The Guardrail Saga Part 3: The End is Nigh

Saturday, December 17, 2011
(Be sure you are read up on Part 1 and Part 2.)

Day 6: Tuesday, December 13th. Got a call from my insurance agent saying that he went by after lunch and was able to inspect the damage. This is great news because I have to have my car back by Friday as I have a job on Saturday, and the quicker the insurance guy looks at it the quicker it will get done!

Day 7: Wednesday, December 14th. Drove the rental to work. Didn't hear anything about my car.

Day 8: Thursday, December 15th. Got a call just before noon that my car was ready! Yea! He said that it was on the way to the carwash and once it got back I could pick it up, anytime before they closed at 5:30 pm.

So I showed up at their doors just before 2:30, ready to pick up my car, but after a quick shuffle of papers and a confused look from the receptionist, The Manager from Monday came by and said that there was a problem. He took me in the back and showed me how a part that they ordered wouldn't fit right, that they had to order another part and that once it got delivered (any moment now) all they had to do was rivet it on and it would be ready to go. So apparently my mechanic called me a bit preemptively.

*Sigh* This makes the THIRD time that a wrong part has come up, but I don't blame them for this. With the computer systems that they use these days I can't think how this was one person messing up. See, when looking for a part they type the VIN of the vehicle into their computer and it is the computer that tells them what parts to order. The Mechanic would later say "I don't know what was going on, the parts we needed were completely different than what our program said we needed," and I believe them.

So I waited for the rest of the day for them to give me a call, but they never did. At 4:45 I called them but was told that my mechanic was busy and he would call me back. He called me back at 5:15 and said "The part just came in but it won't be ready to go today." Oh well, why do I care? They are paying for my rental so as long as I get it back before my job on Saturday I am happy.

Day 9: Friday, December 16th. Didn't hear from them all day. (What a surprise.) I finally call them at 2:30 pm and they say "It is ready to be picked up." Yea again!

With hesitant optimism I drive over and sure enough there is Jackie, all shined up and ready to go! And wouldn't you believe it, but after 9 days for an estimated "3.7 hours" worth of work, I drove Jackie off the lot! It felt great!

(click to see full size)

So, to sum it up, here is what they did wrong:
1) Promised me same day or next day service when they shouldn't have.
2) Kept ordering the wrong parts (how much of this was their fault is up for argument, but it was still one of the main problems).
3) Couldn't seem to call me in a reasonable amount of time (and once called me too early).

However, there are many things that they got right, most of which I haven't spoken of in these blog posts:
1) They were always kind and curious to me. Everyone from the receptionists to my mechanic to the manager always had a smile on their face and were in good spirits.
2) When I first dropped of Jackie I asked them if they did state inspections (December is my inspection month). The receptionist said no, but someone quickly said "But we can get that taken care of for you, I can have someone drive it down the road to get it inspected." Sure enough by the time I saw Jackie on Monday during my conversation with the manager Jackie had a new inspection sticker. I had to pay for the inspection (of course), but that is really great service when they offer to go out of their way to do something that won't make them any money.
3) I received my car back freshly washed. And I don't mean a $3 drive through! The inside was vacuumed and my tires were shined. Now THAT is service!
4) And don't forget that the manager made it right by paying for a rental for four days.

So as I look back, sure they did some things wrong that led me to a lot of anger, but at the same time they offered me great service and tried to make things right for me. Personally I probably wouldn't bring my vehicle back to them (and not only because I am planning on moving out of the area), but I can see why people recommend them. To put it another way: They wouldn't be in business more than 24 hours if this was their average customer experience.

So to you, Caliber Collision Repair of Denton: I am still upset at the ordeal I had to go through, but I forgive you, and I wish you the best of luck!


The Guardrail Saga, Part 2

Monday, December 12, 2011
(If you haven't read Part 1 of The Guardrail Saga you can read it here: Oh Deer, I hit a... Guardrail?. You shouldn't read Part 2 unless you have read Part 1 seeing as Part 2 won't make any sense unless you have read Part 1. Duh!)

