I drive a Smart in Italy. This small two-seater is made by Mercedes, so you think of German Grundlichkeit – thoroughness and professionalism – when you would deal with a Mercedes garage. In Italy, think again...
My Smart’s air-conditioning broke down, waaayy back. With the temperature climbing to 30 dgrs C, it got a bit too hot.
So, I drove to the Mercedes garage and asked to book a repair. The Mercedes garage looks like the entry of a luxury bank or furniture store. Classy people in uniform, design sofas, people at individual desks talking with customers..
Only... I could not book a repair, as I needed to make an ‘appuntamento’ with a ‘consulente’ first. Only THEN I could book for a repair.
I was not going to brushed off like that. I made clear my car was hot, and I needed it repaired. Even more so, I wanted to drop the car early in the morning, and pick it up in the evening otherwise I’d have to hire a car to drive home. Taxis don't want to go where I live. Too much out of their way..
Escalating my request and raising the tone of my voice, I got promoted from the girl at the reception, to a junior consulente, to the senior consultant, and ended up with the boss of the designer garage joint.
He agreed with me, but I had to make an “appuntamento” with a “consulente” weeks in advance, to make sure they could reserve a mechanic for a day. And I had to book an appointment via their toll-free number. A bit of an adventure, as nobody spoke English on the other end of the line. After 30 minutes of discussions, we had a deal.
Weeks later comes G-Day, “Garage”-day. The day whose evening would be blessed with me, stepping out of the car looking like a cool dude, without a shirt dripping with sweat. “Cool” would be a keyword from then on. And even better: "G-Day" was a "Fri-day", so I would have a cool car for the whole cool weekend!
Early morning of G-day, I drove to the garage. Waited for the consulente while seated in the designer sofa. As if I’d be checking in my car in a luxury clinic. The appointment with my consulente was at 9:15 apparently. I was 45 minutes early.
Felt like going to a dentist, so I got steaming a bit, as the only thing I wanted, was to drop off the keys: I had already explained everything to the boss, and to the lady at the toll free number. So why would I need to queue up with a ‘consultente’. On top of that, I had my friend “E” waiting to give me a lift back to work.
Anyways, forty minutes later, the consulente decided it was my turn. We filled in heaps of paperwork, went over to look at the car, noted every dent and scratch. Checked the car’s chassis number and registration papers. I explained in my best Italian “what is the matter”, and he confirmed everything in his best English. Luckily “air-conditioning” in English is “air-conditioning” in Italian.. More papers to sign. Something with a privacy act. Then he types everything into his computer, and smiles at me while saying:
- Okay, done. Please give us a call somewhere next week to check if the car is ready…
- Next week?!! You guys said it would be fixed in a day ?!
- ???? Noooo.. (He laughs like this was the joke of the week).. We have no time today. Anyway, this can not be fixed in a day.
- Why not? I talked to the boss, he said it was fine. I waited for weeks so it could be done in a day?
- Which boss?
- There the one in that office… (And I point to the office which has a big sign “Manager”)
- Well you will have to wait until he arrives then. Discuss it with him, because I can not help you…
- When does he come in?
- Ooogh, around 11 probably.
- But it is 9 now.. I need to go to work.
- I am sorry, but there is no way I can help you. We don’t have time to finish this work today. And we will have to order spare parts… Which will take days to get here. (I remembered my friend E’s Smart which indeed was immobilized for five days for a spare part to come from Milano to Rome. Probably someone walked it over..)
- How about you guys take today to check what is wrong. I pick up the car in the evening. You order the spare parts and I drop off the car for a one day repair again next week? (Try to say that in Italian, hey? Amazing what I can do when I am annoyed)
- Oh, sir, but we don’t have time to even LOOK at the car today…
- … Let me get this right. I had to wait for weeks to make an appointment to get the car repaired within a day. You let me come on a Friday, and now you tell me you won’t even look at it until Monday morning?
- So why do you let me come on a Friday, then? Why would I keep it here over the weekend, knowing you guys would not work on it?
He looks at me with pain in his eyes and a sad smile on his lips. He whispers “It is worse than Africa is it not?”.
In the end, I agreed I would drop the car off the week after. I’d be on holiday for one month. He thought there'd be a reasonable chance to repair the A/C within a month.
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