Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
If you have ever ordered keys for a Lexus, you already know what this is going to be about. For those of you who haven't been cursed with this yet, here goes.
Recently we sold a customer a 93 Lexus ES300. Before driving off with their new car the customer asked if I would make them an extra transmitter door key since we only had one. I told her I would order one and that I would call her when it was in. I knew the key would cost somewhat more than others because a transmitter is built into the head of the key to lock and unlock the doors. Similar to keyless entry on other cars with the exception that on a Lexus, the transmitter is not separate from the key. I called the local Lexus dealer we purchase our parts from to order the key and a power antenna mast which was broken on this same vehicle.
Approximately one week later the parts we delivered to us via the dealers parts truck. I was shocked to see that the door key was $247.00 Wow! That's a bit much for a key even with a built in transmitter. I didn't ask for a key to the Pentagon. With the key was a small package with a 1 inch X 1 inch square circuit board. I called the dealer to question the price and ask about this miniature circuit board. The parts counter person at the dealership stated that the price was correct and that the circuit board had to be plugged into the car "somewhere" in order for the car to recognize this new key. I asked the counter person if it was their policy to cut $247.00 dollar keys without first advising customers about the price. She responded by stating that if "she" had taken my order she would have asked for a credit card # up front to avoid any confrontation. That's a nice trick! Instead of explaining to the customer that the key is so expensive first, they keep their mouth shut and grab a credit card #. This way once the key is cut and made, it's too late for the customer to back out, plus, they have payment up front.
Seeing no help from the dealership I decided to call the Luxus Customer Assistance Center. At the center I spoke to a very polite representative there. She listened to my dilemma and agreed that the dealership personnel should advise customers of the expense of these keys before there cut. In addition she offered more information that added insult to injury, she asked me why we wanted an extra key. I explained that the customer only had one key and desired a second key. She politely stated that once the small circuit board is plugged into the dash the car will recognize the new key but will no longer recognize the old existing key. So now were back to square one, $247.00 dollars later! If I install the circuit board and give her the key, she still will have only one working key! How the heck do you get two keys to work this vehicle? The representative explained that in order to get two keys a special matching set has to be ordered that works with one circuit board. The price of that set? $350.00, of course.
Needless to say I was pretty upset. The representative said she would have the general manager of the dealership call me. After not receiving any call back from the dealership half way through the following day, we made a decision to stop payment on our check. We wanted to be back in the drivers seat! Later that day, the general manager called me. After explaining the situation to him, he decided the terminology was "too technical for him" and he would have the service/parts manager call me back. About an hour later I received a call from the service/parts manager. He stated that his dealership personnel do not normally quote prices unless asked because the majority of their customers would be offended if the dealer mentioned the price up front. "Are customers are not price conscientious" he stated. Baloney! My experience has shown that the wealthier the person the more prudent they are. That's how they accumulated their money in the first place!
Anyway, I told him since we had stopped payment on the check they could come by and pick- up the key and I would cut him a new check for the power antenna mast. He said good and promptly hung up.
I guess the moral of this story is: If your gut feeling tells you your right, don't give up whatever the cost. We certainly don't make it a habit of issuing stop payments on checks. We felt that we issued a promise (check) to pay for a second remote key that will work just like the customers remote key. The dealer broke that promise by not selling us a key that will work with the other key. That was our defense for issuing stop payment.