I’m not sure where or how something like this should be filed… Not, am I sure of exactly how it would be best handled.
There are things that happen during the cource of a ‘normal’ business day that actually defy categorization: they just don’t fit and I think this might be a pretty good example of just such an event. It’s something most repair shop owners are all too familiar with and realistically, if we’re being hammered with these kinds of realities the chances are pretty good our clients and customers are being beaten to death with them first.
It has to do with warranty. More precisely, it has to do with the misuse of the factory warranty to intimidate or fool the vehicle owner into taking action under false pretense.
Case in point… We received a call from a motorist the other day regarding a battery replacement on a late model BMW. He was looking for a ‘high quality’ aftermarket battery, like an AC Delco or a Bosch. Or, to replace his failed battery with an original equipment, BMW battery. I tried to provide him with all the information he would need to make an intelligent decision. When all was said and done, he called back to schedule an appointment for this morning to have his battery replaced with the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer’s) battery.
I called and ordered the battery yesterday afternoon, immediately after the BMW’s owner authorized the work and it was delivered some time later in the day. This morning came and went only to find the factory battery sitting sadly, all alone on the stockroom floor. Normally, I would let something like this go… There really isn’t any reason to share. People make and fail to keep appointments all the time, particularly people who have never come to us before. It’s easy to make and break an anonymous commitment. However, this time I wasn’t willing to let what had happened pass without some kind of an explanation, so I called.
It seems the BMW was still under some kind of factory warranty. To find out whether or not the battery was covered, the owner called the dealership.
Here is what he was told… Or, at least what he indicated to me he was told. The vehicle was still under warranty. However, the battery was not… And, if the owner wanted to replace that battery outside the dealer network he should know that it would void his warranty. In other words, if anyone else other than the factory dealership’s service department installed a new battery in his BMW his warranty would evaporate. There would be no further coverage, even if that battery was a factory replacement purchased from the dealer’s own Parts Department.
Do you know why that should be of interest to you if you’re a vehicle owner? Because it’s a lie… Simply, not true. In fact, it’s not only a lie… It’s illegal: a violation of Federal Anti-Trust legislation!
The dealership cannot force you to return to their service department for any reason. They can’t imply having your vehicle serviced outside their network will void the warranty as long as comparable parts are used: parts that meet or exceed factory requirements – And, yes, there are aftermarket parts available that exceed factory spec!
The only time they can remove that choice of service is when they are “paying the freight” or footing the bill, performing a warranty repair or performing a recall.
I shared that information with the BMW’s owner and then I asked for a favor. I asked him to have the service writer/service advisor… Or, better yet, the Service Manager, put that in writing. I asked him to have them just write down on the dealer’s letterhead exactly what he had been told.
When he asked me why… I replied, “”Because, I’ve always wanted to own a dealership… Particularly, a BMW dealership!”
After sharing all this with you I’ve decided that I’m going to file this under, “Advised Consent,” because knowledge is power and knowing what your rights are is a critical part of being an informed consumer.
You see I’m not frustrated or upset because someone was afforded a choice and chose someone else. I’m upset because someone lied and took advantage of a motorist’s lack of knowledge. I’ll compete with anyone, any time, as long as the playing field is level and level to me means all parties will be dealing with the customer openly and honestly.
Level to me means both parties are willing and able to share the truth…
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