A customer at a southwest Michigan dealership demanded a loaner while her vehicle was being serviced. When told no because she didn't have auto insurance, the customer locked herself in her vehicle in the service lane. She only left after police showed up.
The owner of a new Mitsubishi Eclipse brought the vehicle to the South Carolina dealership service department citing several mechanical issues. When technicians couldn't replicate any of the problems, the customer wanted the dealership to buy the vehicle back. When the customer was refused, he returned with a sign declaring the dealership a rip-off. Police were called, and the man left.
A customer at a New England dealership didn't like the pricing for parts and labor. He brought used components from salvage yards to the dealership and demanded techs there give him their tools so he could do the repairs himself. Police were called to escort the customer off the premises.
The past few years have seen an uptick in angry customers in grocery stores, fast-food restaurants — even public parks. And, as evidenced by the stories above, dealership service departments have not been immune.
No one can quite pinpoint the source of the anger. Two years of lockdowns and COVID-19 rules? A lack of parts causing longer repair times? Rising prices for maintenance and repair work?
A service director at the multibrand dealership in southwest Michigan who requested anonymity says the root cause of the surging number of surly customers is a growing sense of entitlement.
"People are demanding more than you can provide and get upset when you can't meet their needs," he says. "It seems like they believe that if they're mean enough to the employee, they'll get what they want. They seem fed up with everything, and they're taking it out on the next person."
If he senses a customer getting frustrated with what a service adviser is telling them, he'll invite both into his office to remove the tension from front-line staff and other guests and to let the customer vent.
But he says a result of service advisers being on the dealership front lines and sometimes the bearer of bad news is they are leaving for other jobs rather than enduring more abuse.