Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Shall I Just Stand here And Mumble?

That's what I said to the woman at the car showroom when I went to fetch my courtesy car, but I'm way ahead in the story by telling you that.

Sunday morning I set off with beloved son to go shopping in Solihull. I know. Why Solihull? Because that's where the specialist shop is where they do something fancy called, "Gait analysis," and fit you up with the appropriate running shoes. For son. Not for me!

Anyway, off we went in my 10 year-old VW Polo. That car has a full service record, and has been lovingly cared for. Many years left in the old gal yet, I thought!

About two hundred yards from home, I had what the nice woman at the insurance company said was the most common accident they deal with. Behind one car at a roundabout. I can see clearly the traffic approaching from the right. Nothing coming and the guy in front pulls out. As I am looking to my right and moving forward, because there is nothing coming, the guy in front slams on his brakes and I do a fender-bender! I didn't even see it happening! The guy stopped in the middle of the roundabout, got out, inspected his vehicle and drove off!

When I inspected my car, I found a headlight smashed, the radiator grille twisted and some other damage, which looked minor. I decided to go home rather than drive on the motorway because it was very misty and I did not want to do motorway driving with one headlight.

So, I got home and phoned the insurance company. The lovely woman took the details and said she was faxing a repair place as we spoke. The repair place would collect my car and bring a courtesy car on Monday.

So, on Monday morning a woman from Foxhole (name changed, but it rhymes!) phoned to make arrangements. Before even looking at my car, she said it would probably be a write-off because it was so old. Two mechanics came and collected my car, but did not bring a replacement. I was told that they would ring me during the morning as they were closing at lunchtime. I waited until one o'clock and then rang to see what was happening. I spoke to a woman who knew nothing about it and who said she would try to find someone to speak to me. I could hear the ringing and ringing and ringing as she was attempting to transfer the call. Eventually she put me through to a male colleague to talk about a courtesy car. He said that since they had not had eight hours notice, they couldn't supply a car until Thursday. I replied that I had a family Christmas to go to. This is how the conversation went.

Me: I have a family Christmas to get to tomorrow. You really don't have a car available? Why didn't you tell me?
Foxhole employee: We don't need to. We didn't get eight hours notice.
Me: I will need to ring the insurance company and let them know.
FE: Hold on a minute. (Approx 5 seconds later) Actually we do have a car, but you'll have to fetch it because I'm short-staffed and get here by three because we're closing.

Try to get a cab on Christmas Eve? No way! So, after a twenty-five minute walk, I arrived at the Foxhole showroom, where the first impression was of a lot of cars. I could see a portico which obviously led to the main entrance, but it took some time as the vehicles on the forecourt were so closely squashed together I couldn't find a way through! Anyway, after trampling over a steep grassy bank, I found the double glass doors. A man in a red uniform approached me, and asked what I was looking for. Not, I might say, "Can I help you?" No, he asked what I was looking for!

So, I told him...bla bla bla courtesy car and he pointed me to the service desk, behind which were three women, equidistantly spaced, each facing a chair in front. One of the woman beckoned me with a nod of the head. I went over and did my bla bla again to which she replied not at all. She just stared! So, I said, "Would you like to tell me where I should go or shall I just stand here and mumble?"

"You go out through those doors, walk round to your right and in through the double glass doors."

So, out I went, round to my right, found the double glass doors and went in. Wrong double glass doors. "Round to your right, in through the double glass doors," said the man! So, out I went, more double glass doors. Wrong double glass doors! "Round to your right........" said another man....double glass doors."

Third time lucky! As I opened the door, a man at a desk immediately inside pushed a form towards me and asked me to and here. "Have you driven a Foxhole before?" he asked as he headed outside. I said yes, I had driven a Stellar and a Bextra (Names changed, but I'm sure you know what I mean!) Was it one of those? No, he said. It's just here. and there it was, facing the double glass doors!

It was a red box-shaped thing with huge, and I mean huge, white writing advertising Foxhole and their service from only £99. The man opened the driver's door, showed me the wipers, the lights and where to find reverse and off he went.

In I got! Now, I'm five feet nothing tall. So, first thing I did was pull the seat forward. Next, tried out the foot pedals. Problem! The seat was very high and I couldn't reach the clutch properly. Couldn't find a lever to alter it!

So, in I went through the double glass doors and found that the man had disappeared. Hello! No reply! I wandered through a doorway into a deserted workshop and called again. Hello! Five minutes of hellos later the man reappeared. I asked him if the driver's seat could be put down. Here is the conversation!

Me: Is there a lever to move the driver's seat up and down?
Foxhole Employee: No.
Me: Well, you may have noticed that I am vertically challenged and I can't reach the clutch properly.
FE: That's easily sorted.
So, he went out and after trying to move the seat forward, discovered it was already moved. Did he really think I wouldn't have moved it? Duh!
Me: Is there any other vehicle available?
FE: No, that's the one we use as a courtesy car.
Me: My son is insured on my policy. So, if you would drive the vehicle out of here, he could collect it later.
FE: No I can't do that and we're closing in five minutes.
Me: I shall have to phone my insurance company.

So, I phoned the insurance company from where I was and was given the advice which I repeated to the Foxhole man.

Me: I have been advised to drive the vehicle out of here somehow, and park it outside for my son to collect later.
FE: Well, actually, only the double metal gates get locked. So, I could drive it through those, park it and your son could collect it later.

So, how's that for service?

The engineer is not back until Thursday and he will then decide if my ten year-old car is worth repairing at which point if he decides that my lovely little Polo is for the scrap heap, they will want their product endorsement vehicle back immediately. Fortunately, if that happens my insurance company will provide me with a hire car.

But what about global warming and conservation? How can that be reconciled with writing off a car because an engineer at the Foxhole showroom decides that my car, with probably many good years left, is not worth repairing? My car has what looks like minimal damage to the front end, but high labour costs mean that the car may be worth less than the cost of reparing it.

So, beware dear readers, the double glass doors at the Foxhole!