I learned a huge lesson this week.
I remember being quite proud of our government for bailing out our automobile industry when the recession began in late 2007-2008. After all, this is the country of the car. We are the proud recipients of Henry Ford's efforts as well as those of other front runners.
My family had owned two Dodge cars in the past. One was a Dodge Dart, the other a van. One or the other of them seemed always in the shop, so I had sworn off Chrysler products. But saving General Motors seemed to me a worthy cause. One of my favorite cars had been an Oldsmobile station wagon, and then there was our 1959 red and white Chevrolet.
I've told my readers in one of my blogs that my daughter and son-in-law had given me a 1998 Oldsmobile Aurora about four months ago. At the time I was told I would receive it, Kelly Blue Book showed the car's value between three and four thousand dollars.
Tuesday of this week, the headlights went on spontaneously three times. Two times, I finally got them off. The third they stayed on until the battery died. Two people tried to help to no avail. On Wednesday, I had the car towed to the nearest trustworthy repair shop. It is a Firestone that had done good work for me in the past. There was not even a GM dealer listed in either phone book I consulted.
The bottom line is this particular brand and model of the car has a chronic history of "spontaneous headlights" due to a faulty switch that controls several of the auto's functions. The best way to stop the immediate problem is to disconnect the battery, which is not under the hood at all. Now, General Motors cares so much about its customer base that it decided not to continue manufacture of the part. This is a 1998 car, so these autos were already known to be defective before the bailout.
Firestone called local General Motors dealers and their usual supply sources and were told not only that the parts are not made now, but they have been out of production so long that there are none in the area. O'Reilly's said someone is attempting to start a firm making such a replacement part, but it will be several months before they are available. Besides it will cost a pile.
I went on-line and chatted with Brian at General Motors who gave me a 1-800 number for Oldsmobile. I called, explained the problem and was told to hold the line. I got cut off. I called back and after giving the message again, found I had the same rep. She could have told me sooner. She took my phone number in case we got cut off again and said she would call three G. M. dealers to see if she could find a switch. She scheduled a window of time for calling me on Friday, so she would have a chance to research the problem. She did not call today.
I called the 1-800 number again. The rep who answered asked my name, my phone number, in case we got cut off, the last eight digits of my vin #, then my whole vin #. He could not find my call information under any of them. He asked my case number. I had not been given one. So, he had me repeat everything. Then he began searching and put me on hold. He came back on and asked if I had pen and paper. He was going to give me numbers of nearby GM dealers for me to call because his supervisor had told him I should be the one making the calls. I reminded him I had said up front that Firestone had already called the "local" dealerships. I told him if they had had the parts here, I would not have been contacting him. He repeated that his supervisor had said to give me the numbers. Then he put me on hold again. Of course, you already know what's coming. I got cut off again and the rep did not call me back.
I'm remaining fairly calm and collected considering I have no car to drive and probably will have to have it hauled away for junk. Aside from practicing assertiveness skills by quietly insisting they do their job, I've done nothing to rile the staff. I've simply asked for help three times from customer services agents who are unwilling to earn their paychecks.
I believe that somewhere in the General Motors world, there is probably a switch or two left over, and the logical place to contact is the nationwide General Motors number. I don't know, perhaps a query could be sent out on-line to all dealers and I could purchase the part to be sent to my home. But that would require a customer services staff that did not have all difficult to understand reps as well as supervisors who saw their jobs as serving the people who bought their cars.
You couple such behaviors with the current recall frenzy, and it looks as though we, the people, should have let this company fold. I hope future Congresses and Administrations get this message. Some companies deserve to go under and this one is apparently one of them.
In case anybody from General Motors and Oldsmobile Customer Services actually gives a care about customers, here is pertinent info.
The first rep who answered twice said her name was Franzie -- at least that's how it sounded. Remember she did not call me back when we got cut off and she did not call me during the scheduled time Friday. She also did not enter (or later erased) my information from the computer.
The rep today said his name was Ben. He was trying to helpful until his supervisor said the car was so old they had probably discontinued the part -- which was what I had told both reps from the start. I can just see that supervisor shrugging it off as if the person that needs to fix a $3000 auto instead of buying one of their new death traps wasn't worth the time. Needless to say, if I ever get dollars to buy another car, it will be a Ford.