By on November 9, 2018

 

car dealership

TTAC Commentator Halftruth writes:

Can we talk about the absolute incompetence at dealerships?

  • Mild issue: Bought new SUV for wife back in 2010. Wife complains that “something not quite right.” I drive it and notice something slightly off. Take it to dealer, no trouble found. On a whim, I check the tire pressures: 40 psi, 37 psi, 45 psi and 35 psi. I called the dealer on this as they missed it TWICE. Once during prep and once when brought in for the original complaint. I asked how could they miss this and was told “well, it is a new machine and some of the guys are having trouble with it.” To which I replied, “I don’t have a machine and I was still able to troubleshoot this and DO YOUR JOB!” Service manager was not happy with me.
  • More severe issue: I went for a late-model used sedan and picked a local dealership that I had bought cars from 3 times before. I test drive a car, like it, come back with the wife and decide this is it. I backed the car in and by mistake popped the trunk; the young salesman was all too eager to show my wife the trunk and how clean it was. I saw a pushpin sitting in the spare tire area. I asked the salesman, “you know what this is, right?” He said no. I explained this is one of the pushpins that attaches the bumper underneath. He turned white and I got right under the car and, sure enough, the bumper was not attached well and was flopping around. At that point I asked for sales manager and asked about their 172 point inspection and if there were any accidents on record. They had no answers. We ended up agreeing to them fixing the bumper and replacing the battery, as it had shown some signs of weakness after sitting a couple of days on the lot. I was trading in a truck and the trade deal was very favorable, so I went with it. I come to pick it up and bumper is not fixed, battery not replaced, and the tire pressures were all low. I left and bought elsewhere.

Kindly shine some light on this.

Sajeev answers:

I’m sorry to hear about your experiences.  I’m filled with explanations, but must temper a response based on experience: my full-time gig is in auto retail.

Be it sales or service, your problems highlight this industry’s inability to recruit and retain talent. It’s a long standing problem (with new complications for digital retailing), suggesting the average Piston Slap reader knows more about cars than those in auto retail. That’s no excuse, as non-car people neither deserve your experiences.

So when finding yourself getting the short end of the stick, do the following:

  1. Use a carrot, not a stick: elucidate without losing your cool…definitely don’t be the next customer going viral.  
  2. Speak to the Manager, the General Manager if needed.
  3. Go elsewhere if #2 fails.

But let’s examine Step #1 to the logical extreme; let’s embrace the enthusiast-retailer disconnect. Dealerships operating like the ubiquitous Zappos case studies from college are unlikely. Any retail job is challenging (even life changing) and experts need even more patience than your average buyer. I am sure it’s the same for tech junkies at Best Buy, doctors getting a physical, foodies at a restaurant, etc.

Rarely does a hobby and career form into a single entity, yet I’m filled with hope as I see fresh faces entering the business, creating passion where nothing existed beforehand. Take my word for it, or not because you won’t hurt my feelings

…I’m used to it because I work in retail.

[Image: Shutterstock user Yakov Oskanov]

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

Since this will come up in the comments: your (valid) opinions regarding the dealership franchise model won’t change the employee recruitment/retention problem. Luxury retailers like Lexus, Tesla, etc. offer golden handcuffs and great overall customer service, while other brands have similar pay, more modest job pride/prestige, and the constant challenges of the changing retail employment landscape. Retail will always be retail.

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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107 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Enthusiast-Retailer Disconnect?...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    I just swapped over my winter setup onto the A4 that I had just pieced together over the last few weeks (fire-sale Hankook snow tires, 15 inch OE Audi alloys) and was surprised that the car was riding as stiff or even more-so than the lower profile summer setup. Checked tire pressures and they were all around 42 PSI. This is on 195/65/R15 tires. I was mildly amused, but I’d rather them over inflate where I can just let some pressure out, than them under-inflating. That and Pep-boys mounted and balanced them for free(!), after already getting me an amazing price on these close out tires at $49 a piece.

    I’ve learned to expect the worst in car dealerships and repair/parts. That way when things go unexpectedly well, you’re especially pleased.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Yes, 42 psi is too high. I have a good tire guy who would over-inflate just 2 psi in anticipation of winter. Tires lose about 1 psi per drop of 10F degrees.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yep, I just added air to my wife’s Camry with the sportier 215/55R17s, with our roads the air seems to get pounded out of the wheels of that car, it had dropped down from 35 to 30 with the colder weather. I lowered these snow tires of mine to 33ish, I like a cushy ride and a lower pressure can indeed play a roll in preventing a puncture (to a degree).

      • 0 avatar
        ptschett

        I remember once getting new tires on my Dakota in mid-January in Fargo. The shop guys set the tires at the correct 35 PSI in their nice warm room-temperature shop, but they were down to 30 by the time I got home (-7 for the 70 degree F temperature difference, +2 for the fact I was driving and generating heat.)

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I absolutely agree with Sajeev, instead of taking your car in and saying, “Something’s amiss”, help the guy out with what YOU think might be the problem. Say, “It feels like something’s wrong with the tires”, that at least gives the service guy something to go on. It’s YOUR car and you want it fixed, so help pinpoint and solve the problem. You’ll both be happier

    • 0 avatar
      mzr

      This doesn’t work, either. I gave a written list to service for a then-new 2016 Kia Sedona, that had all of 1500 miles on it. It had enough problems that I needed a full sheet of paper to list them all. They proceeded to ignore every single one of them, and the service manager told me they he had 20 years of experience and there was nothing wrong with the vehicle. I then took it to another dealer, which they were marginally different. They played up doing something, then fell off the face of the earth. I got the message that Kia nor its dealers cares about supporting their vehicles and don’t bother anymore.