Day 4: Sunday, December 11th. My roommate Tom's family was in town and it just so happened that they were leaving their car at our house (some long story that I only half understand), so Tom let me drive his car to church. (And what an amazing day at church it was! We had our annual Christmas Pageant program that night and it was awesome!)

For a minute during the day I felt bad about calling my mechanic a "nitwit" in my last blog post, but then I remembered why I was driving someone else's car and I felt better.

Day 5: Monday, December 12th. At 10 AM my mechanic finally got around to calling me, but seeing as Monday is my sabbath (day off) I was still sleeping, so he left a message. When I got up (the time of which is not important) I listened to the message which went something like "Oh, sorry for not calling, I had a family issue come up. Oh, and we found more damage inside, so it will be another $550 to fix it correctly."

First of all, I don't buy that he didn't call because of a family issue. I am not saying I don't believe that he had an issue, I just don't buy that the reason he didn't call was because of it. If, say, he had found out about the problem in the morning on Friday, why did he not call at all for the rest of the day? Remember that according to his coworkers he was out making a delivery at 5:15 PM, so he would have had to wait all day to make the phone call and then have something come up at the last minute. Another option was that he waited until late in the day to fix my car, but why would he if it was only going to take a few hours like the estimate said it would? AND even if he did have something sudden come up, couldn't he tell a coworker "Hey, can you call this guy for me? I have a family issue I need to attend to and I don't want him to not have his vehicle over the weekend." Problem solved. But no, he simply didn't call, and that made the problem so much worse!

Anywho, because they found extra damage I now had even more decisions to make. Should I spend an extra $550 to fix my car (now at $1200+)? Should I now get insurance involved? Should I even leave my car with these guys, or should I demand it back and take it somewhere else?

I wanted to know how much filing an insurance claim would add to my premium, so I called Geico and the nice lady said "there is no way for me to tell, it would be up to the underwriters. However you are supposed to tell us about any incidents anyway..." So I told her about what happened and she took notes.

Then, thanks to the advice of several family members, I decided that I needed to talk with the manager at Caliber Collision Repair, so I gave him a preemptive call before I left to see him. The conversation started out something like this:

Me: I have an issue with a repair that I want to talk with you about.
Him: What vehicle is it?
Me: Jeep Liberty.
Him: Silver?
Me: Yes.
Him: Didn't we find additional damage on that one?

This surprised me. It told me that my mechanic wasn't working in a void, that even his manager knew what was going on, and that impressed me.

Anywho, I hinted that my frustration was with not getting a phone call and that I would meet with him in 20 minutes.

I had a friend pick me up and drive me over. I was expecting to meet with the manager in his office where I would tell him about how mad I was, give him a sob story about having to borrow cars, and demand that it be fully fixed for free and that they owe me $1000 for my emotional distress... or something like that. (See, I am really a nice guy, and my niceness has a way of hiding the anger inside of me, so I was actually trying to work myself into getting mad.) But instead of leading me to his office the manager took me right out to see Jackie (my Jeep Liberty who looked kinda sad with her front bumper missing). But before he talked about my car he apologized for my mechanic not calling me because the two of them were out trying to make a delivery, had bad directions, and ran out of gas.

Now, I honestly have no direct evidence of what actually happened Friday afternoon so I don't want to call either man a liar, however the two stories do somewhat contradict each other. I mean, if they were on a delivery and ran out of gas, then why couldn't my mechanic just say so in his phone message to me? Or, once they knew they were running late, why couldn't my mechanic call a coworker and have the coworker call me?

Anywho, I digress. The manager then went on to say that the mechanic never should have promised me a quick turn around because the entire shop is very booked right now, and have been booked for six months. He said that the mechanic was wrong, and he would talk to him about it.

He then went on to show me the "damage" to the inside structure of my bumper. It wasn't much damage, but there was damage there (I regret not taking a photo of it). On the subject of how important it was to fix it the manager said "If you are in another crash there is a 50/50 chance of it not working like it should." (Which makes sense, either it will or it won't work like it should.) One always wants the bumper to work as it should, because its primary function is to collapse in an impact, absorbing energy as it goes.

