Let me warn you. This will be a long post. It has to be. There is no other way I can get all the important bits in without making this an epic. So, if you want to move on and read about some teenage girl's love for McFly or some Singaporean kid's latest car magazine then go now. I won't be offended and I can continue, safe in the knowledge that the only people reading this are genuinely interested in BMWs, customer service or both.
The background stuff goes like this; I own a BMW 5 series that I bought new at considerable cost. It is my second one and also the second that I have bought from this dealer. I have all my servicing, bodywork and all the rest of it done at the self same dealership. Therefore I would have hoped that my custom is worth having for said dealer. I understand that it is also possible that my business is nothing to this dealer. Maybe, just maybe, I am small fry to them and, if that is so, then my thoughts of the M5 next will have to go out of the window.
So, my car was due for its first service a couple of days ago. About a week ago the remote central locking started to fade. What I mean by "fade" is that the operating range suddenly reduced drastically. Up until last week it had been a sad but true source of man pride for me that my remote would unlock the car from a pretty long distance of I guess about 50 feet, maybe even more. If you can picture the distance from the first floor window at my parents' house to the second or third parking place in the car park opposite then you'll know what I mean.
Overnight this changed to a range of a couple of feet and I literally have to be next to the car to use the remote successfully. Being the sad type of bloke that I am I knew from reading the car's manual that the remote has a battery inside it that is recharged whenever the key is in the ignition. I tried the spare key and the range on that had reduced too, even though it had been working fine up until recently.
Sa, last week, even though my car was already booked in for a service this week, I nipped down to my super duper BMW dealer to explain the problem. The nice geezer said that I should bring both keys in when it is serviced and they'll have a look and sort it out. He added that it was probably a problem with the receiver in the car. Fine, I thought. Job almost done. Incidentally, when I booked the service they asked me what time I'd like to bring the car in. I asked how long the service would take. They said about an hour so I agreed on 11 o'clock.
So, that's all the background stuff and, if you're still reading now, you must be my brother. So let me tell you this. Those sunglasses are mine and they don't suit you. Buy your own.
Anyway, yesterday morning I arrive at the dealership at 10.30, half an hour before the car is due. I get checked in, the chap (a different fellow to the one last week) takes my key and bungs it in a some electronic thing to tell him what needs doing on my car. A shallow type, lacking in intelligence, probably would have been very impressed by this.
I was very impressed by this. For about 4 seconds that is. Until he said "it's just due its oil service Sir"
"Yes I know" I said. "That's what it's booked in for"
"Ah" he said.
"Yes" I said. I then skilfully but subtly steered the conversation in a different direction, as I had detected that we were going nowhere.
"There is also a problem with the remote" I explained the whole story to him and told him I had brought both keys as the chap last week had requested. He appeared to listen intently then told me they would take care of it.
"Will you be waiting here Mr Diaspora?"
"Yes, how long will it take?"
"Oooh, well we've got 3 cars in the queue before it so I don't know, it could be a good few hours"
I should have spotted the 20 foot illuminated warning signs, but I didn't. The whole "what time will you bring it in?" question seemed rather pointless if they were just going to do it when they got around to it but I agreed with fishface that I would wait there and he would come and tell me if it was going to take longer than expected. I actually enjoyed the wait. I sat in their rather comfortable waiting area reading newspapers, drinking coffee and watching a parade of programmes about doing up your house and how to find antiques worth loads of money in your attic. Whenever I get the opportunity to just sit and do nothing I love it and wish I could do it more.
After about an hour and a half he wandered passed me and said that the service had been done and they were sorting out the key thing so it shouldn't be too long now. Another hour or so passed and then I heard a voice calling me.
"Mr Diaspora". I looked over to see fishface beckoning me to come over to his desk. This was a minor thing but it rather annoyed me. In the past, whenever my car has been there and I have been waiting for it, the person has always walked over to the waiting area and told me when it was ready and then walked with me back to their desk to sort out paperwork and admin.
Fishface had clearly decided that I didn't warrant the 10 yard walk so he chose to shout to me. Or the BMW efficiency chaps had analysed things and decided the 7.8 seconds that are lost in the walk would be far better if put to use in pissing off customers in other ways. So I trotted over to his desk.
"The service is all done" he said with pride.
"As for the remote problem the computer is telling us that the voltage is low and the key needs to be charged so if you could just use the key for a while that should take care of it".
"Which key needs to be charged?"
"Both", but he had hesitated and I saw a hint of bullshit in his eye.
"But one of them is my normal key that is used every day and that should be charged already"
"It's telling us that they need to be charged, they had a look at them and that's what our computer is saying".
This was all getting a bit Little Britain now and I was feeling very frustrated. I wanted a problem fixed and they had not done it.
"But how can they both need charging? One is my everyday key and the other has been charged too and was working perfectly a few weeks ago".
"That's what our computer is saying".
"Did you check the receiver?"
"No message came up for that, it's saying that the key needs charging".
Then his phone rang and he asked me to excuse him while he answered it. He did, then had a conversation with a mechanic about how to stop brake squeel and in future when he does it just book it down for an hour's labour. This concerned me as I had also told him when I got there that my brakes were squeeking and asked them to sort that out. It also annoyed me that he was having an internal phone conversation while I, a customer, was sitting and waiting.
He finished his call and I fully expected him to call his Mum to say he's be late home for dinner, but he thought better of it and came back to me. We continued our conversation about the remote locking but we got nowhere. He also mentioned that they had taking the top layer off my brake pads to stop the squeeling and they wouldn't charge me for it even though they should have. Most people would have been grateful for this act of kindness and bowed at his feet. I, having heard his conversation with the mechanic where he told him to book an hour's labour in future, realised that the mechanic had not booked the time and this caused a problem in billing me.
Still we got nowhere on the lock thing. I had to take him out into the car park to show him that both keys had the same problem. Then he told me to charge the keys and if that didn't work then they would have to book the car in to sort it out. I then asked him to call the mechanic and ask if they had tested both keys. He did but the mechanic wasn't cracking under this interrogation and we ended up none the wiser.
"The problem is that when we plug the computer in all sorts of things have to be reset and that takes a while so it's quite a long job".
By nature I am a calm person but I got really angry now. I realised that, in effect, the problem I had reported to them had not even been acknowledged. I knew that I had gone through the mechanisms involved in charging both keys yet all they would tell me was that the keys need charging. I told him that I was not happy and he finally agreed to rebook the car in for next week.
It gets downright farcical here. My car is booked in for next Thursday now, just to try to solve a problem with the keys. I am told this may take a day but more likely is that it will take 2 days so I have been given a courtesey car. This will be some pile of crap which I won't want to drive.
I am not happy.
I reported the problem last week. I did it again yesterday. I will probably have to spend 2 days without my car as well as the mild inconvenience of the problem itself.
I have always raved about the high quality of customer service at this particular dealership, but they have let themselves down. I don't feel valued when I report a problem only to be told that the computer disagrees with me. One of us is a customer and one of us is a tool to help serve the customer.
I have only written this massively long post in the faint hope that someone from BMW will read this and do something. If you do, please comment or get in touch somehow. You deserve to know. In the past few years I have spent a lot of money with you and all at the same dealership.
I demand better service.
Or next time I'll buy Italian.
You wouldn't want that would you?