Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ford follows up on our complaint letter

While were on our vacation, Ford's Customer Service called us regarding the letter I had written and included with their feedback form.

I called them back today and spoke with one of their reps. He then read off our complaint in point form to ensure that they captured the details of our letter.

This took about 5 minutes to go through, and it sounds like the managed to get all the key points. He then said it would be submitted as negative feedback to the dealership and the owner.

Anyway, he apologized on behalf of Ford for our bad experience and said they hope it doesn't tarnish our view of Ford Motors... yada yada.

It was nice that they called, but I don't know why they don't just send a copy of the letter to the dealership. I guess sending paper via mail is too old school in this high tech age.

It'll be interesting to see if the dealership follows up now. Or maybe we'll be "flagged" as troublemakers? ;-)

If anyone is interested in reading the letter that I wrote, here it is. It's rather long. :)

To whom it may concern;

Please find the enclosed and completed feedback form regarding our recent service with Jim Keay, or more specifically, FixAuto, who repaired the defective paint job on the rear bumper of our 2008 Ford Escape XLT.

In late May, nine months after the purchase of our 2008 Ford Escape, I noticed a few paint chips on the rear passenger side bumper, along with a small bubble in the paint. See enclosed photo #1.

Around the last week of May, my wife called the Jim Keay Ford Lincoln dealership and explained the situation. She was advised that they would have to see the damage before they could assess whether it was covered under the warranty. In the first week of June, my wife drove our truck to FixAuto, located at the dealership, and also gave them a printed photo that I had taken – the same as the enclosed.

In the time that we waited to hear back from the FixAuto, we also discovered a few chips on the inside of the driver’s side rear bumper. My wife called them up so they could make a note that this would need repaired as well. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of that particular defect.

On or around June 13th, we were called by Jamie at FixAuto and asked to bring the truck in for repair, covered under the warranty, on June 17th. My wife was advised that the time estimate for the repair would be three days. As this is our only vehicle, my wife inquired about “a loaner” vehicle. She was told that the body shop does not provide loaner vehicles and that she would have to speak with the dealership manager about one. She did, and was advised that one would be provided for $20 per day. Although we were already aware, based on past experience, that loaners are not free, we are still not pleased with having to pay for one for warranty repairs on our vehicle. However, that is not the main purpose of this letter.

My wife dropped our truck off at FixAuto on the morning of June 17th, 2008, and received a 2008 Ford Focus as a loaner from Jim Keay. We were quite pleased with the vehicle. It should be noted, however, that the interior could have used a good vacuuming and we found a pair of men’s work pants in the back seat.

Our truck was at the body shop for three days while we waited for the repair work to be completed. My wife called on the third day, June 19th, and was advised that the work was completed, but our truck was currently being washed and vacuumed so we could pick it up in an hour or two. That was unexpected and we were pleasantly surprised.

I drove the loaner vehicle to the dealership that afternoon, parked it near FixAuto and entered the customer entrance. The office was empty, so I sat there for five to ten minutes waiting for someone to assist me. As I was waiting, I noticed that the keys sitting on the counter, in plain view, were my wife’s keys for our truck along with the repair paperwork. Anyone could have walked into that office and taken them. Thinking that I could be waiting there for longer, I exited the office and walked into the garage bay to ask one of the body shop people if there was someone who could assist me. I then walked back to the office where I was greeted by Jamie, the gentleman with whom my wife had dealt with regarding the repair. He picked up the key and paperwork off the counter and asked me to follow him to the cashier inside the dealership to settle the bill for the loaner. The bill came to ~$67.

We then walked back to the body shop office where Jamie handed me my copy of the paper work, along with the key to the truck. Before entering my truck, I made a quick visual inspection of the repair work and it appeared satisfactory.

After arriving home 20 minutes later, I made a closer visual inspection and noticed that there was a small paint bubble on the driver’s side, rear bumper, that was not there prior to the repair. The following day, my wife called Jamie at FixAuto to advise him about our discovery. He explained to my wife that they did not inspect the entire bumper. They only repair what has been reported. She asked about getting this new defect repaired. Jamie didn’t seem too pleased and explained to my wife that they can’t keep billing Ford for repairs on the same parts and would have to get approval.

On June 26th, I received a phone call from Jamie asking me to bring our truck to the body shop so that they could photograph the defect and submit to Ford for approval. Within the hour, I drove the truck to the body shop, Jamie took a few photographs and told me that they would be in touch once they heard back from Ford. See enclosed photo #2.

