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Rant about Pence Auto dealership customer service

Special ordered a fuel vapor separator for my '88 Subaru DL stationwagon from the Pence Auto Group Subaru dealership in Richmond (Midlothian),VA. Got it home thinking I’d be able to find the old part based on what the new part looks like, since the Haynes manuel was not helping me find it. Nothing like the new part is visible under the car, so I called back the parts department next day, spoke to a non-mechanic who faxed me the diagram of the parts assembly from this particular car, which also doesn’t show you where its located or how to get to it. Today I called back to the parts department, but no mechanic in there today, so I called the service department, where the service manager very cheerfully told me that mechanics won’t give up their “secrets” without getting paid. The Pence Auto Group/Pence-Briggs Distributing web site states that cutomer service is their number one priority. Obviously what they really mean is that separating customers from their cash is their number one priority. The two different mechanics with experince working on this model car that I had spoken with by phone, and in person when I picked up the part, were very friendly and helpful. One even assured me that I could save money by replacing just the filter instead of the complete vapor separator assembly like the repair manuel instructs (a $30 savings). If only the management at Pence was as helpful and good at customer service as those mechanics are. Can’t recommend doing business with Pence Auto group when they can’t be bothered to advise how to get to the part they just sold you on the vehicle.

Yup, the management’s buisiness is seperating you from your cash. And of saying “customer service is our number one priority” gets you in the door, that’s what they’ll say.

As you discovered, the workin’ class folks generally have a different perspective on things.

That’s why you buy the factory service manual if you are going to be working on your own cars. It’ll have the location detail and procedure for changing it out. Indespensible if you get beyond standard maintenance and repairs.

Normally dealerships do not share the service manual details with customers that I have found anyway, mostly. Our local Buick dealer used to have one in the customer lounge but that’s unusual. The parts guy should have been able to show you on the parts screen where it was located if you asked when you were ordering the part, but they wouldn’t have access to the repair manual. So I don’t know, the dealers kind of expect that people buying parts and not service have the skills and knowledge to do the job and aren’t really there to provide DIY information. A lot of times though just asking when you are there gets a reasonable answer.

I have 24/7 technical support for a group of PC’s I own. When I have an issue I can’t figure out I call them up and turn the job over to them which they work on via remote connection. The tech support company is not required to explain either their diagnostic procedure or their repair procedure too me and they don’t. Why should a Dealership be required to tell you how to install a part simply because you bought it from them?

Today I called back to the parts department, but no mechanic in there today, so I called the service department, where the service manager very cheerfully told me that mechanics won’t give up their “secrets” without getting paid.

I can kinda see where they’re coming from. I mean you bought the part, and decided to install it yourself (vs. paying them to do it) to save money. Then, you call up service to for unpaid advice.

Imagine you brought a lawsuit forward, representing yourself to save money, but then asked a lawyer for (unpaid) legal advice? What do you suppose his response would be?

I mean, I don’t fault you for asking, and often you’ll be helped in this manner, but I also don’t think service taking umbrage at this practice is unethical at all.

Can’t really fault them. It’s assumed that when you bought the part from them, that you knew what you were doing. Otherwise you would’ve brought the car and had them do the work. Those mechanics had to go through training and classes to acquire the knowledge they have, they aren’t in this for charity. They sold you the part nothing more, nothing less.

The Pence autogroup is actually one of the more reputable dealerships in the Richmond area. If you think they are bad, try one of the Victory dealerships. I actually worked for Victory Nissan for a few years, and I wouldn’t buy anything from them based on what I saw there.

While I am not a huge fan of Autozone’s “if it’s not in the computor, it doesn’t exist” approach, their computer does have a function that tells the key pusher where certain components are located. I’ve had them help me find things several times. Give them a call.

The dealers Parts Department exists to sell you factory correct parts. The service department exists to fix your car. The service department occupies a large building that has to be paid for, with heat and electric , with expensive equipment that needs to be updated frequently, and with mechanics that on slow days still get paid, and need training on new models and systems. This network does not exist to give you free advice because you are too cheap to use it. I’m cheap also and do a lot of my own work and my dealer parts department, like yours will show me the diagram of the part.
That’s more than they owe you so stop bad-mouthing them.

This has always been my experience as well–the mechanics (people who actually do the work, and at least partially have a love of automobiles and technology), are friendly and ready to help. This usually is the case of most ‘techy’ people, regardless of the field.

