I don't think GM stands for "Customer Service"


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North America » Mexico » Oaxaca » Puerto Escondido
November 14th 2011
Published: November 15th 2011
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Grave decorations for the Day of the Dead
Okay, here’s the breakdown on why I LOVE GM - those of you who know me may detect a note of sarcasm!

The last time I wrote, we had brought the car to a mechanic, who was recommended by our “fixer”, Juan. We told the mechanic that our power steering light kept coming on, that our power steering would stop working, and that it first occurred going over the mountains. The mechanic checked out the car and told us that it must be the battery. Against our better judgment, we had him change out the battery. And for the next couple of hours, it seemed to work.

Saturday morning we decided to drive the 75-mile trip to Huatulco, not only for something to do, but it has the only GM dealership south of Oaxaca. We were told by Juan that for two-thirds of the trip, the road was nice and straight, but for the last third, it was hilly and windy. Perfect! Sorry, sarcasm is once again seeping through.
We got to the GM dealership with the power steering only not working about 4 times. We told the Service Manager what had happened. He seemed to understand. He told
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Day of the Dead Costumes
one of his worker-bees to check out the car by driving it around with David. After test-driving the car for a power steering issue on a super windy road going 85 mph, Mario Andretti, aka worker-bee got the car to fail. David also said that after the car failed, the worker-bee didn’t pull over, put the car in park, and restart it; he just quickly turned it off and on and the light went off and the power steering came back on. Kids, don’t try this at home! He also told us that the battery we just paid $150 for was the wrong amperage and that it could fail. Nice!

Now they know what’s wrong with my car and it should take no time to fix, right? Wrong! It was 2:00 and the shop was closing. Could we come back Monday? Sure, no problem – we have nothing else to do!
Over the rest of the weekend, David researched our car problem online. Turns out Saturn has a propensity for the power steering assembly to fail, so much so that, while it wasn’t recalled, GM sent out a bulletin stating that they would replace it for free. Sweet! He also got a phone number for GM in Mexico. Super sweet!

Early Monday morning we drove back to Huatulco. I think the Service Manager was surprised to see us again. We told them we know what the problem is and all he had to do was order the part, put it in, and we’d be on our way. Well, the Service Manager wasn’t going to have any part of that! I guess he wanted the glory. We waited for five hours while they checked out the car. Finally he came and told us that that was the part. Unfortunately, GM never made Saturns in Mexico, and so the part would be hard to find. He told us that his manager was coming the next day and that they would both look for the part first thing tomorrow morning. He gave us his business card and basically escorted us out to our car. Since it was closing time, we had no choice but to drive home, in the dark. There is nothing quite as scary as driving on a dark, windy, Mexican road, except if you do it with no power steering! Suffice to say, it was one of my scariest moments I’ve ever experienced.

Tuesday we called the GM plant in the US and after much cajoling, got both the part number and the bulletin number that stated that GM would fix the car for free. After a couple of hours, I called the Service Manager in Huatulco and he told me that he had called Juan and I should talk to Juan. We had given him Juan’s phone number so that nothing would be lost in translation. Well, something was apparently lost, because Juan told us that the Manager said that he couldn’t find the part, but if we could find it, he would install it. Isn’t that grand?! Our car is dead in the water and we have to find a part, order it, ship it to Puerto Escondido and then drive 75 miles to have it installed in Huatulco! Luckily we had the Internet on our side; unfortunately, our apartment, for one reason or another does not get Internet or cell phone coverage! Another hurdle!!

Wednesday David and I took our laptops, got into our broken car and drove down to Playa Zicatela. There is a coffee shop that had free internet service. We had already used the coffee shop to check our email one other time, so we had the Internet key. This time we parked our car close enough to the coffee shop to get Internet coverage and with our air conditioning blasting, did our business there. David called GM Mexico and spoke to Carmen about our situation. I Googled the Bulletin number and the part number and bookmarked them, just in case. Carmen tried for the next couple of days to locate the part, to no avail. Meanwhile, we got the part number that we bookmarked and ordered the part. Since the company doesn’t ship to Mexico, we have to ship to our son, Michael, and he’s going to ship it to us. Hopefully, we’ll get the part and we can get it installed by the beginning of next week.

Lessons learned? Well, maybe drive a car with parts that are readily available. In fact, if for some reason the part doesn’t work, we’ll be forced to head north to Tucson, reboot, and get the car fixed (for free!) there. We may even get something more reliable and rugged that could handle the Mexican roads. This is a worst-case scenario. To drive to Tucson from Puerto Escondido will take, with a good car, 6-7 days. Who knows how long our car will take?

As far as GM is concerned, I don’t want to say much before my car is actually fixed. I do know that both GM US and GM Mexico should make it their priority to help their customers. As customers, we should not have to hear “we can’t”. It is not “customer service” to tell us, their customer, that if we get the part, GM in Huatulco will install it. Also, I’m not sure if anyone here understands the criticality of our situation. We are on a six-month visa, which is ending soon. We HAVE to move out of the country, even if it’s to just move right back in. Right now we are 14 hours away from the Guatemala border; so, it’s imperative that our car works! In a normal world, we would have made reservations already to go to Antigua. We can’t in good faith make that reservation without knowing if our car’s going to work. Juan told David Wednesday that he looks stressed and he should just relax by going to a coffee plantation. Really?!

Okay, enough griping! As I stated earlier, my car should be fixed by early next week. I have inserted pictures from the last couple of days in Oaxaca. Hopefully, after my car’s fixed (positive thinking!), we can go for a drive and take more pictures. When we get my car fixed, David & I will be able to relax. Who knows, maybe we’ll go to a coffee plantation!


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