Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mimi Goes To the Doctor

Today I gave my cute little Vespa to a man with grimy hands... and I'm horribly sad for her.

You must understand, she is a sensitive little thing. I mean come on, we are talking about the lightest blue, cutest Vespa out there!

So when we started thinking that she needed to go into the Vespa doctor for her check-up you can understand my apprehension. Add to that the problem that most certainly no one at that shop speaks English, and I've always disliked and many times distrusted auto mechanics.

I can't tell you how often I've been given the shuck and jive by some jerk that didn't think I knew the difference between an alternator and a solenoid, or had only 5 out of 6 spark plugs (the last one was hard to get to, the distributor would need to be moved) changed out on a full tune-up job. There is a woman customer in front of them and they see dollar signs. Which is irritating for me because I possibly know more about these things than a great majority of men. Trust me ladies, send a man with your car... he doesn't even really have to know anything, but the mechanic will ASSUME if the customer has a weenie he might actually know a little bit about cars.

But since getting to Germany I am at a loss for the language... everything has a different name, and it is hard stand up for yourself when you can barely get out the basics. Thus I feel that I am at the mercy of these guys with Mimi. In the interest of German bureaucracy it is expected when you are getting ready to buy a used car/motorcycle, you always ask to see the maintenance information, so of course you MUST get these checks done or risk the resale value being low. It is religiously filled out by Mr. Mechanic and you hope that everything which was suggested by the manufacturer was actually completed. But of course to my skeptical eye I know that these "checks" are mostly visual and rarely do they need to "do" anything except fill out the cute little book and then the invoice for an insane amount of money.

Earlier this week our Nissan Micra was subjected to the same type of treatment. It was "her time" for a two year check-up. The manufacturer's list of things to do mostly included visual checks on parts, verifying that the air conditioner was not leaking its bad stuff, and an oil change with synthetic oil. Five hours after drop-off it was picked back up... the damage... 340 EUR ($533) What for? They didn't touch the suspension, exhaust, or the electrical system. There were no parts exchanged save the synthetic oil, although I must admit that is expensive... I see it at 15 EUR per liter in the stores, and I assume the shysters are charging 20 EUR. OK, so 6 liters of oil at 20 EUR = 120 EUR... and that is a conservative estimate. Add to that an oil filter and probably an air filter, the total price still just sucks.

To top all of that off... when my Sweet N. got into the car after paying the insane amount of money, she grabbed hold of the gearshift lever and felt her hand slide on the layer of black grease lovingly left for her by what we can only assume to be the one that worked on the car. Wonderful, eh?

In my dreamworld I would have the time, energy, and knowledge to be able to putter around my own vehicles. Perhaps in another life I would have paid even more attention as my father and brother worked on the machines in our lives... maybe even following up by using my mechanical ability for the better. Possibly even running a garage in a different way... in an honest way... so that the customer could trust what we would do. The question is... would anyone come to a garage owned and operated by a woman?
Rosie the RiveterLater today I will go to pick up my little cutie... put on my blue helmet with the pretty flowers and sail off into the sunset... away from the evil men with the dirty hands.


Erin said...

I totally agree with your angst about not being able to stand up for yourself. When I had to take our car in for service I was basically told that I was wrong and sent away. I had to have a German-speaking colleague of my husband call the garage for me. When they finally conceded that the repair was covered under the warrantee not one apology was uttered.

I’m glad to hear that you’re getting your wheels back. Hope you don’t have to return any time soon.

Dr. J said...

I drove past a female mechanic in Hamburg, so apparently they exist!

Dr. J said...

Just quikcly googled KFZ-meisterin in berlin and found a pair in Spandau:

Definately something to keep in mind.

narrowback said...

when I lived in Syracuse NY in the 70's there was an auto repair/maint. shop run by a lesbian I recall it was quite successful and garnered news coverage as "the" place for women to take their car due to the reasons you outlined in you post.