On Monday, July 25th, 2011, I took my pontiac sunfire to the Economy Lube shop on University Ave in Waterloo, ON. I needed to have an oil change done, as I was leaving for Ottawa and then Baltimore, MD, in the next few days following that, and the car was just about due for one. The guys took her in, performed the service I needed, and sent me on my way within 15 minutes, after informing me that my A/C was broken (a fact that I already knew). I drove the car home, and to work the next day, and the day after that I drove to Ottawa, from Waterloo, a five hour drive in good traffic, and while there did some running around with the vehicle, and left the following morning to drive ten hours to Baltimore with passengers along.
The entire drive to Ottawa and Baltimore the car behaved normally, which I am supremely grateful for. While in Baltimore I ferried friends back and forth between the Extended Stay America Linthicum hotel and the BWI Business light rail stop, as well as driving into Columbia, MD, and into the downtown core of Baltimore for a supply run on the day we arrived there (Thursday, July 28th, three days and about 1400kms since the oil change). It wasn't until my friends and I began our trip home to Canada on Monday, August 1st, that we noticed there was a problem with the vehicle. When stopping for gas halfway through New York state, the car began to steam quit a bit, and other patrons at the gas station advised me not to open up the hood, and get home as soon as possible to have the car examined. While driving, the engine temperature was not rising, and no other issues were presenting themselves. We arrived back in Ottawa without incident, and while dropping my friends at their apartment the car once again began to steam. It was finished with this after about 5-10mins, and I drove it next door to stay for the night with another friend, who commented that the car stank of oil.
On Wednesday, August 3rd, I drove from Ottawa in the early morning, back to my home in Waterloo, and when stopping for gas in Kingston, ON, noticed that the car, while still steaming quite a bit, did indeed smell very strongly of oil, which it also now appeared to be leaking through the front vents, and over the sides of the hood. Also, the rims of the two front cars were coated in a thin layer. I arrived home safely, quite convinced that there was something seriously wrong with my vehicle, and proceeded to go to work that day and the next using other means until my day off when I could sit down with my father and have a look at it before taking it to a local garage.
When my father and I were finally home at the same time, my father opened the hood of the vehicle and immediately the problem became clear. Everything in the engine compartment was covered in oil, and the oil cap was not on the oil tank. Instead, it was perched nicely on top of the battery, quite a few inches away. Understandably, my father and I were both quite upset by this. My father put the cap back on the oil tank, where it screwed in perfectly tight, and advised me to take the vehicle back to Economy Lube on the first chance I got - this would be the next day that they would be open while I was not at work myself, Monday August 8th, two weeks since the oil change had been done.
On Monday myself and a friend went to the Economy Lube location on University Ave at 9am. I was completely calm and courteous at this point - I myself work in customer service and I understand that mistakes can be made and that berating an individual is not the most effective way to make them sympathetic to your issue. I spoke to the mechanic Sam, explaining to him that I had the oil change done there, driven 3000kms between Waterloo, Ottawa and Baltimore, and that the car had been exhibiting noticable issues that stemmed from the mechanic who had completed my initial oil change not putting the cap back on properly.
After I explained myself, Sam went into a speech about how I could not have possibly done all the driving that I had, and perhaps someone else had gone under the hood and removed the oil cap. To begin with, his tone was condescending and his choice of vocabulary was extremely accusatory, making me feel like a common idiot for believing that my vehicle had gone the distance it had. I calmly explained to him that there was simply no way that someone had opened up the hood - I myself do not unless I am filling the windshield washer fluid, and the only other person who would have would have been my father, who I had not been home with at the same time since the oil change, save for when we both were sleeping. The only other explanation was that someone in Baltimore had come along and done this to my car, and it seemed a touch far-fetched that someone would remove the oil cap and place it on the battery as an act of vandalism. Sam then quie rudely asked, 'Well, what do you expect us to do?'
By this point, my patience is wearing thin. Sam is being condescending, and his overall attitude is rather smug. I stated that I expected for the oil change to be redone, the oil filter to be replaced, and for the engine bay to be thoroughly cleaned of oil. Sam pointed outside, saying that the regional manager was just arriving, and he would have to go ask him about this. Sam left the office and waitng room to go talk to the manager as he came across the parking lot, and my friend and I turned to find the waiting room rather stunned, one gentleman even asking if my vehicle was still running smoothly. At this point, no. The engine oil light had come on, and the car was shuddering and rumbling rather loudly. My friend drew my attention outside, to where I could clearly witness Sam and regional manager (who I later found out to be the vice president of Economy Lube), Chris Muter talking. Sam had a large grin on his face and his body language and gesturing suggested that he found my story and issue to be something of a joke. Without asking me, the men began approaching my vehicle, at which point my friend and I went outside to meet them. We opened up the hood and I demonstrated how the engine compartment was covered in oil - it was dripping from the hood and everything inside was slicked with it.
