“Nice gets you farther than nasty.”

Title by Betsy Carstairs. I think. I seem to remember that quote from a book I read when I was a kid, though I don’t know what book, and googling that name turns up a real estate agent who probably doesn’t know her name was also the character in a book.

This weekend I did a horrible thing. I took my car into the dealership as soon as the service department opened on Saturday to see if they could look at it for a specific problem. I’ve had the car to two different repair shops, one of them multiple times, to try to diagnose a noise problem I’ve been hearing, and they insisted a) they couldn’t find any problem b) couldn’t hear the noise, or didn’t think the noise was unusual and c) if something was wrong, it wasn’t the problem I suggested it was, the one I specifically asked them to check for that after googling around about what the sound was, because they checked that thing and it was fine. Regular repair shops are fine for routine maintenance and even some straightforward things like new tires or a brake job, but when it comes to diagnosing a strange noise and looking for subtle nuances on a specific car, the dealership is really the place. The problem is, if this issue was what I thought it was – a transmission problem – then I needed to get it looked at immediately. I am already outside of my warranty, but not that far out (warranty went to 60K and I am at 67). I still have limited powertrain warranty until 100K, but only certain parts of a tranny are covered under that warranty. And tranny repairs can mean the end of the ownership of a particular car, as they are so expensive. Does it makes sense to spend $8K on a car repair when you could get a whole new car for that amount? I was ready to go to battle with Kia, if necessary, about trying to insist they cover the problem since it started a while ago, when I was still under warranty. 

Anyway I was very, very apologetic, promised to be very patient, and tried to be very, very nice to the service guy and the master tech. Nobody else was really in yet so the tech got right in the car and took it for a drive immediately. And then they delivered me excellent news, for free – the problem is not the tranny, but is in fact what I originally said it was – a wheel bearing beginning to go bad, AND replacement is covered under powertrain warranty so I just needed to make an appointment to bring it back when they would have time to fix it. I was in and out of there in an hour. This is an amazing thing. I drove down the street to Dunkin Donuts, bought them a dozen donuts and a few bagels, and brought them back and gave them to the service guy. He looked as happy as I was when I left, and practically trotted back to the shop to share them with the guys. 

My father always taught me to take care of service people like cops, firefighters, and people who fix your car. When I first moved to Cleveland and was on and off public assistance as I was so broke, I used to bake cookies or trays of lasagne for the guys up the street at the local shop who fixed my car. They knew I didn’t have any money. If it was just an oil change, they wouldn’t charge me, and if I needed repairs, they would just charge me for the parts. It worked out well for everyone – they were happy to see me and I was happy to have that bartering relationship with them. When I moved to a new city, I used to bake cookies and take them to the PD, just to let them know who I am and that I had just moved in. Now that people are wary of homemade baked goods, I will bring something store-bought, but I try to still do this around the holidays to let them know I appreciate all they do for the citizens. 

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