I’ve heard that saying:
“We plan, God laughs.”
This little phrase (which I discovered is a Yiddish proverb when I googled it to see if it started out “We plan” or “Man plans” and found both) rings true for me quite often. This is most likely because, in many arenas, I can be a planning-obsessed control freak. But, for the most part, I am okay when my plans go a little berserk– part of the fun of living is enjoying the surprises. I usually feel like the twists and turns take me just where I belong. Usually. After this past week and weekend, though, I may have coined my own phrase:
“I make plans to go back to school, which costs roughly what’s in my savings account.
My car breaks. My car gets
fixednot quite fixed. There is no laughing.”
(which is too long for a catch phrase or a proverb, possibly)
Rather than relive the horror in freshly pressed words, I’ll share the letter I wrote to the auto repair shop (that shall remain nameless, for now) after I received their “How Did We Do?” email in my inbox. The good parts are highlighted.
On Saturday, 22 November, I brought my car (a 2001 Subaru Outback) into the Peter’s Creek location in Winston-Salem. I had a check engine light on, and a code readout from Advanced Auto. Since the engine computer code (P0303 Cylinder #3 misfire) has many possible causes, I agreed to have Powertrain Diagnostics run on my car to determine the underlying issue.
I was contacted by John* with the results. He informed me what my car needed based on the diagnostics (from which I never saw a readout report). The issues were fairly regular maintenance on a car with 130K+ miles on it: air and fuel decarbonizing wash (of the “super special premium” variety), replacing spark plugs, spark plug wires, and valve cover gaskets. I made sure to let everyone know I was not in a hurry, and could wait until Monday for the work to be done. After initial diagnostics, my car was in the possession of the shop for roughly 3 hours (called me with results at 13:34 and I received notice my car was ready at 15:56). I was quoted $656 and change. When I picked up my car, I paid $641.58 (after a $15 coupon) for fairly standard maintenance. More than half of this bill ($368.10) was for labor. (I understand that mechanics should be compensated for their specialized knowledge and am not necessarily upset with the cost, so hear me out).
After spending this money, imagine my surprise as I am driving my newly “repaired” car (complete with new spark plugs and wires!) to High Point and it begins to hesitate, shudder rather violently, and suck power (dash lights dimming) while moving between 35 and 40 mph and while idling at a full stop. Then, the check engine light begins to flash, and once I’d made it to a place I could safely pull over, the check engine light is illuminated permanently again.
In a nutshell: THE EXACT THINGS I’D JUST HAD “FIXED” ALL CAME BACK WITHIN 20 MINUTES OF PICKING UP MY CAR AND SPENDING ALMOST $650.00 FOR REPAIRS.
This is unacceptable. The shop was closed before I could call back and find out what was going on. I felt unsafe and uncomfortable driving my car. Sunday morning, I was able to contact my father, who walked me through the work done on the car based on my invoice, and had me double check the work. After checking the wire connections at the coil and then examining the connections of the spark plugs, I was able to determine that one of my “new spark plugs” was not properly replaced and had shaken loose (the boot was a good quarter of an inch from flush). After connecting the plug properly, my car handled well again, without any of the symptoms it had displayed the night before, and before I brought it in. After a test drive at city and highway speeds, it seems fine. Now that the car has been driven, started and turned off several times, the check engine light has gone off.
I am unsettled at the fact that I had to double check the work, for which I paid $368 in labor alone, done on my car.
I will be contacting the shop directly as well. Thank you for your time.
*name changed to protect this very nice man’s identity. He was not the mechanic who did the work on my car.
My call to the shop resulted in some resolution: vouchers for several free oil changes, a check and re-check of all of the work performed on my car, and an apology. I never saw a work order or the supporting documentation diagnostics. I wasn’t given any refund for the services rendered. Since it wasn’t a problem with my car that they’d completely missed, I felt a little better. I only wish I’d waited to talk to my dad (who was at work when I consented to the services) before I’d agreed to have anything called a “Super Special Premium” anything done to my car. My parents always told me, if you have money saved, something will break (usually an appliance). I sometimes hate when they are right.
In retrospect, perhaps I was too nice to the gentlemen at the shop. But, I think everyone has a bad day and I shall not hold a grudge since I’ve had several good experiences here in the past. (Also, I’d like to think that someday my being too nice might come back to haunt me in the form of good karma?) I guess what’s left is this lesson: Let my Dad do all the work I need done on my car, ever. Forever. Dad never leaves things loose (since I’m his kid and all) and his labor costs are much more reasonable. This lesson, oddly, can be translated in Yiddish, to:
“We plan, God laughs.”
(Now, back to finding/saving/potentially crowd-sourcing a little money for school.)