"Mr. Hofmann, I'm afraid I have bad news regarding your truck." It was Travis, the service manager at Hickey Motors, my local Dodge dealership. I use the term "local" rather loosely since the dealership is an hour from my house. I had dropped off my truck there five days ago because the diesel engine was cutting out and I couldn't maintain speed. My extended warranty covered a rental car for five days, so I wasn't very concerned at the time. My rental car coverage was now up and I was now concerned.
"Chrysler was suppose to ship a new transfer pump for your truck but we never got it. I called them today and they said we have to perform another test - a vacuum test on the pump, which requires a $300 adapter that we don't have. It looks like you will have to take your truck to a larger dealership in Denver."
"But my truck isn't driveable," I replied. "That's why I had to leave it with you five days ago and get a rental car."
"You can try to drive it to Denver, and if you don't make it, just call your Roadside Assistance number."
"My Roadside Assistance contract expired 2000 miles ago," I replied. "and if I did make it to Denver, I'd be without transportation. I've already had this rental for five days and it is no longer covered under my warranty contract."
To get from my dealership to Denver requires over an hour of mountain driving. I had visions of my truck being broken down on the side of a mountain road, waiting to be towed, just because some bureaucratic asshole at Chrysler wanted one more test.
"I'm sorry," Travis replied, "but there is nothing more I can do for you. You might try calling Chrysler's customer service number."
I got the number from Travis and called. It was busy, as it was for the next two dozen attempts. Chrysler must have a lot of customer problems. Thirty minutes later I got through to a computer and pressed a lot of ones and twos before being put on hold for 10 minutes.
"Hello, this is Jake. How may I help you?"
I explained the whole situation to Jake as clearly as I could. "What are the last eight digits of your vehicle identification number?" Jake asked.
"I have no idea," I replied. "My truck is an hour away at the dealership."
"What is your home phone number with area code?" Jake asked. I did know that and gave it to him.
"We show no vehicle registered to you," Jake said after a few minutes. I then gave him my home phone number in Pennsylvania where I was when I purchased the vehicle, and he found me and my truck under that phone number.
"Where is your vehicle now?" he asked, and I gave him the name and location Hickey Motors. He put me on hold while he called the dealership to speak with them. In about five minutes he came back on the line and said he would have to 'research' the problem further and call me back.
After two hours of 'researching the problem' Jake called me back from Chrysler's Customer Service. "Chrysler won't release the part until that test is performed. Travis is trying to see if he can get the adapter to perform the test. If he can't, you will need to take your truck to another dealership."
"That's pretty much what the situation was when I called you," I replied.
"Keep in touch with Travis," Jake advised. "He's working on the problem for you."
I hung up and called Travis. "The guy at Chrysler says I'm to keep in touch with you and that you are working on the problem," I tell Travis.
Travis is not pleased. "I don't even know what he expects me to do. We can't do what they want. My boss says we will have to ship the truck to Denver. I'll talk with him and call you back today." I didn't hear anything for two days.
By Saturday, one week after I'd dropped my truck off at the dealership, Travis' boss came up with a plan that involved a visit to the True Value Hardware store. There they purchased "some stuff" that allowed them to do the vacuum test on the transfer pump. By Monday they had satisfied Chrysler that the transfer pump was bad, and a new transfer pump was being sent. I was told I should have my truck back by Wednesday. I began to calculate what the rental car was costing and wondering who was going to pay for it. I was already $300 over what the warranty would cover. I called Travis. "What are the chances that Chrysler will pay for all of my rental car costs?"
Travis: "You need to call Chrysler's Customer Care 800 number and talk to them. They should approve it and send me an authorization number."
Chrysler's Customer Care representative was not happy when I reported this news to her. "What's the name of the service manager who told you this?" she demanded. I told her and she put me on hold while she called Travis. A few minutes later I thought I saw smoke on the horizon. After five minutes she got back to me and said that Travis was handling the problem with his district manager. She gave me a case number.
On Thursday morning, 16 days after the dealership had diagnosed my problem, I called them and was told my truck was fixed and ready for me to pickup. I drove the hour and fifteen minutes to the dealership. My truck was sitting out in the lot and Travis was behind the counter when I walked in. "I guess you are glad to finally be getting rid of my truck," I said to Travis.
"Did someone call you and tell you it was ready?" Travis replied. It was not a good sign.
"I called about three hours ago and was told it was ready," I stated. At the same time I'm wondering if I can get away with murder should my truck not be ready.
Travis disappeared for about 15 minutes. Then I see him and a mechanic out in the lot with the hood of my truck up. They were looking at my engine like monkeys staring at a math problem. I was afraid to go out and ask what they were doing, so I sat in the waiting room and tried to concentrate on the television, which was reporting that the stock market had dropped again. Another five minutes passed and Travis appeared and said what I wanted to hear - that my truck was ready.
"Is Chrysler going to pay for my rental?" I asked.
Travis replied: "I think they will, but I need to talk with my boss and he won't be back until Monday. Tell the rental company to hold off on payment until I can call them next week." This is not what I wanted to hear, and I was fairly certain the rental car company wasn't going to like it. The rental company had already run my credit card when I rented the car. Now I had to convince them not to put it on my card. I also had to convince them to reimburse me for the flat tire expense that I had incurred on their Jeep Cherokee the day after I rented it. Then there was the little matter of the 2000 miles I had put on it in 13 days.
The manager of the rental company was agreeable to waiting four more days for payment, and he even gave me $16 in cash for the cost of the flat tire. Then he drove me back to the dealership and I got in my truck for the first time in almost two weeks. As I drove out of the lot, I was already planning to call my credit card company and cancel my card.
Chrysler - bite me!