How I Got Screwed at Bellevue Chrysler Jeep Dodge

Everyone has their tale of horrible customer service. As the Cheezburger Network grows our store, I have learned to appreciate how challenging it is to build a culture of good customer service.

This is a true story about how often the littlest things can cost businesses thousands of dollars in future business. In this case, over a 50-cent screw.

Last Saturday morning, I drove up to the service bay at Bellevue Chrysler Jeep Dodge for a recall-related repair. In addition, I asked the service person to replace a rusty screw on my still-under-warranty Jeep. The screw had been rusting for about a year now, but since I had no other reason to visit the Jeep dealer, I decided to wait until now.

“I can’t replace that,” the service rep said. “It’s attached to an aftermarket part. You could have damaged the paint when you added the aftermarket part.”

Often, a surprise attack is the best defense. In this case, I never expected the dealer to argue over a 50-cent screw. It was as if a kitten clawed me in the face. And poured Tabasco in the wounds. Then lit my face on fire. I fumbled my words. I could feel my face turning red, and I struggled to keep my composure. I told him repeatedly that the screw had been rusting since I purchased the vehicle. Not only that, it was attached to a consumer-removable part. In other words, Jeep created the screw so that the consumer could screw and unscrew it.

Still, the dealer insisted that I was responsible for the rusting.

I had one last argument left. “Listen, this is my first time here at Bellevue Jeep. At some point, you’re going to have to trust your customers and I am telling you that this screw has been rusting since before the aftermarket part was installed.” As I said these words, I started to wonder why I was even arguing. It was a 50-cent screw. I was just ready to drop the issue.

“I’m going to have to call my warranty manager and have them approve this warranty service,” the dealer added. “We don’t stock fasteners and you’ll have to come back if the warranty repair is approved. I’ll call you.”

The words “I’m going to have to call my warranty manager” hung in the air like a brick balloon. Impossible, I thought. This guy really thinks he’s going to have to call a manager to get approval to replace a 50-cent screw. WHOA. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WAYYYYYYYYY.

Yes way. He had to create even more work and waste more people’s time to get authorization for a 50-cent screw and he expected me to drive back to the dealership to get it. It blew my mind. I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know what was worse: That he didn’t think twice about wasting his company’s time and money, or that he though his customers had nothing better to do than come back to the dealership to have a screw replaced.

All this time, I was holding a list of $800 worth of accessories I was going to order from the dealer. I put it away in my pocket. The total loss of business to Bellevue Chrysler Jeep Dodge over this incident? Accessories plus future repairs and maintenance, and me spreading the word of my horrible experience to all my friends. All that over a 50-cent screw.

After some thought, I had two theories over the seemingly irrational behavior of the service rep.

  • First theory: He was an idiot with the IQ of a door stop. I would love to believe that, but it was unlikely. It takes an intelligent man to argue in the face of common sense.
  • Second theory: The dealership had put in place hard and dumb policies that made their employees behave like automatons and robbed them of empowerment. This is probably more likely.

I took this experience to heart and wanted to make sure Lolmart would never make the same mistake. The same day, I emailed our customer service manager to make sure that we would never make a penny-wise pound-foolish mistake like that. She said those mistakes happen because bad policies rob front-line employees the power to make customers happy. Over lunch, we made policy changes so that any customer service rep can fix small problems on the spot without ever asking the manager.

When a business screws you over a screw, empower your employees.

P.S. He never called.

P.P.S. This was originally titled “How Lack of Common Sense Costs Businesses Thousands”, but I think a good SEO is needed on this post.

Posted on January 26, 2011, in Business, Personal. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. It’s also possible that policies were set in place to make it so difficult to get warranty work done that the average customer would give up, preventing the dealer from having to spend money on labor to have the repairs done.

    What you’re describing is all too common, especially in over-the-phone customer service. Front line employees are either imbeciles, being intentionally hard headed, or really have no authority to do anything, which makes you wonder why they’re even there in the first place. 9 times out of 10, when I call a call center it’s over something that requires me to have to ask for a manager, and when I ask for a manager, I then have to argue that my request to speak to the manager is necessary, which should be obvious given that the CSR can’t help me.

    Anyway, I’ll stop ranting. You’re right. Small things can lead to a loss in future business that could equal thousands of dollars in lost profit. In today’s economy there isn’t a large pool of people to pull from, for new customers, so companies need to start looking into taking better care of the customers they already have.

  2. Having worked for this businesses parent company (Autonation) in the past, I can say that practices like this are fairly standard, however I do agree that the experience you were given it’s inexcusable.

    It look this particular service rep was an idiot and a cog in a very big machine. When employee’s are dealing with customers often the refer back to what they’ve been trained to do, no matter how minuscule the situation may seem.

  3. In my experience, it’s the entitled multi millionaires that do argue about a $00.50 cent screw. Generally, those that don’t earn as much money feel less entitlement and are less difficult to help. The service representative was trying to do their job. Now they are being blasted on the world wide web for following policy. I don’t think that Chrysler Dodge will miss a customer who gets this angry (and sullies the reputation of a business) about a part that cost less than a dollar. Who would want a client that acts like that?

  4. This must be a standard AutoNation format. I bought across town twice, 2002 & 2011, both Brand New- both upper level models, and neither time did I even get even decent service at the service counters. Both times the first imression was the worst impression at the Service Department, I ended it by finally swearing them off for good the last time.

  5. Wow, that’s just outrageous. I mean there are plenty of better ways he could have dealt with the situation better. Luckily we’ve never had a situation come up like this at our dealership. I was just out here looking for dealership repair stories to make sure we’re doing things right. Luckily, I haven’t heard any complaints like this, so I know we’re doing better than most. Thanks for posting this it’s eye opening to see how poorly some repair shops are run. Especially at the manufacturer level. It’s just sad.

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