The customer isn’t always right….

I’ve told the story about my brother-in-law here before, but some of you who are new around here may not have heard it yet. He used to work for a Porsche dealership in Vancouver. He was the service manager there and he used to get all sorts of crazy service complaints.

My favourite is the guy who counted the stitches on his leather seats and was unhappy because the count was uneven.

I know a lot of people have got a dealer horror story to tell. We live in this consumer society and we’ve all been brought up hearing that the customer is always right.

Well, sometimes the customer is an uptight bastard and in more dire need of …….something I can’t say on a family friendly site……than any other man alive (thanks Robin Williams).

Seriously, sometimes I think we need to step back and have a think about the expectations we put on the people we buy stuff from. It’s fair enough to get a good product at a good price and expect polite, informed and courteous service. It’s a bonus if we get the full red carpet treatment with maidens waiving palm fronds to cool our sweaty brow. But I tend to think that if we start to expect the palm-frond treatment then there’s something a little out of kilter.

Sometimes the customer hasn’t got their head screwed on correctly or they might be suffering from a “grey moment”. Sometimes they’re having a bad day. Sometimes they’re just stark raving mad. But if they old edict applies, they’re always right.

I’m sure many Saab dealers will try and treat the situation that way and be as accommodating as possible. I’m sure there’s some who won’t, too, but they’re probably getting a smaller slice of the pie.

So here’s a chance for the dealers to fight back a little. If you’re a dealer and you’ve got a story about a nutty customer, send it in and I’ll make sure it stays anonymous enough so that no-one’s too offended. I think it might help some of you customers if you have to see some situations from a dealer’s point of view.

Here’s the first story. Not a nutter by any stretch, but amusing all the same.

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Last year I sold a new Saab 9-3 to a very nice easygoing lady. All went smooth for about 3 days and then I received a call from her, she was quite angry and upset because of a very annoying continuous rattle from the front driver’s side of her new car.

She went on and on about the how disappointed, about how dissatisfied she was that such a premium car could be so annoying. We took this quite seriously and I wanted to fix the problem ASAP, so I suggested that I would call out to pick up the car and leave a replacement for her. I didn’t mind doing this because she was such a nice lady to deal with in the first place and second I was upset that she was so upset about the car. I’d also get the chance to drive her car on the roads she drove and hopefully hear the noise as well.

So I called out to her home, dropped a replacement off and drove back to the showroom. But on the way back, which was about 40 miles, I could hear nothing out of the ordinary at all. I got the service guys to give it the once-over anyway and nothing appeared to be wrong, so I drove it back and told her the story, which she accepted.

A week or so passed and again she rang, saying that the rattle was back. Once again I called out and again it was all for nothing.

Another week passed and again she rang to complain, but this time I was in the area and called right over. I suggested that she drive the car with me and hopefully the noise would develop and I could hear it. Lo and behold there it was, a continuous rattle. I explained that I had honestly not heard the noise the two previous times I drove the car and apologised, and told her that I would keep the car this time until I got to the bottom of the rattle. She accepted my apology and told me she wanted to get her spare keys and headed back into the house.

I stood for a minute or so and then she walked back out from the house with quite a large knife and explained that her son was not around – could I remove her spare house keys from the car?

At this stage I was quite puzzled and asked her to explain and that she did.

She proceeded to tell me a story about how a few weeks previously she had lost all her keys on a shopping trip in Dublin and got left stranded. She had to wait hours for her husband to drive up with a spare set. So she came up with a fantastic idea: she cable tied her spare set to the track rod arm on the driver side of the car so that in the unlikely event that she would lose her keys again, a spare would always be with the car and that she would never get stranded again.

But she also knew that the car would be up on a lift here in the garage. So before each time I called out, she had asked her son to remove them just in case they were found and stolen. This time he was not around so she thought she would ask me to remove them. I smiled and did as she had requested and also asked her quite nicely and calmly to please drive the car one last time before I drove the car back to the garage.

Lets just say 10 minutes later I had one very nice, easygoing RED FACED lady.

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Obliging dealer, and mistaken customer. It probably happens more often than you think. An thankfully this one got sorted with a few laughs being the end result.

If you’re a dealer, send in your story.

If you’re a client then have a think about your next complaint. if it’s legit and your dealer is being an ass, then by all means – kick it. But sometimes you might be better served by waiving your right to be hand-fed grapes by Greek princesses and showing some understanding.

Just an idea.

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6 Comments

  1. Love that story… I am nuts when it comes to my Saab service and my dealer knows it. The Porsche story is over the top… When it comes to saab service, for me, only the dealer will do… A Saab Master Level Tech. will run circles around other mechanic’s that claim they can work on your Saab. If you show that you care about your car and are friendly, most dealers will do the proper thing by you. YOU HAVE TO SPEND MONEY ON THE SERVICE FOR YOUR SAAB. TAKE CARE IF IT AND IT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU. It also helps to meet the Tech that works on your car so that he can put the car to the face. If you keep your car well, when it get’s pulled into the service bay, they will take notice of this. They will be more respectfull of your car. A little tip also helps. All of these things have worked well for me.

  2. My boss from a few years back complained that his factory fit 6 cd changer did not work on all his cds and the fault seemd to change every time he loaded it up. Turned out he did not realise that the cds all had to be inserted the same way up.

  3. Mike –

    I’m glad that you have found a good place to have your car serviced … but in some parts the dealer isn’t the top dog.

    I have found a shop that specializes in Saabs, and my car is doing great there — your other advice is all spot-on, I even know several of the mechanics’ preferred beers, and a well-placed sixer can be very helpful at the right times!

    My car had been serviced exclusively by the dealer in my area, and had a pretty spotty record. After a couple of rounds with the “specialist” to get her back in shape, we have gone more than 18 months with only routine maintentance (for the first time in this car’s life!)

    Oh … and the local dealership has changed hands, we’re no longer Buick’s little sister.

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