Sunday, 23 June 2013

That's Service for You!

Useless, hopeless: rip-off: as usual!

Yes, it is raining in Scotland...
We have a new car! Well, it is 24 years old; 22,000 miles on the clock! Almost untouched, a collector’s item, a top of the (old) line 300E 4-matic, a mind-boggling £35k in 1989!

4-matic was Mercedes’ even more sophisticated but then more complicated answer on the Audi Quattro technology. It is obviously a human misconception that we all need to re-invent wheel after wheel after wheel, but then…

Picking it up and taking it home - the first 800km trip for the car in 10 or 12 years, it did very well except for a somewhat retarded automatic gear changing when arriving at home - was a good idea.

Then,  I made an expensive mistake: I thought it sensible to have the gearbox checked at the local super specialist, the one and only MB dealership in a 200km circle. Booked it in for 0800 on a Friday morning and agreed to have it hooked up to the service system, read out any messages with a special eye on the 4-matic system, change the transmission oil and filter – just that, no more, no less! While on the phone we agreed I would arrive at 0800, sharp, wait for the works to be done; as usual i-pad and i-phone plus endless mails and a coffee or two would give me some “office-time” in a corner seat.

While the registration had already given her, a thoroughly telephone-marketing-trained question-and-answer-machine-lady, all relevant details, plus postal code, name and even date of birth (mine) she went through all the data at least three times; in times of Tempora and Prism, the hunt for Mister Snowden from HongKong to Moscow and the brewing 52 years in prison for a Mister Manning you would have thought that with the postal code alone they would be able to read your mind forward and backwards, but … unexpectedly my experience with the same workshop, different people and different ownership about nine years earlier when they were not able to find an electronic mistake on an almost brand-new G400 and our more or less constant spare-part orders (we dare owning other exotic Mercedeses…), obviously was not part of their data-collection-bonanza. Ten minutes into that repeating process of personal data …

… I should have noticed that I was on an entirely wrong trip! Her answer on my polite request to watch the computerised test and check, more specifically to see that readout with the car hooked up to the DTC, the data link connector, was: “No way!” Health and Safety would not allow any third party in the workshop, too dangerous, one could be hurt 2… 3… 4… finally: “…but we can print out the read-out data and discuss it with you in the office”. And "Yes, our staff knows those cars, very good really, has worked many times on same...".

This time that H&S crap should have – finally - rung all bells, after all I am in construction (!!); and I should have thought about that “… could be hurt…” line much more seriously!                    

07:56, I arrived in front of the same lady’s desk – us old (!) German borns are terrible when it comes to punctuality. Repeating all data two and three times and then asking what was wrong as if I had not given all details before, ended with the sentence “Okay, the car will be ready by five o’clock… do you need a lift?” Well! ”No!
I was lifted stante pede! Lifted into that orbit of bad memories and that ugly experience with the same shop, different actors, nine years ago; that same arrogance of altering anything their way and of how best to rip one off. “No! I will stay, it is a defined job and was booked to start at 0800 with me waiting.” “Basta!”. “But checking the old car thoroughly will take some time… we do not know the outcome, yet, it might take some...!”.

Well, I stayed …

less than 1% of all W124 built came as 4-matic

09:45, eight or ten e-mails later found the car just “lifted” with the transmission oil making a mess instead of running into a collection tray; all eyes on the workshop intruder walking right into the workshop did not stop the intruder taking a good look at the underside of his 24 year old new car. Except for the oil all over the place... looking very good, the car! The workshop? Discussable!

10:30, I had long returned to the same chair to do some more e-mailing, the technician came in to tell me that a test drive had revealed the same odd behaviour of the car; he would have to check the pneumatic and hydraulic pressures in the gear and transfer box and no, the car would definitely not have any diagnosis connection to read out any mistakes… Oh (!?); so (?!)  … back to waiting.

11:40 the same technician explained that he had not been able to check those pressures, confirmed again that there would be no diagnosis option for that kind of old car, that I would have to book it in again as he would have no more time…

12:10 the car was parked in front of the show-room.

12:35 I was presented with the invoice; the fault had not been found, a bulb had been changed and two different but unknown quantities of oil of unknown quality had been changed costing £67.50 plus one filter; the morning was summed up with the detailed report-line: “REQ OIL CHANGE AND CHECK AGAIN”.

Brilliant; LAB cost was discounted 40% at £225.72, obviously from 376.20, which, generously calculated, from 9:30 to 12:10 computes to an hourly rate of £141.08. Okay - discounted to so much more favourable £84.65.

Completely frustrated I left this centre of excellence trying to add up this £1,700+ bill from nine years ago and the above £385.99; that old invoice had said “Fault not found” after the car had been parked three days in the same workshop with 17 hours invoiced. Once home I "googled" that diagnostic capacity of the W124 series... and guess what...!!? Correct: the workshop lacks the equipment or the capacity to use it; definitely the car does not!

You might ask why I did it again? Well, meanwhile the ownership had changed, there could have been room for improvement and getting a lot better; I tend to trust people, naively, d'accord - but then it got much worse: at least last time I did not inherit a dent:

Thank you,  ...!*#*'!

I wanted to return immediately to make a real fuss... and made my way, but then...?

And why do I like those old cars? It is more that I dislike today's electronic plastic bombers Mercedes-Benz (and others) build for us, their customers; they just too obvious are made to boost shareholders’ value by promising the blue from the sky look wise and also performance wise but only until guarantee and warranty are done with. It needs electronics and software service and updates to help those wanna-be classics to become real vintage cars – but that is not driving new business so our throw-away-society shan’t leave room for anything sustainable. As BMW has admitted they build cars to last a life time - and that life-time is defined by BMW to be six years; thereafter it is time for the customer-idiot to invest into a new model and re-start depreciation from five or even six digit purchase prices to neglectable chump change five or seven years down the line.

Yes, and some days sheit happens! Lots of! I would not recommend that workshop unless you want to stick with one of those plastics until guarantee lapses...

Carpe diem!


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