Saturday, April 25, 2009

Anger Management

A few weeks back my wife and I purchased a new (slightly used) Honda Pilot SUV. Actually the Lady Wife bought the car for me. Pretty sweet huh? We purchased the car from Dick Hannah Honda in Vancouver WA. this is one of those mega-dealer operations which sells multiple brands, has a full service body shop, gift shop, and even a delicatessen. The Lady Wife wanted to be sure we got an all wheel drive model as I do a fair amount of driving for business around the great State of Oregon and Washington. Buying a car is a pretty traumatic experience. I have had rather negative experiences with a couple of local dealers primarily due to what I consider rather strong arm sales tactics. The salesman at Dick Hannah, Saeed, seemed a good sort and was pretty helpful in getting us through the usual 4 hour purchasing process.

A couple of weeks later I was driving my sleek new gray beauty with leather and all mod cons in the rain and noticed that when I lost traction under hard acceleration the rear wheels didn't seem to kick in. Imagine my shock the next day when I crawled under the back of the car and discovered that my new car had only front wheel drive and not all wheel drive as it was represented to have by the dealership.

My friends at work, family, and neighbors all counseled me to get pissed off, and launch a full frontal attack on Dick Hannah. I was also advised to expect nothing in the way of compensation or satisfaction from the dealer. Well, I have lost my temper before and believe me it is not fun. I decided that I would try a more moderate approach and give the dealer an opportunity to provide the customer service they brag about.

I called Saeed. On hearing about the problem he seemed shocked. He said he would talk to his boss and get back to me. At first I didn't hear anything like an admission that they had screwed up. I was afraid that the pessimists might prevail. I called Saeed every day for a week asking him if he was making any progress on a resolution to the problem. I explained both verbally and by e-mail that I expected the dealership to buy the car back and sell me another that had 4 wheel drive, similar miles and features at no extra cost to me. I was actually surprised when Saeed told me that in many years of selling cars he had never made a mistake like this before and that he was working to get management to meet my demands.

Yesterday my wife and I went to Dick Hannah Honda and met with Saeed and the General Manager, Peter. Peter informed us that our satisfaction was more important than any profit they would have made on the deal. He proposed a number of different vehicles for the swap. At the end of another 4 hour session we sold back the gray Honda and purchased a beautiful red 4WD Honda Pilot. The replacement car had less miles, certified Honda 100K miles warranty, and was generally in better shape than the original. It cost me $2000 less.

I never became angry (nervous yes). Saeed said he lost a couple of nights sleep over this. This was a lesson for me. I now have a new friend, Saeed, and an auto dealer I will return to in the future. I am always blabbing on about applying the 3 Fs in resolving business problems. Said 3 Fs are Firm, Fair, and Friendly. This time it worked.

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