September 12th, 2006


Drivers Beware: Koons Ford Dodge of Falls Church

I got in a car accident on Sunday, August 13. Having had been very pleased with the service I received at Koons Dodge once before, I had my car towed there to be serviced. I dropped my key off at the service department, but was informed that Monday my car would be taken care of by the Body Shop. I spoke to Bob with the Body Shop and explained that I wanted the absolute minimum amount of work done to get the car running - nothing cosmetic, just function. When I received an email from Stephanie Caras telling me the work order had been submitted, I emailed her the same request.

I received an estimate for $2,700. I asked Bob if this was the "function-only" estimate I had asked for; I knew the bumper was scratched but that it was otherwise fine, and did not want it replaced. He admitted it was not, and would put together another estimate for me. My car is old and not worth a lot of money, and since I take public transportation most places, I had the time to wait for another estimate.

About a week goes by and I haven't heard from Bob. I called and asked for status on the estimate, and he said he was looking around for parts but wasn't having much luck and that I might hear from him by the end of the week maybe or hopefully by the beginning of the following week. On August 23, I called again, got my estimate showing the appropriate work and approved it.

By September 1, I had not received any notice regarding the status of the car. I called and was told I'd hear back by the following Thursday or Friday. At about 3pm on Friday, September 8, I called asking for an update. Bob said was just getting the last part I needed and was going to have the car cleaned before it was ready, and then tried to end the conversation without saying when.

Until that point, I had been very patient and cooperative with Bob. I understand how jobs can get backed up, have been in a customer service position before, and know how refreshing it is to have a friendly and easygoing customer. I also know how quickly the cooperative customers can be overlooked when there are demanding and rude customers to be attended to. As a reward for my patience, I had been taken advantage of. At no point during the service, did Bob or anyone at Koons initiate a conversation with me, even when the ticket needed to be transferred from the service department to the body shop; I had to call every time. And when I was promised a call back within a timeframe, it never came.

My tone with Bob changed, and I explained my disappointment. Once I became a nagging customer, I suddenly received the kind of fast and attentive service one should expect. My body work was finished that day, and my car was sent to the service department to have the final mechanical issue attended to, and I was promised it would be looked at that Saturday and may be able to pick it up then too.

No technicians were available to look at my car that Saturday. In spite of having described the problem to Bob, when I received a call from Jamelle on Monday, the information had not been passed along. A few hours later, Jamelle called back and said the problem was my flasher, and quoted me $175.00. I've replaced my flasher before (a part that costs about $13.00 that simply snaps into the fuse box), and declined the service. Jamelle then said I'd have to pay the $98 diagnostic fee.

I asked that since my car has been at Koons for four weeks, maybe I could be compensated for the lackadasical service I'd received. Jamelle insisted that even though they are a part of the same dealership, listed under the same website, use the same telephone extensions, and are under the same category in the phone directory, the Service Department and the Body Shop are entirely separate entities and have no connection to one another. Jamelle felt I was "mad at him for what the Body Shop did", and that they "did their part". He said my misconception that the service department of the Koons Ford Dodge of Falls Church had anything to do with the body shop of the Koons Ford Dodge of Falls Church was a common one, but neither he or his manager had any control over what happens at the Body Shop, nor would the manager of the Body Shop have any jurisdiction at the Service Department.

I told Jamelle I would pay the diagnostic fee and take my complaint up with the General Manager, who hopefully would have decision-making power over both the Koons Ford Dodge Service Department and the Koons Ford Dodge Body Shop. Jamelle protested, again saying he had done all he can do, and I said I understood, and that he'd get his money. This was at approximately 4pm on Monday, September 11.

At 6:15, I came to pick up my car. Paid my bill, and waited for my car to be brought from the lot. After 10 minutes, I found the cashier trying to jumpstart it. The car didn't start. It didn't even turn over. Charlie said he'd leave a note with Jamelle to look at in the morning and that I'd hear from them. At 9:01 today, I had a voicemail from Jamelle saying he heard my car wouldn't start, but if I wanted him to look at it, I'd have to pay another diagnostic fee.

Somehow, in the two hours between when my car was parked and when I came to pick it up, something happened to make it not start. Unless it was towed from the bay to the lot, it must have worked at 4pm. And yet, Jamelle refused to even look at it. Could something have been disrupted during the last diagnosis? Apparently I'll have to pay a hundred bucks to find out.

No matter what the problem, the customer at an auto service shop is in the submissive position. When it had been two weeks and I was told it would take at least another week to fix the body damage on my car, I had no choice but to wait. If I complained to Bob, would it make parts arrive faster? When he told me the paint job was slowed because of rain, would chewing him out change the weather? And if I said that either these or any of the other excuses for the delay were unacceptable, my only course of action would be to have my car towed someplace else and start all over again.

Jamelle said that a lot of customers don't understand that the Koons Service Department and the Koons Body Shop had no relationship with one another. If this is as common a problem as he indicated, this is something Koons needs to fix. When a customer calls a business and chooses to be transferred to one or another department, they assume they are part of the same business. When a customer takes their car to Koons, they assume Koons is fixing their car. When one representative provides indifferent customer service, the customer does not care which department that person represents, the customer is given a negative impression of Koons.

I will not bring my car back to this or any Koons dealership again, and will be encouraging everyone I know to do the same. Excuses and procrastination do not make for good customer service. Customers do not like to be ignored, and they don't want to be told there is nothing that can be done for them when they ask for assistance. I'd rather not have the new problem fixed at Koons, but as it's been for the past four weeks, I've got little other choice. Koons: You're Stuck With Us. Is that the sort of reputation Koons is looking for?
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