On Monday, June 30th, Jamie called my wife to ask us to bring our truck in on the morning of July 2nd. At the same time, my wife inquired about a free loaner, as we did not feel that it was fair that we should have to pay for one a second time for the same repair work. Jamie advised my wife that he could not make this decision, and suggested that she call the dealership Manager. My wife called the dealership Manager, but had to leave a message for him to call back. We never did receive a return call.

In the meantime, we discovered a few more paint bubbles (photo #3) as well as what we can only describe as a build-up of paint between the bumper and the truck’s body (photo #4). Clearly, the repair job was not done properly.

On the morning of July 2nd, my wife dropped our truck off at the body shop at 8:00am. She told Jamie about the additional defects that we discovered. He dismissed the “build-up” as “the way the bumper was designed”. It is rather strange that we did not discover this “design” prior to the first repair. My wife also mentioned to me later that Jamie’s demeanor was not as polite and friendly as during her first visit. She felt that he thought she was being too picky or a nuisance.

Once again, we received a 2008 Ford Focus as the loaner vehicle. This is where the customer service begins a fast decline.

Not only was the interior of this vehicle more dirty than the first one, the passenger side of the windshield had a large crack. Photos of the filthy interior (#5 & #6) and windshield crack (#7) are also enclosed.

Safety and legalities aside, you wouldn’t be able to sell a vehicle in that condition, yet we were expected to pay for its use? We found it ironic that the rental form is stamped with large, red, words stating that smoking in the vehicle is forbidden, and that there will be a cleaning charge as a result. Is that the only time a loaner vehicle is cleaned?

The following day, Jamie at FixAuto called us to advise us that our truck repair was completed. My wife asked if the repair had been inspected so we would not have to return again for any further repairs. She was assured that it had been inspected.

As we would not be able to pick up the truck before FixAuto closed at 5:00pm, we were advised that the paperwork and our key would be left with the cashier inside the dealership. Later that evening, my wife and I dropped off the loaner car at the dealership, paid the ~$45 fee for the loaner, and received the key for our truck. Again, we made a quick visual inspection before leaving for home.

Later that evening, while there was still daylight available, my wife and I inspected the bumper again. The small areas that were repaired looked great! However, larger areas of the corner of the bumper – on both the driver and passenger side – did not look so great. They were dull, and slightly rough to the touch. (Photos #8, #9, & #10) If you stepped back, you could see clearly that these areas looked as if they had been sanded with a fine grade of sandpaper, removing the smooth, shiny finish that the rest of the vehicle had. They were not like that before the last visit. It was clearly evident that the repair work had NOT been inspected, as my wife was assured earlier in the day. A quick visual inspection perhaps, but one would assume that when you are making the same repair for the second time, there would be a little more attention to detail given to ensure that a third visit would not occur.

The following morning, my wife and I drove our truck to the body shop before work. We asked to speak with Jamie. He was sitting in his office and said he would be with us shortly. We waited outside near our truck and about 10 minutes later, Jamie came to ask us how he could help us. My wife explained that the bumper now felt rough, and didn’t have the same shine as the rest of the vehicle – as if it had been sanded.

Jamie bent down and had a look at one of the corners. He then stood up and said something to the effect of “I don’t know... we could try to buff it out, or it would have to be repainted.” My wife said that this was his speciality, so they should do whatever he felt was necessary to return it to its proper condition. Jamie said that they would try to buff it out first, since it was the “quickest and cheapest”. My wife asked if they could do it immediately, Jamie said he would have to check and left us. He returned about 5 minutes later, asked us for our keys and drove our truck inside the bay.

Approximately 30 minutes later, our truck was backed out of the bay. My wife and I walked over and inspected the rear bumper. It was a 100% improvement. It was smooth, and shiny, like the rest of the bumper. There were no paint bubbles or other visible defects. We told Jamie that it looked good, he apologized for the problem, and we were on our way.

After three repair visits over the course of a month, over $100 for dirty and potentially unsafe loaner vehicles, and time off work for what we consider a simple repair, we are now satisfied with how our bumper looks. A simple, yet thorough, inspection of the completed work the first time could have prevented this unpleasant experience.

We have been customers of Jim Keay since around 1997 when we leased our first vehicle. We returned to Jim Keay for additional leases in the later years, as well as the purchase of our 2008 Escape last year. It’s certainly not the nearest dealership to our home, but we believe that good customer service earns customer loyalty, and up until recently we have always received good customer service. It’s a shame that this one bad experience paints a pretty bleak picture of what we can expect in the future. Perhaps it’s time to start shopping around.
That's it, that's all.
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