Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Labyrinth of Relationships: The Far Side of Customer Service

Yesterday, as my son and I were on our way home; me from the job, and him from the library; a surprising incident took place. We were on a side road from the highway, I-595. We were traveling eastbound, and this side road can lead you from the city roads onto the highway, or to the turnpike or even to ST RD 7. I was heading for I-595, but my son suggested that we turn off onto the state road, to go to a local supermarket where he had applied for a part time job, so he could check to see if they had received his application.

So I turned off onto the state road, and got to the boulevard where the store was. As we were driving down this boulevard at about 35 mph, something happened. There was a loud wrenching sound and then a really loud BANG! I thought we blew a tire, because immediately, my on my side, the front of the car went down. We skid a bit on the road as I tried to stop the car.

My son got out to check the tire, but none of the tires were busted. I was sure we had blown a tire, and the scraping sound we had heard was the rim scraping the ground, but my son checked around the entire car, and the tires were intact. So what the heck was it?

He came back to the front of the car and bent down to look.  “It’s something under the car,” he said. And then I knew. You see, back when I wrote this article, I knew there was a problem. However, the problem I knew about was in the rear of the car.

Now, since that situation had occurred, and we had gotten the part for the rear of the car, I had the mechanic come over to fix it 3 days prior to this situation happening. Once he took my rear tires off the car, he discovered that the part we obtained for the car was not the right one. There were too connections that did not match what was on my car.

So he was going to go back to the junkyard to get another rear assembly axle for my car. I asked him to check the front end as well, because I suspected that the control arms needed to be changed also…at least one of them, either lower or upper. He told me all four needed to be changed, plus the ball joints on both sides too. So I gave him the money after checking the prices online, so that he could pick up all the parts when he went back to exchange the rear axle.

So when my son told me it was not the tire, I knew immediately that one of the arms had broken. My son was very upset, but I told him, “You have nothing to be upset about. Am I upset?” He said he was angry that the car was broken down, and that I was going to miss two days of work as a result; as I had immediately called my boss and left a message. Plus, we were also going to miss our Friday night pastime, Karaoke at the Caribbean club.

I was fine with all of that because as I told him, it was by God’s provision that we did not take the highway, but were redirected to that street at the time this had occurred. Had we been on the highway when the arm broke, we would have been in serious trouble. It would have caused a very bad accident; one which, in all likelihood, we would not have survived. But God.

He’s always got us. He takes care of us, and knows our needs before we even recognize it. When I had spoken to my mechanic, 5 days ago, I knew that there was trouble in the front with the control arm, because when I was driving, if I hit a bump in the road at a high speed, the car would wrench to the right. I would feel the steering wheel pull out of my hands if I wasn't holding it firmly, so I knew that the control arm wasn't tight enough.

The car had been making these wrenching, groaning sounds for quite some time, and this was separate from the loud humming coming from the rear axle. So I was fully aware that all this needed to be replaced. I wanted to get it done Friday or Saturday, but I was scheduled for work Friday evening, and for a double on Saturday, so because of this, I had tried to schedule with my mechanic for Monday, but he was not available.

Additionally, I was hoping my tax return would be in my account, just in case I needed some extra funds for the repairs. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be getting all this fixed this week, as I recognized the urgency to fix it. Driving with these sorts of problems can be dangerous, obviously. I think it was imperative that it be fixed this week. So something had to happen to cause that, ergo the incident last night. I guess it was important enough that I would need to miss work.

When I called AAA, it was about 8:39. I told the female rep that I needed a flatbed truck to pick up the car because the front axle was broken. I told her that we were not in a safe place, because the car was stopped in the middle of the road. That should have told them to put a rush on it, because usually, they ask that question about if you are in a safe place for that reason. I also told her that we could not move the car off the road because the axle was broken.

She told me it might be an hour before the truck would arrive. So at 9:18 I called back. The reason is because despite the fact that we had both the hood and the trunk up, the people coming down the road in the cars weren't paying attention. We were waving them off, directing them to go around the car from the sidewalk.

