A story about car dealerships

So it’s time for another story time with uncle grelbar. This time, i’m going to deal with.. well, car dealerships. This is a story on how they’ll try to fuck you over, but how you can, at least in my case, walk out as a winner.

My story begins with a standard annual service for my 2003 Nissan Primera station wagon. I bought it from Autokeskus Konala (Finnish Nissan/Dodge/BMW/Mini dealer) a few years ago, and i’ve been servicing it there as well, to maintain a good service record. So far, i’ve gotten excellent service, from the very start of our relationship. But this time was different.

I paid for my service on the 14th of September, got my keys, and went out to get my car from the lot. I was rather surprised that the key (which had been working flawlessly for two years), now suddenly would not open the doors. I went a bit closer, and the same thing: the doors wouldn’t unlock. So, i open the door with the actual physical key (shit, i can’t remember when i’ve last done that with a car!), and got in. Put the key in to the ignition. No start. Not even a peep out of the engine or ignition. No blinking red light in the dash (to indicate car is not running, etc.). Notice the lights are on, and that the battery is dead due to this.

At this point i’m starting to realize that i’ve been fucked over. I’ve just paid several hundred for my service, and my car is dead in the dealership parking lot. Not nice. I walk back in to the place, and ask what the hell is up. The guy, one guy, looks a bit tired, it’s probably the end of his shift. He asks for my license place and checks for what was done with my car. He instantly says “Nope, nothing in here explains a broken key. We don’t really have anyone working here who can help you at this hour (a bit before closing). Maybe the battery is dead?”. So, i mutter some obscure Norwegian curses, and head for the spare-parts section.

I buy a new battery, of the typ 2025, for 1,80€. Pay for the battery. Go out. At this point it starts to rain. Car still does not open with the remote control. I’m getting increasingly pissed off. I call my dad, who comes and helps me with starter-cables (since nobody at the fucking dealership offered their help), and the car starts right up. Key is still dead. I walk back in to notify the service guy that i’d be contacting them about this fuckup later).

Drive home. Try our spare key, which works fine. Call the dealership the following day, telling them that i had some problems with my previous service, and that i needed to talk to someone. Nobody was apparently available, so i left a message, with a request to call me. Three days pass, nobody calls me.

I send email to the head of the service department. Wait 10 days for a reply. Guy says that the coding of my key might have gotten scrambled when the battery was drained by some incompetent fuck who left the lights on. Seemed like a good explanation, except, why would my spare key work? The dead battery in the car somehow remotely broke the other key? Okay. He told me to bring it in on the first of October, to have it looked at.

Bring the car over in the morning of the 1st. Get a call in a few hours by some asshat who tells me “The key is broken”. No fucking shit. Also he tells me, that my spare key, which works fine, “also is working a bit badly”. Horse shit. Okay, next he throws the bomb. “A new key is 111 euro. Would you like to order it?”. I told him that this isn’t the way it goes, and that i’d contact his superiors.

I e-mail the same head of the service department who tells me that “The re-encoding which we promised, did not work, so the key is otherwise broken, and we are not liable.”. I complain, and he graciously offers to take the price down to 75 euro for a new key. I tell him that i won’t pay them a dime, since the key broke in their custody.

At this point, i also e-mail the head of customer relations at Autokeskus Konala, and the head of customer relations for the entire company, with the head of service as CC. A day passes. I get a new e-mail stating that the key would be replaced for no cost.

Lessons learned

So, when things fail, complain, and keep complaining up the ladder until you get what you want. But be sure you are right, and that they are wrong.

A car dealership can’t be like the coat-check, where they take no responsibility for anything left with them. When i bring in a car for service, i expect that it comes back in the same, err.. improved condition from the original. What i do not expect, is that my car is dead in the lot, and that my key has been broken by some asshat. Or that management gives me the fucking dick when i ask to fix what they broke.

Autokeskus Konala was on the Kuningaskuluttaja (“King Consumer”, a program about consumer rights) program, about ripping off some other consumer. I guess the fault in this one lay with Nissan, but in any case, this isn’t something we should just swallow and complement the taste. Consumers are being fucked over everywhere, by unscrupulous businessmen who know that if they push a consumer far enough, they’ll give up, because litigation, in many countries, is too expensive, or not an option.

But what we can do, is talk about it. Write a few blog posts, maybe e-mail your correspondence to a few news outlets. Talk to your friends. Sure, a blogpost, in the big scheme of things, is meaningless, unless you run a huge site. But at least you can raise some awareness. If two people learn something out of this, it’s been a good day.

Just don’t give in to unreasonable demands, and keep your eyes open when people are slapping you around with a wet cock. Too many people can just be intimidated, by an authoritative voice, to doing whatever they want you to.

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