Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Cautionary RV Tale

Anyone who has ever owned an RV has had a problem with it whether it is brand new or not.  I had hoped that purchasing a brand new vehicle would minimize the headaches of inevitable problems via the manufacturer and mechanical warranties. 

Wrong Diesel Breath!

While driving back and forth to San Antonio, I noted that my transmission was intermittently failing to change gears while in Automatic Mode.  At first, I thought it was operator error and I had mistakenly put in in Manual.  So I paid close attention and discovered that it was a true mechanical problem after several subsequent failures.

So, I made an appointment for Warranty Service at the same Shop that had received my towed vehicle after a sudden power failure--later presumed to be a vapor lock since there was no mechanical problem discovered.

Preceding my arrival to the service facility, my automotive battery died.  When I purchased the unit, I had written in the contract for a new battery on this '06 chassis--but failed to double check this on delivery!  Since I was going in for Warranty Service, I figured it would be a simple thing to test the battery and replace, if necessary, under Warranty.  After some posturing, I secured the Dealer's written promise to cover the cost of a new battery, if indeed it tested "dead".

After Mobile RV Service jumpstarted me to the tune of $173, I drove to Warranty Service.  I left the RV motor running (since I didn't want to risk it failing to start again in their service area) and was informed that they were no longer authorized to provide Warranty Service for Freightliner vehicles.  Supposedly this "had just happened in the last few days".  Yeah, right!  They referred me to another facility 20 miles away.   I departed for the new facility, left my motor running AGAIN and trotted up to the Service Window.  The Service Advisor scratched his head and said "You are the second person to come here requesting Freightliner service and we are not connected with Freightliner!" 

Motor still running, I got my perturbed self into the RV and headed back south looking for the first AutoZone store to buy a new battery.  I then phoned the guy who referred me to the truck facility not connected with Freightliner and explained that he probably should not direct anyone else there.  Further, I helped him to appreciate my unhappy mood.

I then emailed my Dealer and explained why the old battery would not be tested for Warranty replacement and they offered to pay the entire cost anyway.  $173 Mobile Service + $114.00 truck battery.  Fine.

Next task:  find a Freightliner facility authorized for Warranty service.  Easier said than done!  Freightliner had recently been purchased by Mercedes Benz and the entire system of franchises was discontinued, put on hold or changed to "service only".  A new policy was enacted that Mercedes required any Warranty Service to be performed by Sprinter-certified technicians.   So the technicians had a field day, offering their suddenly-valuable services to the highest bidders!   Consequently, many facilities could/would not do Warranty work because there was no affordable (read "cheap) labor.

I finally found a facility in Tampa and tried to get an appointment.   They routinely checked my VIN number and regretfully informed me that my service had expired over a year ago.  It was registered to me but it had an In-Service Date of June 2006.  (I bought it 10/09.)

At the urging of Tampa Freightliner's Nicole, I phoned the new corporate owner, Mercedes Benz, who assured me there was very little that could be done and the Selling Dealer would have to jump through many hoops to fix this.  This person gravely wished me good luck...

I phoned the Dealer and explained the situation as I understood it (which was very little).  They re-submitted the New Registration Paperwork and go.   I spoke with the Operations Manager and he spoke with the manufacturer, Gulf Stream Coach.  According to him, the sale was erroneously documented as a retail sale (rather than a wholesale transaction) from Gulf Stream to RV World back in '06 and that triggered the Warranty Start Date.

Naturally, it would take an Act of Congress to correct the paperwork.  And we all know about the current state of Congress....

After many followup calls and much gnashing of teeth, I finally reached the limits of my patience and phoned the Operations Manager again, who was by this time dodging my calls.  I told the Receptionist that I wouldn't mind coming down there and waiting my turn in line behind all these customers he was meeting with everytime I called.  I got a call back and he actually promised to buy me the best Extended Warranty available if my Warranty problem was not corrected.  Made me feel a little better except that Extended Warranties are famous for finding ways to not cover anything...  He said the original problem was with Gulf Stream Coach.  This confused me even more since he was offering to pay for someone else's mistake?!

I then called Gulf Stream Coach and extracted their promise to fax the necessary paperwork that very day to the Dealer.  The Dealer faxed the completed paperwork back to Mercedes and....there it sat.   Nothing happened from that point on except to assign me as an "Open Case".

During these weeks of chasing down people to commit to do something about this mess, I was fortunate to have spoken several times with a woman (Nicole) who was the Warranty Manager for Freightliner in Tampa.   I imagined her to be a tough Gaga-type since she worked in a trucking facility.

She had patiently checked each time I called to see if my warranty status had changed and offered me information and insights.  She kindly intervened with Mercedes Benz on my behalf and discovered the that my open case was just sitting on someone's desk.  She phoned to say they wanted the Bill of Sale which I immediately emailed to her.   When it failed to fax properly, she copied the email and sent a hard copy via snail mail to a Real Person. 

Two weeks later--TODAY--Nicole called me to say that the Warranty was now correctly registered to me and I could bring my rig in for service.  I was relieved and overjoyed and effusively thanked her for all she did for me, which most certainly was not in her job description.

I have received my check from the RV Dealer for the new battery and Mobile Service.

I am breathing a sigh of relief.   The peak of hurricane season is here NOW and I need to have my rig up and running.

 This was an confusing problem with several unusual elements beginning with someone supposedly checking the wrong box back in Jun 2006, complicated by lack of followup to the initial rejected Registration by the RV Dealer last fall, confounded by the sale of Freightliner to an another company and the failure of the corporate databases to play nicely together.

Add the customary corporate incompetence to the mix and you have...a cautionary RV tale.

I must add, with some regret, that not a single person in the triad of corporates involved--the RV manufacturer, the RV selling Dealer and the owner of the Warranty obligation--ever offered an apology or even validated my distress at not having a warranty available to me and having to do ALL the work to fix the problem not caused, nor even understood, by me.   Except Nicole.

My heroine of the moment is-- Nicole!

1 comment:

  1. wow...customer service seems to be a thing of the past!