Found In the Woods

March 26, 2007

Do the right thing

Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 9:22 am

In part two of today’s rants and raves, I wanted to follow up on a story posted here a couple months ago about the dying transmission in my 2003 VW Jetta Wagon. Some of you attentive readers might have remembered that as part of that repair they “offered” to replace my clutch which “had some wear on it”. At $600 this was a bit of a deal for me because since they’d already have the transmission out for the warranty repair, they could then replace the clutch at a discounted rate. At least $1,000 or so less. Sounded good to me so I went ahead and had them do it.

VWoA vs. Me

Well, all was well for a couple months, but then the trouble started up. My clutch started slipping about 2.5 months later. When I accelerated, say in 3rd gear when merging onto highway, once the revs reached around 3,000 RPM the clutch would slip out and the car would just rev up really high, as if I’d slowly disengaged the clutch. This was utterly frustrating b/c they had so recently replaced the clutch I knew this was gonna be a pain. I also thought that this would be a no-brainer since they had so recently installed the clutch they would just replace it free of charge under a warranty or something. I was wrong, oh so wrong.

I dropped my car off on a Tuesday. The following weekend I was going to be in FL on vacation, returning to MD the next Tuesday so I told VW they could keep it for a whole week. Before I left the dealership they asked me to go for a test drive w/ one of the technicians. This was a) so they could observe my driving style and b) so I could recreate the problem. This went well; the tech told me that I drive well and that the only thing he noticed was that I occasionally will engage the clutch while waiting for a light to change and that this will wear out the clutch as it adds pressure to the system. Whatever, I thought, I hardly do this anyway.

I got a call from them on Friday telling me that they were about to open up the transmission and that because it’s a warranty repair they will need my permission. Of course I gave it to them. My service adviser also informed me that if the part is faulty that VW will replace the clutch no cost. BUT, if there is heavy wear (i.e. from riding the clutch, etc.) that it will be MY responsibility to foot the bill… for $1,500+… on a clutch they installed 2.5 months earlier. This didn’t sit well with me.

Well, I had to get on a plane the next morning and was on my way to FL so I didn’t want to think about it. I just wanted to get a call from them saying that they fixed it, no charge, come pick it up at your earliest convenience. As I was walking in the door after the trip to FL, with bags in hand, my phone rang. My service advisor informed me that they found wear on the clutch and that it was now my responsibility to foot the bill and that they wouldn’t cover it. Poor timing and a sense that there were some shenanigans going on here, I told him I’d be at the dealership in the morning to speak w/ the manager. I then called my awesome mechanic (they are the best) and went over the situation with him. He was great – he has been around VW’s most all of his days and he knows every story that you could tell about VW nightmares. He was very helpful in nailing down exactly what sort of things to focus on with my case. I.e. the fact that I am a careful driver when it comes to manual transmissions and that the previous clutch which lasted 54,000 miles before VW replaced it (out of convenience) wasn’t completely worn out at all. Also, VW has a 12 month/12,000 mile warranty on all parts – even consumables like a clutch.

Armed with my newfound knowledge and a general sense of right vs. wrong on this issue, I went in to the dealership fully expecting WWIII with the service manager. Instead, he was very straightforward and friendly. He was completely sympathetic and agreed with my perspective. The problem, he said, was that because there is wear on the part, VW won’t honor the warranty. Because there is no “fault” with the part, they won’t honor it. So, in this case, the dealership would have to eat the cost and that just wasn’t going to happen. BUT, he said he was going to talk to his boss and then to the regional boss and see what they could do and get back to me. Several hours later he got back to me and said nothings changed. They still won’t pay for the repair and I could a) bend over and take it up the arse or b) call VW of America and file a complaint with one of their customer “advocates”. So I called VWoA and pleaded my case.

After about a week, I got the call. VWoA agreed that they would cover the repair under the parts warranty and that I would be absolved of any costs associated w/ the repairs. I was ecstatic. I felt that VW had done the “right” thing and stood behind their parts. There was either a faulty part or a faulty installation here, not a faulty driver. I don’t rag on my clutch so there’s no way I could have ruined one in two and a half months. So by now VW had my car in the shop for 10 days. I spoke w/ my service advisor on Friday and he said that he hadn’t heard from VWoA yet and that it would probably be Mon or Tue before they got back to me. Come Wednesday the service advisor said they still hadn’t heard from the mothership yet so I had to call VWoA again to see what’s going on. VWoA said they had spoken to the manager at the dealership already and cleared the repair…. well, you see where this is going. Back and forth and back and forth. Eventually I got the two to talk to each other and got the repairs underway.

16 days later I got my car back with a new clutch and walked out a happy man. VWoA did the right thing. I don’t feel I got away with anything, I feel like the situation resolved the correct way. If it was two or three years after they replaced the clutch, I wouldn’t balk at the huge repair bill. Because it was probably my fault and there would be no surprise. But two and a half months? Come on! It’s nuts to think that they would even ask me to pay for this repair. What troubles me is that if I had just gone ahead and paid for the repair initially (as many folks probably would) I would be out $1,500+. And all in all, it wasn’t my responsibility. Well, thanks anyway VW for making things right.

