Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Baton Rouge, Louisiana - stuck in the bayou

The New Beetle started overheating near Opelousas, LA. You haven't really lived until you've driven the back roads of Louisiana slowly in 102-degree heat, car heater on full blast, wondering if your engine will make it to the town up ahead.

Oh, and trying to find a VW dealer or even anyone who knows much about foreign cars in the middle of Louisiana? Not so easy.

Nobody in Opelousas knows foreign cars. With help from Google/Treo I found the nearest VW expert - not a dealer, just a shop in the boonies - in Lafayette. Slowly nursed the car down there. Turns out I've got a bad water pump and it's a complex thing to fix but is covered under warrantee. So all I've got to do is tow the car to the nearest VW authorized dealer, which turns out to be Southpoint VW in Baton Rouge. I made it there with the help of a flatbed truck.

The driver was thoughtful enough to offer me some chewing tobacco on the road down...

Anyhoo, we dropped off the car last night and today I heard from the mechanic that they should be able to get to work on my car or at least take a look at it "by early next week". When I noted that I was in mid-trip and *really* wanted to get it looked at sooner, he said "look, I totally understand, but we're just swamped. I mean, there are cars that have been here for 40 days!"

40 days. 40 days? Dude, if cars are getting stuck in your shop for 40 days there is something seriously wrong. You should be expanding the shop, opening a second one, and in the short term hiring more people to work extra shifts and paying the ones you've got overtime to clear the backlog. You have to be leaving money on the table here not to mention generating ill will with the existing customers. What could explain this degree of underpricing? Are there no project managers in Baton Rouge? No fresh-minted MBAs you could throw at it?

Anyway, I'm in Baton Rouge. Tomorrow I'll rent a car and - if I can't find a way to bump the queue - continue the trip in the rental. By the time I get back from Florida they might have made more progress. Or at least some progress. One hopes.

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