      The thing is, once they have your money they don’t care. Perhaps if there were stronger consumer protection in the US, it’d be different. I know I would have returned the van right then and there.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Of course there are exceptions and I hear Kia is one of the worst dealerships for service, so maybe something other then a Kia next time

      • 0 avatar
        Halftruth

        mzr has it right- once they get your money, it’s a shrug and “get lost” more or less- unless you are doing wallet flushes and the like.
        These are only two stories out of many for me. This is far beyond a coincidence.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        “the service manager told me they he had 20 years of experience”

        Keep in mind what the Kia brand was for the past 20 years ago and it will all add up.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Sounds like my six-week (plus) ordeal with the 2017 Cruze I bought. It sat at the dealership for that long while they attempted to figure out and repair (to varying degrees of success until they finally got it right) the stupid thing. Then, last week, one of the cylinders lost compression. This, on a car with 30k on it. Granted, all under warranty, but between the ineptitude of the dealership’s maintenance/repair shop and the abysmal build quality of the car in general, I’m looking forward to the day (soon) when I am rid of this abomination

        BLUF: Dealership didn’t care once the car was sold and off their lot, and GM for darned-sure didn’t care given it wasn’t bought brand-new by me.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The problem is that the title “Service Manager” is misleading. He’s really a service salesman standing between you and the mechanic. Salesmen are rather flexible when it comes to the truth and they’re just not detail oriented except when it comes to their commission. Adjust your expectations down to salesman level and prepare to go to battle with them. When the warranty expires, find a good independent mechanic you can deal with directly.

      • 0 avatar
        lot9

        They could care less, once the sale is made.

        I have problems just getting them to do their own recalls on my vehicles.

        It does not matter with brand… it is all the same.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          The problem is that they Couldn’t care less

          • 0 avatar

            Like the time I brought my MDX to the local dealer because the torque converter was failing. It was a recall-but the Service Manager kept trying to charge me….I finally gave him the recall notice. No apology. They did such a good job that they forgot the gasket between transmission and transfer case and had to do the job a second time. My indy (I clearly never went back) asked me later if I’d had an accident or body work…”no, why ?”….turns out lots of fasteners were missing from the front end. Quality with a kew

    • 0 avatar
      Add Lightness

      I generally don’t mind trying to be an educator when it comes to dealing with completely non-tech retail sales people but what happens to ordinary consumers driving a transportation appliance?

  • avatar
    redapple

    I was is a machining plant a couple years back. Good size shop, pro operation making parts for Arctic Cat, John Deere, CAT, Harley. I m in an office with the President and ask him how’s business? He says great. Cant get people tho. I ask, what job? He says I cant get CNC operators (for those not in Manufacturing, this is a semi skilled job. Tool changes, program & machine settings and set up require higher skills.) I ask how much do you pay? He says, $15 /hour and I dont understand why i cant get people. Me- snark, scratch my head and say, ‘yeah, i dont get it either.’ ($15 is way low people. $25-30 would be more like it)

    90% of these types of problems and employee retention problems are simple. You are not PAYING ENOUGH. Folks find easier jobs for more money.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yep, without getting political this is what bothers me when I hear unemployment is at an all time low, sure if you can live on $10-15 an hour you can find jobs all day long, but who can live on that?

      Also, without getting political, sending good jobs overseas doesn’t help

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Right on RedApple. I love Mike Rowe and what he’s doing, but a missing piece from when he interviews all these guys that are talking about all of the unfilled jobs is that all too many of them want to pay low-skill wages for high-skill work. Why go through all the trouble of becoming a mechanic and deal with wet snow falling down your neck when you can work retail for $12/hr starting? Same for unpleasant work in slaughterhouses and such, those used to be solid union gigs that are now filled with illegal labor at much lower pay. There’s some uncomfortable conversations that need to happen, and both major parties played their roles in all of this. Labor has been getting trampled on in this country for quite some time, but they badly need a PR campaign to get away from the “Chrysler employees pounding 40oz-ers in the empty lot during break” stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      cammark

      I’ve spent the past decade working for guys with this mindset. from my perspective their idea to make money/have a profitable operation is to blindly cut budgets and spending until the books balance out. Labor/wages is just another line item to cut. I got to tinker with some pretty cool equipment while I was there, but eventually the desire to feed my family and pay my bills won out.

      Cheap labor works like cheap tools- it does the job for less, but doesn’t last as long, doesn’t do as well, may make more mistakes and cause more headaches. Pay another 15-20% and get some much more out of it/them.

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        CAM

        I Like it. Cheap labor is like cheap tools. >>>Exactly.

        On another point. News headline, ” wages increase slowly as economy grows.’ Yeah. Squeeze the workers.
        I have worked for 2 manufacturing companies that were owned by M&A. (Mergers and Acquisitions houses). They only care about cash flow this month / this week /today. Maybe – MAYBE next quarter. But overall they think. Smash – crush -squeeze.
        Never spend money on people. Never never buy new equipment. But the owner drives a Maybach. (true story)

        Never ever work for the crush down artists. They will destroy your life. RUN

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          @redapple: “wages increase slowly as economy grows…”

          Yup. During the Great Financial Crisis, I worked for two printing companies that were proud of the fact they hadn’t upgraded facilities or equipment in 10 or more years. They paid on the low end of the scale and bitched that they couldn’t retain workers. I wonder why…

          During that same time period, the trucking company my wife worked for got bought up by a VC company. They starved the company of rolling stock for almost 10 years (and sucked almost all of the value out of it) until it was recently purchased by a competitor. She had left, but the new company was appalled by management practices (the VC knew little about running a trucking firm, the good people left shortly after and losers ran the the company into the ground) and bribed her to come back. She did and at least the money is good now.

          If we could have avoided these situations, we would have… I agree, RUN!!!

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          …I have worked for 2 manufacturing companies that were owned by M&A. (Mergers and Acquisitions houses). They only care about cash flow this month / this week /today. Maybe – MAYBE next quarter. But overall they think. Smash – crush -squeeze.
          Never spend money on people. Never never buy new equipment. But the owner drives a Maybach. (true story)…

          It’s the same in tech. I’ve had the displeasure of working for one company owned by private equity and going through an M&A with a company inhaled by Goldman Sachs as an investment.

          Exactly as you described. Invest in nothing. No head count (heads are capital in tech), no updated tech for us to create tech, random people let go once a quarter for no reason beyond make the balance sheet look better.

