Dion's random ramblings

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

When grace becomes unChristian. Not allowing Volkswagen to sin on my behalf... How do you respond to bad service?

I have a problem with my car. It is a VW Polo that I bought in October 2006 at Hatfield Volkswagen in Duncan Street, Pretoria.

Since buying this car it has been back to VW Hatfield 7 times for the same problem - a faulty computer.

The onboard computer keeps telling the car that there are various faults. When the computer tells these little 'lies' it wreaks havoc with the car's operation! When the ABS break sensor goes, the car just shuts down (in the middle of rush hour traffic in the fast lane of the N1 somewhere between JHB and PTA)... When the steering sensor goes, the steering stops functioning (sometimes altogether, sometimes it just looses its power steering function). Sometimes the car has a 'panic attack', all the lights on the dash go on, all of the alarms sound, and the car stops running. The only time that the airbag light goes out is when the light bulb burns out! Other than that it remains on all the time....


I have had it back at VW 7 times to have the problem fixed!!!! Did I mention that already!?

It would seem that the part that needs to be replaced is quite expensive (around R30 000). So, they keep doing little makeshift jobs, and every few weeks my car stops working! You see, they are liable to fix the car and replace this part since the car is still under warranty. Yet, something is stopping them from doing that... I am a student of the human condition. People DON'T do things they should because of greater pressures from elsewhere. It is a part of our human nature. We tend to respond to whatever places the greatest pressure or pain upon us. For example, even though you know that it takes just 5 seconds to do up a button on your shirt, if you have cut your thumb you will fumble along without that thumb for minutes, just to avoid the pain of the thumb.... Why won't they replace the faulty part and fix the car? Well, there is the pressure of economics.... They stand to gain nothings from fixing it, in fact it will be a cost to them.

I am a Christian, a follower of Christ, I try to live according to the admonition of Paul in Philippians 2:5 that I should have "the same mind as that of Christ Jesus"... For some time, in this sordid affair, I thought that this injunction meant that I must be overly kind, courteous, gracious and accepting of the bad service that I was getting... I have now come to realise that by taking that attitude I am leading these people into SIN! They are committing numerous sins at my behest.

First, they are lying. Today when I was stern, straightforward, and not willing to accept that a part they have needed has not arrived in 6 weeks the truth quickly came out.

Second, I am allowing them to commit theft. It was admitted that they have at times 'patched' things in the hope that they will last until the warranty expires and cost of repair reverts to the customer.

Third, I am allowing them to be unkind and unjust... Every time that I say 'No problem, I understand that you're having a tough time fixing the car, that you're facing pressure from the Volkswagen factory, that you are short no labour, that it is not your fault..... [there have been these and MANY other excuses]' I am creating an opportunity for them the believe that it is acceptable to provide less than perfect service, less than the best customer care...

Fourth, by not being truthful I am making them complicit to my sin. Yes, I will confess that there have been times where I have been angered and embarrased that my car has broken down in gridlocked traffic and I have had to push it across three lanes by myself... I have cursed them, that is not good. There have been times where I have been without my car for days on end while they do nothing with it. In those instance I have been angry... This is also note good. Today, when I phoned to find out why they had not contacted me back in over a month since promising to order a part, I was both rude and condemnatory. No one should every behave in that way to any other person. It is wrong. I confess that, and I ask to be forgiven. But, I have committed a far greater sin!

While these are all sinful actions, they are not as sinful as allowing space for the darkness that drives them. My false grace created that space. I have committed the sin of making them a part of my sin since I was the one who should not have taken no for an answer the very first time my car broke down (at 3 months old, before its FIRST service at 15 000km's). At that stage I should have made them understand clearly that they were not allowed to push me around because I am a Christian.

I seem to remember Jesus burning with anger at the injustice of the money lenders in the temple - people who preyed upon those who needed what they had, and so took them for a ride. I seem to remember Jesus being not only indignant, but even forceful in helping them to understand that he would NOT allow them to sin.

I will not allow Volkswagen to sin any further, and I will not allow them to be party to my sin! My false grace (and that's what it is) ends today. True grace points out sin, it helps the sinner to discover freedom and restore relationships by living the truth, by telling the truth, and by doing what is right.

Please pray for me, and for the folks at Hatfield Volkswagen, that we will all encounter the grace of truth, and the courage of righteous love!

My rant ends here....

Now, let me ask some advice from all of you, the wise, and the wiser, what do you do, as a Christian, when someone gives you bad service?

How do you respond when someone abuses your faith to their own selfish ends?

Have you any practical advice for me in resolving this issue?



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  • Hi Dion

    I must confess that I can be a bit of an ogre when it comes to poor service (a bit like Jesus and the moneychangers in the temple, in fact). However, I have developed a system that has stood me in good stead over the years. It's called "PNS".

    The "P" stands for "Polite", which is the route that most people prefer to follow. However, in most cases, unfortunately, it results in the type of "patch job" that you have experienced. Still, as Christians we need to start here first.

    The "N" stands for "Nasty". That's when you jump up and down and start making threats if your problem is not sorted out to your satisfaction. It works best if you can winkle that elusive "senior person" out of the sanctuary of their well-hidden office.

    Finally, the "S" stands for "Shame 'em", and has a two-pronged method of attack.

    In your case, the first "prong" would be to get hold of the managing director of VW South Africa. Don't let the hordes of secretaries, PAs, "customer service departments", and the like fob you off. You want to speak to the "main manne wat count" and no-one else. Should you actually manage to get hold of said person, demand that your vehicle be fixed to your satisfaction, at your convenience. Pull rank - titles impress most people. This person needs to know that he/she is dealing with "The Reverend Doctor Dion Forster, PhD". Insist on a courtesy vehicle while you're at it.

    The second "prong" would be to utilise a public forum to shame them. Your blog is a good start, and www.hellopeter.com works extremely well. Write to the CAR Magazine as well. (Remember to threaten to do these things when you get hold of the MD of VWSA if you get the sense that he/she is giving you the runaround).

    You could of course do what that hapless Isuzu chap did down in Cape Town a few years back, and have vinyl stickers made such as "Never Buy Your VW From Hatfield VW" or something similarly damaging, but that is probably a bit extreme, and your wife might not enjoy driving a mobile insult.

    Then again, if those idiots simply fixed your car in the first place, we wouldn't be having this discussion...

    By Blogger Steven Jones, at 7:41 PM  

  • "False grace"...you're so right! I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Some South Africans think it's ok to give bad service and then lie about it in the face of direct questioning - don't let them do it!

    It doesn't help that many of us are quite accommodating to bad service...and in view of 2010 and the amount of foreigners we'll be getting here, I believe we're helping our service staff get up to scratch.

    By Blogger Roger Saner, at 11:14 PM  

  • Tell them that their incompetence is messing with your ability to deliver for your Boss - and that if they do not respond then Your Boss will do to them what he did to that statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

    By Blogger Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow), at 7:29 AM  

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