The Bargain

You know, traveling can be a real adventure, but sometimes you get more than you bargained for. Or, less. And, sometimes, less is more. And, sometimes, it’s not. Did I lose you? Let me explain…


My mom had to visit Austin for a medical procedure. She lives in Amarillo. I live in College Station. My sister, who also lives in Amarillo, drove her down and I met them in the state’s capital. Afterwards, my sis hopped a flight to meet her husband at some exotic locale and I used her car to drive Mom back home.

I stayed in Amarillo for a week and then began looking for a one-way rental that I could use to return to Aggieland (that’s what we call College Station). Times being what they are, it didn’t exist. Not a single car rental agency in Amarillo was willing to let go of one of their vehicles. Not one. So, I began pricing one-way flights.

It was while I was checking out the airfares that an epiphany hit: Why not buy a vehicle and drive it home? Why not, indeed? My man and I had been watching for a good deal on a new used pickup, but, again, times being what they are, few seemed to be available. In Amarillo, though, I found two that fit our requirements!

The next day, I went to look.

The first truck had been sold the day before. Cross that one off. Drive across town.

The second truck— still there. Nice, used but not too used, with everything needed and a few extras to boot. Looked it over really well, test drove it (including the requisite stomping of the gas pedal). The price was decent, it had been through a 125-point inspection and it came with a 5-day return (no questions asked) and a 90-day/4,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warrantee— all backed up by the fact I was dealing with an authorized AUTO NATION Chevrolet dealership.

I said that if they’d fix the blower on the air conditioner (it only blew at one speed), I’d take it. (I live in College Station— good AC is a MUST.) Deal struck, but papers unsigned until they completed the repair.

They tried. Said it was done, so I went to pick it up, but the air still wasn’t blowing right. (The salesman had, however, run it through a car wash.)

They tried, again. And one more time. Then the Chevy guys took the F-150 to the master mechanic at the Ford dealership, who hooked it up, diagnosed the problem and fixed it.

From first look to final repair took 8 days. I wasn’t upset by the delays— my mom and I were enjoying a good visit— but it was time to go home. I signed the papers, drove to the car wash for a touch-up and then left the next day.

After a long, easy drive, I rolled into Aggieland. Took the truck through another car wash (its third— this is important to remember) so my man would have the full “New Car Experience” and then drove the last two miles to the house. He was pleased. The two daughters at home found it a happy surprise. We drove it out to dinner, everyone smiling.

But. (You knew a “but” was coming, right? Of course, you did.) I still wanted our mechanics to look it over.

But. My daughter’s truck had a more pressing repair issue than just a “look-over”. So, my daughter’s truck went in first. Then ours.

Needless to say, our guys found a list of things that should have been caught in the “125-point Inspection” that the Chevy dealership had done. One of the things our mechanics mentioned was there being mud on top of the transmission. (After three car washes and almost a thousand miles of driving.)

It was at this point that I began to realize my mistake. Not in buying the truck, really. But in trusting the sales force of a legitimate dealership to be honest.

Remember I said I looked it over really well? Well, I did. Even getting down on my hands and knees to look under the truck— searching out the location of the spare tire, checking for signs of leaks underneath. No puddles. What the salesman and I did see, however, was a lot of mud. A LOT of mud. “Looks like the previous owner took it 4-wheeling,” the sales guy said. I agreed, saying that it looked like he’d had a lot of fun.

Bells should have been ringing at that moment. Loudly. Maybe they did and I just didn’t hear them. Or wasn’t listening. (Passive vs. active verbs.) But now, 6 days later, they were positively pealing as I pulled out my copy of the “125-point Inspection” report. Numbers 99-through-125 all dealt with the underside of the truck.

WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME HOW THE UNDERSIDE OF A VEHICLE CAN BE INSPECTED WHEN IT IS POSITIVELY COATED WITH THICK, DRIED MUD??

But. Let’s take this one step further. My man, when he began studying the inspection report, noticed THE DATE. My second mistake— the inspection report on the truck was dated October 2020. Ten months earlier. At this point, I was stunned. A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. And moving rapidly to furious.

My man called the service department and they confirmed that they had NOT done a 125-point inspection on our truck— only the “quicker one they do on used vehicles”. My man then called and spoke to the sales manager on duty, who tried to insist the 125-pointer had been done. When informed that my man had just spoken to the service manager and that the longer inspection had, in fact, NOT been performed, the manager began to quickly backtrack.

