Smurf in the Waiting RoomWith our rapidly approaching vacation involving probably over 2k miles of driving, I thought it best to make an appointment to get an oil change and check-up on the car we’ll be taking on the voyage.

That appointment was scheduled for 7:30 am on Saturday this past weekend at the dealership. I arrived early, as I often do, by around 20 minutes. They weren’t open yet, so I parked in the first slot they have designated for service appointments and started to wait.

Not long after, a friendly looking 50 something woman in a Toyota SUV pulled up behind me in slot two, got out and tried to open the door — still locked. She smiled at me as she passed and then went back and sat in her car.

By now, I was getting a little antsy — it was 7:25 or so — I could see activity in the shop, but the doors were still locked. Sales associates were starting to roam the lots.

Then an old Toyota minivan pulled in, nearly sideswiped my car and the SUV behind me. He proceeded past my car and then stared backing up as if he were parallel parking in front of me — you know, where the HUGE no parking sign was.

Whatever. I was pretty sure he was cutting in line, but I’d give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Then a younger woman appeared out of no where — didn’t see her pull in, didn’t even see her car.

The door to the service office opened and what do you know? The two of us that were there first weren’t the first two in line. Figures…

Makes me wonder if people even understand the concept of a line any more.

Related tangent, at the Cow Parade a few weeks ago, we set-out and took our place on the curb a good 45 minutes before the parade to ensure a nice front row seat.

Things were looking great, until 5 minutes before the start and multiple rows of people start setting up in front of us on the road… I guess next time I should show up late and then show up the people that got there before me… Grrrrr…

Anyway, we’re herded into a little office to sit down with a service advisor — you know, the guy you give the keys to and explain your problem. It isn’t a very private setting, so you can basically listen in on everyone else’s car troubles as you wait…

The young woman apparently was bringing in her Camry because the radio didn’t work. Not only rude enough to cut the entire line of people (obviously) waiting, she took it a step further by making a call on her cell phone as she was talking to the service advisor. No joke — she talked as she dialed. The call must’ve been important too — something about someone’s baby’s mama…

The other fellow, the guy from the minivan that nearly sideswiped us early birds had the other service advisor occupied. He spoke very broken English — if I had to guess I’d say he was from Southeast Asia — but I think it was partly an act just to get his way. Apparently his van had been there yesterday for service and he was told to bring it back on Monday.

Well, this was Saturday. Apparently he didn’t understand that.

His problem was that the van, in his words, wasn’t running properly because the “seat belt” light was on. Um, yeah. The advisor asked him if he meant to say “Check Engine” light.

Nope, it was the seat belt light.

The advisor told him that he had an appointment to come back on Monday for them to take a look at it. The man then pretended not to understand and got rather aggressive.

I exchanged a raised eyebrow glance of dismay with the woman in line behind me. She shook her head in silent agreement.

The advisor caved — went out with the man to his minivan to see the light he spoke of. Outside, they exchanged more words — we couldn’t hear them, but the little man with the van was *very* agitated.

I felt bad — what a horrible way for this poor customer service guy to start his workday. He came back in with the man’s keys and started to fill out paperwork.

Crap — now I was, at best, going to be the third car to be worked on. The benefit of getting here early was most certainly lost now.

Scion Xa Series 2.0The advisor then called me up and I let him know not to worry — mine was easy. He told me the minivan was easy too — the seat belt light was on because the guy in the minivan had cut the seatbelt out. Nice.

I handed him my keys and made my way to the waiting room. It was empty. And quiet. A little too quiet. I squeaked my sneakers on the floor.

A few moments later, my fellow early bird set herself up in a chair diagonal from me and started to read a book she had brought.

Did I mention that it was quiet? The only noise in the room was that of my stomach. I hadn’t eaten the night before — the Tim Russert thing the night before stole my appetite so I hadn’t really eaten much of anything for two days. I felt fine, but my stomach was definitely voicing its displeasure.

It was pretty embarrassing. It’s not like I could blame it on some old guy in the room. I’m pretty sure she wanted to laugh. She had to have heard it.

I squeaked my sneakers on the floor some more, adjusting in my seat. The sound was piercing.

I looked at the magazine selection on the table next to me for something to flip through — you know, make a little noise. All golf and women’s interest magazines. That wouldn’t do.

There was a TV in the corner. I considered getting up and turning it on to break the silence (and cover up my stomach issues) but saw that the remote control was larger than a computer keyboard and thought better of it.

I’d tried to turn on this television in this waiting room before in the past, but getting the DirectTV (or whichever service they use) was too complicated to get going for me. I’d tried and failed. I wasn’t about to try again with an audience.

I just tapped my foot and cleared my throat every few minutes whenever I realized that I was nose whistling the Fugazi song appropriately titled “Waiting Room” as I often find myself doing in these situations.

Yes, this was the quietest waiting room ever.

By 8:00 am, thankfully, a father with two young children came in. I’d say the boy accompanying Dad was 6 or so and the girl was a couple of years younger. They were LOUD, but in this setting, that was a good thing.