You want something done right…

Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 8:42 am

You know the adage. Well here’s a perfect example of customer service gone terribly wrong and customer service gone terribly right… in two examples. First…

Macys vs Chateau d’Ax

We purchased a new Chateau d’Ax (* sorry about the link; the only thing good about their site is the model on the sofa) leather recliner sofa from Hecht’s (Macy’s) back in February ’06. This was a long process and we were thrilled to finally have it over with. Kristin and I trucked all over the DC Metro area to find something to go in our sunroom where we spend most of our time with kids, eating, playing, etc. The couch replaced a scary old dog hair covered futon which was uncomfortable and hard to get in and out of, but came to us free so we didn’t complain about it openly much. Getting the new leather recliner really boosted the look of the room and the usability of the space. Although Maggie was a little bummed because she wasn’t allowed on the new sofa.

The troubles started happening a few months later when a rip cord style pull (used to extend the recliner footrest) started to weaken and then broke off one day while reclining. The design really isn’t that good, as it’s located right next to your leg when you sit down it tends to bend, sometimes pretty sharply. Well, Kris called Macy’s to set up a repair call. They told her that they would order the part and once it arrived to call them so they could schedule a tech to come out and install it. Few weeks later the package arrived, Kris called, tech arrived, and guess what… wrong part. Strike one. Guy tells her to call Macy’s back and order the correct part. Which she does… but it doesn’t arrive… for weeks and weeks we wait. Eventually she calls. “OH, the part is there… UPS says it is.” …”no, it’s not here” … “well, they say it is… have you checked your front porch?” Strike two.

So Kris calls… again and again, trying to get them to reorder this part. The miscommunication and incompetence levels were soaring, just burning us hotter and hotter. We waited patiently for the part to arrive. Kris lamenting the hours of her time she lost calling Macy’s (20-30 minutes at least on each call she made, mostly on hold) still holding on to the hope that the part would arrive. Remember, this was last SUMMER that this started.

Last month she got a call from Macy’s telling her that they won’t be able to find the part and that they’re giving us the option to a) keep the sofa, b) get a full refund or c) choose a new sofa and deduct the cost of the old against the new. Strike three. We just love the sofa we have. We did not want to get rid of it. But having a recliner that doesn’t recline is like having a car that you can’t adjust the seats in. Not very comfy. This had to be fixed… but how?

Enter the internets. Sunday (yesterday) morning I sat down on the sofa and pulled the rip cord on the left side (the side that still worked) and it popped off, just like the other side had done 8 months earlier. Now neither side reclined and that was that. I went down to the office hopped on the trusty Mac and ran around online trying to figure this out. All I had was my sofa manufacturer and model and the receipt from the store. Wading through all the rubbish (goodness there is so much of it) I eventually found a forum discussing Chateau d’Ax furniture ups and downs. Anyway, someone made a reference to Gardiners in Towson, MD. I thought “ah ha!” a local place that carries Chateau… I bet they could help.

So if you’ve stayed on this far, you’re ready for the happy ending… right? OK, here it comes. So Gardiners tells me that they can’t locate the replacement part for my sofa because I didn’t buy it from them. BUT, they do have the number of the Chateau d’Ax factory in the USA and I could try them. “Finally!” I thought, “a real lead.” So it’s a Sunday and I don’t expect to talk to anyone, but luckily the number they gave me went to the Chateau d’Ax directory listing and I was able to easily leave a number for their parts department in which I described my problem, the model number, etc. I fully expected to not hear from them for days, maybe weeks… if at all, based on the experiences I was having with Macy’s. SURELY if a store like Macy’s couldn’t summon the resources necessary to locate a part for my sofa I would have little chance. Right? WRONG.

This morning (that’s right, at 8:47am) Ed from the parts department at Chateau d’Ax phoned me and told me that he was going to send me a couple of the replacement parts, no charge. All he needed was my mailing address. I was flabbergasted. Almost tongue-tied. All at once I was happy and utterly confused as to why Macy’s had such a problem locating this part. I guess they have some sort of arcane method of managing their parts program, because this was possibly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had! Ed was very friendly and straightforward. He informed me that I could order more in the future from him if I needed them. I felt so good after that call, but it burned inside when I realized how bittersweet it would be to inform Kristin since she spent all those hours on the phone dealing with the grunts at Macy’s “Service” department.

OK, that’s all for this one. Now we just need to get the parts in hand and get ’em installed so we can go back to the leather recliner luxury goodness. Thanks Chateau d’Ax! Thanks Ed! Thank you for restoring my hope in this situation.

March 6, 2007

Mr. Bob Dobalina

Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 9:40 am

thanks Paul