To make a long story short (too late), we decided that I would just leave Jackie with them and we would use my insurance to pay for all of it to get fixed. He said he wanted to make it right for me, and I told him that what is worst for me is that I don't have a vehicle to drive. (Remember that on Thursday I was told that it would be ready "Same day, next day max", and here we are five days later and my car is still in pieces.) He then offered to pay for a rental car until my vehicle was ready to go, and I took him up on that offer. Seeing as insurance was now paying everything off, there really wasn't a way he could lower the price on something, so I saw this as the best way that he could make it right.

So, after my conversation with him, I am content with the outcome. I am still not happy about their poor communication skills, but he did take a step to make it right, and seeing as he has to pay for the rental every day that my car isn't fixed, I hope that gives him an incentive to get it done faster. On the money side: It ends up being cheaper for me going through insurance (my deductible is $500), and the manager said that insurance agencies don't usually worry about claims less than $1000 (the claim being what they pay after the deductible). This claim should be less than that, so I am optimistic (but not counting on) my premium not going up.

Anywho, there is your update. My car will be fully fixed and until then I am driving a paid-for rental. I will let you know if anything else changes!

UPDATE: You can read the next (and hopefully final) chapter here.


Oh Deer, I hit a... Guardrail?

Saturday, December 10, 2011
A few weeks ago at Thanksgiving a guardrail jumped out in front of my car! How rude!!!

Granted, it had just started raining... and I was taking a turn a bit too fast... and I was trying to beat a yellow light...... but I stand firm in that it was the guardrail's fault!

OK, fine, it was my fault.

While making a left hand turn onto a feeder road in Austin I lost control of my car and hit the guardrail that was on the left side of the road. (Coincidentally enough it hit in the exact same place on the car where just two years ago I hit a deer.) I ended up facing the wrong way on the one-way feeder road in the striped no-man's-land. Thankfully no other cars were involved. Here are some true-life crime scene photos, click to see full size.

As you can see in the photos there was minimal damage to both my car and the guardrail. The bumper is broken, a few of the brackets that hold the grill on are broken, and the right turn signal was burnt out. Oh, and my license plate came off, and not three days later a Small Town Texas cop pulled me over for not having a front license place.

Anywho, minimal damage was sustained for my sin of trying to beat the yellow light and I figured I might as well go ahead and get it fixed. I take pride in my vehicle; It is paid off (I OWN IT BABY!) so I always want it looking clean, sharp, and all together not broken. So last week I took it to two local shops to get an estimate to get it fixed. The "Mom and Pop" shop (name withheld) quoted me $675, and the local chain Caliber Collision Repair quoted me $625.

Now you can debate if it is worth spending more than $600 to fix a bumper (most of the quoted cost is for two parts which totaled $450 in each quote), but I decided that I would take the hit (call it a Stupid Tax) and get it fixed.

Day 1: Thursday, December 8th. I took my car in and dropped it off at 8:30 AM (which is LONG before the time I usually wake up). My mechanic said that there was a problem with my quote, that one of the parts would be $50 more than he quoted me. I flat out told him that I chose them because they were $50 cheaper than another estimate, but there wasn't much I could do at that point. So I dropped off my car and I had a coworker pick me up and take me to church so I could work all day.

Fast forward a few hours. I knew Caliber closes at 5:30 PM, so when I still hadn't heard from them by 5:00 I started calling them. On my first call I was told that the guy in charge of my car would call me back. By 5:40 I was still waiting, so I called again, but because the office was closed I got sent to the chain's central office. The nice lady there said that she would try calling the local shop's back line, and I finally got in touch with my mechanic.

He said that they received the wrong part (I am not sure whose fault that was) and that the correct part just came in so it wouldn't be ready that day and he would call me in the morning when it was ready. Not a huge problem, I had someone take me home.

