I had been looking forward to visiting BMW Santiago since I my last visit to a BMW Dealer in Latin America at BMW Guatemala City in October last year (2005). It was time for my 24,000 or 30,000 mile service — I had 26,000 on the bike. While my sprockets weren’t in bad shape, my chain was beginning to stretch and I was looking for an overall “check-up” for Doc considering not only the mileage but the fact that the bike sat dormant for 9 months at the high and dry elevation of Potosi in Bolivia. With a solid stamp of approval from BMW, I’d be confident that Doc would be ready to tackle the desolate no man’s land of Patagonia and the legendary 1,000 miles of dirt that makes up the southern part of Argentina’s legendary Ruta 40.
Some might argue that I’m a bit too trusting when it comes to having someone work on my bike. Sure, I enjoy to some extent working on Doc. But I’m no expert. And other professionals have more experience in this area than I. When I want something done that is beyond the scope of my capabilities I’m the first to hand over the wrench. I come from a school of thought that you call on professioinals when you want something done preofessionally. For example, for years I worked in advertising and marketing communications. My clients likely had the skill to plan and produce their own advertising and marketing campaigns, but they are clearly better at designing, manufacturing or servicing. That’s why I don’t do my own accounting, lawyering or doctoring. Rely on professionals. Besides, who else is going to write this blog, take these pictures and produce these podcasts — this is part of what I do.
So when the BMW service department called and said I needed new brakes, I asked “are you sure?” Indeed. “Even the front?” Sure. Odd, but I instructed them to replace the old pads but to be sure to save the old pads. When I arrived hours later at the dealer ship I got a double dose of shock. The first, with my nearly $1,000 service bill. And the second, my brake pads had plenty of life left. Enough to make it Buenos Aires which by estimates is another 5,000 miles. I was infuriated.
To top that off, when I reviewed the bill I noticed they replaced the air filter too. I had given specific instructions that the air filter was the K&N type and simply needed to be cleaned and oiled. When I confronted the service writer with this issue he said that they had to replace it because the air filter smelled like oil. Well duh? Have these guys never seen a reusable oil filter. I can’t believe it. Rather than argue at this point I simply asked for the old air filter and would put it back in when I toasted the new one.
I actually didn’t look at the brake pads until I got back to Cristian’s. I paced the room. They charged me $220 plus labor for two sets of brake pads – front and rear. I consulted with Cristian and we together hatched a plan to return to BMW the next day and speak to the manager. I trusted them. But they screwed me. They did some fancy shuffling and when confronted they were quick to point out that they new there was more life on the brake pads but they were confident they wouldn’t last until the next “official scheduled BMW service in 6,000 miles”. So they figured they better replace them. Good god. I don’t run a maintenace schedule dictated by BMW’s suggested intervals. I replace parts when they need replacing. Like tires.
I last looked at the pads closely in Bolivia, and should’ve looked prior to dropping off teh bike and this mess could have been avoided. Nonetheless, they scrambled and finally offered to remove the new pads and put my old sets back on Doc. They would refund me the cost including labor. I agreed. But it gets better. Two hours later I show up to pick up Doc with the old familiar brake pads in place. Now time for the refund. After an hour of dicking around because I forgot my original receipt, they finally heeded to my suggestion that they just pull a copy. Hell, I was only there the day before.
Another hour and we’ve got the copy of my bill. Now the refund. It seems that just can’t refund the cost of brakes and labor to my American Express card. No, they must refund the entire prior bill and then re-bill me for the total less the costs related to the brakes. Another hour of running around and I’m led to the cashier. Seems that he’s having a problem with my AMEX card. American Express’s fraud team must have put a stop on multiple charges from the same business. I suggested that they first run the credit and then try running my card. They did their best to try to explain, but I still don’t get it. But they told me that they cannot credit my American Express card for another eight days.
“Eight days?” I cried. “You’ve got to be kidding.” Apparently, the bank in Chile won’t let them run my credit. Great. So they want to charge me the full amount less the cost of the brakes. That means I will be paying twice for a mistake that is their problem. A sneaky way to doulbe bill clients, I thought. I asked if we could call the American Express office. But they didn’t know how to initiate a collect call. I had a back up card but hesitated to hand it over.
Finally, I agreed to let them charge my other card. But first I wanted a credit memo and letter in writing explaining that they’d credit my card in eight days. At least if something went awry I could provide this to American Express and let the two of them fight it out. Membership has its privileges. The whole ordeal took more than 4 hours. And again, all for something they did wrong.