Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mechanical Reconciliation

Here is a photo of the very item that has been giving our family so much grief.

This is a Subaru transmission.

My car broke down today. AGAIN.

Well, I'm being dramatic. It didn't actually break down. Not like last Friday night. Let's review the timeline, shall we?

May 30: Subaru dropped off at our mechanic after being offered a ridiculous amount for it and the Camry at a car dealership. The mechanic suggests we do a complete overhaul of the transmission and put in a new engine to extend the life of the car, as there is a pretty strong assumption that there is engine damage due to transmission damage. They can get us a great deal on a new engine.

We decide to sell the Camry in order to do the extensive repairs on the Subaru which is a better car for our family.

We sell the Camry on Craig's list within 3 hours for a price which will cover the bulk of the Subaru repairs.

8 weeks go by: During that time our mechanic purchases the wrong engine to replace in our Subaru. I don't need to retell this tale. We decide against getting a new engine and pray that once they go in to fix the head gaskets, our fears that the engine is damaged will actually be relieved. They are. The engine looks fine.

July 23: We get the car back. It runs great.

July 25: Car breaks down in Lombard. Transmission completely fails.

July 28: Car returned to our mechanic. We are told that "hoses" which run from the transmission to whatever were never replaced (as normally they last until 200,000 miles) and they will replace them. For free.

July 31: Pick up car. It's running terribly. Shifting in and out of gear. They assume that it's low on transmission fluid. Nope. Now the thought is that the initial hoses which blew on the 25th ended up doing damage to the entire trans. Um, gentlemen, did you NOT drive the car around before telling us it was ready? One only needed to hit the gas to experience the clunky shift.

So, this lead me back to the garage today. I walked stoically into their shop while attempting to keep the emotion out of my delivery as I announced, "I'm Joline Atkins. Owner of THE green Subaru." The guys tried to joke with me, "You can't seem to stay away from this place." I could only respond with, "Listen. I'm trying to be polite here and I'm not up for jokes."

What transpired was a conversation that drained all the color from my face.

The transmission is once again on the fritz.

When we brought it back Monday, it was due to their not finishing the trans job as completely as necessary. And today? Well, apparently, due to not finishing the job correctly the first time means that the trans may have gone. The trans they just overhauled. Don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about by using the abbreviated "trans"? Anyway, their mistake, could have cost us the entire trans overhaul that was completed last week.

I made sure, in my best void of emotion robotic voice, to stress that any new repairs would be on their dime, as per their warranty. They offered me their courtesty car.

"Ma'am the fuel light is on. It's pretty low on gas."

I literally just stared him down with my best Tilda Swinton White Witch impersonation. Icey. It was effective. As the next thing I heard was, "Um, let me run up the street and get that filled up for you."

Yep, that's right. Either fill the car with gas or I'll turn you to stone. Sorry Aslan. I'm on the edge here.

And then, it dawned on me. Over the past few weeks, several different guys at the shop had referred to their "trans guys". Which made me realize that they are not the ones actually doing the work on the transmission. They fixed the head gaskets in our engine, and a few other items, but not the trans. For this, they contract out.

So, is my beef with them?

Nope. For in all honesty, they have always done great work.

My beef is with the shop that overhauled the transmission. Their "trans guys".

Later on, George had a great talk with the owner of the shop, and actually started to make amends upon understanding they he is just as frustrated with his "trans guys" as we are. And when George suggested that he actually refund our credit card for all the transmission work done thus far, at least until we actually have the car back in our possession and agree that it is actually working, he found that fair and credited our card. George spoke honestly and directly, even calling out the owner for not offering an apology.

He apologized. Took responsibility. Refunded our card. Gave us their car to take the Michigan.

Perhaps, THIS is true reconciliation. Radically making amends in situations which raise ones blood to the boiling point.

We could shred their name. And truly, I've not said one positive thing about our mechanic in the past few weeks. And yet, we've never had issue with them until the trans job . . . which, we now learn, was done by another garage. Our mechanic is standing by their warranty. Even though it was the transmission shop that screwed up.

I do believe that our mechanic is attempting to do the honorable thing. After all, it was their suggestion that we fix the transmission in the first place, rather than getting a new car, which would ultimately save us money. And truly, could one even get a reliable used small SUV, with low mileage, for under 5 grand?


