Since my last post, describing my to-do list on my newly acquired 1986 TurboDiesel Jetta, I’ve been knocking items off of that to-do list, in preparation for taking the car to Guadalajara, Mexico, where I intend to live for the next year.
One of the maintenance items on my to-do list was to replace the timing belt–this should be done every 60,000 miles on most diesel cars, or you risk a broken timing belt, and a destroyed engine. Since I have no idea when it was last done by the previous owner, I wanted to have it done myself. I had already purchased most of the necessary tools to do it, but due to some complications replacing the struts on the car, I wasn’t ready to begin work on the timing until early last week. Since I was planning to leave town on May 29, and had less than 5 days to go, and still several other to-do items essential to my trip, I decided to hire out the timing belt replacement. I’m aware of only two shops in Wichita, Kansas that will do timing belt replacements on a diesel car: Euro-Tech Saab, who did a timing belt replacement for me a few years ago on a similar car, and Kirke’s Import Parts.
I called both shops. Both shops quoted me for 4 bench hours. Euro-Tech, however, wasn’t able to get me in for a week. Kirke’s told me if I could drop the car off Tuesday morning, they’d have it done for me possibly the same day, but by Wednesday some time at the latest. Perfect! I had an appointment to have the car aligned on Thursday, so having the timing done on Wednesday would work out wonderfully.
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After a 9:00am appointment on Tuesday to replace my windshield, I drove the car to Kirke’s, as promised, and happily left them with my keys.
The next day I called them in the early afternoon to check on the status of my car. “The guys are in the middle of working on your car. It should be done today or tomorrow.” “Tomorrow? I have an appointment for it tomorrow… I need it ASAP!” “Okay, we’ll try to get it done quickly.” Grrr.
Thursday morning I called them as soon as they opened. “The guys just pulled it into the garage, and just started working on it. It will probably be done tomorrow.” What the !@#$?
So my first problem with Kirke’s is obvious: They have no ability to accurately estimate the time it will take to get a job done. My second problem with Kirke’s should now be apparent as well: They are willing to lie to their customers. Was my car being worked on Wednesday afternoon as they initially told me, or had they “just started” on Thursday morning as they later told me?
Friday morning I called them again, and they told me the car would be ready in “two or three hours.” I resolved to show up at their shop at 4:00pm–two hours after their most recent worst-case estimate–with my pickup, and tow-dolly to pick up my car, ready or not. I was less than 5 minutes from their shop when they called to tell me the car was ready.
I explained to the manager on duty that the only reason I had selected their shop for this work was to save me time; and that instead of saving me time they ended up costing me several days of time, due to the missed appointment to get alignment done. I told him I thought a discount was completely reasonable, and suggested that I should only be required to pay half of the $319 he was asking for, since the job took twice as long as he had estimated, and since his company had lied to me.
He insisted that I was not lied to, and told me it was impossible to give me a discount, because he had to pay his service techs anyway.
Herein lies my third complaint about Kirke’s: They don’t understand the first thing about the customer service side of the business. I’m not the kind of person who likes to ask for freebies. I’m happy to pay for services rendered, and with rare exception, would rather pay more for higher quality service than save money. But this was ridiculous. When a good company fails to live up to their own stated standards, they try to make it right. Kirke’s was more interested in blaming me for “misunderstanding” their time estimates.
When the manager told me he had to pay his service tech, my response was “That’s not my concern. One of us has to eat this cost–it’s either you or its me.” Any good businessman would love to eat a $150 cost to make a customer happy. Happy customers are worth much more than money. After pressing him for several minutes, he finally offered, “The only thing I can give you is wholesale price on future maintenance products.” Whoa! Watch me faint from underwhelmedness!
If I had a checkbook (I don’t use checks any more), or cash on me (I don’t often use cash either), I probably would have handed him $100, and a note with my full address and phone number and said “If you want to collect the rest, have your attorney send me a letter, and we’ll work the rest out in court.” But since all I had was a credit card, I demanded that he write down his “offer” for wholesale priced maintenance products in writing with a signature–which he did–and which I will never redeem.
I’ll be taking my business to a company that is honest, and appreciates its customers. I’ll also be telling others about my bad experience–I’m sure that will cost Kirke’s more than whatever money he thinks he saved by not giving me a discount.
Better Business Bureau. Get your money back and make a statement they may actually listen to. You can even consider reporting it as a favor for future customers if that makes you feel any better. I have had similarly bad (unprofessional/unconcerned/non-communicative) and slow (they don’t even try to diagnose problems the same day) service nearly every time I took my car there. I plan never to go back.