So … I needed to get my car serviced this morning. Have a road trip coming up, and today was the only day available at a service center anywhere near my house (I had to drive an hour to get here) before we’re due to leave – later today. Booked the service a month ago, tried to make sure I got the day off, all that good stuff.
In fairness, when I scheduled the appointment, I entered my email and phone number correctly – I know this, because I was able to receive the confirmation notifications via text message, etc. The problems all started when I arrived.
I was a few minutes late, I’ll admit to that. I’ve never been to this part of New Jersey before, and I didn’t really anticipate what traffic would be like, and gave myself too little time to get here. I arrived maybe around 9:10 AM for a 9:00 AM appointment. A little late, but nothing major, surely.
When I got to the service center, they handed me a form to fill out, and walked away. Not entirely sure what that meant, I filled out the form with my name, service requests, and phone number.
But here is where it all went wrong. I wrote my phone number down wrong. It was a simple mistake – I mixed up two digits at the end of the number (49 instead of 94). I asked if I could head across the street to grab breakfast at a nearby diner, and inquired how long it would take; the answer was yes, and I don’t know but we’ll call you.
So I go have breakfast. I take my time, assuming that if there was anything they needed to let me know, they would call me. I don’t get a call. I assume everything is fine. I finish my breakfast, and head back to the service center around 10:30 AM – it’s been about an hour. I take a seat in the waiting area, and start to play Angry Birds on my phone to pass the time. I’m used to this – service appointments usually take a couple of hours.
Around 11:30 AM, I’m starting to wonder what the status of my car is – just idly wondering, not anxious or impatient or anything – so I go up to the front desk. The receptionist is on the phone, and as I’m waiting I notice they have a digital board on the wall with the names of each customer and their appointment times. Very convenient – I look for my name. It’s there for a 9:00 AM appointment … marked as “not arrived”. Well, that must be a mistake, so I wait patiently to speak to the receptionist. Then, as the list scrolls, I see my name again … as a 9:30 AM walk-in. Marked as “awaiting service”.
Now things are seeming weird. So the receptionist finally gets off the phone, and I ask if I could get an update on my car. They fiddle around in the system for a moment, and then, with a look of disconcerting bewilderment, call over a service advisor. The service advisor says to me, “Are you Chris?” I nod. “Chris N?” I nod again, somewhat dumbly. “I tried calling you three times. Someone else answered.”
At this point, I’m very confused. I haven’t received any missed calls, I tell them. Then they show my the phone number I wrote down. Incorrectly. My look of mortification must have been comical, because both the receptionist and the service advisor laugh awkwardly. “We didn’t even start the inspection,” they tell me, “because we couldn’t get in touch with you to find out what you needed.”
At this point, I’ve waited two hours for nothing to be done, and it’s entirely my own stupid fault. So I sit down, review some of the paperwork, and agree to the multi-point inspection, tire rotation … whatever stuff cars need to get done to them, I don’t know. Maybe a couple hundred dollars, I shrug it off.
I go back to the waiting room; I’m not leaving again, that’s for sure. I put on some headphones – making sure the volume is quiet, so I can hear my name be called again – and settle in for a wait. Not too much later – maybe 45 minutes – the service advisor comes back. “Here’s what we found,” they tell me. “You need a lot of work.”
”How much work?” I ask.
”Two thousand dollars worth,” they tell me.
I think all I could do was blink. “Two thousand dollars?”
”Your fluids all need changing. Your air filter has mold on it. Some other stuff …” Cue the sound of rushing blood in my ears, and the fading out of their voice.
I mutely agree and sign off on the work. I know nothing about cars. I assume that the things that are wrong are … well, actually wrong. They walk away to start the work, and after a few minutes of letting the news sink in, I start to Google what the various services they’re recommending should actually cost. In fairness, they’re all about on par – maybe 10% more expensive on average, but I’m at a authorized service center/dealership, and I assumed they’d be a little more expensive.
But still … $2,000? I don’t have that kind of money.
So now, I’m sitting at the service center, still in the waiting room where I’ve been patiently, quietly, humiliatingly sitting as everyone comes and goes around me, trying to figure out how many coffees I’m going to have to not buy in order to pay off a $2,000 car service. Divide by $4, carry the 12, take the square root of π … it’s a lot of coffees. It’s 2:30 PM. I’ve been here for five and a half hours, and there’s more waiting to come. My family are waiting at home for me to return so we can get a very, very late start to our trip.
The good news is they had all the parts …