          Lower customer service, let a few people go, cut costs, market a product falling behind from the competition, book record profits, repeat.

          EBIDTA, EBIDTA, EBIDTA.

          When we were bought out by Goldman Sachs in 2013 and they cashed out our options, issued no new stock, told us of their plans to grow to a billion dollar company and go IPO, and a new obsession with EBIDTA I knew it was time to go.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            It is the race to the bottom for sure. It happens in so called professional jobs too. I worked as an electrical engineer in a company that sourced people worldwide. The incoming foreign born people worked the engineering jobs for less than the Yankees. That held my wage growth down. When the guys that came in from overseas saw they were being used to a degree, they wised up and left. But there was always a never ending sea of more to come in. I did get quite a diverse background there – for which I am happy – but salary, forget it. I jumped and even through the Great Recession I saw my income double. If yo will not pay enough you get the quality employee you deserve.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      You guys are right on. Here in the northwest, dealers are complaining about the same thing, but nobody is willing to pay enough. Who’s going to work flat rate for $30 / hour and constantly jump through hoops, when they can go to Boeing and get $65 per actual hour of work? The dealers just accept that they can’t compete with this, instead of trying. For some reason, they don’t think supply and demand applies to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Proud2BUnion

      Sounds a lot like United Gear in Hudson, Wisconsin.

    • 0 avatar
      whynotaztec

      All good points here but let me add another piece to the puzzle: consumers always looking to pay less

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      Yes sir, this is a tight labor market and employers have two options: pay for skill/willingness to work hard and learn, or pay for crap workers. $15 an hour? That’s the going rate for IDGAF. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        There’s a third option, which an increasing number of employers are taking on account of the mid-term election results.

        That option is, of course, the go-slow option, limiting expansion and growth because these Trumpian good times have been dealt a serious blow when the ‘crats gained the majority in the House.

        No one thought that the successes of the first two years of Trumpian rule would last forever, but they were grand while they lasted.

        And a lot of people made a lot of money those first two years. Now it is back to moderation and caution for at least the next two years.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      redapple,
      It sad what you write but true. This is history repeating itself. The Europeans had a great whine with the onset of mass production. The US took many jobs away from the Europeans.

      But, the Europeans did the same with the onset of the Industrial Revolution.

      Things will eventually work out after much whining, fighting and blaming all but ourselves.

      We go out and buy the cheapest we can get that will get the job done. This is generally something from China.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    So, so many issues to address regarding this.

    1) The way that dealers historically remunerate sales reps creates a massive turnover. The old 80-20 rule that 80% of the sales are generated by the 20% of reps who are experienced and/or stay in the industry. The others are just fodder, with low morale and so desperate to make a sale that they may slightly mislead the customer.
    2) The very best technicians will eventually leave the dealership to set-up their own shops.
    3) Using ‘The Book’ to remunerate technicians is systemically dysfunctional. It rewards them for taking shortcuts.
    4) Service Managers/Reps are remunerated for ‘upselling’. So customers cannot trust the advice that they receive. Hate the constant ‘power flush’ recommendations.
    5) Those employers who publicly are the most vocal advocates of the ‘free market’ system also seem to be the ones that are unable to grasp that in order to attract and retain ‘good staff’ that they have to pay ‘above market wages’.

    So many issues regarding dealers and dealer service during my lifetime. In particular how they have taken advantage of my mother. ‘Wall jobs’, charging large ‘diagnostic fees’ for changing a fuse, just a few recent examples.

    My worst personal experience was with a new Grand Caravan that experienced ‘cracking’ of the interior plastic throughout the back of the vehicle, within its first year. Our local dealer’s service manager, quoted an exorbitant amount to repair it. A 2nd dealership informed me that it was a common problem with a specific production run and covered under warranty. I got that it repaired and kept a copy of the work order. Went back to the first dealership and again asked the Service Manager, at the counter, in front of a full waiting room, if they would do the work under warrant. He again said “no”. So I pulled out the work order from the other dealership, read it out in front of everyone and then said that demonstrated “that he was either incompetent or dishonest”. He left the dealership shortly after that.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Local dealers seem competent but where I will walk away from both sales and service at that shop is when they begin upselling. Especially prevalent in the service department. One local dealer very strong on that the other with no upselling at all.

    I do have a competency question.

    1995 Avalon in excellent condition. Took to very well thought of independent shop that charges 90% of dealer prices. Shop has 7 bays and is always booked out a few days. They had always done a great job for me in the past (used them for past 15 years.)

    Wanted oil change. They had changed the oil regularly on this car over the last 5 years. They stripped the drain plug and, 3 techs over 2 hours, could not repair. Said I needed a new oil pan. I expected them to do the repair for free with me paying only for the oil change. They said that stripping the oil plug happened occasionally (due to metal fatigue) on older vehicles and they did not feel responsible. I could take the car somewhere else to have the oil pan replaced if I wanted to call a tow.

    I pointed out that their records would show they were the only ones who had wrenched that plug over the past 5 years.Neither they nor I got angry or argued. $$59 one hour oil change turned into a $370 dollar all day one.

    Were they correct?

    Regardless I will not use or recommend that shop again. I probably will take my chances with the chain oil places and their $24 prices. It seems they could hardly do worse as long as I check that the oil and filter have been changed correctly and decline the other services.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “Were they correct?”

      Yes, what they said about metal fatigue and being able to strip a plug is true

      No, they have your records and should have warned you that a stripped plug was a possibility. In the name of good business they should replace the pan free of charge and learn from this

      Is there any “fine print” indicating who’s responsible for damage? You might check

      • 0 avatar
        volvo

        Yes I just looked at the Wiki on Low Cycle Metal fatigue (LCMF). Constant high tension and high temps are associated with LCMF. Sounds like the environment a drain plug hole lives in.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          And they are designed accordingly, including a gasket to limit load. Cross threading is how these things die.

