Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

It’s been an interesting couple of days dealing with Toyota’s service policies and the failure of a replacement part 12 months and 26 days after it was installed by an authorized dealer.

Back story: in June 2010, the liftgate handle cracked while trying to open the back. The internal workings of this part are made of plastic. But as it had lasted 11 years, we really couldn’t complain. A few days and a couple hundred dollars later, and the part was replaced and everything worked great.

Fast forward to July 26, 2011. While opening the liftgate, I heard that familiar *snap* of the mechanism. No problem, as I’m sure that the Toyota dealership (Hiland Toyota Scion in Moline, Illinois) would honor their work and take care of it. In fact, they wouldn’t. They cited the 12 month/12,000 warranty, and stated they HAD to charge for the repair (full price, full labor, of course). As I needed a working liftgate, I grudgingly paid it.

Later that evening, I contacted the service department of Hiland, as well as Toyota USA, with the following:
Today, the handle assembly on my back hatch broke internally, rendering it unable to open. This part was replaced 12 months and 26 days ago. The original part lasted 11 years, while the replacement part lasted not quite 13 months.

I was told by the service department that the part could not be covered under warranty due to both time and mileage since the previous replacement (6/30/2010). While I understand the need for rules and policies, I am frankly offended by the inability of the service staff to view this as a HUMAN issue. This is not a part that can be unusually stressed or abused. If it broke after 13 months, it is because either the part or the installation were substandard.

I own a service business, so I understand the need to manage liability. But I also understand that sometimes, you simply take care of the customer. We do it all the time. Sometimes it costs us to do so. But it’s the decent thing to do. I do not know if the inability to be decent lies with Hiland Toyota’s service department, or with Toyota policy. Frankly, I do not care. What I do know is that I have paid nearly $200 TWICE for a plastic part and installation in the past 13 months.

What I want is to not have to pay for this repair a second time. I hope that Toyota can do something about this. If you do, I’ll certainly be thankful. If not, I’ll have to rethink my attitudes toward the Toyota brand, as it seems you are unwilling or unable to stand by your work.

You have my contact information with this email, and I look forward to hearing from you regarding this issue.

Craig Wiggins

I received a call from the Service Manager at Hiland, who was clearly lacking a grasp of the facts of MY case, and who reiterated the policy. Now mind you, it was less than a month out of warranty on a part that had originally lasted 11 years. He then stated he would get back to me. That was several hours ago.

Now, I have received the following from Toyota USA:
Dear Mr. Wiggins,

Thank you for contacting Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

We apologize for the concerns you have experienced with back hatch handle assembly on your 1999 Sienna.

The Toyota Service Part Warranty is in effect for 12 months, regardless of mileage, from the date the part(s) was installed on the vehicle or the remainder of any applicable new vehicle warranty, whichever provides greater coverage (with the exception of batteries).

Your vehicle is currently outside these warranty parameters and we are unable to assist with the cost of this repair.

We appreciate the opportunity to review your request.

Please review our Warranty Coverage FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) regarding the warranty parameters for your vehicle,

Your email has been documented at our National Headquarters under file #1107271362. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us,

Tiffany Harris
Toyota Customer Experience

Well Tiffany, as a matter of fact, I am NOT happy with your response. In fact, I’m so UNhappy, that I shall post it on Facebook, Google+, and wherever else I can find so that people I know will know that Toyota is a company more concerned with “policy” than with doing the right thing, and that they do not stand by their “quality” products or workmanship one minute past when they are required to. But no worries Tiffany, you probably won’t need to deal with me in the future, as Toyota will be dropped from consideration of my future vehicle purchases.

As for you all, friends and family, feel free to do what you will with this information, but should you decide to depend on the quality of the Toyota brand, or on their willingness to stand behind their products, be forewarned: your trust may be misplaced.


UPDATE 8/1/2011

Received a call from Jim Bullock, the Service Manager at Hiland Toyota today. Odd, I didn’t get the promised call from Dawn Wheelbarger, the Customer Relations Manager. Regardless, it seems someone HAS found the money to pay for the part. I’m still waiting to see if that includes the labor.

But this really hasn’t changed my opinion of Toyota’s, or at least Hiland Toyota’s application of company policies. Ultimately, the only reason I’m getting any relief is because I’ve made a bit of an embarrassing stink online about the whole situation. I see no indication from my most recent interactions that the same thing would not happen again- to me or to some other person.  The issue is  still one of humanity.  Let me offer a contrasting story that occurred withing 24 hours of my Hiland Toyota encounter.

