automobile instrument panel

30000 mile service

Only in Palm Springs

Follow-up story: from Jim

Last week I took my car to Palm Springs Motors, the area Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealer, for its regular 30,000 mile service. My experience there may not happen only in Palm Springs, but I've never heard of anything quite like it happening anywhere else.

When I made my appointment, I was told to go to "lane 2 and ask for Bob" so I did. After Bob had gone over the service and discussed an intermittent problem I've been having with the car, he asked if I needed a shuttle ride somewhere. "No," I said, "I'm going to wait for it. I brought plenty of reading material."

"Are you sure?" Bob persisted. "It's going to be a couple of hours."

"Quite sure," I demurred, "if I go home, then I have to figure out how to get back here to pick it up."

"That's no problem, we'll come pick you up again when it's done," said Bob in a customer-friendly sort of way.

That in itself — offering to send the shuttle to bring me back again — was unusual enough, but it is what happened later that was truly remarkable.

When the car was done, it was lunch time, so I stopped at Goody's Cafe on highway 111 in Cathedral City (additional locations in Palm Desert and Indio) for a leisurely lunch. The chile roja burrito was quite tasty!

"Hello, this is Bob." It was some time later, therefore, when I got home, where I was greeted by the ringing of the phone. CallerID indicated it was Palm Springs Motors, so I answered it. "Did you get a message from my associate here?" asked Bob.

"I don't know. I just walked in the door," I replied, "but the red light is blinking."

"The technician who worked on your car isn't sure he did something he was supposed to do, and we need to check it. He'll come to your place right now and take care of it if it's alright with you. His name is Rodney, and I'll give him your number in case he gets lost or can't find your place."

Who could refuse an offer like that?

Meanwhile I listened to the other message, less subtly phrased than Bob's explanation. "The technician thinks he may have forgotten to put the clips on the gas line after changing the filter. We need you to bring your car back right away so we can check it. If it comes off, your car could blow up."

That got my attention! And it explained a lot about the urgency in contacting me and the offer of a house call.

So, about 15 minutes later, Rodney showed up, crawled under the car for about 10 seconds, scrambled back up, and said it was "Good to go." He explained that he'd been in a hurry to finish the work ("You're always trying to hurry on a job like that") and later began to second guess himself, hence the visit.

Two things make this so unusual to my way of thinking.

First, the technician had his mind sufficiently engaged to be mulling over his work after my car was gone and he was on to the next job. Moreover, he was conscientious enough to 'fess up. It's easy to imagine that this would not often be the case.

Second, having been alerted to the potential lapse, the dealer took immediate steps to get hold of me, check the car, and rectify the fault if there was one. I have enough experience with car dealerships to know that this also would not often be the case.

Cynical view. A cynic could easily say that it was fear of a disastrous incident and the possibility of a lawsuit for negligence, pain and suffering, and so forth that motivated the dealer's response, rather than any special Palm Springs character or simple desire to do the right thing. Perhaps.

But it is perhaps even more telling that I — hardened cynic that I am — am willing to take this all at face value. Talk about an only-in-Palm Springs experience!