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            We own a couple of Toyotas, and my daughter in college has a Kia Forte Koup. Both use aluminum crush washers that should be replaced every time (Toyota’s are coated, and Kia’s are plain aluminum). I always replace them, and dealers vary – some will throw in a crush washer for free, and some will charge for them.

            Until a couple of years ago, I always just hand tightened drain plugs “tight enough”, and didn’t torque them, so they could have been 30, 40, or 50 ft-lbs. So I finally decided to start using my torque wrench, and I torque them to spec, which is 30 ft-lb for the Toyotas and Kias.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            …And they are designed accordingly, including a gasket to limit load. Cross threading is how these things die…

            Exactly. I have driven a host of cars well in excess of 200K. Not one experienced the problem. Of course back then I did all the changes myself. Maybe that’s the smoking gun.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’ve owned and wrenched on plenty of old cars and have never had a drain plug let go. I think it’s been 5 years, or maybe just a single instance of a gorilla-handed mechanic getting overzealous. The crush washer plays a role here too, I personally just reuse them but a fresh crush washer would take up that over-torquing and keep that stripping out from happening (to a degree).

          Congrats on the Avalon, that pre-refresh 1st gen is my favorite of the bunch. Absolute brick-sh*thouses that do the cushy cheap commuter job better than anything else out there (ajla and other H-body proselytizers come fight me bro)

          • 0 avatar
            volvo

            I always insisted on a new copper crush washer. Carry some in each car in case the shop says they don’t have them or they are not needed.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “ajla and other H-body proselytizers come fight me bro”

            Well, I don’t have much experience with the Avalon to compare. I’m sure they are fine & durable cars, but so were many of my Buick-powered things.

            However, back when I was buying lower-priced cars (like ’04-’11) V6 Toyotas were relatively thin on the ground and had a big (like in the thousands) “Toyota tax” baked into the purchase price compared to a C/H/A body. You’ve hung in the “beater” game more recently than I have so it’s possible prices and availability have equalized more.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            @ajla
            Oh I’m just having a bit of friday fun, I truly did intend to make a ’91-’96 Hbody my next beater for this winter just to see what all the fuss was about, but then the Audi came up.

            Within the bottom of the market, the current conditions are as such in Central Indiana:
            older well preserved H-bodies reached the bottom of their depreciation curve a few years back, and now have climbed slightly with used car prices in general. What used to be $1500 is now easily $2500, up to the $3500 range for something like a ’03ish Lesabre (which I consider cost-cut detritus). Toyotas of the ’97-’01 Camry and ’95-’00 and ’01-’04 Avalon sort are in that same $2500-4000ish span. Given price and condition parity, I’ll take the Toyota every single time. While the GMs have an engine that can take PO-neglect better, I find that on balance, the Toyotas hold up better in regard to electrical and various odd fiddly things. The GMs seem to rot brake and fuel lines more than the Toyotas as well, subframe issues too, which are basically unheard of on the old Camry platform cars. With that lay of the land in mind, these days I’m actually starting to look more and more at DN101 Tauri. They haven’t been fully appreciated yet in the market, but soon will be. But as they age rust affects them perhaps even more than the GMs.

            bloomington.craigslist.org/cto/d/1999-ford-taurus/6707848040.html

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Were they correct? No.
      I’ve been doing engineering calculations for longer than I care to admit. The metal fatigue excuse is absolutely risible. Metal fatigue comes from changes in load on a part. The only change in load on an oil pan drain plug boss (absent smacking into a curb or something) is when the drain plug is run in and out.

      • 0 avatar
        volvo

        I thought that until I just read about low cycle metal fatigue. Seems it is an issue in large buildings and bridges.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          volvo

          Low cycle fatigue means different things in different circumstances. I have a couple of memorable LCMF experiences. First was a power plant boiler waterwall – basically a big box-o-tubes surrounding the combustion chamber. By ignoring the Gottverdammt gradual start-up procedure, the operators converted what should have lasted decades into scrap in a matter of weeks, IIRC. Second was a heat exchanger tube bundle. Jumped to full power right quick and the projected life was shortened by a factor of 2000 or so. So your concern about high temps wasn’t unfounded.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      As others have said, it’s on them. Those threads can only fatigue if they over torque the plug. Since they were the ones doing the oil change regularly, it should be on them.

      • 0 avatar
        Stanley Steamer

        Exactly, they have been over torquing. I have been changing my own oil in my Legacy for 14 years and still have the same plug, no problems.

        • 0 avatar

          In 334k of oil changes for a BMW, I changed the plug zero times. For 200k and counting, J engine Acura, I changed the plug once, because the back of the bolt isn’t actually square and it rounded a bit, BUT the threaded ends, never ever an issue.

          The car has never seen a lube shop, and the few paid oil changes were at a good indy shop. I call BS.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        It’s on them – they should have known better.

        When I was having my JR Impulse engine rebuilt the AC still had the R-12 and was running perfectly. The shop assured me they would cap the AC system and not bleed the R-12.

        Got a call about a week later saying, “WE have a problem,” that the mechanic has bled the AC system by accident and I would need to do an R-134 conversion.

        My response was, “no we don’t have a problem, you have a problem.”

        They paid for the conversion.

    • 0 avatar
      cantankerous

      My first job out of college was working as the service manager in the auto care center of a large discount retail chain. There was a kid working there when I started who had a propensity for stripping drain plugs. At first I thought it was a reflection of the older and unevenly maintained vehicles of our discount-seeking clientele, but I soon discovered that Dave had absolutely no sense of how tight was tight enough. He was applying nearly the same amount of torque to a drain plug that would have been appropriate for a lug nut.

      In the more than 40 years since, knowing that there are more than a few Daves in this world, I have done every single one of the oil changes on my own vehicles.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    When I saw the headline and the picture, I assumed this was going to be about idiot salesmen at Kia dealers not knowing how to sell Stingers, and not knowing the product.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Funny that you mention tires and used a Kia showroom for the article image, as my 2017 Cadenza was delivered with its tires inflated to 50 psi COLD. That’s not my best story, though.

