I acquired two cars recently, one new and one used. The dealership left money on the table after each transaction.
A service adviser who didn't return my phone call promptly cost his store about $1,500 in business. And a salesman who didn't take me to the service department, so I could learn about scheduling service, ensured that I will go to a closer dealership.
First, the used car: I bought a Suzuka blue 2004 Honda S2000 -- a sports car I've always wanted. Because prices for the low-volume roadster, which ended production in 2009, had started to increase, it was time for me to pull the trigger.
I looked locally and online for about a month before the exact car I wanted appeared on eBay Motors. Its maintenance history helped ease my fears about spending $16,250 online for a car I couldn't see or drive before buying.
The two previous owners filed in a blue binder every receipt for every repair and oil change from the day the car was new. I plan to continue that practice.
I flew to New York from Detroit on a Saturday last October. The seller met me at the airport with the car. We drove 20 miles back to his house in Great Neck, completed the paperwork, and in less than an hour I was on my way home to Detroit -- an exhilarating 644-mile, 11-hour drive.
The car performed flawlessly, but needed a few maintenance items. There are two Honda dealerships near where I live, north of Detroit. One is fairly small; the other is bigger and higher-volume.
I went to the smaller dealership late on a Tuesday afternoon. Its service department looked understaffed. I stood at the service desk for 10 minutes before someone walked by and said: "I'll be with you in a few minutes."
He kept on going. I didn't wait.
When I got home, I looked up the larger store's Web page and scheduled a service appointment online. I typed the car's vehicle identification number and listed what I wanted: a new set of Bridgestone Potenza tires, an oil change, a coolant flush, a four-wheel alignment, and replacement of the serpentine belt, cabin air filter and air filter.
I'm pretty handy with a wrench. Except for the tires and alignment, I could have done the other repair jobs myself. But I don't like wrestling a wrench in cold weather, and for the sake of convenience, I am willing to pay someone else to do the work. Plus, there is the comfort of knowing factory-trained hands serviced my car.
I called the Honda dealership and spoke with a service adviser who reviewed the repair order online with me. I planned to drop the car off that Saturday, but first I wanted an estimate for the repairs -- not the exact price, just a ballpark figure.
The adviser said he'd call me the next day. He didn't. The day after that, I got a generic email asking whether I had received the estimate. I replied that I had not and asked for it again. No reply.
I decided against taking the car to the dealership. I felt that my business wasn't appreciated. I wasn't going to spend $1,500 for discretionary repairs where I wasn't worth a phone call.
When, a few months before, I had taken my elderly Jeep Grand Cherokee to a dealership for the same kind of preventive maintenance, I got a loaner vehicle for a few hours and my Jeep came back washed. The staff was friendly and communicated well, and made me feel good about spending money there.