Me and the missus, it takes a lot to get us riled up. We’re slack cutters, that’s how I like to put it – we’re always ready to cut the other guy some slack, see the other side of the argument. But there’s a limit, you know what I mean? We don’t like being played for fools either, which is kind of how it felt the other day down at Bush-Cheney Motors.
You know the place, right? 17th and Pennsylvania, with those big iron gates everywhere? Anyway, they sell new, they sell used – cars, trucks, SUVs, the whole thing. A couple of years ago, they sold us a four-door Iraqa – easy to handle, they said, rides like a dream. You’ll love it.
Which was maybe true the first few months. But after that? Nothing but trouble. Little things at first – the oil leaked, the mileage wasn’t as good as they promised, things like that. I could’ve taken it back to the place right then, but like I said, it takes a lot to get us riled up. We figured we’d live with it.
But then it was bigger stuff. The steering didn’t feel quite right. The tires kept going flat. By then, though, we’re used to the thing, so again we don’t do anything – maybe I should have. Hindsight’s 20-20, am I right?
But it kept getting worse. There’s this loud banging in the engine, almost like explosions, and it keeps lurching like it’s going right off the road. Rides like a dream? More like a nightmare! So enough already – the other night, I drive it over to Bush-Cheney Motors. I want to see the owner, I say. Guy named George comes out.
“What seems to be the problem?” he says.
“No ‘seems’ about it,” I say. “This car is a mess.” And I tell him everything that’s gone wrong with it. When I’m done, he says, “Well, it looks like a perfectly fine car to me.” He even calls over one of his other guys – Don, I think his name was – and asks him what he thinks.
“There’s never been a perfect car,” this Don says. “But this Iraqa here is as good as they come.”
By now, I’m a little annoyed – it’s like they’re not even listening. Can they at least take it out for a test ride? They’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. So finally that’s what they do, only they just go around the block maybe twice, and they pull up with the horn stuck so you can’t hear yourself think and all this black smoke coming out from under the hood, and they get out of the car and they say, “Runs fine.”
Well, they can see they’ve got one unhappy customer on their hands, and when I look around I see there’s other unhappy-looking people lining up with their own complaints. George, he can tell he’s in trouble, so he says to me, “Hang on, we’ll make it better for you.”
That’s more like it, I say. There’s only so far you can push someone, even slack cutters like me and the missus, before you lose us forever. It may have taken him a while to figure it out, but now he’s on the case. That’s what I thought, anyway.
“Who was your salesman?” he wants to know. There were a couple of different guys, I tell him – it depended on who was busy. I remember an Andy –
“We got rid of Andy,” he says. “Problem solved.”
And there was some guy named Scott –
“We can get rid of Scott,” he says. “We’ll get somebody else to stand where Scott’s been standing. Problem solved.”
But how does any of that make my Iraqa run right? How does changing the salesmen help if it still lurches and bangs and smokes and honks and –
“Karl!” he shouts to some guy across the showroom floor. “From now on, you stay in the back, OK?” And then George looks me smack in the eye and he says, like saying it enough times makes it true, he says, “Problem solved.”
Tomorrow I call the Better Business Bureau.
Rick Horowitz is a nationally syndicated columnist. Contact him by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.