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Friday, October 31, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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November 19, 2004

This has definitely been a month I'd just as soon forget, but I figured I'd write some of the more recent highlights anyway. By now, you've likely read my full account of the deer hit and my adventure getting the damage fixed at the body shop. What's not reflected in that article (at this writing, anyway) is that today I took delivery of the car -- for a second time.

When I picked the car up originally I told the shop owner that I wouldn't sign any form saying I was happy with the car until after I had a chance to detail it and look it over with a fine tooth comb. After detailing it, several defects stood out...including a small, but quite obvious ding on the freshly reworked hood. Yup, you got that right...somebody at the shop put a ding in the hood by the BMW emblem...ironically, not too far from the ding they removed. There was no paint damage, so given its proximity to the emblem, I knew exactly how it formed.

Learning how to close the hood of a BMW was the first thing my sales rep taught me on delivery day back in 1998. I've used the same technique hundreds of times and have never put a ding in my hood. For those that don't know, a BMW hood is closed by resting one's fingers on the center of the emblem and pulling the hood down until it's less than a foot above the latched position, or at the point where the struts fail to offset the hood's weight. You then let it slowly drop until it closes under its own weight. You NEVER push down on the hood to latch it! If you do, you are bound to either bend the hood or ding it! Point loads (like fingers) are the worst -- for the same reason that stiletto heels will generate a greater load per square inch than an elephant! (Of course, guys, if you want a woman to wear stilettos, it's probably a good idea avoid making such comparisons!) :-)

Anyway, we made plans to get the car back in the shop this past Monday, with an estimated completion time of two days. Needless to say, it took five, and I had to reject it this morning for several defects in the new work, before I took delivery around 3PM. The shop owner picked up the tab on the loaner car (approximately $45/day) for that time, so he lost almost $250 of profit right there...to say nothing of the labor and materials.

I realize no one is perfect, but the thing I really grew to dislike about this shop is that their policy seemed to be "do a half-ass job and then leave it for the customer to judge the work finished or not". I realize it's hard to make a living in this business, what with the insurance companies essentially dictating what a shop can charge ($45/hr for skilled labor in central New Jersey is actually quite laughable), and the usual problem of finding and retaining talented, motivated employees at the salaries that labor rate makes possible, but I have to believe that maybe if they changed their attitude and went the extra mile to do it right the first time they'd actually make more money -- not only from referrals, but also from the avoidance of costly mistakes like those on my car.