Thursday, December 2, 2010

Talk to the Hand

The upper hand is nice to have... especially when you are a woman at the Honda garage getting an oil change.  It's not often that this happens - if ever.  Most of the time I absolutely dread taking the van in for anything because even if it's as simple as the replacement of a wiper blade, I somehow leave the place either with a noticeably lighter wallet or an estimate of work that "needs" to be done - usually in the neighborhood of $600 - $800.  What's the deal with that?
Today was different.  I confidently drove my van up to the automatic garage door.   I was allowed to enter,  I parked, and a friendly attendant met me at my window and asked how I could be helped today.  All standard protocol - right?  I explained that the van needed an oil change and then I asked for an estimated time that it would take to complete said request.  Again, very friendly - lots of eye contact - and  after a quick check of his handheld computer, he was now addressing me as "Julie" - as if we were old friends getting together for a quick chat over a cup of Pennzoil and a chaser of window fluid.  Oh, yes - things were going along famously.  Happy Attendant explained that it would be no more than 45 minutes to take care of this and then he kindly escorted me to their customer "lounge."  I don't know about you, but until there's a bad Elvis impersonator on stage and the smell of stale smoke and cheap beer hanging in the air - it ain't a "lounge."   It's a waiting area with some outdated Popular Mechanics magazines slapped on a short table.  That's all it is.
I came prepared.  I had a diet soda in one hand and a book in the other.  I removed my winter parka and snuggled in to my luxurious surroundings for a 45 minute reading session.  Without fail, Happy Attendant met me at the lounge about 50 minutes later.  He sat down across from me and carefully explained my bill to me - tire rotation, break fluid re-fill, and tread wearing ratings were now all on the table.  If I was game, I could have these services taken care of as we speak for just a cool $110 - in addition to the $32 for the oil change.
Well, I didn't just fall of the turnip truck yesterday - oh, no - I'm very wise to these schemes now - I just replied with, "Thank you, I will check with my husband and have him call you if he's interested."   Happy Attendant then explained that he also gave my van a complimentary wash and he proudly escorted me to the cashier and thanked me for my loyalty to Honda.  I tucked the estimate for the additional work away safely in my purse and proceeded to pay for the services rendered.  Oil change done.  Check.  Happy husband. Check. 
I gathered my belongings, coated up and headed to Service Dock 2 where I was told my clean van would be waiting.   As I pushed through the glass doors, I noticed a very shiny, cheerful van waiting at Service
Dock 2.  However, to the left, I also noticed a grimy, salt-laden van with it's driver side window still open and its hazard lights on. Hmmm.... I would have loved to proceed to Service Dock 2 - however, the shiny happy van waiting to be driven off to lot... was not my van.  My van was the grimed up, salty number still sitting in the cue.  Not clean.  Not given the 18 point safety check.  Not with freshly pumped air in tires that surely needed to be rotated.  No, Happy Attendant had just explained and let me pay for some other dutiful wife's van check-up.
Happy Attendant was no longer in the area, so I alerted another attendant that there was a mix up and my van was not the van polished and ready to go at Service Dock 2.  Wide eyes and looks of disbelief.  Surely I was mistaken.  Indeed that was my van that was ready to go I was told.  There was some shuffling of papers and a bit of scurrying around when it was evident that a mistake had been made.  And this is where the "upper hand" was awarded to me. Bring it on. Yes, I would appreciate a discount now that I have to camp out in the "lounge" for an additional hour and yes, I would like a voucher for a free oil change, and yes, I think I would like that glass of water now that you mention it.   Oh, yeah, I was takin' names and kickin'... well, at least it felt like it for about three minutes... and that's a record for me - of feeling all confident and sassy in a... car fixer place.  Yeah... they're scared of and my big ol' upper hand.

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