During our drive out to the Midwest, the van started making rumbles from underneath. It turns out that the resonator had become disconnected from the exhaust pipe. These things happen.  I took it to the Midas shop in Champaign, Illinois. The manager was professional, courteous, and decent. He took me out into the shop to visually verify the exact problem. He didn’t have the part that day, but promised to have it by 8:00 the next morning. Sure enough, I returned at the appointed time, and the part was there. The aftermarket part is different from the OEM part, and some additional installation work was required, as well as additional parts. The addition to the estimate he gave me the day before?  Zero dollars.  It wasn’t the shop’s fault that there was a difference in the part and that the mechanic needed to commit additional parts and labor to finish the job. But it was the decent thing to do to FIX the problem, and not make an additional issue of it. It made a good impression, and I would recommend working with the Midas in Champaign, Illinois.

Both shops are in the auto repair industry. Both were dealing with an out of town, likely single visit customer. Both knew that my problem needed fixed, and that I really couldn’t leave it unfixed. One religiously adhered to policies and procedures, and would have left things that way had I not gotten aggressive. The other did a solid, and has a fan writing about them right now.  Is it really that hard?

Sorry Toyota, your policies STILL suck. But thank you for making them suck just a little less in my case. But if you want me back, some things need to change…



Well, Hiland Toyota finally came through… mostly.  I received a copy of a credit to my card over the weekend. They credited back the part + tax. Of course I was still on the hook for the labor, but that was the smaller portion of the bill.  I’m still not a fan of Hiland, nor of Toyota in general, for reasons already noted above. But for those who’ve kept up with the saga, this is the end of it.

Good Morning Amman

Six months ago, I expected to be seeing this right about now. It’s morning in the Al Rabieh section of Amman, north of Fifth Circle.  I was going to spend a couple days in the city, connecting with new and old friends, then take a ride up to Ajlun to meet up with some good friends.  I was really looking forward to it, and some of those friends were counting on it.

But life throws us curves. The unexpected happens- sometimes “good unexpected” and sometimes disappointing. Instead of waking up in Amman right now, I’m preparing to go bed in Pennsylvania. Instead of arid air, city sounds, and clear blue skies, I get humidity, the smells of farm country, and rumbles of thunder. Disappointing unexpected.

But instead of time with good friends in a faraway land, I got a long weekend with my family. Instead of exotic shopping, struggling to find the right words in another language, and white knuckles from adventurous taxi rides; I got multiple get-togethers with friends all around the area, fantastic conversations with many of them, and relatively calm drives on mostly empty roads. “Good unexpected.”

We go through life and we make plans. We pray for God’s blessing on our plans and somehow expect that because WE prayed for it to happen, that it must be Divinely ordained. It’s a silly sort of arrogance in the best light. Something far worse in any other.  Reality crashes in on even the most seemingly “good” plans and dreams and presents us with a picture far different than the one in our minds.

In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans.”  The question for use, for me specifically, is what do we do with reality? Do we curse it and rage against it for not conforming to our “better” plans? Do we begrudgingly accept it, silently pouting about “what might have been”? Or do we recognize that the Divine Mind might actually have knowledge and perspective that is beyond our own, and that this disappointing reality might really be the opening to something far greater?  In other words, will we not just ACCEPT our reality, but relish in it?

I’m going to miss seeing my friends in Jordan this week. I’m going to miss serving them, sharing meals and tea with them, spending long evenings talking with them. I’m going to miss their kids, who have been a real delight in my life the last couple years of visiting them.

But I won’t waste the reality I have here. I’m going to enjoy my kids. I’m going to share meals with my family, and hopefully coffee with some of my friends here. I’m going to talk long into the evening with my wife and others about the dreams in our heads, and how this reality might be taking us there.

We’ve already started, sharing some of our thoughts and dreams with friends at one of our several get-togethers this weekend. As it turns out, they have similar dreams of their own, and might be able to help make our dreams a reality. Now isn’t that funny?  At that moment, I could have been sleeping in Amman. Instead, we were very awake, eagerly discussing “what might be” instead of “what might have been.”

How about you? What reality is crashing in on your dream?  What are you making of it? I’d love to hear about it.