Monday, November 30, 2015

Hyundai Dealership Misdiagnoses Car Repair and Forgets Engine Cover

"No one likes a car payment."

That's the response I got from an assistant supervisor at Brown's Hyundai in Manassas today. And that's true. No one looks forward to high repair bills. But should one pay for misdiagnosed work?

On 9/23/2015 I took my car to Brown's Hyundai at 8651 Centreville Rd. in Manassas, Virginia. My car would crank repeatedly before starting. Sometimes I'd have to turn the key five or six times before it would catch. The car also hesitated when quickly accelerating.

I took the car to the manufacturer's dealership because they are supposed to know the most about their vehicles. Albeit, they charge an arm and a leg to get any work done. But for $126, they said they would diagnose the problem. And they did. They stated on their invoice that I needed a new fuel pump/filter, and possibly a fuel pressure regulator. Total cost for parts and labor: $940.

Two parts, all self-contained. Knowing that dealerships tend to amp up their parts and labor prices, I had a trusted service center do the replacements for $500--nearly half the price. And the parts were OEM Hyundai parts. But it didn't solve the problem.

For over two months I dealt with this, often sitting in a parking lot and cranking in intervals every 10-20 seconds until the car would start up again. The service center did a second replacement of the fuel pump/filter (just in case), at their own cost of time and labor, and that still did not correct the problem. They even replaced the fuel pressure regulator for free. Still no fix.

So today I took the car back to the Hyundai dealership for a second diagnosis. The first time they spent less than half an hour on it. This time--nearly two hours. Subsequently, they determined that the fuel pump "works as designed," and that the cause was simply bad spark plugs and wires. For $660, they'd replace those.

I asked both the assistant supervisor and write-up personnel if they would give me any discount on that service cost. I already shelled out $625 for a misdiagnosis. They relayed the information to the supervisor and came back with a frank, 'No.' They said (of course) that if I had the work done there, they would stand behind it. So I asked point blank, "So you are telling me that if I had paid that $940 and that did not fix the problem, that you would have replaced the spark plugs and wires for free until the problem was fixed?" The answer I got was a roundabout, and the word "yes" was not included. And they didn't even want to stand by their original diagnosis.

So they wrote up a ticket for $660 for new plugs and wires, and added $330 for a possible crankshaft sensor. I left, of course, frustrated that the dealership in which I purchased the car could be so untrustworthy and unwilling to work with me.

Five minutes later I pulled into a parking lot and lifted the hood to make sure everything was okay. And lo and behold, they FORGOT TO PUT THE ENGINE COVER BACK ON. Not only did the tech guy forget that (how can you miss a part half the size of a human body?), but he didn't even know which cylinder was #5 when we looked over the engine together. "No, that's not 5, 5 is in the back,"  I said.

Lesson? I think the lesson here is that dealerships need to work with their customers when they make mistakes. It can only lead to more pleasant outcomes, and repeat service.


Follow-up: My trusted service center, Automo's on Euclid Ave., replaced the spark plugs and wires for $375, much cheaper than the $660 the Hyundai dealership quoted.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Saturday at McKay Used Books

Another fun time for one and all at McKay Used Books in Manassas, Virginia today. Here are some photos of happy patrons who came to my signing and made white paper bag trees. Perfect for Christmas. Get the new Dollar Store Crafts & Recipes book for yourself or as a gift.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Time Management for Authors

Wouldn't it be nice if you just had time to write? To be able to sit down in your favorite spot and produce awesome, inspired work that both you and your readers can enjoy? To roll around in those fictional worlds in your mind for hours on end?

You can, but I'm seeing a lot of would-be authors who knowingly or unknowingly place roadblocks in their path from the paradise they dream about. I hope this blog post helps remove some of them.

Like many others, I'm a member of a writing group. I'm a member of several Facebook groups about writing. I am also someone who helps writers format their books, design their book covers, and self-publish their finished work. But mostly, I'm an author...and a filmmaker. Through both I have learned many things that keep me focused and on top of my projects. Here's how I do it:

1. Don't take on more than you can handle
I have never owned a day planner, or scheduler, or an app to schedule. Occasionally, I will write myself a note or Post-it so I don't forget an engagement (Book signing on Friday). Hey, I'm over 50, so it's okay. But if you are booking yourself up to the point that you need to write it all down, then you are sacrificing your writing time.

2. Don't join so many organizations
I always get this picture in my head of Marcia Brady at the school bulletin board signing up for every after-school activity. Remember that? She wanted to be popular, or involved, or whatever. The moral of that episode was "don't stretch yourself thin." Don't sign up for every writing seminar, forum, round-table discussion, meet and greet you can. Why do you do that? It's to avoid writing, but feel as though you're still somehow involved in the writing process. It's a mirage.

3. Cut back on Social Media
Wow, is this a BIGGIE. Just think how much time you'd save by not checking Facebook constantly, "liking" posts, and reading what others are doing. Here's my take on social media: Only engage in social media as a reward to your day's work. If you've written 1000 words, or 2000, or whatever, and feel as though you've accomplished something in that day, then go online. Make it a reward. Catch up with your friends. But don't spend all day checking. That breaks your concentration, actually rewires your brain to not handle long spans of focused activity, you really need to view or share so many cat memes? No, you don't. It's a waste of time, a cop-out, and a deliberate distraction.

4. Don't pick projects you aren't fully passionate about
This may seem obvious, but you really have to WANT to see the end goal of a project before you start it. If you have a minor interest in a story, don't do it. Ask yourself, "Will I still be interested in this story two or three years down the line?" If not, don't start it. Find something else that floats your boat. As you know, writing takes a lot of energy.

5. Make ONE goal and complete it
Not sure why I made this the last tip, because it's the most important. Do you want to write a children's book, or a Sci-Fi novel? Do you have short stories you've written and perfected since your adolescence or early adult life that you want to put together in a nice bound book? Whatever it is, stick to ONE goal and complete it, especially if you've never published a thing. Why? Because you want to get your first effort completed. There's plenty of time to follow up with other books you have in mind. But you need to get ONE done, and then you will feel that awesome sense of accomplishment. And each project after will build on that. You'll KNOW you can do it, because you will have physical proof.

Follow these simple rules and you are sure to get something out there. And, oh, what a relief it is! You did it. You got yourself a book. You...succeeded!

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