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The Other Side: Problem Customers

[Webmaster notes: this article was posted before Chrysler changed their survey systems, so some details may have changed.]

I've lurked on this group [rec.autos.makers.chrysler] for two years now, and my experiences have been completely ignored. Folks on the MML know I can be a real stinker when people choose fantasy over reality; I reacted thusly. As an employee (I worked with parts and parts distribution for almost all of the Zone-71 dealers), I was aware of every improper warranty claim, every whiny customer, and every technician whose evenings were robbed by doing unnecessary repairs just to keep a customer happy. I've seen the bad, the good, and the downright unearthly, and I can honestly attest that Chrysler products are the best built, best backed, best repaired and highest quality cars there are.

I've relayed stories about whiny customers who were mad as hell that the driver's side floor mat didn't fit the way the other side did. Moving the driver's side mat over one inch cured the problem and they went away smiling, but that kind of stupidity abounds when there's a warranty on something new in their life; that customer went straight to the general manager, he got me, I fixed the problem, but they thought a bad product was being pawned off on them.

Another customer took my pen to fill out an order card, and deftly chucked the thing back at me for carrying a "trick" pen. He was mad, and I had to demonstrate the side-mounted push-button in order to keep him from getting the parts and service director. Again, I don't expect either customer to be completely knowledgeable about things new to them, but they completely overreacted, straight away, and refused to let anyone help them but the highest authority figure they could find.

Other side of the coin: a guy came in wanting wheel covers for his reliant. While getting the parts book, he went on to explain to me how another CP dealer tried to "stick him" with a $700 brake job. He volunteered that his car was still under warranty, and that he shouldn't have to pay a nickel for anything, including brakes. He also volunteered that the CP dealer he came from "tried to tell me some hogwash about the wrong brake fluid," and that set of an alarm in my head. I explained to him that there was, indeed, a serious possibility of goofing brakes completely, especially if using power steering fluid, which swells rubber, forcing the calipers and wheel cylinders to lock and self-destruct. He told me "That's all I did: add power steering fluid!" and when I asked him where, he said, "In the reservoir on the other side of the (firewall) from the steering wheel!"

He did not get his car back, he voided his warranty, and he paid much more than $700. BTW, I still have the wheelcover he brought in as an example. The wheels got so hot from driving with solid-locked brakes that the plastic covers melted.

Longtime CC owners may remember the 1990-91 "C" body ABS problem /TSB which resulted in a lot of complete actuator exchanges. One time, a lady came in with a 5th Avenue, adamant that since she had her tune-up done at our dealership, the car occasionally "lurches" and runs poor. Se described that sometimes on the freeway the car would run so poorly that it would go from 55 to 30 in a heartbeat, and she swore like a sailor up and down about our poor tune-up. The service manager gave her a loaner for free, and she left, taking a CC response card with her. He took the car into the garage himself, and diagnosed it with a scanner. Turns out, the actuator was arbitrarily slamming the brakes on at random. Not only that, but this was after the pedal, so no brake lights for the guy behind. We overnighted an actuator, replaced it, and generously covered all the woman's expenses, including washing the car, doing an oil change, and giving her 25% coupon for her next visit. But she was so convinced it was a tune-up problem, regardless of how explained, that she sent her CSI card in accordingly, which brought the district rep in and shorted us the scant few points we needed to be a 5-Star dealership that year. She was wrong, plain and simple, and didn't know what she was talking about, but we were the ones that took the lumps.

I firmly believe, and will indeed bet my life on the fact that a couple of the incidents this owner described would have been enough to ground the car and get immediate results. No dealership would turn away the CSI points; they're worth more than money. Literally. I may have to explain that sometime. Now, I may have come off like a schmoe, but I stand behind what I said.

I suppose what would be a good way to close off this huge post is to add something useful for all the owners with warranties reading this. Simply put, you are not obligated to go to your purchasing dealer for warranty service. Ever. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, if you do go to a different dealer, CC learns of this right away, and the very next CSI card you get in the mail will be quite different. Its entire purpose will be for you to explain what was wrong with the selling dealer, and why you changed. They also give you a few "free service, non-warranty" coupons to help lessen the sting. The dealership you go to will recognize the switch and give you extra attention. The dealership you left will find out quickly their CSI rating dropped a couple points and they'll do anything to get you back. Now, what could be better than the good-old-fashioned brown-nosing you usually get from the salesmen, except from the service department?

Oh, by the way, when I left Chrysler (of my own accord), I took a position at Novell. Never again did I have to explain how a ball-point pen worked.

Thanks for listening,
Carl

Responses

Henry Preston wrote: Chris, I wish there were more technicians out there like you. However, I believe the shortage of qualified technicians is severe. I bought a 1997 Neon new. I went to five different MOPAR service departments. None could get it right if all I said is I wanted an oil change and lube. I learned I had to tell the service writer exactly what kind of oil and where the to lube the chassis.

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