Sunday, 4 January 2015



The biggest Achilles Heel of any service department is that dreaded 'W' word. Most new cars, trucks and farm equipment are covered by warranty, full coverage for (usually) a year, then specific components (basic engine and powertrain) for the next period. The trouble with most customers was that all they heard or read was the 2 or 3 years; they didn't bother to think that the warranty was limited after that. JC got so sick of the forbidden W that he bristled every time he heard it. A customer would phone and make arrangements to bring a pickup or a tractor in to get some work done. The work would be done in an efficient, timely manner then when JC was presenting the customer with the bill, he'd get a response: 'Oh no, that's under warranty!'  Now, the vast majority of customers were pretty good about repairs but that small minority could be extremely trying because to them, the warranty should never end. JC once attended a customer satisfaction workshop. The first question asked by the instructor was: 'What do your customers expect?' There were a lot of laughs around the room then first response was: 'Twenty years warranty.'

I sometimes blame large companies because they would come out with comprehensive campaign changes that would encompass half of the tractor and the factory would include any parts that failed because of the faulty parts that were to be changed in the first place. During one such campaign change JC filed warranty claims for upwards of $20,000.00. That gave some people the attitude that all the tractors--even those not covered by the campaign--should be covered by warranty indefinitely. They would expect normal wear and tear items, such as lights, switches, air-conditioning components and hydraulic couplers to be repaired/replaced without charge. When JC was confronted with that and he refused then the angry customer would traipse into the boss's office and tell him what jerk JC was for refusing a legitimate (?) request for warranty. Still, JC would hold his ground, explaining for the fiftieth time that the warranty did not apply to the faulty component and the factory would flatly refuse the claim. Of course some customers would have the audacity to suggest that the job be put onto someone's machine that was still under the first year of warranty. And then there were the totally fraudulent.

Willy bought a tractor new back when the series came out. He used it over the years, maintained it as it needed to be and then, long after its Best Before Date, traded it in for a new model. Now Willy didn't seem the type to expect a lot because he had previously owned a tractor, the warranty of which, expired long ago. But he bought the new unit at a time when the shop was filled to the rafters with larger tractors undergoing the aforementioned comprehensive campaign change. For the first year there were few problems; a cab relay here and a leaky hydraulic coupler there. Willy just used his tractor and enjoyed the extra features it offered.

Well, the first season was over and the second one began. Willy went to work but when the heat of the day hit, he soon realized that the air-conditioner wasn't working. And with those new super quiet tractor cabs one could not stand it when the A/C quit. JC handled the job himself as it was on his way home and he could bring what he needed. The problem was nothing more than a bad seal at the evaporator connection that had caused all the Freon to leak out. Willy was happy and back to work. JC went back to the shop and did up a bill for the call and sent it to Willy.

JC had always thought of Willy as a super conservative individual and a reasonably good customer; consequently he sure wasn't expecting the barrage of nasty words that Willy unloaded at him when the bill arrived. JC was quite offended if the truth be known. He tried to explain that Willy's full coverage warranty had expired at the end of the last season; this was six months later. He might as well had been talking to a post because Willy wasn't backing down; he had two years of warranty and flatly refused to pay the bill. And since his tractor was at the farm and not at the shop where JC could simply drop the door and keep the tractor inside until the bill was cleared, he had little choice but to deal with it another way.

One of the service manager's roles, in addition to attending to customer's needs and the shop's business, is that of Peace Maker. When confronted with an irascible customer, the service manager was to try to calm him down and take control of the situation, even when JC's attitude about keeping the peace was: 'Peace on you!' JC simply credited the bill and put it into what he referred to as a Revenge File, a place where all contested workorders were kept. there would come the time when Willy would need some more major work done--out of warranty. An extra gear or shifter fork would find its way onto the new workorder and it would eventually be settled. Not entirely legal but morally acceptable--the bottom line: Willy was responsible.

Later that year, Willy phoned JC and complained about fuel leaking around the fuel tank sending unit. JC told him that he couldn't send anyone out but since Willy was just down the road, why not just drive the tractor in and they'd fix it in the shop? Willy was there within half an hour and luckily the fuel level was low enough to remove the sending unit without having to drain off some of the fuel. A quick check revealed a flaw in the solder. It could've been soldered but a new unit only cost $44.00 and JC told him that; he didn't tell Willy that he'd install it for free. Willy said: 'You might as well replace it; it's under warranty anyways.'

'Afraid not,' JC countered, 'you're almost finished your second year (he didn't bother to dredge up the A/C problem).

'Well, just solder up the hole then.' JC soldered the hole shut, reinstalled the unit and billed Willy for $40.00 labor. Willy paid it, thinking that he got a bargain. I might add that later that year, Willy ran into some problems with the two-speed rear axle of his 3-ton truck. Some 'extra' parts cleared up the A/C dispute.


The thing about Willy, and many others like him, is that he was up front and open about his attitude; it wasn't all that hard to take. And most times, it doesn't hurt to ask. But there are (fortunately) a relatively small number of those who think that warranty is an entitlement, and they'll stop at nothing to get what they've convinced themselves that they're entitled to. The following story is about one individual to whom everything was legal as long as he didn't get caught. Trouble was: his own arrogance was his own undoing, especially when he thought he was smarter than JC.

If a person wants to indulge in a world of deception and fraud, he should at least maintain an aura of honesty. That way, the party about to be compromised isn't aware that such unlawful tendencies exist. That was Sig's undoing. He was rather loose-tongued about his fraudulent acts. Disconnecting the speedometers in his trucks was one thing; he also liked to hook the electric drill to the speedo cable and wind it in reverse to roll the odometer back. Of course he had to be careful with the latter as an overheated drill almost burned his truck to the ground. When Sig bought a new pickup at JC's place of employment, JC had an idea of what might happen.

