[200q20v] 1st trip to dealer(looooooooong)

Brett Dikeman brett at pdikeman.ne.mediaone.net
Tue Feb 27 00:29:21 EST 2001

At 1:37 AM -0500 2/23/01, Tomsaudi200 at aol.com wrote:

>So, we're basically talking $700 for a couple of minor problems.

"minor" is all relative.   Ticking lifters in a V8 is a "minor" 
problem but could cost, oh, 32x$100 to fix :-)  Major doesn't mean 
expensive, either.  Flat tire is a major problem that's solved 
usually with $10 at the local gas station.

>This sound in line to you guys, or am I being taken?

Well, here's some(okay, a hell of a lot) of talk about this item.

If you walk into the doctor's office complaining of fuzzy vision, the 
optician could say "yep, I need to use a laser and it's going to cost 

Now, should you run home to a eyecare mailing list and say "my 
optician says it's gonna cost $1k to fix my blurry vision!" ?

No, silly.  Ask questions.  "Why do you say that, doctor?"  "Well, 
it's because blah blah blah blah, and see, here's a chart of yer 
eyeball, and there's a doinkus here we gotta zap with this, makes it 
shrink up and presto, this thingy here straightens up and boom, you 
should get better vision."  "Ah, it's so clear now!"  <running, 
ducking for cover here>

Similarly, getting an estimate from a dealer(or any mechanic) is just 
the same...you don't walk away with the bill and grumble about the 
price. I swear, mechanics should wear a big button that says "ASK ME 
WHY."  Don't grumble to the list about a $600-for-dash repair and 
tempt guesses and cause some people to sling mud...ASK..."hey, I see 
you listed the dash as possibly causing the stalling...that seems 
pretty odd. What's your theory?"  Ask and ye shall receive(perhaps, 
at that point, the guy behind the service desk who shall remain 
nameless would say, "well, hmm, you're right, that is kind of odd. 
Let me go see if I can find Bob."  Hey hey, presto spaghetti-o! 
You've got your answer.

Now is the mechanic always going to be available at a dealership? 
No, not always, because management wants him working on as many cars, 
and the guys at the service desk have 10 people behind you screaming 
for the keys to their TT's, A6's, S4's(all of which they bought at 
THIS dealership, which they remind the service desk of incessantly, 
I'm sure) etc. while you hem and haw over a bill for your 
wierd-ass-rare-old-car that you're the third owner of and the car was 
originally bought thousands of miles from where you're standing right 
now and there's no way in hell you're buying a new anything for the 
next 2 years :-)

That's why I don't want to go to a dealer.  I'm not a number, and I 
want to meet the guy who is fixing my car; I want -him- to explain 
what's wrong, and I want him to run the business, or at least finish 
up the paperwork with me at the end of the day when I come to pick up 
the car.  Why?

-First, if you(mechanic) meet the owner and he's a nice guy and you 
like him(I hope I am, and I hope they do :-), you're going to want to 
do the job right; it's not just a car, it's -someone's- car, and 
you've shook that guy's hand.
-Second, there's nothing like getting something straight from the 
horse's mouth, and further, being able to ask a question right back. 
"Yhea, I turned on the car and there was a fountain of pentosin 
coming out of the engine compartment" is a pretty satisfying 
explanation of why I needed a $%@#!  $300 hose(this actually 

-Third, if the guy fixing the car owns the shop, he's got good 
motivation to do things right, treat you right, etc...he can't just 
"move on" and become some other dealership or shop's problem when he 
finally pisses off one too many customers or screws up one too many 
cars.  He's got to retain you as a customer, or he goes under, and if 
he's independent, he probably -wants- to be because he couldn't stand 
working in a dealership or a big huge shop.  See #4 for my guess on 
-Fourth, the guy who worked on the car and also talks to you when you 
pick up your car gets a sense of a job well done when it's all done 
with.  Let's put it this way....it took you an hour to get a bolt off 
and annoyed the hell out of you.  Customer comes, you can vent some 
steam and say, "man, that bolt took me an hour to get off!" 
Customer's there to talk to; shows surprise, chuckles with you, 
appreciates the effort, gives a genuine thank you, pays the bill(and 
doesn't feel robbed while doing so), wishes you a good evening, and 
drives off with a wave.  That's got to be a good feeling.

   It's the same satisfaction I get when I solve a problem for a 
coworker.  I implemented a ticketing system for our IT department, 
and I have to admit, I didn't enjoy doing things as much; half of me 
wanted people to come up and ask for something, and that same half of 
me wanted to swing by their cube, tell them it was done, and accept 
the thank you.

   Is it the fault of the dealer that the guy who worked on your car 
can't come in to talk to you and/or write up the papers?  Not really. 
It's the result of a car brand which had to drastically slash budgets 
to stick it out, and lo and behold, has pulled off one of the biggest 
coups in the automotive world and has gone from "german underdog" to 
a force to be reckoned with...the cars are selling like hotcakes, 
Audi can't hire people fast enough(there's a big labor shortage right 
now, if you hadn't noticed, in non-technology companies; I could earn 
almost as much down at the local Electrolux store as I could sitting 
at my system running unix boxes for a software company!)  The 
not-really-big-secret is that Audi had a cap on last year's sales; I 
believe it was 80,000 cars.  No more would come into the US.  Period. 
Why?  The sales channel can't sell what the service side can't take 
care of.  The original Palm Pilot architects learned this lesson big 
time when they left Palm and formed Handspring; it was a 
technological marvel compared to the Palm, but tech support was 
completely unreachable, and they got nailed there; they oversold 
their support capabilities.  The price of success.

Back to mechanics...I think that too often, we look down on, and/or 
feel intimidated by, mechanics.  I've met some mechanics that I feel 
very uncomfortable dealing with because they're very in-your-face, 
and I've met some mechanics that have been absolute joy to deal with. 
I've had good relations with a couple of mechanics(Greg Haymann in 
Amenia, NY... and Dave @Central Service  in Natick, MA; also a 
now-defunct Framingham Audi shop.)  They were friendly, approachable, 
and you could discuss a problem or diagnosis with them(well, Dave was 
one exception; he'd argue his side -vehemently- until you surrendered 
and we'd both be chuckling; he's quite the character, but it was 
still fun; he stuck up for his opinion and countered my own strong 
opinions.  Greg's much more polite and he gives a disapproving 
"wellllllll I don't know..." when he thinks you've gone off the deep 
end with a theory :)

I called up Greg a few days ago and asked him for some advice, and 
explained what I had found with the VAG-COM tool and asked him his 
opinion, and he offered some suggestions; we talked for about 5 
minutes, I thanked him and apologized for tying him up, and that was 

The result?  Even though it's a -royal- PITA to get my car up to 
him...I'm finding it a very tough choice choosing between him for my 
suspension work, and a guy who is slightly under a mile away from my 
apartment, because the closer guy is really obnoxious to deal with. 
We're talking 5 minutes, versus an HOUR+ driving, rental car, leaving 
early from work, the whole 9 yards...versus dropping off the car and 
taking a taxi for a 5 minute drive.  Greg has -far- more experience 
than the local guy with quattros, but doesn't take a Quattro expert 
to put in shocks and springs, so experience doesn't really factor in 
here.  It's a simple matter of my convenience balanced against who I 
really -want- to do business with.  Damn, I wish I lived further 

Anyway, this wasn't as well thought out, nor complete, as I wanted it 
to be, but it's gonna have to be, I'm tired and going to bed to 
listen to some BB King :-)


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