Day 2: Friday, December 9th. I didn't have anything specific planned all day long, so I wasn't too worried about not having a car. But as it was getting late into the day I still hadn't heard from my mechanic, so around 5:15 I once again start calling him. The first call wasn't answered, on the second call the receptionist said "He is out making a delivery, let me get you someone who might be able to help." She sends me over to another mechanic that says the same thing, "I think he is out, let me get him on the radio. [hold music while he gets him on the radio] Yes, he is out on a delivery, he will call you when he gets back." So I waited.

And I waited.

But I never got a call back.

Day 3: Saturday, December 10th. Had to work at the church (Christmas Pageant rehearsal) so I had someone pick me up. I was thinking I would call Caliber during the day, but the guy picking me up said something and it jogged my memory: Caliber Collision Repair is closed on weekends!

After the Pageant rehearsal I had my friend drive me by the shop. I had hoped that Jackie (my Jeep) would be sitting out front and, because I had an extra set of keys, I could just drive it away (fixed or not fixed). But sadly I didn't see it, it must have been around back behind barbed wire.

So let's get this straight: I come in for a super simple repair job, one that which your quote says will only take 3.7 hours to fix, and all of a sudden my car is taken away from me for no less than FOUR DAYS? I don't know how my mechanic guy gets to work, but I am a freelance videographer! I have to drive places! I have things to do and places to go, and you have taken my vehicle from me because you refused to return my phone calls?!?!?

Now I will say: I know there are many people out there that don't have the luxury of having a vehicle, and there are people that lose their vehicles or the use of their vehicle for various reasons. This rant really isn't about me not having a car, it is about some nitwit who didn't want to call me back so now I have to bum a ride off of friends! To put it another way: He took something of mine and, because of bad customer service, won't give it back when he promised (twice) he would.

Oh, and he is sure darned lucky that I didn't have a freelance job this weekend or I would have been up a creek without my Jeep!

So if you can't tell, I am pretty livid at Caliber Collision Repair right now. Like I said, it really isn't putting me out much outside of having to ask for a few favors, but we live in an era where people commute to work, and to take away someone's transportation for FOUR DAYS so that you can work on it 3.7 hours is inexcusable.

Keep checking back as I will update this post as the story continues. I will be giving them a mouthful on Monday, we will see if they return my calls at that point.

UPDATE: Instead of continuing the story here I decided to split it into another post. You can now read about it here: The Guardrail Saga, Part 2.

UPDATE UPDATE: You can read the next (and hopefully final) chapter here.


A Call from the Forbidden Fruit

Friday, December 09, 2011
As many of you know I am looking for a full time job in Austin. (If you don't know about it you can read this post.) I have been perusing Craigslist for media related job ads and have sent out my application many times in the last few weeks. (Don't knock Craigslist, three of the seven jobs listed on my resume came from Craigslist!)

I have also used networking to my advantage. For example a good friend of mine was recently looking for a job. After he found a job he was called by a company asking if he still needed work, and he replied "No, but I have a good friend that does!" This led me to my first phone interview. The job looks like it would be up my alley, but they aren't currently hiring, so it is a waiting game on them.

I have also sent out my application to other random companies that I wouldn't mind working for, and this led me to my second call back. Apple Inc. called me today and we had a brief discussion about my background and my strengths/weaknesses. He then said that they do have an opening for a full time job! Hooray! I then asked him at what store the opening was at and he said it would be in the Dallas area. *sigh* I explained to him that I am trying to move from Dallas to Austin to be with family, and he said he only covers the Dallas area and that he would have to talk to the guy over the Austin area.

So over all I am pleased with how things are going. I haven't been getting a lot of call backs, but I also realize that it is still early. When I was working at my last full time job we were hiring some new people and it took several weeks to get all of the applications in, evaluate the applications, and get around to the call backs. So while my phone isn't ringing off the hook, I am seeing more opportunities than I had feared there would be, I am just waiting a bit to see how many call backs I get.

If you are in Austin or know of anyone in Austin that my know someone in Austin that may hire someone (especially media related) in the next five years, give me a holler and I will send you my resume!

Thanks for the prayers! I know that soon I will be amazingly blessed to be close to family!