it in. The shop staff did a great job with my car, but the treatment I received from the customer service staff was so abysmal that I am afraid to take my car back to NW MINI for fear that I will slip through the cracks again and something will go so horribly wrong, that they will end up screwing up my car as a result. I have a lot of emotional attachment to my MINI, maybe more than a person should have in a car, but it is what it is. It’s like having to board your dog in my eyes, I won’t take her to just anyone. I love her too much to trust her with someone who can’t take care of us both.

When I got my baby back, I pushed the start button and heard the engine roar to life, I was so relieved that I almost cried on the spot. I had been keeping my emotions in check the entire time, but deep down… I was furious at the treatment I received by the phone staff in particular, I was disappointed that I had not been able to continue with my plans as I had planned them. I was outraged that I had been stranded at a Motel 6 in Fife in a business district where there is a greasy spoon, a dairy queen and four gas stations within walking distance and I felt like no one at NW MINI gave a damn that I was in this position.

I should have stuck with my gut and not been so trusting. It seems like every time I put my trust in a business because I have had good dealings with them in the past, something like this happens and I completely lose faith. It’s not fair and this shouldn’t happen to anybody. When you spend 30,000$ on a car, the dealer should keep their promises when they make them, especially AFTER the sale. The treatment customers receive at your dealership after the sale is what brings them back to buy the next one. Right now, where I’m living today… I will not buy another car from Northwest MINI. I’ll spend the three days and drive to California instead.