When service doesn’t serve

Some people know what service means, others clearly don’t.

A little while ago we had problems with our wheelchair accessible van. It has a lower floor and it will kneel even further. That system is run on an airbag, and a compressor. On a trip out for groceries, it would not stop filling up with air! It kept filling up, letting some off, and filling up again – and the whole thing sounds like it’s farting!!!

We have a wonderful mechanic, called Perry, whose business name is the Air Doctor – perfect person for it to go to. While it was with Perry, it stopped starting – the computer system froze him out – so off to Bannister, the GMC dealership, she went.

Things started to get a little crunchy, timewise, as I was going on my first trip away without Ian. I had to go to Vancouver to see my neurologist and for a board meeting. With the effects of the chemo, Ian just wasn’t up to a trip like that, with all the comings and goings. For the first time, I was being taken by Brooke, one of my employees.

After a few days we were told by Bannister it was starting! Great! We could just leave it with the air bags full, and sort out the compressor/levelling when we we got back.

When Ian collected the vehicle, the technician told him that there was a “pink wire” that seemed to be causing the problem, it didn’t seemed to be attached to anything, so he had removed it and the van started. Hmmmmm. We were unconvinced. It sounded like coincidence.

We then started to discover a few things about the van. The key fob didn’t work. The doors didn’t lock when you start to drive. The button to open the door to deploy the ramp didn’t work – the only way to open the door is by strong, brute force. The interior lights don’t come on when the doors open.

And, of course, it was the holiday weekend.

I sent an email to Bannister, asking for the service manager’s email address, and got nothing in reply. I wrote to the general manager, and he wrote back saying he was on holiday, but he had put it in the hands of the service manager. In the email, I explain that we are vulnerable – advanced MS! Stage 4 cancer with bi-weekly chemo! – but that I’m not expecting sympathy, just explaining the repercussions of a vehicle that has all these extra faults to us.

By this time, I am travelling to Vancouver with Brooke – and we find out that cruise control doesn’t work. Luckily we had added me to Ian’s BCAA because we spent the whole trip wondering what else was going to happen to it – what else was powered by this damn pink wire.

Finally today I spoke to the service manager. Basically, as far as she was concerned, they did a fine job, and all the rest of it – not her problem. Every single fault was because we had a vehicle with after-market work. Of course, all wheelchair accessible vehicles have after-market work – that’s the point! They don’t come that way to the showroom. As far as she was concerned, they were asked to get the vehicle started, it now starts – all of the other faults that cropped up, which could be because they removed this damn pink wire – not her problem. The vehicle starts – that’s all they were asked to do. That we are vulnerable people, in need of a vehicle that works? Not her problem.

It really makes me question the term service, in what they do, and in her job title. There was never going to be a meeting in the middle in our conversation; our needs were never going to be considered. The service manager had already made her mind up on the outcome before we started to talk. As the conversation moved along, it felt like we were talking two different languages. “We see lots of vehicles – we can’t be expected to know what works and what doesn’t work” is what I was told. I had the same conversation with some teachers, as a principal, when a parent was not happy with the treatment their child was getting. “I have 30 children in the class – I can’t be expected to deal with this” – and my response was always “but they have one child – they’re not concerned with the other 29 – that’s what you’re paid to do.” Equally, I’m not concerned about all the other cars and experiences that Bannister has had. I’m only concerned about my van – and my van came back to me worse than it went to them.

My van now leaves me more vulnerable. We are not your average customer – that van leaves Ian at risk of injury if he has to open the door, and, therefore, leaves me housebound or using taxis.

So yes, the van starts, gee whizz. But we certainly didn’t receive any service. We spent money on the work they did – but we paid for ineffective work! I understand that investigations take time, and are difficult, but the conclusion they reached was only partially successful – they swapped one problem for a whole load of others, and now we have to pay to fix these additional problems.

We look for people who are going to be part of Team Hewitt. When something goes wrong – who has got our back. We have friends, doctors, all kinds of health care people, my care employees, everyone at C Lovers – the list goes on! We’re not after charity. We’re not after things for free. We just need to have people that have got our back – that know that the job needs doing right. It’s clear that Bannister are not wanting to be part of that team – or anyone’s team, it would seem.

Where from here? The van is going back to Perry. He has a number of strategies. I have faith that he will get the job done.

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