An open letter to Lindsay Saker

November 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Dear Lindsay Saker (the Hyde Park branch in particular)

I don’t ask for much, really I don’t. But once, just once, I’d like to bring my car in for repairs and have the process go smoothly.

I am a very loyal Volkswagen customer. Of the six vehicles I’ve owned in my life, five have been VWs, and they are by far my favourite cars. Not too flashy, but safe and reliable. And all of those cars have been bought and serviced at Lindsay Saker. For the past 13 years in particular, I have been a client of the Hyde Park branch (formerly the Rosebank branch) because it’s closest to home.

Routine services, for the most part, go without a hitch. Your service department runs like a well-oiled machine. But repairs are another story.

Some years back, my Polo was giving me trouble. I would set off jauntily on my journey and it would suddenly lose power for no apparent reason. I worked out that if I switched it off and on again while driving, the power would be restored. In addition, every time that happened, the electrics in the car would do strange things – the right window opener would open the left hand window, and so on. The problem persisted. I took it in for repairs once or twice, and the fault could not be found. It was suggested replacing the turbo – which comes at a hefty cost. But, I pointed out, the turbo was working intermittently; replacing the turbo would also not have an impact on the car’s electrics, surely? I might be a technopeasant, but I possess a modicum of logic, a property that seems to be lacking at your dealership.

Eventually – and I’m cutting a very long story short – it took my husband driving in to your offices, putting a service consultant in the car, and demonstrating the problem to him to get the problem sorted out. My husband reported that you could clearly see the light going on his eyes as he felt the car lose power – clearly he thought I was making it up all along, silly woman that I am.

Oh happy day, they finally found the problem. And it was… wait for it… Lindsay Saker – you, the people who sell and service the cars and claim on your branding to know every VW inside out – had been putting something vital in the turbo into the car back to front. So it was blowing instead of sucking, or some such thing. As I have mentioned, this is not my area of expertise. Lo and behold, the car was fixed without having to replace a turbo and empty my bank account at the same time, which is exactly the kind of multitasking I deplore.

And then, some time ago, I had a terrible noise coming from my back wheels. I dutifully booked the car in and asked them to check it in. Now let me be clear. This was a loud noise. Loud enough to hear over the radio. Loud enough so that passengers in my car looked alarmed as soon as I picked up a little speed. I had already done wheel balancing and alignment to ensure that was all okay and the noise had simply got worse. I thought it might be the wheel bearings, but I really didn’t know. Because you’re supposed to know – you, Lindsay Saker, the people who sell and service and fix these cars and know every VW on the market. You.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call from one of your service consultants to say there was nothing wrong with the wheels. Never had my flabber been so gasted. The postman could have told you there was a problem, and his wheel expertise extends to bicycles only; dilapidated ones at that.

So I girded my loins and spoke to the Service Manager, who I gather was the first person to actually drive the car since I had dropped it off that morning. He confirmed – there was a noise, and the problem was a buckled mag wheel (thank you Johannesburg Roads Agency), which I have yet to sort out. But he answered my questions, and swopped the damaged wheel with the spare so that the noise went away. But imagine – he had the sense to drive the car to hear the noise! Revolutionary! (Please see previous anecdote if you don’t understand my sarcasm.)

Which brings me to the latest incident. A week or two ago, my car started making a horrible noise when I turned the steering wheel left or right. A big klonk-klonk-klonk that I could feel through the pedals as I turned. My husband took the car to Lindsay Saker the next morning – a Saturday – as I was working. The car was checked, and the diagnosis was that the problem was the top shock mountings. We were assured that it was safe to drive, and told to book it in for repairs, which I duly did – for last Friday.

I arrived on Friday morning to find no record of my booking (this also happened the last time I booked a service, incidentally) and was told that in any case, the parts would have to be ordered. I also informed you that the noise had now disappeared, but the car was checked again at my insistence and the diagnosis was confirmed. And so, the parts were ordered, allegedly to arrive yesterday, and I booked the car in today for repairs, stating that the top shock mounting had to be sorted out.

I delivered my car this morning at 8.30am or thereabouts, fully expecting that the parts would be there, and that it would be repaired. I even requested that if it meant I could get the car back a little earlier, it wasn’t necessary to wash it as you usually do; having the car fixed was my priority. And I had been told on Friday that the job took about three hours to do.

So imagine my fury when I got a call at 1.3opm to say that you were still checking the car and trying to figure out what was wrong with it! And I’m furious for a few reasons, in case you can’t work it out. First, the noise isn’t there anymore, so how you are checking it, I have no clue. Second, we already know what the problem is. Third, all you had to do was take the old parts out and put the new ones in. Fourth, I need my friggin’ car!

The thing that really pisses me off is that I’ve been a very loyal client. I bought my first VW – a little red City Golf, registration TMB860T – back in the early to mid-1990s. I’ve been with your branch since about 1999. And it feels like there’s nothing in return. Nothing. I had the uncanny feeling that the guy who checked my car in this morning didn’t remember that he was the one who’d had the car checked twice, and who ordered the parts on Friday. And I understand that you deal with thousands of people, but really? That was Friday. It’s Tuesday today. Is this what customer service has come to?

Your banners and awards about customer service are all very pretty, and they decorate the room very nicely. We certainly know we’re in a VW dealership. But they mean sweet blue blow-all when this kind of thing happens. It’s all talk and no action.

If it were just the once, I might be prepared to cut you some slack, but this has happened repeatedly. And I’ve had enough. And now I’ve had my say. And if possible, I’d really like to have my car too – with the top shock mountings sorted out, just in case you still don’t know what’s making that non-existent noise.


A mightily-hacked off member of the Volkswagen Family.


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§ 2 Responses to An open letter to Lindsay Saker

  • tired of bad service says:

    I hear you a hundred percent re the above and unfortunately, it seems that the majority of these “big” brand service/ repair places are all exactly the same… some people have great experiences and others have horrific experiences (like with banks or cellphone network providers.. topics for another painful discussion) and in the end they all seem to balance out – which is bullshit, they must stop their nonsense, we pay them, and they must do the job they are being paid to do.
    If we slacked off and jerked responsibility like some of these places we not only would have been fired, we would not keep jobs for very long either. I think the service industry the world-over needs a shake up. But in SA particularly we are quick to moan but lack in actually following through – so thank you – it is imperative for service standards that people actually do this. Now let’s see, is it just lip service you get or will they actually sort this out but if I were you, I would take my car/s elsewhere – they’ve had plenty chances!


  • montybasset says:

    It not just them, My ford Sierra developed a knock from the rear half shafts and they felt lose, being a RAF Technician I worked out this was the problem, booked it into the local Ford dealerships. They changed the wheel bearings and the problem was still there. So I returned it and they put a half shaft in AS REQUESTED and cured it. And yes it was a Ford dealership, bless.


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