Toyota Service Department Woes

This isn’t Technical per say, but auto service centers are technical workplaces.  Mostly I’m documenting this in one place so I can point Toyota Customer Service folks to the story so I don’t have to write it multiple times or tell it on the phone.   I’ll try to keep it factual.

On March 18th I was driving from New Bern, NC to Charlotte NC.  In Burlington NC, a little more than half way I had a flat tire.  It literally popped in the right hand lane exactly as I was side to side with an exit.   I took the exit, hit an immediate parking lot and changed the tire. Easy.

Then I googled “Tire places near me” and saw multiple hits within a mile or so of me.   Since I’m a Toyota Fan Boy I also Googled “Toyota Dealers near me”.  There was one literally an exit up. Cox Toyota of Burlington.

I called and asked if I could come in without an appointment and was told “Absolutely, be safe getting here”.  I entered the dealership just before 2 PM.  The Service Desk guy “Lee” helped me and was quite friendly.  I asked for 2 things.  An estimate, and an estimate of how long it would take.   I also said I’d take one replaced tire or a set of four if that was doable in a timely fashion. I told him I understood if they couldn’t get to me in a timely fashion and I’d just go hit a local tire shop.

I was told it would take an hour and a half and cost $680 approximately for 4 new tires.   I authorized the purchase and repair.

At this point I know its going to take longer than 1 1/2 hours because it always does in car dealerships and I’m okay with waiting.  I also know I don’t have an appointment.   I’m perfectly fine with it taking however long it takes

Lee tells me if it takes over an hour and a half he’ll come tell me.  He does.  No worries.  But at 4 PM he tells me “They are putting your tires on now and it will be just a few minutes”.  I wait.  And wait.  At 4:40 I walk back to the garage.  My truck is on a lift with no tires on it and my tires are sitting by the tire breaker and have not been broken down fully.  No one is around.

While I’m standing in the garage entry I’m watching other cars, at least three, getting tires taken off and wheeled over to the tire area.  Clearly I’ve been forgotten.

This is where my attitude shifted.   I was pretty clearly lied to.   At this point I’m concerned they are going to close at 5 or something and I go ask Lee what time they are closing.  He says “7”.  Well that’s good.  Then I tell him he told me 45 mins ago that they were putting my tires on my truck and that my tires weren’t even broken down yet and no one was working on them.

Lee literally runs back in the garage and comes back and tells me a sensor broke off a tire (not the flat one) and that was the problem and to give him 20 minutes to get me out of there.   Lee then apparently leaves work at 5 but sure doesn’t come back and talk to me because now he knows I’m no longer a smiling, happy customer, I would imagine.

About 5:30 I go back and tires are going on.  Right after that my truck pulls out about 5:37.  I go to the desk in anticipation of getting out of there.  My truck never shows up.  10 minutes later I walk back to the garage and its back in the garage.   Tech is plugging in the OBD and reading something.  My intuition tells me he probably forgot to program the new sensor.

Around 6 they come back out and have a conversation about who is going to pay for the new sensor.  They do tell me it won’t be me.   Then the guy checking me out says “You’ve been here since 2 for tires”?

Then he gives me a bill for $843.  So I tell him, “This is okay, I’ll hand you my card in a minute but when I got here at 2 Lee told me this would take an hour and a half and cost $680”.  The guy tells me “The tires are $680”.   And again I tell him, “This is okay.  My problem is that I asked for an estimate and I pretty clearly wasn’t given an accurate estimate and just told the price of the tires”.

At this point I handed him my card and thanked him and told them I had already emailed ToyotaUSA.  And the guys looked at each other for a second which was kind of a “here we go” look.  Or not.  I dunno. They tell me Lee is new and not experienced yet and apologize for him.

Anyway I told them I was going to write a negative customer survey as well.   At this point one of the guys tells me “hold on a sec, and leaves and comes back with a card for “Nate” who is the Service Manager and recommends I call him on Monday.  That was a measure that I did appreciate.   I didn’t leave until sometime after 6.

Again, not angry with the wait but angry with:

  • Your tires are being put on right now and you’ll be out of here in a few minutes when none of that was true.
  • Give me 20 more minutes.  That wasn’t remotely true either.
  • Then him leaving work without giving me an update.
  • Then the truck was taken out of the garage when the work pretty clearly wasn’t finished.
  • And finally the fact I was given an incorrect estimate from the beginning.   Almost $200 extra is not a minor oversight.   In fact in the beginning I told Lee that I had just had 40,000 mile service done and the dealership I went to quoted me $800 and change for new tires and I was stunned and amazed his tires were less than $700.  Seems like that would have been a great time for him to tell me what the total price would be.
  • And then the guy I paid says “Why didn’t you get an alignment?  It’s very standard to do an alignment with new tires”.  And you know what?  He’s right.  I agree with that. I tell him “It’s because nobody suggested it”.  I’d have definitely gotten the alignment.

I’m rethinking my relationship with Toyota at this point.   I’ve owned 3 Tacomas in the last 7 years.  I’m what you’d call a regular customer.  I love me a new Tacoma.   I’m kind of shocked that nobody offered me up something conciliatory like a discount, an apology, a free alignment. Nothing.  Nothing for John except terrible customer service.

Like I said I have contacted ToyotaUSA and will pass them this link as well.  We’ll see if Toyota wants to try to cheer me up a little.  I was not treated well at Cox Toyota of Burlington.  It’s not what I’ve come to expect of Toyota dealers.  I love Stevenson Toyota in Jacksonville, NC.

Update March 21

The Service Manager from Cox Toyota contacted me 1st thing in the morning and apologized.  Said he looked into the issue, agreed that they were wrong and offered to give me a free alignment which I will take them up on tomorrow.

I was told to come in, ask for him specifically and I’d be out of the place in 30 minutes or so.

I’ll drop my final report tomorrow and if satisfied I’ll provide a decent Customer Survey.  I am aware that poor Customer Surveys can affect bonuses and such.  I don’t want to punish anyone for anything.  I’m not built that way.   I don’t want the individual that fed me crummy information punished either.  He’s new at the job and I prefer he learn and receive training which I was assured would happen.  Can’t ask for more than that.

Update 22 March

Went in about 8:30 AM and asked for Nate.  Initially the guy I spoke with asked me why I needed Nate, however I suppose his job is to keep as much stuff away from Nate as possible.  I understand the hierarchy.  He did get him.  Nate came out.  Immediately instructed a guy on the desk to write me up for a free alignment and personally drove the truck in the back and got a mechanic on it immediately.   Whole thing took maybe 15 minutes.

The guy who checked me out told me I had a Recall notice and offered to do it then and there.  It seemed kind of non-critical to me and I told them I’d have it done at my local dealer.  But I sure did appreciate the offer.

So it initially was a pretty awful experience but I feel like we worked together for the best possible outcome. 

Complaining for the sake of complaining is counter productive.  If something goes wrong with a product of service I’ve always found it is best to contact them directly to resolve.  And it is best to offer a suggestion as to what would make it right.  In my case I did ask for a free alignment.  I didn’t think it was unreasonable and apparently neither did Toyota.

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