While there are some good managers—and I like to think I was one of them in that phase of my working life, most of them are harried and have a different skill set entirely (if any), that being to make as much money as they can for the company, and save their miserable job. (and bonus) Thinking ‘outside the box’ is only possible when you realize you’re in a box, I guess.

I had an similar experience to yours with a dealership some years ago–the service manager looked at me as if I’d asked him for a kidney when I asked to speak to a mechanic. Another service manager at another dealer just down the road a few miles(same brand), was much more down to earth when I asked him a couple of questions, as well as if he had any touch-up paint for an older model car they didn’t sell anymore. He took the time to walk out to my car with me and actually show me the part I was asking about. He also gave me a half-dozen little bottles of touch-up paint that they would have thrown out in a while, due to no demand.

Needless to say, when I needed dealer service on a much newer car years later, you can guess which of the two I took my car to.

Ok,where are these “slow days still get paid” shops?

Management does not want mechanics to have contact with the customers for various reasons, one is that they don’t want to have to back us up when we say or do something they don’t agree with. Case in point, early one day this really unkempt looking person snuck up behind me with his 10 speed. Well it seems he needed some air and I had to make a decision on a rule that no customers are allowed in the shop and I told him that he can’t be in the shop unescorted (I did not know he was a customer, but that should have not mattered). Well this guy left (with his tire still flat) and went straight to the manager. I ended up getting sent home for the day but I did not go home but went hiking for the day and left pictures of my day off on the Service Managers desk. I never really liked customers in the shop as it did not add to my bottom line, obviously they were not looking to pay for my services.

Im a mechanic and work at a car dealership,I work flat rate,on slow days I DO NOT GET PAID!!!.
when a dyi person buys a part and cant figure it out how to install it or where it goes,or it makes the car run worse than before.We are automatically expected to give out free advice,to help some body who thinks that we are ripping them off.Good times!!

I would have to say that most of the time it is good for the tech to have contact with the customer. If you have to bring your car in and it has some complicated set of problems it could really help the tech in diagnosing problems. Service writers usually have little to no knowledge of how an automobile even works. Having to deal with a service writer can be frustrating for both the tech and the customer. I have personal knowledge from both ends. I have taken my new car in for warranty work, explained the problem to the service writer, he doesnt type it on the R.O. properly and the tech does something totally different or says NPF (No Problem Found) I have also been on the tech end of it and had to call the customer on the phone to ask certain questions or get a better description of the problem in order to find it. I love the DIY’ers, bless their little hearts. They try and sometimes do a pretty decent job. Most of the time they end up in the shop anyways. I’ve had more than my share of transmissions come into the shop in several different boxes, in pieces from the DIY’er and they want you to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.


I’m sorry to have to tell the OP that I disagree with her.

She got what she paid for–namely a box containing the part that she requested.

Had she paid for the expertise of a mechanic to diagnose the problem, remove the old part, install the new part, and verify that the fuel system was working properly after the repair, that would be a different matter entirely.

Instead, she decided to “cheap out”, but sometimes this approach works, and sometimes it doesn’t work.
The OP got what she paid for, and did not get the additional services that she wants, but did not pay for.

I can understand that people sometimes do have to cut costs to the bone, due to cash-flow problems–but this approach does not work in all situations. In this case it didn’t. This approach was a gamble from the beginning, because the OP did not really have familiarity with this type of repair. In other cases, her approach might have been successful.

I for one would love to work for a shop where the mechanics get paid on slow days. That would be utter Nirvana. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen or even heard of such a critter.

OP, the problem here is that you’re expecting someone to devote time (on someone else’s dime) to provide free info to you. Once this starts it can snowball into something pretty nasty as far as the shop is concerned.

Once free advice is given it may then become expected. The person who gets free advice may then tell their friend(s) who tell their friends, etc, etc.
Come sunup the next morning the lot will be full of people who have no intention of spending one dime there. They simply want free advice so they can do it themselves, have their buddy do it, have another shop “who is cheaper” do it, and so on.

Even worse, too many people will ask for advice and then botch the advice they’re given. Once the car is screwed up they will then blame the person who gave them this advice; often telling anyone who will listen it ain’t their fault, it’s that idiot mechanic. Been there, done that.

Do you visit a doctor and ask for free medical advice or demand to know how a restaurant chef cooks that steak that everyone raves about? Not likely.