    I bought a 2003 Corvette earlier this year (hence the “Ex-Miata”) and noticed its ride seemed unusually harsh, even for a ‘Vette and especially given that it has the magnetic selective ride control setup. I took the car to the local independent Corvette specialist who promptly got it up on the rack and took a look underneath.

    “What the hell is that?”

    Turns out that Bowling Green installed one-inch tall plastic “shock stuffers” on MSRC-equipped cars for shipping, so that the shocks wouldn’t compress past a certain point during transport. These stuffers were to be promptly removed by the dealer as part of PDI, but the tech likely blew through it (after all, the C5 had been around six years by that time) without noting the addendum for the new-for-2003 magnetic shocks.

    Moreover, the issue hadn’t been caught by any other mechanic since, or by the original owner who drove it 20,500 miles with the stuffers in place. (Maybe he’d owned a Z51-equipped C4 before and thought it was still an improvement.) Needless to say, popping the stuffers off transformed the car into an incredibly comfortable tourer.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I would be checking for cracks under the hood, a common issue with SS owners is that those blocks get left in place. It certainly can’t be good for the suspension and mounting points to have suspension travel reduced and as a result the increased stiffness and jarring.

  • avatar
    Buckwheat

    It isn’t just the auto industry that has issues with personnel. Many employees of businesses I have interacted with the last few years have been underwhelming in their performance. There aren’t enough good employees to go around, and good ones have to carry the load for the slugs.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Very true. It’s rare that you can walk into Verizon or some place like that and find someone who *actually* knows WTF they are talking about. I’m only 36, but I vividly remember a time when this was the exception, not the rule.

      I expect incompetence from the 18 year old red-shirt boy at Auto Zone. Its easy to get a job there with 0 experience. But if you’re my age, making a lot more money than the kid, and you work in an industry that is fairly complex (like a tech job at Verizon for example) and you still can’t help me figure out how to out a nano SIM card in a phone with a micro slot, then you need to go to the back of the line and start over. There is no way you and the 19 year old ditzy blond girl hired purely for eye candy should be running this store by yourselves.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        …But if you’re my age, making a lot more money than the kid…

        But that’s the problem, in many cases, they aren’t making “a lot more money” than the kid. The answer to this it seems to pay the kids less, not to pay the more experienced worker more.

        We’ve done a good job of convincing ourselves that $15 an hour pre-tax is “a lot” of money in 2018 America.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          My point still stands. If you’re hired to do a job, and are paid a wage competitive with similar jobs elsewhere, I don’t think its unrealistic to expect you to be able to do said job. I don’t care if its “a lot of money” or not, you shouldn’t be in a position to run a store pretty much by yourself if you aren’t properly trained or knowledgeable. Being underpaid isn’t an excuse that flys very far with me. I have had jobs where I made barely above minimum wage, yet I did the job to the best of my ability and made sure I had the skills and knowledge to do so before accepting a position where I would be left alone to interact with the public.

          I am not a big tech guy. I don’t know much about technical issues and such on smart phones or computers and so on.
          So, I would not expect to be hired to do a job I don’t know how to do and then left there to deal with people expecting me to answer their questions and properly address their concerns.

          Therefore, I shouldn’t have to drive to three different stores before I find someone who can answer a simple question. I’m not dealing with a cut-rate phone company, but I am not expecting more than adequate service. When you can’t even provide that, it’s something to be ashamed of, and a situation that needs correcting.

          I’m not necessarily blaming Verizon itself, the issue lies with those who hire for the store and I may be mistaken, but I don’t believe these were corporate stores that I was dealing with.

          With my Chrysler story below, I don’t necessarily blame Chrysler Corp for the dealership being staffed by idiots. It’s an independent franchise, and I don’t expect them to hold the dealer’s hand during every job interview, oil change and tire rotation. I’m sure, like most car companies, they set standards that the dealer must adhere to. Beyond that, it isn’t Auburn Hill’s fault that some jackass in Everett Washington can’t read a work order properly (or can’t write one properly, whichever the case may be).

      • 0 avatar

        The last place sales folks knew anything was Circuit City, just before the old staff was fired. They were replaced with cheaper part timers who could re-stock but didn’t know much. That was the death of retail. Why bother with sales staff, you are expected to google it from your smartphone in the store. “Visit us on the Web” is how corporate America says F off.

        Yes, there was retail at one point. They had a decent chance of having your thing “in stock”, or if not, often another thing that would work. Now, they get mad you showroom them and buy on Amazon….but the last three times I’ve gone looking for something, the sales staff, er, re-stocker , told me to go to their web site and buy it there. Way to un employ yourself…..

    • 0 avatar
      Dilrod

      This is why I never worry about losing a job to a younger person. I’m one of the last farm boys under the age of 50 (barely). I learned customer service working in a small town drug store. No kid will ever outwork or outperform me.

  • avatar
    MBella

    The tire pressure issue should have been described better. Under normal circumstances, what would you like them to figure out with a poor description like that. Also make sure the service writer puts your story into the RO and doesn’t use an equally poor description. In the example above, even though they probably couldn’t tell what you were talking about, a test drive probably should have been a giveaway, and even if it wasn’t, no car should leave a technician’s stall without a quick check of the tire pressures and fluids. Last thing you want is a customer coming back after a few miles with a tire pressure light. Even without them knowing what your concern was, they should have corrected it accidentally by their process.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      It was – for brevity sake to post here, I had to cut out a lot of it. Indeed the dealer was told, has a weird vibration/floaty feel at highway speeds. They just didn’t want to deal with it. Dealer f’d up here, plain and simple. Twice. They are the assumed expert, not the customer.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I brought my 1996 Concorde to a Chrysler dealership due to a runability issue that nobody else could figure out. I made a point to tell them that the power steering was out, I was aware of the issue, and had the parts to fix it. So, please ignore that and only diagnose the runability issue.

    What happened? Several days later they call and say it’s ready. I was like “um, okay?” Expecting them to say what the issue was. Anyway, I get there and the bill is almost $300.

