Saturday, June 27, 2009

The $1800 Oil Change

Once upon a time, a little over six years ago, Joe and I decided to get a German Shepherd puppy. Anyway, we also decided to trade in our Toyota Corolla for something larger with which we could drive around our German Shepherd.

Turned out to be the right idea since we ended up with a mutant German Shepherd, but we just chose the wrong kind of car.

We picked a Subaru Outback.

Big mistake.

Turns out what makes a Subaru a Subaru is its innate ability to really, really suck big time.

The troubles started before we even bought the car which, in hindsight, should've been our first clue to run screaming to the Toyota dealership. And yet.

We went to the local Subaru dealership and met with Baby Faced Brandon. Baby Faced Brandon spent a lot of time with us, going over the various features and answering whatever random questions popped into my head. He told us how our German Shepherd puppy would fit nicely into the back. A woman he knew with an Outback had a Newfoundland who fit nicely into the back. All I have to say about that is that either the Newfoundland was a midget Newfie or Baby Faced Brandon didn't know what a Newfie was because no way in hell would a Newfie fit nicely into the back of that car. My own German Shepherd puppy stopped fitting nicely into the back when he was about three months old.

But anyway, I digress.

So we spent the afternoon looking at models and numbers and whatever else you're supposed to look at. We thanked Baby Faced Brandon afterward and went home and looked at other dealers and their offers because that's what people do when they shop for cars. The next day, Baby Faced Brandon's associate, Slick (obviously not his real name.) called to touch base with us. Unfortunately for Slick, I was in the midst of a seven week battle with Bark Mrown (not quite his real name) the Contractor From Hell. Unfortunately for Slick, I still had my fight face on when I answered the phone.

Slick explained how Baby Faced Brandon had asked him to call and touch base with us because Baby Faced Brandon was busy delivering a car to some other customer. So I told Slick how we were in the browsing phrase, shopping around to make sure we got the best price we could.

"But Baby Faced Brandon spent all that time with you yesterday," Slick said.

"Well, that's Baby Faced Brandon's job, isn't it?" I replied. "He's supposed to spend time with perspective customers and if either you or he thought we wouldn't be looking around to make sure we weren't getting ripped off, then you were being kind of stupid, weren't you? And I'll tell you something else, Slick, I don't appreciate you calling me up and trying to guilt me into something."

"I wasn't trying to guilt you-"

"The hell you weren't!" I said. "I don't care how much time Baby Faced Brandon spent with us, you're not going to make me feel guilty about it."

"I'm sorry if I made you feel guilty-"

"You didn't make me feel guilty," I said then. "You have, however, managed to piss me off quite nicely so why don't you run and tell that to Baby Faced Brandon when he reappears."

And then I hung up. I called Joe at work shortly afterward to report on the latest developments. I could just imagine Joe banging his head against the desk because he was currently living in a land where he was fully expecting a phone call from the local police department asking him to come on down to the station where I had been taken upon my arrest following my assault on either a contractor or a car salesman. He asked me to please stop browbeating the locals because he didn't want to have to move out of town. I, of course, took that very well.

Anyway, shortly after that, I received a call from Desperate Dan, the local dealership's manager. He tripped over himself a lot trying to apologize to me. He then offered me an Outback with the exact (somewhat unrealistic) specifications I had posed to Baby Faced Brandon, with the addition of a dog gate and a remote start, all for a very reasonable price. So we took the deal.

Big mistake.

Fast forward a few weeks (Yes, weeks)when my brand new Outback started experiencing steering problems. Now, I know next to nothing about cars but I do know that a brand new car should not have steering problems. So I called the dealership's service center. I did this because they had a great reputation for being really super nice to the locals. They were supposed to get us right in. They were supposed to get us right now. What they were NOT supposed to do was blow us off because of a rust recall and yet, that was exactly what they did.

Stern Stan was the guy I spoke to. Stern Stan said he was sorry but he just couldn't help me. I asked him what the hell I was supposed to do with my brand new undriveable Subaru and where the hell was the great service us locals were supposed to receive from his establishment? Things went downhill from there and ended with Stern Stan demanding an apology before he hung up on me.

Needless to say, that was the last time I spoke to Stern Stan.

Joe dealt with them after that. He called Baby Faced Brandon who came out and brought us a loner while he took our car to the shop himself. They said they didn't know what was wrong with it but the power steering fluid was a little low, so they topped it off, but as far as they knew, there wasn't anything wrong with the car.

Now, I know next to nothing about cars but I do know that a brand new car, a car that has only been driven for a handful of weeks, should not be a little low on power steering fluid.

So I guess that's why I wasn't surprised when the same damn problem reappeared a little later.

