Max: “Ms. L, you are not going to believe this, but the headlamp I ordered to replace yours is broken.”
Ms. L: (Long silence, looking quizzically at Max, her official Lexus service professional) "Oh…whaaaat…hahahahahahaha…you have GOT to be kidding.”
He wasn’t. For the fourth time since just before Christmas, I was escorted to another Courtesy Car to drive while, once again, the most popular dealer in Metro Atlanta tried to remedy my 7-year-old car’s seemingly simple problem.
Several months ago I noticed condensation inside the headlight housing on the passenger side. Having never heard of such a thing in my life, I probably decided it was some kind of rare fluke and promptly forgot about it. Since I enter the car on the driver’s side and don’t normally do a walk-around on the car each time I drive it, it was several weeks before I noticed the droplets of water still hanging out inside the glass.
When I finally got around to calling Max, he told me two things:
1. It had to be fixed before it shorted out the computer at the bottom of the lamp, causing the entire electrical system to be destroyed.
2. He had a guy who, for $155, would take the lamp apart to dry all the elements and then seal it back up so no moisture could leak back in. Otherwise, I was looking at “around $1,000” to get a new assembly.
Great! That’s why I continue to take my car to the dealer instead of looking for cheaper ways out with local mechanics. I have had way too many bad experiences with that.
“Let’s do it,” I said.
That time I got to drive a brand new, almost top-of-the-line Lexus home. It was spectacular to look at and had so many cockpit-like instruments, I couldn’t figure out how to start the damned thing.
The next day, I picked up my newly sealed car and reluctantly returned the keys for the 2013 GS sedan. It was raining that day.
By the time I drove the 15 miles from the dealer to my home, the droplets had returned. It was the week before Christmas and the guy who “fixed” the lamp was going to Puerto Rico for the Holidays. He’d be back in a week.
Now I’m a little stressed about it all. I had already ignored the problem for much too long. What if this was the week the computer at the bottom of that light bit the dust? But, I was too busy with Christmas preparations to worry about it.
The day after New Year’s I took my car back for the guy with the magic sealer to try again, at his expense, of course. This time my loaner was the 2013 version of my 2005 RX 330, the small SUV. It was bigger, fancier and, of course, cleaner than mine, but the thrill was offset by a minor sense of inconvenience. Since the work had a money-back guarantee, I had no doubt this time the fix would “take.” This guy is going to be annoyed with himself for not doing it right the first time, and time is money.
When I picked up the car this time, I was so sure the problem had been remedied, I again forgot to check it for a few days. When I did remember to look, I burst into loud laughter. Not only was it wet, it was wetter than it had ever been.
I have always made the sacrifices necessary to buy good cars with the kind of service ethic that is strongly customer-focused. It just made my life a bit easier, especially while I was working long hours and keeping tight schedules. So, it wasn’t surprising that before I could call Max this time, he called me.
“I’m just calling to see if the headlight is okay, since it is nasty outside today.”
He was beside himself when I gave him the answer. I was thinking about a refund.
He asked to try it one more time because this guy had done dozens of these repairs and this had never happened before. If that didn’t work, he would refund my money and we’d go from there.
We did and it didn’t. Even the bright red courtesy SUV I was given to drive couldn’t cheer me up anymore. This was getting old.
I received the refund in the mail yesterday, so I took the car in this morning to finally get this thing behind me. A brand new, $640 switch-out (ouch, but at least it wasn’t the $1,000 Max had guessed at in the beginning) was probably what I should have done in the first place, but all this was costing me was time and a little gasoline. Besides, I kind of enjoyed getting out of the house and dressing up a little bit to be presentable.
I took my laptop and was in the lounge eating a zucchini and walnut muffin they provided and sipping on a hot herbal tea. I had just read a post and was about to comment when I looked up to see Max standing in front of me. I knew it couldn’t have been finished that fast, but I never considered he was there to disappoint me one more time.
As I listened to the impeccably dressed young Courtesy Car manager tell me how to go about driving the little white hybrid model they were sending me home in today, I couldn’t help but smile at myself. There was a time when I would have gone absolutely ballistic on Max. I wouldn’t have cared much about the fact that he had nothing to do with breaking the new part, at least not as far as I knew. I would have been demanding compensation for all my time, my gas, and my exasperation at the piss-poor job they had done on this minor repair problem.
Instead I got excited about getting to drive a hybrid car for the first time. I was happy the traffic had lightened considerably as I tried to get comfortable behind the wheel of this nearly bottom-of-the-line model which had me feeling as if I were sitting about six inches above the pavement. And I loved the sports-car-like ride and handling, the very swift pickup and perfect cornering.
Tomorrow I get to do it all again. It’s okay. Whatever happens, it won’t be the end of the world. Besides, I still haven’t driven that $72,000 LS!