    I look down the report and they had spent the ENTIRE time diagnosing the power steering, which they claimed was a faulty pump. I said first of all, I specifically asked for that issue to be ignored, as I already knew what the problem was. Second, the power steering pump is NEW, and it is the rack that is the issue. Third, where is the runability diagnosis?

    “Probably needs a tune up.”

    I had explained (when I first dropped it off) that several mechanics had looked at the car to try to figure out what the issue was. I said many things had been tried and I was tired of throwing parts at it, which is why I wanted the issue diagnosed by someone with experience with the car, and access to the proper equipment. I went into great detail about what it was doing and when and so on.

    Oh, and they had put 236 miles on the car (I reset the trip odometer when I dropped it off, and noted the odometer in case it was reset again).

    You mother..

    Never again.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Did you end up paying the bill? That’s some BS right there…

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Yes I did. But I let them know I was not happy about it. I didnt want to see the situation escalate, so I swallowed my pride and got the hell out of there.

        I ended up fixing the issue myself. Of course, a few months later, the car sh¡t both its engine and transmission on the same day! First, the transmission went into “limp” mode and a scanner revealed “Incorrect Gear Ratio, Gear 3; Incorrect Gear Ratio, Gear 4” and so I was driving it very slowly home and just before I was in the driveway, the oil light came on and the engine simultaneously started knocking, and I didnt have time to turn the key off before it died with a loud bang, and never ran again. I junked it. And, no, it wasn’t the notorious 2.7L (wasn’t out in 1996), it was the 3.5L.

        I would have been better off piling the contents of my checking account in the yard and setting it on fire. Would have been far less stressful than dealing with that horrible POS. The dealer experience was just one penny in a very tall stack.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      That sounds absurd John, I’d be beyond livid if that happened to me. Most shops will call to confirm exactly what’s being worked on the car if it’s not perfectly clear, and/or have you sign an invoice for what’s going to be repaired with a quote (plus or minus for some jobs with unknowns) before they turn a wrench. Avoids a lot of heartache.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The vast majority of the folks working at dealership are just at a job. It’s not their life’s work and they have just as much enthusiasm as they need to get through the day.

    I briefly sold cars 25 years ago; I was known as the motorhead of the sales department. The other 14 guys that were on the floor with me could have been selling refrigerators, vacuum cleaners or corrugated boxes. They just decided that the amount of money they made selling cars fit their lifestyle. Not one of them could tell you the amount of HP a 1.8L 4 cylinder engine should make; because it didn’t make them money. They knew what the front and back money was on deals, because that DID make them money.

    Similar deal with the service department. Some techs knew their stuff, others were trying to get through the day so they could leave and do something that didn’t involve cars. Tech writers and service managers were more interested in making sure they got all of the cars that showed up in and out of the service bays TODAY, so they didn’t have to deal with it the next day. And they still have to deal with whacko customers who expect everything for free because they think the car is under warranty forever or they’ll “get them fired”.

    I’m not making excuses for incompetence, but I can understand a lot of the cynicism. If you’ve got something to say, you should. At least try to give these guys a clue. If they’re too stupid to take it, then move on. As always, caveat emptor.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    We just traded in our ’12 Sienna for an ’18 AWD Limited Demo, and the pleasant middle aged salesman waw completely knowledgeable of the vehicle except the DVD player operation which has changed significantly- in that you can’t control the player from the touch screen, only the remote -likely a lawyer thing, presumably from only the backseat.Fine if you don’t have to be hauling 3 kids under 5 y/o like we sometimes do.The don’t sell many fully loaded Siennas so the salesman is vowing to figure it out-its been 2 weeks since we picked it up.
    They did resurface all the rotors before delivery as we felt a mild shudder on test drive.I’d go there again, but infotainment has gotten too complex for the usual salesmen.
    I remember for our Disco Sport the salesmen in Chicago decided to farm out all the ICE/phone apps to a single “tech guy” who was maybe 23 years old but definitely knew his stuff.

  • avatar
    KevinC

    I took my Z4M coupe to the dealer for service towards the end of its free 4/50 maintenance, and when I got it back, I wasn’t 50 feet down their driveway when I could tell that the tires had been grossly overinflated. I got it home and sure enough, all 4 were over 40 psi (I think 33 was correct). I reached out to the SA to politely complain, and he actually had to “go talk to the tech” before he could comment. He comes back and tells me that they “set them all that high, it’s standard procedure”. And didn’t seem to give a rat’s patootie about how wrong that concept is. Unbelievable.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Setting them high is standard procedure? On what planet???

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I had an independent shop install the new tires I had ordered for the Taurus this past spring. They were 2017 Focus 17″ wheels, not the stock 15″ balloon tires.

        Anyway, I left and drove it to my cousins camp as they had invited me to stay the weekend and go fishing.

        On the way there, it drove funny, so I stopped at a gas station. The two front tires had 45 psi, one rear one was at 23, the other at 32. I brought them all to the same level and it drove perfectly.

        It’s a shame that you can’t trust a supposed expert to get something so simple right. I now go to a different independent to have tires put on (very recently when I again ordered from Tire Rack, this time for the GMC). The guy was cheaper and didn’t manage to screw it up.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          When I bought my first new car, a Probe GT, I checked the tires at home. All were over 45 PSI. The car had sat for six months so it was obvious the “tech” just hosed in some air at each tire and didn’t bother with a guage. Utter incompetence.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      If it’s “standard procedure” why did he need to ask the tech? Even a mediocre Service Mgr understands tire pressure.