Yet, many people drove right up on the car and stopped behind it, looking at it, and looking at us. Some drove by and yelled out to put the hazard lights on. We had done that as soon as it broke down, only to discover that the hazards were blinking on the dashboard, but not on the car itself. Logic would dictate that if we had hazards we would have put them on, as opposed to having both the trunk and the hood up.

That was a bit annoying, the fact that hardly anyone driving was paying attention. We actually put a red gas canister in the road a few feet behind the car to try to slow people down and get them to see that they needed to change lanes and go around our car.

Police were in the area, apparently looking for a strong arm robber and his victim. Two cops pulled up behind our car. The one that pulled right behind us with blues and reds flashing was in an undercover black Crown Victoria. One of the dopey, inattentive drivers almost crashed into her car; rolling up on her so much as she pulled up a few feet behind our car, that her front end ran into the gas canister and dragged it forward as she tried to move out of the way of the oncoming car rolling up behind her. It was ridiculous.

As annoying as that was for over an hour, having to wave people off out of the lane; that wasn't what ticked me off. As I said, I called AAA back at 9:18 to find out where the truck was. The rep, a male, told me that the time of arrival was scheduled to be 9:25. I asked that they contact the driver to try to expedite the arrival time considering the above mentioned situation.

At 9:40, the driver called me, telling me that he had just gotten the call, but was a ways away from us. After getting his location, and an estimated time of arrival, I called AAA back. I was angry at this point, because I had made the original call over an hour previously, and they never bothered to contact the driver until an hour later? This, after I told them we weren't in a safe place???

So I was kind of hot about that. When I called, I got another female rep. After I expressed my frustration, she attempted to abate it by saying that the info about us not being in a safe place, the axle being broken, and needing a flatbed truck was not in the system, and she needed to put it in there.  I couldn't believe that. I was getting angrier by the minute. She attempted to diffuse my anger with a claim that pickup was scheduled for 90 minutes from the time I had called, and the driver was due to arrive at 10:10. That just got me hotter.

“Oh no,” I said, “You aren't going to change the time now. I know what I was told by the first rep I spoke to, and even the second rep said that the arrival time should have been 9:25!” At that point, I was through with the reps. “I want to speak to a manager,” I said. She put me on hold, and then somehow, magically, the line disconnected.

“Oh no, they didn't!” I thought. I immediately dialed back. I got another male rep this time. I immediately asked for a manager. He attempted to run an abatement game on me, asking me for my card number so he could look up my account. The purpose of that was to try to redirect me by addressing the matter himself. I refused. I again stated that I wanted to speak to a manager. He claimed that they didn't have managers, “…just product specialists and supervisors.”

So I said in an aggravated tone, “So I want to speak to a supervisor, because a supervisor is a manager! Duh!” The rep tells me he knows this, and then proceeds to connect me to a product specialist. So you know that when that person answered the phone, and I asked if he was a supervisor, and he said he was a product specialist; you know I was steamin’, right?

He attempted to put me through the same runaround that the previous rep had, asking for my card number. At that point, I was yelling into the phone that I wanted a supervisor. When the supervisor came on the line and identified herself as the supervisor, I gave her an earful.

The very first thing I told her about was the insulting way the reps played with people, using semantics and treating them as if they didn't know what they needed, or what they were talking about; or were too stupid to know the difference between a “product specialist” and a supervisor which they asked for.

Then I told her about all the misrepresentation and misleading information I had received from the prior 3 reps concerning the call I made for a tow; informing her about the fact that the tow driver called immediately upon getting notified of the pickup, which was an hour after I called in; telling me he had only received the call only five minutes before.

Of course, she claimed that none of this was runaround; none of it was incorrect, and that the driver had received the call at 8:39 when I called and so on. She had an excuse for everything. Whatever - but, I’m paying for this “service,” in fact, I'm paying for Plus service. I told her that they needed to get their reps straight, and their communication straight as well. She had to remove the call from my account, so the tow was a freebie.

This is not the first time I've had questionable service from AAA. They make a killing through hundreds of tow companies that contract with them. I have been a customer of theirs for years, but I’m getting tired of this kind of poor service. I may have to consider looking into other road service companies at the end of my year with AAA. Apparently, they don’t respect their customers enough to treat them with respect, and give the kind of great service people are paying for.