Why landscape disaster reminds me of timing belts

The other day, I left a comment on bearkat110’s reader blog I Like Pretty Flowers on Chron.com, sympathizing with her “very very bad haircut.”

Bearkat110 is a novice gardener just like me and she frequently offers some great posts about her captivating work in progress in Spring, Texas.

Her post starts off:

My stomach hurts and I am sitting here ready to break into tears…..

I asked my landscaper to trim up my yard before he put mulch down.

Look at what I came home to. Every where I look, I see the hacking.

The photo she posts with her blog brought me to tears, too, and it reminded me of a recent hack job I got at a local car repair shop that I trusted.

But after my experience, and about a gazillion dollars later, I will never take my car back there. Because I no longer trust them.

Here’s why. One day, I raced a co-worker to the parking lot as we were free from another day at the factory. I let him pull out first and I was following, until my whole power failed in my prized 2003 PT Cruiser and I coasted to a nearby parking spot 20 feet from where I started.

The car was towed to this shop I had frequented for the oil change because of their cheap advertised specials. The shop is Auto Care USA, 5757 Reading Road in Rosenberg, and they haven’t been there more than three years. New building, many nice bays, always have the history channel on in there and the place is cool. I liked it.

I arranged to meet the guy there the next morning; I was there when he got there at opening time, sharp.

Twenty minutes later, he came and assessed me of the situation.

Said that there timing belt done broke and that’s why the car wouldn’t start. Said most of my cost would be in labor, taking apart a PT Cruiser to get to the belt was no easy task (hell, changing the batter on this thing ain’t no easy task – that took me more than an hour one cold, cold morning in some corporate media parking garage). Said I might as well replace parts X, Y and Z while they were in there.

Said it was going to come to some astronomical figure that I can’t even disclose here in fear that male mechanically-inclined friends and family will publicly mock me.

But I am not mechanically inclined. I am service inclined. I am a web mechanic, but I don’t get my hands dirty. I can trouble spot and manipulate and fix some pretty nasty code, though, but if my fixes are going to change the function of the website or drastically alter the design, I’m going to clear that with my client first, because there’s nothing worse than doing a bunch of coding without communicating.

And so when this clown told me I was in for quite a repair bill, I told him that there was something I wanted fixed while he was in there. Hell, add it to the bill, I said. And then, I went out to the bay and with a flashlight, I showed him a wire that connects to the starter that has been frayed for about a year now. Every now and then, whenever I have somewhere important to go in a hurry, this wire will spazz out on me and I’ll have to open my hood and reach my hand down there in a very tight spot and wiggle the damn thing. I told him to fix it. The guy next to him said, well, we could just put some electric tape … and I stopped him and I sternly told him to order the part with the other parts they had to order and install it.

The repairs took longer than estimated. The time they projected came and went, I had to call them to get appraised of the situation. I missed two days of work. And close to closing time the second day, they called and said it was ready to be picked up.

When I got there, they told me they had noticed my A/C wasn’t blowing too cold, and so they said they recharged it for me and they’re looking for the leak. I told them that it was no bother, and that I’d like to pay and go. So I paid and went.

The next day in the garage, the car wouldn’t start. Popped the hood, and there was some electric tape on that part starring at me. I gave it a wiggle. Cranked right up.

Four days later, my car was blowing hot air. And in Houston, that hurts. I was beyond pissed. I think these guys wrecked my A/C system. I think they recharged it – without my permission, and when they did, they blew a hole in my hose. Or. maybe they just exacerbated an existing problem. I don’t care. You do not mess with a closed system in my car unless it fails – that’s my motto. Perhaps it’s a silly personal superstition, but it’s my superstition and they did not communicate anything to me before doing it.

And then, six days after the very very very unpleasant expensive repair, my oil light would start binging at me after extensive driving. That never happened before, either.

And so the other day I posted this to Bearkat110’s blog, which should now make more sense, with all this long-winded background:

brandonmoeller wrote:

Fire ’em. If they want your continued business, they should have communicated with you thoroughly about what you want. I bet they’ll want to communicate when you tell them they’re fired (if you bother to communicate to them, heck – they didn’t bother to offer that favor to you by clarifying your wishes with you). If you must, you can communicate “it’s too late, pals.” I recently had a lot of work done on my car. I went in the garage and specifically told them a part I wanted replaced. They said they’d add it to the extensive repairs I was getting. They didn’t. I haven’t been back since. And I didn’t communicate why to them. They should know.

Roy’s Auto Care, 5050 Highway 36 in Rosenberg, took my car in and couldn’t find the A/C leak at first. But they were able to clean what appeared to be a oily mess that was making my oil light sensor act all haywire. So they recharged the A/C system and charged me a fair and modest fee. A week later, when the A/C system went kaput again, they did find the worn out hose and they replaced it, and after everything was back together, they noticed a little bit of fluid escaping from the A/C dryer. But, a week later, Roy basically refused to let me schedule that part to be replaced – he said, “Let’s play it by ear.” And he was right. If we’re gonna have to replace that part down the road, anyway, which requires recharging the A/C system, then let’s go ahead and wait until it all escapes out anyway.

That was about a month ago now. It’s still blowing cold. There’s nothing better than finding a mechanic you can trust, who charges a reasonable rate and who can properly communicate and listen.

P.S. In the random department, part one: It’s comforting to know we can only move at the speed of light.

P.S.S. Trent Reznor nailed it: “Idiots rule.”

P.S.S.S. New Danger Mouse out, but the music’s not in the stores. It’s here – “Danger Mouse” “Dark Night of the Soul” torrent – throw this into a Google search field, then download the torrent from The Pirate Bay. Some interesting fan commentary there, too. 209 seeds when I jumped on. 250 two minutes later when I jumped off.

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