I pulled into a parking lot near Bay Area and I-45 and went through the first flat tire ritual of locating all the parts to the jack, retrieving the mini-spare Honda provided, loosening the lug nuts on the flat, raising the car, and removing the useless, deflated tire.
When I attempted the put the spare on I discovered that the holes did not align with the studs on the car. No matter how I turned it, it just didn’t fit. Honda, I concluded, had made a mistake and provided me a spare that just didn’t match.
I called someone to take my friend to catch her flight and then I called the local Honda dealer. They quickly dispatched a tow truck. The driver got out and listened to my explanation. Then, apparently thinking I was not bright enough to align holes and studs, attempted to put the spare on anyway. “I doesn’t fit,” he concluded. “I know. That’s why I called you,” I said, without resorting to a sarcastic tone.
He took my Accord and me to the nearest dealership, where I experienced the worst customer service I have ever had at any business anywhere. No one seemed interested in helping me. They wanted to charge me $75 for the tow. They wanted over $200 to replace the tire. They didn’t have a spare to fit my car. Since they had not sold me the car they refused to take any responsibility for the spare that wouldn’t fit. I was there all morning and most of the afternoon attempting to solve the problem. With only three tires I couldn't go anywhere. Eventually they put on an old tire they had in the back, which allowed me to drive to the Goodyear dealer where I had a road hazard policy on the tire and where I would have been already had the spare fit.
I could write a lot more about that experience, but I won’t. (Actually, I did write more in a blog post a few days later, but it was written with such an angry tone that I soon removed it.) I wrote a detailed letter to the owner of the dealership and copied the president of Honda America, neither of whom replied or even acknowledged the letter. Although I had used that dealership for service on this and a previous Honda, I have not returned to them for three years. The dealership where I'd originally purchased the car eventually took responsibility for the towing charge and provided a replacement spare. Now they do my service as well.
Now for the rest of the story.
A few weeks ago, I stepped outside and noticed a tire was flat on the Honda, which my daughter now drives. I changed the tire and in the process scratched my knuckles badly on the concrete. A day or so later I was having lunch with my friend Mike and his family. He noticed my scarred fingers and inquired.
Mike: “How’d you do that?”
Me: “Changing a flat on the Honda.”
Mike: “Hope the spare fit.”
Me: (Thinking he was referring to the event above.) “It did this time.”
Mike: (puzzled) “This time? What do you mean?”
Me: (puzzled – Why would he say that when he obviously knew about the other time, having alluded to it?) “What do you mean?”
Mike then proceeded to remind me of an event that had taken place sometime prior to the July 2005 flat tire, rotten customer service experience. His son had gotten not one, but two flats on their Accord across town late one night. Mike and I drove my car over to help him. I let him use the spare from my car along with his own to get him home.
A few days later, Mike’s son had stopped by to return “my spare.” Mike told me that his son had wanted me to have an unused one, so he'd picked one up at at junk yard. Mike had always wondered if he'd gotten the correct one. I thought he'd put my spare back in the trunk. I had completely and thoroughly forgotten about this entire episode.
Consequently, the case of the non-fitting spare in July 2005 was not Honda’s fault after all (although I tell you there was no effort at taking care of a customer’s problem). They had not supplied a defective spare. They were not responsible. I had formed an opinion and an attitude on far too little information.
And I never would have known that, except for the remarkable confluence of another flat, skinned knuckles, and lunch with a friend and his family. Here’s what I wonder. Where else have I formed judgments with T.L.I. (too little information)? Where have others formed such judgments of me?
Seems to me I have no business judging much of anything. T.L. I.