The British Experience (2) Choosing a Garage

Sunday, 30. August 2009

You have an oldish but still sturdy car which is due for its MOT test and needs an oil change. The aircon is not functioning properly and you fear for the worst.


1)          mesmerise yourself while passing dingy garage run by yobs offering a “free safety” check and recoil in panic when they discover worn shocks and offer to fit a reconditioned aircon something or other much cheaper than the main dealer; knowing nothing about cars you think it has to be done now and leave the car for three days; after hassling them on the phone twenty times, the final bill is about £700, less for cash; drive away and wonder if the aircon really is working or if they even changed the oil, let alone the front shocks

2)          opt for safety and book a luxury coffee break at the main dealer’s gorgeous showroom while a brittle woman plastered with make-up who knows nothing about cars but everything about billing patiently wears down the customer before you; glance at Daily Torygraph and National Geographic while trying not to admire the gleaming coupe next to your comfy leather armchair; speak to brittle woman for five minutes and depart in loan car for the day, desperate not to scratch it; return at teatime to see gleaming old car in parking lot and glimpse of beautiful workshop area where uniformed engineers are looking at computers; endure even longer wait for brittle woman’s assistant, hairstyle woman, who has a white Afro that surpasses description of any kind; drive away in immaculately valetted vehicle with £1, 287.67 plus VAT less in your bank account; this is fine if you have loads of money but the aircon still isn’t working like it used to

3)          learn something about cars and spend time tracking down the last real garage for miles, where Sid answers the phone after he’s crawled out from under an old Jag; book in for vague list of possible things that need doing and arrive early on appointed day to find Sid and Bill already on their bacon sandwiches after starting work at six; they don’t say much and they wave you away so you catch the bus home and hope for the best; at lunchtime Sid phones to explain something you don’t understand but it’s not that expensive so you say yes; when you turn up at closing time Sid and Bill are still at work on a treacherous Alfa, swearing at each other and obviously exhausted; your car is parked behind several others they must have done that day; you wait, wondering when they retire and why anyone would fancy Miss July 1983 for so many years; Bill arrives, because he is the communicator… explains that you are very lucky because they found a something that had worked loose from the aircon lying in the oil-pan where it could have fallen in the road and been lost, oh dear; he’s sorry but they had to change the brake pads and I didn’t answer when he rang me; apologetically hands over grimy scrawl bill culminating in the sum of £312 inc. VAT and tells you the shocks can wait another year; they don’t take credit cards but it’s OK to bring the rest of the cash tomorrow, when you can collect the MOT cert., OK?

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