This time, I called the dealership a two hours' drive from us. I told Chris (his real name...I like this guy.) the problem and he made an appointment for me right away. My favorite part of the call was when Chris asked for my address. After I said my town, he got very quiet.

"You know there's a dealer just, like, down the road from you, right?" Chris asked.

"Yes, I know," I said. "And yet, I'm calling you."

"All right then," Chris said.

Well, turns out the car had a power steering fluid leak. They had to order a replacement part but they ordered it and eventually it was replaced.

A little while after that, there was a problem with my remote start. It did this thing where it wouldn't start when it was cold outside which kind of defeated the purpose of having a remote start. So I called my buddy Chris.

"You'll have to contact whoever installed the remote start," Chris said. "We don't recommend installing them in Subarus actually. Who put it in?"

"Subaru," I said. "Subaru actually put this one in. You might want to let headquarters know you don't recommend installing them in Subarus. They might find that interesting."

After that, I think we were problem free for a little while. A couple of years ago, we had to have the breaks replaced but I don't think anything else major went on the car. That brings us to the present.

I made an appointment last week at a new dealership because the one which employed my buddy, Chris, was bought out and whatever so now there was Service Man Scott who was polite and all but was not my buddy Chris.

The appointment was for a routine oil change. I also asked them to look at the hatchback latch as it was not working properly as well as the hatchback door seal as it leaked every time it rained. Ruined a big bunch of tracking equipment I had back there.

I dropped the car off the night before and was woken up the next morning by a phone call from Service Man Scott.

"How are you this morning?" Scott asked.

"Depends on why you're calling," I said.

"Well, we took care of the window and the latch for you this morning, so it won't leak or stick anymore," Scott said. (Super Fun Side Note: The window still leaks so I guess when he said it wouldn't leak anymore, he didn't actually mean it wouldn't leak anymore.)

"Okay," I said.

"But we always do a safety check on every car that comes in and found some things that'll need attention sooner rather than later."

"But of course you did," I said, getting out a notebook with which to take notes.

"The left head gasket is leaking oil," Scott began.

I kind of stopped listening then. Again, I know next to nothing about cars but I do know that a head gasket problem is going to be expensive. Scott went on to describe two other expensive problems. I wrote down the phrases 'swiveling thingy' and 'turn motion thingy'. I wrote down the $1800 quote Scott gave me. I then wrote down Scott's name and number and told him I'd have Joe call him.

Joe said several uncomplimentary things about Subaru when I told him. But he called Scott and together, they came to the decision to just make the repairs. The car wouldn't be ready until the next day, Scott told me when I again spoke to him.

"You get a free rental car!" Scott said.

"You mean free with my $1800 purchase," I said.

Scott got very quite then.

"I'll be there this afternoon," I said.

My free rental car was a Subaru. It was a Subaru Impreza Sport which, since my mutant German Shepherd barely fits into my Outback, was a completely useless car for my needs. Yet the rental man seemed to think I would enjoy it.

"Your car will be the blue Impreza over there," he said, gesturing toward it as though it was a fabulous parting gift on a game show.

"You mean behind the clown car?" was what I wanted to say but instead I said, "It's so...little."

The little blue clown car did come with a moon roof which, as soon as it stopped raining long enough, I did pop open. That was nice. What was not nice was the twenty minutes I spent wandering around the stupid supermarket parking lot looking for the little blue clown car because I couldn't remember what the damn thing looked liked and the three key fobs on the damn key ring they'd given me weren't doing a damn thing. Car identification button, my ass!

So I drove the little blue clown car back to the dealership the next afternoon to swap it for my car. I walked in and dropped the three key fobs on the service desk. Scott was there. He remembered me.

"You're all set," he said. "Got everything fixed."

"I assumed as much when I called you and you said the car was ready," I said.

"Right," Scott said.

He then walked me through the four paged bill. I must say I've been happier. Much, much happier.

"How did you like your Subaru?" he asked after I'd signed the credit card slip.

"It's a claustrophobic clown car," I said. "Which is not me saying it's a car for claustrophobic clowns but rather a clown car which makes me feel claustrophobic."

Scott's face fell.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Was there a particular reason why you thought I might be impressed by a Subaru right now?"

"Uh," Scott said.

Scott looked so forlorn that I begrudgingly added, "I liked the moon roof. My new car will have one."

I declined to mention that my new car will be a Toyota.

"Well, that's good then," Scott said. "So are you going back to the Mount Washington Valley?"

"It is where I live."

"Long drive."


"Well, you'll be all set for a while," Scott said.

"For $1800, I certainly hope so," I said. And then left.


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