At this point I am told again that there is no way the car made it as far as it did. I state again that this may very well be a fact, but the car did and has made it that far, perhaps I was given extraordinary luck. Both gentlemen nod, and then Chris Muter states that perhaps the oil tank cap just popped off.
I am not a mechanic, and I am not a physicist. But I am thoroughly intrigued by how exactly the cap was supposed to have unscrewed itself and leapt over to sit on the car battery with the hood closed, while it was driving. While Chris is being a shade more polite than Sam had been inside, he is still speaking to me as though I am an idiot, and I am still feeling rather condescended to by the looks they are sharing and by their tones. Chris Muter tells me that they will redo the oil and filter change, and 'wipe everything down' for me. While this was not exactly what I was hoping for, I agreed and let them take the car up. I was told that the whole thing would take 15 minutes, and already I was skeptical, as that was how long the original change had taken - I would assume that an oil change and wiping down the components under the hood would take a little longer than that.
During this time my father arrived to see how things were coming along - I had not been happy about going back to this location as they had previously charged me for repairs I had not needed (and after reading other consumers' complaints, I feel I should have checked to see if they even completed), and he had wanted to come by and make sure that they were not treating me as a moron, or worse, condescending to me because of my sex. He took a business card from the shop, and the number for the vice president (at this point we were still not putting together that the 'regional manager' and the vice president were the same person as Chris Muter had never introduced himself to me), and returned to his work, telling me to bring my car by there for him to look at when I was done.
15 minutes later the car was brought down and returned to me, being left in front of the garage with a 'It's done, you can leave'. By this point both my friend and I are in shock from how rude, condescending and, yes, sexist, the entire exchange had been, and were genuinely wondering, if my father had come with us from the get-go, if the entire affair that day would have gone the same.
When we opened up the car at my father's work, we found that while the oil change had been completed, and the cap put back proper, they had done a poor job of wiping down anything - my fingers still came away with oil on them when touching the battery. My father and his collegues advised me to call the number we had taken down for the VP of Economy Lube and explain, and also ask if this was the general way in which employees of Economy Lube treated their customers, or if I had received this treatment because I was a woman.
When calling the number, I again found myself talking to Chris Muter. I explained my story once more, also explaining the run-around that I had been given that morning by Sam the mechanic, attempting to shuffle the blame for the mistake off onto all kinds of improbable and impossible excuses. When I was finished, the VP introduced himself as the same 'regional manager' who had been there that morning, and said that he thought they had been entirely courteous and respectful. She also told me that there was no way my car had been in any sort of bad state because they had measured the engine oil when they did the change, and I had only lost about a liter of oil. This strikes me as odd - either my vehicle is broken and displaying dashboard lights that it never has before, or these gentlemen are lying to me. I thanked him for his time, and resorted to calling the 1-800 customer service number that I found on the bottom of my original receipt, which I found only got me the following information: the only individual whom I had the option to file a complaint with was Chris Muter.
I am extremely upset about this. The initial mistake was simple, and something that these supposedly trained mechanics should not have missed. It is entirely probable that their mistake put my life, and the lives of a dozen (literally) others at risk, as my car was one of two used during my trip to Baltimore to ferry the friends I was staying with around. It goes without saying that the mistake put the performance of my vehicle in jeopardy. While it is no longer displaying the rumbling or shuddering it had been prior to their 'fix', I am still concerned that issues related to this event may present themselves down the road.
But I was willing to forgive and forget, until I received the condescending, rude, sexist service that I did. Being told to my face that I must be lying, and being given horrifically terrible excuses to cover their own backs on the issue, and the tone in which this all was delivered, has done nothing to cause me to forgive them for the issues that they have caused. I most certainly will not be bringing my vehicle back to them for service (considering their advertising of a $19.99 oil change is also a lie - I paid $41 for my oil change, when asking for merely a basic. I work in customer service, again, I know that $19.99 plus Ontario sales taxes comes to $22.59 - not $41, though I am sure they would have some excuse for that as well). I have informed my family members, co-workers, and friends of what happened, and they in turn have been spreading the word. And after researching on the internet I have found numerous complaints (14) lodged against them at the Better Business Bureau, and on consumer sites such as Ripoff Report and Consumer Affairs.
The staff of Economy Lube, in my eyes, are no better than condescending crooks who viewed me as nothing but a university student (apparently their favourite prey) and a woman who could easily be sent on her way with a few excuses. Myself, and my friend who accompanied me, are both in shock that this is the way they choose to conduct their customer service. It is truly disgusting and shameful.