  • avatar
    chopperjamie

    I am a motorhead. Always have been. I have been riding motorcycles since I was 8 and I am about to turn 51. I was obsessed with cars, but that has waned with terrible traffic and bonkers insurance rates for anything fun. Now, cars to me are just to get from point A to point B.
    But motorcycles…..They are a different story.
    When I buy a motorcycle, I take it home and “nut and bolt” it because I have found so many anomalies like @halftruth found. Dealers don’t care too much in my opinion because very few people these days will notice a 10# difference in air pressure in car tires, let alone know how to check said air pressure.
    I bought a new motorcycle in July. I took it home and with 11 miles on it, I drained all the fluids and put the correct amount of the correct fluid in it just so I know it was done. I also checked most nuts, bolts and electrical connectors and tire pressures, just to make sure.
    I am not locked into one brand of motorcycle and I always do this regardless of the manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      This is funny.. motorcycles.. so, we used to do a yearly ride to Lake George and beyond. I had a trusty 90 K750 that was a great long distance tourer. I needed a rear tire as the old one was ok but noisy as hell. I went to a well known BMW dealer in the area and dropped off the wheel. I asked three times “I want to confirm you will change the valve”.. “Yup, it’s part of our normal procedures.” Well.. I pick it up and it looks like it was not replaced. I ask them about this and I am told “Says right here on the paperwork he replaced it.” Went on the 600 or so RT ride and got back to find my rear at 20psi. They had NOT replaced it. I was bullchit to say the least and called them on it. The service manager did not say a word on the phone when I reminded him that valve could’ve blown at 80 mph. Long story long, they sent a guy to my house to pick up the wheel, fix it right, refund all of my money and tossed me a t-shirt and cap as a parting gift.

      That is why I double and triple check everything that is done. They walljob alot of repairs.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I agree with most of the above sentiment. Competent workers of all sorts are thin on the ground, AND employers don’t want to pay reasonable wages.

    A few years ago, a White Castle opened on The Strip. I encountered the manager, who told me she was having trouble finding staff. I asked what she paid; the answer was $8.25. I politely replied that any knuckle-dragging moron can get a job on The Strip paying at least $11.

    Let’s just say she had trouble grasping the concept.

  • avatar
    Fred

    My first new car was a SVO and it had wicked handling. It had adjustable Konis so I thought I’d check it out. One was all the way hard the other all the way soft. Who prepped this car?

    Another time I went into a dealer to look at a car but they wouldn’t help me. They were having a sales meeting. WTF?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Back in 2006, I stopped in at the Chevy dealer closest to my house to look at a car on the lot. They sent out a flunky to tell me that they were having an employee appreciation picnic that day and they couldn’t sell me a car!

      Needless to say, I didn’t buy a car from them, the Chevy mega-dealer down the road got my business.

      Maybe a year later, the smaller one went out of business…

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I seem to get ignored half the time I’m having work done on a car and bugged to the point I’m actually irritated as soon as they start to ask, “Sir? Have you been helped?” for the 8th-20th time. But the thing that really kills me about the dealers is their total lack of knowledge on the stuff they sell. It’s got to be in the double digits the times I’ve told them there is a TSB or a recall on something on my car. A couple of years ago, the service manager actually argued with me when I came in for an “adjustment” for something on my ’10 Challenger R/T. I ended up googling it up and showing the service advisor. “Oh wait! I thought you were talking about something else!”. Sigh…

  • avatar
    stingray65

    How many times have I read TTAC stories and comments regarding the low profits dealers make on new car sales? How many times have I read comments about how someone bought a car “way below” invoice? How many times have I seen comments about someone trading in a car with a known or suspected serious issue that was not yet visible and “pulled one over” the unsuspecting dealer? How many times have I heard complaints about the poor waiting room accommodations in the service department – what no cappuccino machine and fresh muffins? How many times have I read comments about people using the cheapo oil change places or Indy mechanics to save a few bucks on service and repairs versus the “ripoff” dealer prices? Given the frequency of such stories, it shouldn’t be very surprising that dealers try to keep their labor costs as low possible, try to upsell, or avoid taking responsibility for mistakes, because believe it or not they have bills to pay and want to earn a profit.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “because believe it or not they have bills to pay and want to earn a profit.”

      This is true of virtually EVERY business. I’m not going to break out my violin and excuse shoddiness/laziness just because car dealers are in the non unique position of wanting to make money.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      ‘merica.

      DEY TERK ERR JERBS!

      Then we go to Walmart and buy 67 cent extension cords made in China, and wonder why the house burned down.

      DEY TERK ERR JERBS!

      If you want quality you have to pay for quality.

      Competent employees aren’t going to work on the cheap – and the ones that do will either wake up or be recruited away.

      If you want your courtesy handwash, loaner car, latte shop, courtesy shuttle and free oil changes for life delivered fast, accurately, and competently, and you don’t want to pay for it — well you’re part of the problem.

      I can always tell when the economy is really good – service in restaurants, in particular, becomes a complete train wreck because any mouth breather who isn’t drug addicted and can read a schedule has a job.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      And, let’s not forget about the high cost of cocaine, hookers and boat payments.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      stingray, I couldn’t agree more. A large percentage of the buying public wants the dealer to loose money.

      Your customers hate you and you hate your customers. If you treat them right, it costs money and they buy from the jerk down the street.

      It’s a terrible business to be in.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I’ve only ever been to no-haggle dealerships and the experiences have been pretty decent. The dealer puts the price they’re willing to take on the windshield and you either take it or leave it. The advertised prices on the window are usually well in line with the going rate. I generally feel like I’ve been well taken care of and am not displeased.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    My girlfriend had a similar experience recently. Her ’13 Accent had an intermittent starting problem – the lights/AC/accessories would turn on, but when she turned the key, she got bupkus. It’d do that a few times, then the problem would fix itself.

    I looked it up and figured it was a faulty ignition switch (she has about 13 pounds of stuff on her keychain). She took it to several shops and they couldn’t figure it out (thankfully, no one charged her for being lousy at their jobs). Finally, one day, the problem became non-intermittent and she called AAA. The tow driver fooled around with it and said it was the transmission interlock, and suggested taking it to the Hyundai dealer.

    She told the dealer what was wrong and to fix it. They actually refused to do it at first, and gave her some lame excuse about how it might not actually be the cause, but then gave in. My guess is that they wanted to fix everything but the interlock problem, charge her for all of it, and THEN fix the real problem. She insisted they fix the interlock anyway. The dealership grudgingly agreed.

    The problem hasn’t recurred in many months now.

