Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I Get By With a Little Help

Brother Bob’s Newsletter
1st Quarter, 2015
I’ve worked on my share of cars, performing some fairly difficult procedures in the process, mostly out of necessity. When the repair costs exceed your bank balance, you have to do something. However, I do not, even in the farthest reaches of imagination, consider myself a mechanic. With me, it’s take off the old part and put on a new one. If that doesn’t work, I’m lost.

It’s different with the BMW. I’m not sure why. I’ve owned cars produced outside the United States before, and I have worked on them. Not the case with the Bimmer. I’ve had the car for nearly a year now and I’ve only raised the hood a couple of times, even then approaching the intrusion with a mixture of trepidation and respect, a bit like visiting an antique shop where you fall into a state, which closely resembles reverence, speaking softly and keeping your hands to yourself.

My Bavarian fugue has not come without cost. Upon bringing the 328i home, and realizing my lack of knowledge, I immediately began an internet search for an independent BMW automotive specialist. I intentionally avoided the dealerships. It’s what I’ve always done with other cars. 

Of course, I quickly found what I thought I was looking for. Answering the phone with, Hello, uh, yeah this is blank and blank auto, the guy convinced me to bring the car to his shop, an out-of-the-way, backstreet building with a garage in the back. Finding the place locked and having to bang on the door to get the guy’s attention should have given me a clue, and to be honest it had, but in my eagerness for things to work out like they should, I pushed the warning aside. I even let the big, grumpy, bearded proprietor’s gruff attitude slide. What kind of BMW mechanic insults his customers for owning the kind of car he repairs? Well, after researching the subject on the internet, apparently a lot of them. Taking it all in stride, I kept the mechanic on board for a few months, going along with his recommended repairs. And then it happened. During my last visit, which was right before the Thanksgiving holiday, the guy changed the oil and in addition ordered some parts for the car, which he charged me for with instructions to bring the car back in a few days for installation. 

Well you’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this. After the allotted time had expired, I called the shop but received no answer. I repeated the process for about a week, leaving messages that were never returned. Finally, I drove to the location but found the building locked up. This time no one answered my door banging.

Not all was lost. I disputed the charges for the parts, and the credit card company refunded me. However, it was then that I began to wonder what exactly had been done for the car. If the mechanic had been dishonest about the parts, what else had he done, or not done? 

I began to search for another shop. Having jumped the gun on my previous attempt at procuring affordable but effective European auto care, I increased my efforts and widened the scope of the search. I do sometimes learn from my mistakes. I even sought online referrals and perused available comments associated with the shops. A few days later, after narrowing my list of prospective automotive gurus down to three, I sent emails, inquiring about the cost of possible service. Two of the prospects proved to exceed what I considered my price range. However the third shop on the list began to look like a possibly viable option. Their prices seemed appropriate and their website offered further encouragement. In addition, the return email contained language urging me to call a provided phone number.  

“I’m glad you called,” the voice coming over the phone said. “My name is blank, and we’re all about long-term relationships. Why don’t you come by the shop and let me show you around?”
I told the mechanic I’d get back with him but I had no intentions of doing that. I hung up the phone and took a hot shower. After that, I gave up and called the dealership.

I don’t wish to leave you with the wrong impression. I love the BMW. It’s an absolute thrill to drive and it has never failed me. The only thing I’ve taken the car to the shop for is oil changes. The minor repairs were for things recommended by the first mechanic. I’m not sure if any of it was necessary, or if any of the work was actually done.
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This article was written by Bob Avey, author of, Twisted Perception, Beneath a Buried House, and Footprints of a Dancer. http://www.bobavey.com.