So, we now have the mechanic's car for our vacation. The kids can't stand this car. They prefer being able to sit higher and see out the windows. I explained over and over through clenched jaw and gritted teeth that having the car is a blessing.

The evening ended with Pita Inn, smooches from the kids, movie night (College Road Trip), ice cream, lot's of family lovin', and timed drills on how to take apart and put together a transmission.

It's a skill that I pray we never have need to actually perform, and yet one should always be prepared.


Anonymous said...

Being truthful about frustrations, seeking justice instead of "rightness", valuing reconciliation over results...I'm pretty sure that's how Jesus would get his car fixed.

Amy said...

I'm sure you may never know, but I would be very interested in the conversation Auto Doctor has with their "trans guys"! :)

Tiffany said...

Even if they aren't doing the actual work, they are responsible for it, since they contract out.

That stores refuse to take things back sans receipt I understand. I assume B&N was simply getting too many people who were bringing books back that they hadn't purchased there and pawning it off on them. I get that that stores don't want to have to eat a loss if someone wears and returns something and I'm honestly glad that they aren't putting lingerie up for resale.

However, the fact that Auto Dr. has not fixed the car this many times is crazy to me. I can't imagine letting it leave a third time without checking that it was perfect.

Cuppa Jo said...

I hear you. And yet, at a minimum, they are completely honoring their warranty as printed on the receipt, thus taking responsibility and not charging us another dime. This is definitely the hard part of reconciliation. I want it done NOW, God is having to work at building my patience and my value for the relationship with the mechanic (with whom we have a relationship) over the product. Believe me, I'm pissed, but I need to figure out how to handle this in a way that honors God.

My beef with B&N and TJ Maxx is that these policies are listed nowhere. Border's was even able to check the code on the back of the book, tell me it wasn't their's, and yet make an exchange for me since the book was in great shape and they carry it. This is where the difference in customer service enters into play.

Yes, I agree on the lingerie front, but to have the person behind the counter tell me that I should know the law (when there isn't actually a law) is just rude. I obviously don't resell skin care products or cosmetics that have been returned, even if purchased from another consultant and returned via me. They are thrown away. Mary Kay reimburses me. It was the treatment that floored me.

And there are many people (think women shelters, salvation army, etc.) who could use the undergarments, rather than them being thrown them away. I've returned packaged underwear (opened but not tried on - didn't like the style) to Target. I know, that seems gross, but in thinking about the bigger picture there may be a use for these items. The woman I was dealing with just threw it behind her and it landed on the floor.

I think retailers are just having to buckle down with the economy in the pit that it is in.

Ok, enough customer service talk. I'm sure I'm being molded through this somehow. Maybe I'm to grow in the grace and love I give people or in terms becoming a better retailer myself.

Thanks for reading!

Joseph said...

Cuppa Jo.
First of all, I'd like to sincerely appologize for the experience you are having with your car. It sounds terrible. In our daily business we strive to provide our customers with the best quality and service. Unfortunately, on occasion, for one reason or another, we fall short of that goal. Believe me, I personally spend many hours lamenting over situations such as these. But they do happen sometimes none the less. Ultimately, all we can do is everything in our power to rectify the situation and do our best to make amends. Rest assured that we are working dilligently to get your car back to you with the transmission in perfect working order.
Upon return of your car we will also be giving you a $200.00 Target gift certificate to show our appreciation for allowing us to serve you. This is not something we do only for someone with a blog page, but for any customer who is not 100% satisfied with our company.
Furthermore, although cooler line hoses only break on rare occasions,and we do visually inspect them, we are currently implementing a program to more closely examine every line and replace any hose that shows even a minute sign of wear to avoid any future problems.
It is my belief that the internet and blogs such as yours can only help to improve relationships between businesses and their customers. I do not fear this technology, I embrace it.
I only wish that we had been aware of your situation sooner, and for that I am truly sorry.
If you have any questions or if there is anything more we can do for you at all please do not hesitate to call us at 888-808-1066 and ask for Joe.
Thank you,
Gator Transmissions
The "Trans Guys"