    There’s a reason why these folks have the rep they do.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      They probably new that a gummed up shift interlock switch is barely anything in terms of book time on AllData, but rang up a list of non-issues (with very beatable and lucrative book-time and parts overhead) instead. The local Toyota dealer insisting that my wife’s 2012 Camry needed all new rear calipers and rotors to the tune of $1200 took the cake for me. My mistake for walking in with my work badge and laptop instead of weekend garage attire.

  • avatar
    MoDo

    Took my car to the dealer for an oil change / inspection a few weeks ago. Took forever, but eventually they finished and I drove home. Next day I start it up and get warnings from the tire pressure monitors saying I have a low tire. I check it in the cluster and both fronts were down way too low (thanks dealer!) Had to stop at a gas station and fill them up until the stupid warning light went off.

  • avatar
    stuki

    “Kindly shine some light on this.”

    It’s called The Age of Incompetence.

    If it makes you feel better, it’s systemic. Not at all limited to car dealers.

    What currently determines economic outcomes, is closeness to the money printers, and kowtowing to ambulance chasers, tax feeders and the PC police. Being useful and competent, doesn’t factor into it at all anymore.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    This is not unique to auto dealerships. There isn’t a single human endeavor that is not fraught with potential error. Doesn’t matter if it’s a tech filling up a tire or a tech doing an MRI.

    I work at a hospital. The amount we spend on QC alone would make most MBA’s run screaming. Yet we still make mistakes every single day. Salaries don’t seem to have much impact on the error rates either.

    Only well thought out processes and adherence to the model make any real differences in how well the end product turns out. If management wants a quality service bay they make sure the grease monkeys follow the play book. If they just want to cut costs and upsell then it won’t take long before people start to notice. And people talk…..

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Fascinating comments. Like Sayeev I make my living in the retail automotive arena. Like any job it can be great and sometimes a dumpster fire.
    You can find a great shop at a dealership or not. There are as many or more crooked indie shops as their are dealerships. That I 100% guarantee you. Why? Indie shops don’t have to answer to a factory who will upon receipt of enough complaints will bring the thunder and can remove you; you as the employee and or the dealer.
    Of late, I have had terrible indie shop experiences that have left me steaming mad and frustrated at the complete lack of incompetence. I have found a shop that I have used 2x now and am happy with their work. Problem is they are located a convenient 40 minutes from my home. Yeah.

    Regarding the terrible wages that are paid, welcome to Merica’ circa 2019. We have raced to the bottom and won. We have permitted extremely low interests rates to pervade and now the only way to make an ROI is pool your funds in ‘private equity’ and pay too much money for a business and then squeeze what is left.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      I don’t think the low interest rates are the problem. Nobody expects to make money on their bank savings account. But you can invest in a business that provides a valuable product or service and do nicely.

      Leveraged buyout specialists, on the other hand, are the corporate criminals from hell. They look for “underperforming” companies — that is, those that share the fruits of the business with the people that do the work — launch a hostile takeover with 100% borrowed money that the company can’t afford to pay back, squeeze the daylights out of the employees and customers, and leave the failed husk of the business by the roadside a few years later, having taken their own payday but left the employees shafted of their pensions and the customers facing a less competitive market.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    Unfortunately the incompetence of ‘You Had One Job’ is pervasive. Just today, I experienced this on two somewhat extreme ends of the spectrum; a Best Buy blue shirt on one end, and a specialized ‘deployment engineer’ for a IT product costing more than the average car on the other. Wages are part of the problem, but probably mostly on the ‘low’ end. I think there’s a general acceptance of incompetence. I’ve stopped feeling bad about others’ incompetence and chew those (and those responsible) guilty of it at will with little regret.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Car dealers are the most clueless people about the product they sell. When my friend was looking to buy his 2012 SRT Challenger, the salesman insisted it was supercharged. We both chuckled and asked, “where is the supercharger?”. “Uh, oh, uh…”

    If I’ve ever had a new car delivered with the correct tire pressure, it was a long long time ago. They are always up over 40 pounds. My ’03 Rams were the highest, at 50. None of them have ever been low, except for my ’88 S-10 Blazer that had a bad valve in the valve stem that was leaking. When I bought my ’18 Challenger in July, the pressure display said the pressure was 42 pounds in 3 of the tires and 44 in the fourth. I totally expected it and brought my pressure gauge with me and dropped it to 33, where it has remained until it got colder and dropped to 31 cold.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      This is especially egregious because new cars now have a readout right on the damn dash that tells you the tire pressures — it’s not like a) the tech couldn’t check it or b) the customer would never know.

  • avatar
    CadiDrvr

    This will be surprising to most but my ’11 Jaguar XF had its first non-maintenance issue in 7 years of ownership this summer.

    My car had their Platinum 5/50k warranty covering everything, including brakes, so I’d drop the car off once a year–its a garage queen–and pick up a few days later.

    Well, this issue shows me that dealer ratings mean absolutely nothing. My Jag dealer has been a “Pride of Jaguar” dealer for years, and last year was the top dealer in the country. Their gross incompetence was unbelievable. Thankfully I checked their work when I brought the car home, as the didn’t put it back together. When I brought the car back to the dealer, THE SERVICE MANAGER ACTED LIKE HE DID ME A FAVOR PUTTING THE CAR BACK TOGETHER, AS IF I HAD ATTEMPTED TO FIX IT MYSELF AND THEN BROUGHT IT TO HIM.

    I remained calm even with his attitude, which persisted even though he had the original work order in front of him. I could’ve understood his attitude if I’d come in yelling/screaming/making demands.

    Lesson learned, it sucks everywhere out there.

  • avatar

    I used to work in broadcast time sales and worked with many dealer owners
    and found them to be mostly okay guys. When it comes time for me to buy I always go straight to the owner. Usually there are accessible and can save you a lot of time.

    That said, I seldom go to a dealer service dept. They are built around the idea of making fat profits not providing good service. As someone pointed out the knowledgeable techs go out on their own and giving good service is how they stay in business. it is usually very easy to establish a relationship with the principal of an indy repair shop.

    I know a half dozen or so in my area.

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