Back then warranty was 12 Month/12,000 miles. The customer could buy an additional warranty, which was actually an insurance policy with a deductible but that was so much hassle that most customers decided it wasn't worth the trouble. Sig looked at it but decided against it, much to the pleasure of JC and all who might have to get involved. Sig brought his pickup in for some small repairs which didn't amount to much at all. A faulty fuel tank selector switch, and a diode trio in the alternator which were readily approved by the manufacturer. JC noted the mileage as 9800 on the warranty claim and all was well.

Two months later, the truck came in to get a leak at the transmission repaired. JC looked at the odometer and saw that it was 9400. He also saw that the truck no longer had the original tires. JC never said a word, he just had the leak fixed, noted the mileage at 10,800 and processed the claim. He also checked the speedometer connection at the transmission and saw that the cable was fouled up with road dust. He cleaned the cable, lubed it up and secured it to the transmission connection. With the truck still up on the hoist, he cleaned up the outside of the connection with ether, dried it thoroughly then took out a tube of sealing lacquer and placed a bead across the connection. If the connection was ever broken, the bead of lacquer would shatter thus telling whoever was working on the truck that it had been tampered with.

JC never saw Sig again until the initial year of ownership was almost over. Sig showed up one day with a lot of mechanical noise coming out of the engine as well as some popping back through the intake. JC determined it to be with the valve train (it turned out to be a flattened camshaft). JC also looked at the tires and determined that it had gone through another set (Sig lived about thirty miles from any place and the distance to JC's shop was more like fifty). A check of the odometer showed just over 10,000 miles. Before any work commenced, JC put the truck on the hoist and checked the speedometer connection; the lacquer was broken. Sig was busted!

JC told Sig that his warranty was void and that the shop would perform the necessary repairs but at Sig's expense. That didn't ride well with Sig. In fact the pits and dents on the metal siding of the shop, left there from the gravel spray of Sig's spinning wheels as he roared out of there, are still in plain sight. JC was going to highlight them along with a sign identifying the culprit.

Sig headed to another town about 40 miles away. But warranty was turned down there as well. Sig obviously didn't think that JC had phoned the zone office and officially voided the warranty. Anyways, since the shop wouldn't perform the warranty, Sig decided to do something else; he'd simply trade the truck for a new one. He even brought his dad with him to buy another truck at the same time.

Problem was: he didn't think that service departments between dealerships talked to each other.

JC got a call from the second dealership regarding the truck and the reason the warranty was voided. JC explained the situation to him and how he caught Sig with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. Brian, the other service manager, told JC that Sig and his dad were dealing on a pair of new pickups. JC cautioned him on what was likely to happen. Brian held up the servicing of the new trucks while he dispatched an employee to drive down to JC's place for a couple of tubes of sealing lacquer.

JC didn't hear anything regarding Sig for the better part of two years. Neither Sig nor his dad hung onto the new trucks for very long so JC had an idea that they had attempted to extend the warranty on their new units and got caught.

Well, JC was now at a new place of business and was checking out a problem at a local tractor dealership when he overheard one of the sales reps talking to the bookkeeper. Sig's name was mentioned in this great wonderful deal that was transpiring. When JC heard that he burst out laughing; it got the bookkeeper's attention and JC was quizzed.

It turned out that Sig was renting a couple of new large tractors for the season and the dealership was getting them ready. JC told him about his experiences with the fraudulent ass. 'Mike, that guy will unplug the hourmeters,' JC cautioned him. 'I'll bet a thousand bucks that he'll find a way to do it.'

Mike, (the bookkeeper) summoned the owner of the dealership and had JC explain what was likely to happen. JC added: 'Back the engine oil filters off half a turn and carve the date and hours onto them, and retighten them, then put a bead of sealing lacquer on the engine drain plugs; there's no way Sig is going to service those engines if he intends to return the tractors at the end of the season. If the lacquer seal is broken, then I'm wrong, to a point.

The dealership procured a couple of reliable (read expensive) vibration-detecting hourmeters and secured them to the top of each tractor's transmission then sent the tractors out.

October rolled around and Sig returned the tractors. He had things figured out that he'd be charged a couple thousand dollars and all would be well. To ensure that he was on the up and up, he had one of the farm flunkies wash and detail those tractors to look like they had barely left the dealership.

The tractors were unloaded and run into the shop. Sig headed into Mike's office to settle up, and that's when he saw the two vibrometers sitting on the desk. He sat down and opened his official farm checkbook and began writing.

'Now you take the readings off the hourmeters on the dash panels and it shows about $2,000.00 you owe us,' Mike began. He then held up the vibrometers. 'But these tell us something a lot different,' Mike continued. 'We mounted these on top of the transmissions and they tell us you owe us $14,000.00 apiece.' Mike paused to let the news sink in before he moved in for the kill.

'Now you cut a check for $28,000.00, plus the bill for servicing the tractors--you didn't change oil for service the hydraulics either--and you get your ass out of here, and never come back. Try to fight us and I'm calling the police.'

Sig didn't say a word. He cut a check for just under $30,000.00 and headed for the door.

The years went by and JC heard very little from Sig. He bumped into him at a major machinery exhibition a couple of years ago. Sig wasn't impressed when JC referred to him as Sigmond Fraud, and even introduced him as such to a couple of friends. But everyone wonders who Fraud is going to try to take next.


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