I called the next day to speak with the Manager of Used Sales— a man I had visited with a few times during the prolonged process— and when I detailed the issue to him, there was a long moment of silence. Then, I heard computer keys begin clicking furiously. “Let me check on this. I’ll call you back in a moment.”

He called back an hour later and said he’d spoken with the service manager and there had been a “glitch”— the 125-point inspection had been done, “just not filed correctly in the computer.” When I questioned the veracity of the claim, oh, he was offended! How could I possibly impinge upon his honor? I informed him that I hoped he wasn’t that kind of person, but that I did not know him and it was pretty suspect that the correct paperwork showed up an hour after our conversation and after two people had said that it had not been done. He had no way of proving it was legitimate— but, if it was, could he please explain how the inspection could have been done without disturbing the coat of mud on the undercarriage?

He had no answer, just sent me a copy of the “current” report. Which I read and then emailed back the same question. To which he never replied. Big surprise. BIG. (Not.)

They had the signatures they’d needed and now our only recourse was to take the truck to an AUTO NATION dealership to have any concerns checked and addressed. So, to Katy, Texas we went— as it was not only an Auto Nation dealership but a FORD dealership. Upon arrival, after explaining the situation to the manager and listing off the items our mechanic said needed to be checked/fixed, I was informed that there would be a $139.99 charge to look at them. $139.99 EACH to LOOK at them. I stared in disbelief.

When I could speak with some measure of control, I backed it down to the “Check Engine” light issue. It was going to take 24-48 hours. (Breathe…Breathe…Breathe…) The man helping us at this point (“Mr. Mike”) knew the story and is, I believe, a kind, honest man who truly wanted to help.

We left the truck there (had driven separately, just in case) and headed back home. The dealership called the next day. The “Check Engine” light was on because a hose to the turbo system was on backwards.

Process that for a minute… Or, two…

BACKWARDS?? How does that happen?? AND, WHY WASN’T IT CAUGHT IN THAT WONDERFUL INSPECTION?? (Because it wasn’t done, you idiot! (Me, not you.))

I began breathing, again. One slow, calming breath after another. When I, again, could speak with some measure of control, I asked about the Amarillo dealership footing the bill and was informed that not only did the Amarillo dealership never contact them with payment information, as requested, but that, because it wasn’t a failure of a part, I would have to pay for it!

(More breathing…)

“How much?”

My mind quit functioning properly after hearing, “The $139.99 inspection charge and then $200— (I heard the “$200 but not the other dollars and cents which followed.) (And, “inspection” was probably the wrong word for him to use, but he wouldn’t know that.)

(Breathe…)

“What happens if I don’t fix it?” (I had caught onto the fact that the tech used the past tense when he referred to the problem.)

The technician paused, and then stuttered in a confused kind of way. “Well, your “Check Engine” light would still be on.”

“Fine. Leave it as it is. For $200-plus dollars, I’ll pull over on a parking lot and switch the hose myself.” (Or, I thought, go ahead and switch it back and I’ll drive it home in the wrong position and hope it burns the engine up. Then Auto Nation—more specifically, AUTO NATION CHEVROLET in Amarillo— will be forced to pay to fix that.)

So, long story, short, we drove back down, paid the $139.99 and drove it home. No check engine light, no “roughness”. No grinding noise up at the left-front either, for that matter. Guess they left it fixed because they hadn’t asked first. Maybe fixed whatever else was wrong because Mr. Mike shared my tale of… horrid sales experience. Whatever.

My man and I really like this truck. And it may well be that we don’t ever have another bad experience with its performance. Or, maybe we will— it’s a used vehicle and we know that going in. Regardless, we’ve resolved to never bad-mouth it, again and enjoy the blessing it is to have it.

So, back to travel and adventure. I did get more than I bargained for on this last trip. And, obviously, ironically, less. And, in the less, I got more. More of a lesson. Lessons. Slow down. Check the details. Remember that salesmen have a job to do. And that Used Car Salesmen have a reputation for a reason. (Although I will always hope that not every one of them lives up to that bad reputation— unlike the Used Car Sales Manager at AUTO NATION CHEVROLET, Amarillo.)

And, if anyone missed the underlying message in this blog, it’s Caveat emptor. Latin for “Buyer beware.”

Especially if you’re looking to buy a vehicle in the Amarillo area.

Just sayin’…

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