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Chasing The American Dream

December 03, 2006

CAR THIEVES

I think one of the best people to know in this life is a good car mechanic. I’m pretty useless when it comes to cars. I have no clue and unfortunately, I don’t know a good mechanic. That’s not a good combination when you own an eight-year-old car with 111,000 miles on it. I love my car, but I’m being forced into a decision.

I took it into the Mercedes dealer because of a loud rattle. I’m really not sure how long the rattle had been rattling because it was one of those things that was drowned out when you had the radio playing and the air on. I only heard it when it got cool here and I had the window open. What I DID know about the car is that the noise only occurred when I had the air condition on and it seemed to only rattle when I put the brakes on. I was guessing it was a fan belt or something. Optimistically, I was hoping I could get out of it for under $100. Yeah, I can hear you all laughing at me. So I relayed the rattle story to my ‘service professional.’ She told me they would diagnose the car for a minimum cost of $180. If I refused their repair recommendation, I’d owe the $180. She also said they could do an entire car evaluation for free. Oh sure, I knew what was coming but since it was a free service, I told gave her the OK.

That was Wednesday. I didn’t hear back from her until the following Tuesday. Like in a Seinfeld episode, they were very good at taking the reservation, but they weren’t really good at holding the reservation since it took so long to get back to me. Well, she might as well have been speaking Chinese because I didn’t understand a word she said about what was wrong with the car. It was belt-related but because of some tension thing, they couldn’t just replace the belt; they had to take the whole apparatus apart blah blah blah. A mere $450 to fix it. Yeah I knew this was crap, but who was I to argue? I had no basis to know whether this was BS or not. She then rattled off the free estimate results to the tune of another $2,500. And everything that needed to be fixed was seemingly life threatening. The wheels were gonna fall off, the brakes were gonna fail, I was gonna lose my steering, yada yada yada. I told her to fix the rattle and pass on everything else. She seemed somewhat surprised at my decision. I guess she was used to rich Mercedes owners just saying ‘OK fix everything.’ Well, I wasn’t nearly rich and could hardly afford the $450 let alone the $2,500.

And that got me to thinking. I’m sure some of what she said was true, but did I really want to invest all that money into an old car with tons of miles on it. I was thinking I’d rather spend that money on a new car. I was undecided. I picked up the car and shelled out the $450. I really hated that dealership and I hated that so-called service professional. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I got in the car and noticed it was below empty yet I had a 55 mile trip home to make. I should have looked for a gas station but I decided to just chance it. I got on the highway, fought traffic, but got myself home and to a gas station. And that’s when I got my surprise. I didn’t hear it at first because I was on the highway with the radio and the air on. Yup, the rattle was still rattling. They didn’t fix crap and I was out $450. I was so friggin’ mad.

I immediately called the dealer. She didn’t answer. I could have easily yelled, but I simply left a disappointing message. I told her I was disappointed that 1) the so-called Mercedes service professionals mis-diagnosed the problem and 2) and even worse, they didn’t drive the car to make sure they fixed the problem. I mean, how do you NOT do that??? She never called me back. Not even the next morning. So I decided to call the head Service Director. I told him the story and told him that I wanted my money back because they didn’t fix the problem. Naturally, he first wanted me to take the car back in. I told him I had no confidence in their ability to fix the car. A year ago, I had to bring the car in four times before they finally fixed the air. Ooh, was I mad. I really didn’t have any desire to go back there. I just wanted my money back. If they say no, I’m going to dispute the charge and let American Express fight it. This whole nightmare of an experience convinced me. I didn’t want to throw any more money into this car. It’s time to find a new one.

10 Comments:

  • It seems that there's rarely a happy medium with cars. Either you're a gear-head who spends all your spare time working on your car, or virtually everything to do with the car is an enormous pain. (Seems we're both in the latter category.)

    By Blogger Bart, at 9:17 AM, December 04, 2006  

  • Not in any way a defense of the MB service dept., but since you don't have a trusted mechanic and were not acquainted with the MB folks, is it possible that you haven't had recommended maintenance on your car, with the possibility that all the stuff really does need repair -- especially the brakes? I do have a trusted mechanic (only about 1000 miles from you!) but had to have a repair that only Honda service could do (proprietary tools required; doesn't that sound dirty?). They did the repair, but lied to me up, down and sideways about everything my mechanic had done wrong. While I didn't laugh in anyone's face, I did smirk. A lot. Why not ask your neighbors, Starbucks baristas, co-workers for mechanic refs? A Mercedes with 111,000 miles is still a better car than most. Except a Honda. Nothing's better than a Honda. :)

    By Anonymous Barbara E., at 9:35 AM, December 04, 2006  

  • I'd send an e-mail to the dealer with a note that you'll follow up with Mercedes USA if you don't get satisfaction. The luxury car dealers have a lot of money tied up in customer satisfaction and complaints affect their compensation/incentives from the manufacturer.

    In fact insiders will tell you that when buying/negotiating for a car, if you drop the hint that you'll definitely give them a good rating, you can often get concessions.

    Maybe this doesn't work for repairs on an older car, but it can't hurt, since a satisfied customer will be seen as a possible new car buyer.

    By Anonymous buster, at 11:39 AM, December 04, 2006  

  • Oy - where'd you go Autohaus in Pompano? Although I guess Miami MB isn't any better. Bad luck with MB's made me a Lexus fan.

    Hope you are able to get it all worked out.

    By Blogger orieyenta, at 12:52 PM, December 04, 2006  

  • yeah for new cars!! :) My smart roadster is made by mercedes.... (it is one of those tiny european cars! but very fun!) but I am fed up with driving a 2-seater car.. No room for shopping bags ;)

    What sort of car are you thinking of?

    By Blogger Amanda, at 4:15 PM, December 04, 2006  

  • Dude

    Drive around Flagler ST and look for a cuban mechanic.. They can fix anything pretty cheap.

    By Blogger Alfredito Rivera, at 10:43 PM, December 04, 2006  

  • True senior Rivera but my spanish isn't as good as yours. Yes Orie, Autohaus. They suck. Buster, I'll give that a shot. B.E., I've only had the car 3 years and yes, if I made the repairs, the car would probably last a good amount of time, but I'm not sure I want to take the chance.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 11:19 PM, December 04, 2006  

  • I just spent oodles on my wheels but, it really did need it. I just hate the feeling that they are taking advantage of me because they know I don't know anything about cars.
    They asked me what kind of tires I had on my ride and I jokingly said, "Black ones." All they heard was 'cha-ching, cha-ching'

    By Anonymous Neska, at 7:59 PM, December 05, 2006  

  • Your experience sounds like the same thing that happened to my husband. It was annoying! Eventually we found ourselves this great Greek (? I think he's Greek) mechanic who is extremenly honest with us and fixes both cars pretty well.

    My vote is buy a new car. SoFla is rough on cars, and old ones can get abused quickly.

    By Blogger catsteevens, at 5:22 PM, December 06, 2006  

  • Wow, did you read about Stephanie? Check her blog, if you haven't already.

    By Anonymous Lisa, at 11:42 PM, December 10, 2006  

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