As I drove out of the dealership with my first brand-new car, a Dodge Aspen, I experienced both a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment. When my co-workers saw it, they complimented me on its appearance. I very much enjoyed driving the car for the first week until it rained, and I discovered a leak in the trunk area. Because I had purchased the car with a 1 year/ 12,000-mile warranty, I returned it to the service department and was told they would take care of the problem.
Everything was fine until the next downpour. This time I found more water in the same exact spot than I had previously. Although it clearly was not my fault, I felt embarrassed in having again to bring the vehicle back to the same dealership where I had bought the car. When I showed the service manager the car, he pointed out to me that the trunk area was bone dry. Feeling attacked, I mumbled that it was not dry after it had last rained. “All right,” he replied, “we’ll take a look at it.”
When I left, I was only hoping that they had fixed the problem and that would be that. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. A few days later it drizzled causing the back of the car to be wet in different places. Because I didn’t want to be viewed as a complainer or a pest, I was reluctant to take the car to the service department a third time. But insofar as my girlfriend and I had planned a trip to Maine the following week for our vacation, I wanted the car to be in perfect condition.
In a quiet voice, I once more showed the service manager where the car had been wet. He pretty much said the same thing he had said on my last visit: “We’ll take a look at it.” When I picked up the car, he assured me that they did what they could, and I politely thanked him.
My girlfriend and I both felt excited driving up the coast in a new automobile. The car drove like a charm. When we were about a half hour from our destination, there was thunder and lightning followed by a heavy rainfall. Upon arrival at our hotel, I parked and went to the trunk to unload our luggage. To my consternation, the whole back of the car was inundated, but fortunately, there was no damage to any of our possessions. My girlfriend said she thought that I had had the leak repaired. With as much bravado as I could muster, I responded angrily: “I thought so too but those jerks that call themselves mechanics obviously didn’t do the job.”
We were both able to laugh it off and have a great time. But when I returned home, I was both angry and anxious. I spoke to my younger brother, Dan, who had much less difficulty asserting himself than I. As parents often note, children, unless they are identical twins, can be as different as night and day.
With a tape recorder, Dan and I role played out the scenario of my entering the dealership, assuming an angry tone, upon asking to see the man in charge. When I confronted him, I made sure to practice giving Dan, who played the head honcho, direct eye contact. Because I knew a polite demeanor would be ineffective, I practiced my delivery a number of times until it sounded as if I were truly pissed off.
The next day when I brought my vehicle in, I indicated that I needed to speak to the head of the dealership. Whoever greeted me asked if he could help, but I told him no, in a firm tone, asking to see the number one man. When the boss emerged, though trembling inside, I explained to him, in no uncertain terms, that the trunk of the vehicle had been drenched in a rainstorm on my vacation. I emphasized that I had been in for the same issue a number of times before and it was a huge inconvenience of my valuable time. I continued that I did not want this to happen again, and that I was holding him, head of the dealership, responsible for the repairs. I made it clear to him if the car was still leaking, I would know who to see and who was at fault. I further threatened that I would go over his head if the work was not done properly. He assured me that he would oversee the job.
When I returned at the end of the day, the boss approached me and showed me several black lines where the car had been caulked. He said they had hosed the car down and had found a series of leaks all of which they had caulked. He assured me that the work had been done, and I thanked him for personally overseeing the matter. Upon departing, because I could actually see that something actually had been done on the car, I believed that the problem, finally, had been resolved. And it was!
One reply on “A Lesson in Assertive Behavior”
I have been there. It is too bad it takes extra effort to get people to do the right thing.