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Building a head of steam

Martin Roberts loses it

Deep down I am a stubborn individual with a high pain tolerance and low self-esteem who does not care what people think, which makes me a difficult man to cross.

Within my family I have an unjustified reputation as a good boxer. In fact I hated boxing as a participation sport and in my explosive undefeated schoolboy career of 11 bouts, only one of which lasted beyond one round, it was always a simple case of ‘him or me … and it wasn’t going to be me’.

A couple of years ago, a pal and I had a major falling out over a project on which we were working. His character is completely different to mine – he’s a pompous man with a fragile ego who cares desperately what people think of him – and so he didn’t stand a chance. He committed an open and shut case of breach of trust, didn’t have it within him to admit this and apologise (which it was all it would have taken), and so we haven’t spoken for two years and, as far as I am concerned, never will.

All boasting aside, like everyone else, I am not naturally a good complainer. Sometimes this is regarded as a peculiarly British trait, but I genuinely don’t think that anyone actually enjoys conflict or making a fuss.

Yesterday, however, I had two just causes to do so.

watchFirstly, the case of the sailing watch.

In May – as I do every year or so when the previous example’s battery expires – I buy a sailing watch from a local yacht chandlery. They don’t cost much (about £40) but they have two basic and relevant characteristics. They tell the time via a digital read-out, rather than clock hands – which makes them easy to read – and they have the facility to ‘count down from 10 minutes’ which is useful for racing sailors who receive a ‘10 minute’ gun and then need to manoeuvre their yacht so that it then (hopefully) crosses the line as the start gun goes.

As it happens I haven’t done much sailing this year but, last week away on holiday, I took a dip in a swimming pool whilst wearing my sailing watch. After two lengths of the 20-metre pool I looked at it. It had half-filled with water and stopped working.

Yesterday I took it back to the chandlers. They told me they had occasional dissatisfied customers with this watch, but also many satisfied ones (how could they tell?).

I said I was complaining for two reasons: (1) the watch clearly wasn’t ‘fit for purpose’; and (2) as a matter of urgency, they ought to take the matter up with the manufacturer.

Their response was that they would be happy to give me another watch, provided that I produced my receipt. I said that I no longer had my receipt – we could discuss the Sale of Goods Act in due course, if they wished – but in any event I did not want another example of a sailing watch that clearly wasn’t waterproof.

Today I shall be sending a snorter of a missive to the chairman of the watch’s manufacturer, copied to both the chairman of the chandlers and my local MP, Vince Cable. The chief thrust of it will be that, if they are seriously going to market a sailing watch that isn’t waterproof, they really ought to put a large banner on their packaging and advertising specifying this.

Secondly, my car.

VWAt the beginning of July this year, a message began flashing on my dashboard ‘ENGINE FAULT – WORKSHOP!’ and a loud ‘ping!’ emanated from somewhere as an alert, which was irritating because it repeated every ten seconds – not much fun if you are going to be driving for an hour or more thereafter.

Immediately I drove to my local garage and discovered that the issue was a turbo-boost problem. Three days later I took the car to the main dealer for its next service and specifically asked them to deal with this. They rang me later to announce that the turbo was kaput and charged me £2,100 to install a new one.

Within days, the same message and ping began again(!) and I took the car straight back to the main dealer, saying I would return in the afternoon to collect it. When I did so, they told me they hadn’t been able to identify the problem, so I drove away and went to another local garage which specialised in my make of car. They sent off for a specific ‘turbo boost’ piece of equipment – it took three weeks for this to arrive – and on Monday I took my car in for this to be installed.

Yesterday I arrived to collect the car. I was told that they hadn’t needed to install the new piece of equipment because they had double-checked everything under the bonnet and there was nothing wrong with the car at all. The problem must therefore be within the (new) turbo – there was no other possible explanation.

Yesterday I had the joy of ringing the main dealer to inform them that I had just paid £2,100 for them to install a new turbo, that there is something wrong with it and that it is their responsibility to find the problem and deal with it – at no cost to me. The car is now booked to go in next Monday for the purpose.

As a customer, what irritates me is that you have a problem, you take it to the professionals to get it sorted … and now, some eight weeks and counting later, already some £2,100 poorer … last night I still had to drive for 90 minutes to get home, accompanied by the infernal ‘ENGINE WARNING’ light flashing on my dashboard and a ping repeating itself every ten seconds.


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About Martin Roberts

A former motoring journalist, Martin lists amongst his greatest achievements giving up smoking. Three times. He holds to the view that growing old is not for the faint-hearted. More Posts