The dad was obviously embarrassed and asked me, ignoring the woman — I guess I looked really bored or easily agitated in comparison, if cartoons were okay?

I said, “Yeah, sure!”

He corralled the two kids in the seats facing the television in front of me and picked up the oversized remote control. He couldn’t figure it out. Thankfully, the 6 year old boy had no problem — evidently familiar with the satellite service and how to turn it on.

Dad took over and settled on the first cartoon show he found, on channel 700 something, and get this, it was the Smurfs. Yes!

This kept the boy happy and quiet, but the girl was having a hard time sitting still. At the first commercial break, she whined, “Dad, I don’t like this show…”

Blasphemy!

Much to my dismay, Dad then went up a channel to “Pooh and Friends” which kept both children entertained — I mean, their eyes were glued to the set.

Apparently Rabbit lost his the wheel from his wheel barrow and had enlisted Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet to search for it. Fine, I admit it, my eyes were glued to the set too…

The show was 100% computer animated — nothing like the Winnie the Pooh I remembered. Tigger was wearing goggles for some reason that I wasn’t quite sure of either.

The one thing I did notice was his voice — Tigger’s, that is. I swear he sounds just like the singer for the 90’s band Cracker, David Lowery.

By this point, the waiting room was filling up. A few people, including the woman who arrived shortly after me, had even left already. The man with the kids left as well, but the television remained on.

I was the closest to the set, and I could tell that some in the room were annoyed by the Disney music videos that were playing at this point (one by my favorite band, They Might Be Giants).

Just then, the service room door opened and Glen, my assigned advisor, said, “Brainy?”

I gave him the head nod of acknowledgement and he came over like he was about to deliver some very dire news…

“Brainy, your front brakes are really worn down — no damage to the rotor yet, but…”

I cut him off, “Okay, do it. Go for it.” I mean, what choice did I have? Vacation is right around the corner…

He kept talking all soft like it was embarrassing personal information he was disclosing — I dunno, like he was going to inform me that they’d found a dead prostitute in the trunk or something — but instead, he was actually just saying that the bill would be around $250 or so and would take another hour and a half and blah, blah, blah…

“Yeah, sure, that’s not a problem…” and away he scurried before I could amusedly ask about my own seat belt light…

I adjusted in my seat again and then got up making it obvious that I wasn’t genuinely attached to what was on the television, you know, to give someone else a chance to make a move to turn it to another channel or off entirely.

I headed towards the coffee machine. Cool — it was the same one I have at work. I’m not really a big coffee fan, but I had another hour and a half to kill so why not spend it sipping outrageously hot liquid, right?

I grabbed a cup, inserted the k-cup of my favorite flavor, pulled the lever, and pushed the button. Like work, the machine made a wonky noise — likely the water pump — and then started to spew hot coffee into my waiting cup.

Now at work, you can hear it slowing down as it nears the rim of the cup. This one wasn’t slowing down. I hit the button again — which at work is kinda like an abort button.

On this machine, however, it fired up the pump again. Oh crap!

I filled two cups and eventually unplugged the machine from the wall with my foot. That stopped it. Finally.

Turning around, I surveyed the room. Apparently no one had noticed my heroic actions.

I cleaned up the mess I’d made — it wasn’t much — and went back to my seat. The TV was still on. And it was still tuned to the Disney channel. Sigh…

I sat back and sipped my hot coffee doing my best not to get caught looking at anyone in the room. It was an uncomfortable vibe in there — a bunch of grouchy people who weren’t real keen on being up this early on a Saturday.

People came and went. I finished my coffee. I twiddled my thumbs and finally Glen poked his head in again and said, “Brainy, you’re all set — just check out at the cashier…”

Now, according to the receipt, the brakes only cost $80. I’m sure that’s after around a 60% mark-up too. Still, not too bad. That much I can handle.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this now…

How on earth can they justify charging nearly $200 for labor? How?

My oil change was free — I opted in to pay for service like that up front when I bought the car — so you can take that out of the equation.

The brake issue — the one that would have required the labor — came up maybe 1 hour ago meaning they just charged me $200 for one hour!?

I’m sorry, but you’d think that if the service guys are actually earning that kind of money, they could at least show up to work in a clean shirt, right? They’d probably all drive a Prius instead of junkers too…. C’mon…

One guy is technically pulling in over $1600 per 8-hour day there. I know the actual workers aren’t bringing home even a quarter of that per day, but the dealerships are certainly making a killing in the service department…

In the end, the total bill came to $293.43 which I immediately put on a credit card and chalked up as another vacation expense…

What’s that bring the total to now? Oh, I’ll worry about it later…

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Nice title. :)
    Some time I’d like to ask the car shop’s EXACTLY what I am paying for. We changed our own oil this past time as a sort of experiment and because there was a sale at Pepboys on 5 qts of oil and an oil filter.
    I don’t intend on changing it everytime. Sometimes it is worth paying a little extra just for the peace of mind.
    We just bought our own brakes a few months ago which were probably $50 (I can’t remember). And we are installing them ourselves as soon as the current brakes wear out.
    Not only am I an avid DIY-er I love to be frugal.

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