Monday, September 04, 2006

Things I Hate, Part 4

Before we begin today, I’m wondering if anyone out there thinks 19 years is too long to hold a grudge? Anyone? No? Good, neither do I. Now, let’s get on with the bitching, shall we?

Things I Hate, Part 4: Ford Motor Company

19 years ago, in the fall of 1987, I bought a brand new red 1988 Ford Mustang LX. I had just graduated from college, had my bright shiny degree in hand, and I was about to move to another state to start my first real job. I needed a car that at least capable of getting me to this other state, and the 1979 Chevy Chevette I drove throughout my college years was not capable. I didn’t put much thought into the purchase of the Mustang. Of course, this was back in the dark ages, before the World Wide Web existed, so I couldn’t get online and check out the repair history and level of customer satisfaction for any particular vehicle, so I did the next best thing. I bought the one that was cute.

Plus the yellow Chevette that I was driving at the time died directly in front of the red Mustang on the car lot and would not start again. I just knew it was some sort of a sign. Unfortunately my sign-reading skills were still in their infancy. I thought the sign meant “Buy this car.” The sign actually meant “Anything that comes near this car will stop working.”

Little things started going wrong with the Mustang almost immediately. A couple of months after I started my new job, the cassette player started malfunctioning. (If you’re too young to remember what a cassette player was, ask your Grandma.) The local dealership required that I make an appointment and bring the car in and leave it for the ENTIRE day in order for them to pull out the old cassette player and pop in a new one, an operation that required about 30 seconds of effort. So, I made my appointment, brought the car in early that morning, made arrangements for a coworker to pick me up on his way to work and then had another coworker drop me back at the dealership after work. I did all this and yet when I arrived back at the dealership at the end of the day, I learned that my car was not ready. No, they had not yet spent 30 seconds working on my car, but they would get right to it while I waited on the ratty sofa with the stuffing sticking out of one arm, in the disgusting customer lounge that smelled like three-day-old coffee and motor oil. Then, one of the service managers called me “Hon.” No, I was not happy that day. I gave them all huge, glowering glares of unhappiness.

In the fall of 1988 I moved to Austin and here is where things got weird. The car started acting like it was possessed. Sometimes the engine would rev by itself while I waited at a stop light, causing the guy next to me in the Subaru to wonder if I was challenging him to a drag race. Or, the engine would sputter and stutter, apparently having some sort of seizure, while I was driving in traffic. Sometimes it would just die while I was driving down the road at 60mph. In case you’ve never experienced this yourself, flying down the road at 60mph is definitely not the time to lose the power steering and power brakes, which is exactly what happens when the engine dies.

Clearly it was time to try out the dealership in Austin. I tried it again and again and again. Over the course of a year, they replaced sensor after gizmo after dohickey, each time with a different explanation about what the problem had been. Each explanation was wrong. The car continued to rev and sputter and die randomly. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Oh, and this dealership didn’t take appointments. No, they had an even better customer scheduling scheme. Each time I needed work, they insisted that I bring the car in and leave it until they could get to it, usually about three days later. Could I bring the car back in three days, when they could actually do something with it? No, I could not. The only way they could work on my car was if it sat in line for three days, ignored and unused, in a lot behind the dealership with all the other walking-wounded Fords, waiting its turn. There were no “savesies” at the Ford dealership.

Finally, after the third or fourth visit, the geniuses in the service department replaced some little computerized thingy that controlled how much gas the engine got, and what do you know, the revving and sputtering stopped. Halle-freaking-lujah.

Nonetheless, the car continued to gradually decay over the course of the next five years. Every time it went to the dealership, they kept it an extra day or two so they could replace all the parts that had been recalled since the last time I was in. Once, some wench in customer service tried to convince me that I should be happy, because they had replaced all these things FOR FREE! Yeah, I was deliriously happy. Look into my eyes and observe my extreme happiness, you nitwit.

In total, I owned the car for seven years. It was never abused, and always maintained as specified in the owner’s manual. And it was a never-ending pain in the ass. A couple of more years and I think I would have walked out into the garage one morning and found nothing but a pile of red dust, surrounded by 4 tires. I swear there wasn’t a single part on that car that didn’t break and need replacing. After about six years I didn’t trust it to drive more than 30 miles in any direction, because I didn’t know if I would ever make it back. After seven years, I could finally afford to buy something else, and I did. It wasn't a Ford.

I bought that Mustang when I was 22 years old. I figure I had at least 50 years of car-buying ahead of me at that time. Ford had the first, best shot at being on my short list for those 50 years, except for a couple of things: 1) their car sucked, and 2) their service sucked even harder. Ford will never get another cent of my money ever again. Ever. I don’t care how wonderful they are now. I don’t care if they make cars that run on air and never need an oil change or new tires. I don’t care if they’re giving cars away for free. They made my life miserable for 6 years and for that they must be punished. In fact, their crimes were so bad that they have been added to the official “Dead to Me” list:

Jill’s Dead to Me List:

1. yogurt
2. Ford Motor Company

There. See? I am not to be trifled with.


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