Monday, April 14, 2008

When bearing go bad and customer service

I got up extra early today to hunt down a part for my truck. Yesterday I smoked my idler pulley bearing on my S-10 on the way home from church. And by smoke I mean that it got so hot that the aluminum spacer on the back side of the bearing melted and oozed it's way into the bearing. According to Wikipedia, the melting point of aluminum is 1220.58F. Since it might be an alloy, the melting point may be a bit lower than that, but nonetheless it was smoking hot. Thankfully I made it home.

So I ran and got parts yesterday. A quick trip to O'Rilley Auto Parts scored me a new pulley and bearing. This was just before the parts store closed, so I was happy. I got home, and upon extraction of the old pulley I discovered the new part didn't have all the things I need. I hadn't previously realized that I melted the mounting spacer. So I quick search the web and find that Autozone is open later on Sunday than all of their competitors in the St. Paul/Minneapolis metro area. I run over before they close, only to find the space is a dealer only type of thing. Of course. This can never be easy. And dealer only means it's gonna cost you!

I dig up Merit Chevrolet's web site, the dealer closest to me, and see listed that their parts department opens at 7:00am. 7:01AM today I call and work my way through the phone tree to the parts department phone line. Ring ring ring...thank you for holding, all service members are busy with customers if you would like to leave a message please press 1 others pleas keep holding. Over and over again. For 15 minutes. Wow, they must be busy. After 15 minutes, I hang up, I'm getting tired of listening to this message (I didn't want to leave a message, I only have access to my wife's car until 8:00AM, a call back at 9:00 does me no good.) So I hang up, and call back 5 minutes later. Phone answered on 2nd ring, and I ask for Parts. "Sorry sir, they aren't open until 7:30AM." So I ask the young lady who answered the phone if she would let someone know the web site says 7:00AM. "I will let someone know." Click. Dial tone.

Anyone else see a customer service problem here? An opportunity missed? "Can I take your number sir?" "I'm sorry the site is incorrect sir." (BTW, the door of the service department lists the parts as not opening until 8:00AM!) Or even "Is there any other thing I can help you with?"

Since I have had a previous experience Merit that was overall positive, and since I absolutely need this part for my truck to function, I call them back at 7:30AM. Parts answers right away once I am passed through. They have the full idler pulley assembly (rather than just the pulley and bearing). So I RUSH over to pick up the part before my wife has to head to work. I can't make her late, even if I have to walk to the part.

$74 later and I'm out the door. The O'Rilley part was $21. Ouch! But the first one got 179,000+ miles, so I figure I won't ever have to do this again. I wince, and pay, and make haste to home so my Banana (my nickname for my wife for any newer readers) can get to work pronto. I also sent a quick email to Merit letting them know my experience.

I might post some photos later of the slagged bearing spacer and melted pulley. And we'll see if I ever hear anything from Merit on this missed opportunity for customer service. I don't want anything from them, but I do think they would want to know how they can improve for future customers.

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