The first job I had after high school was the Air Force. I sacked groceries in high school, or as I liked to call it a “packaging specialist”, but my first taste of the “real” job force was the military. One of the things you had hammered into you was total quality. If you saw a problem, you told your supervisor. If that wasn't enough, you went up your chain of command till the problem was resolved. In the Air Force at least, whistle blowers were encouraged. I have taken this job habit with me into the civilian world. In the eleven years since the military, I have had over ten different jobs.

The companies I have worked for all seem to encourage problems being reported, but when you actually do the reporting, it gets dismissed. Statistically, I'm sure some of the things I have noticed were not problems at all and they had every reason to dismiss me. Statistically though, I have held a lot of jobs since the military.

I received a piece of advice yesterday, “Companies encourage whistle blowing, but none of them want to hear about it.” Eleven years ago, I would have scoffed. It makes so much sense for the people with their arms in the slop could see problems that the pristine managers and leaders would not see. Why would they say in meetings to bring up issues, but underneath secretly wish you'd let things run as they always have?

Yesterday, an old issue resurfaced that just rubs me the wrong way. It is something I brought up about a year ago, and was chastised for it. Here's the problem. I work in a Ford dealership in the service department. I park cars. Some of those cars are there only to get their oil changed. The public at large, as I understand it, is willing to spend the $30 on an oil and filter change at the dealership because the dealership is where the best trained technicians use the highest quality parts specifically designed and recommended for their vehicles. If you come to my dealership, you should expect Motorcraft oil and filters. You do not get Motorcraft. You get Valvolene oil and up until a few days ago, you got Carquest filters. You now get a cheaper version of the Carquest brand filter. I brought this up and was told that management had sent out a survey to people and they didn't care if they got Motocraft or not. That Ford must not want us to sell Motorcraft oil and filters standard because they charge us something like $1.50 more each for their filters and another number I can not remember per quart of oil. So, when you come to our dealership, unless you specifically ask for Motorcraft, you get the other stuff. How many people ask for it? Very, Very few. It is something you expect a Ford dealer to provide for the premium they charge.

It came back on my radar, because of a mail flyer we are sending out now advertising oil and filter changes for around $18 and Motorcraft is clearly displayed all over the flyer. It is an advertisement for our Quick Lane department. They share the same building, same computer network, same parts department, same dispatcher, go to our same monthly meetings, paid by the same company as the rest of us, and do the same oil changes as our full line technicians. I asked a quick lane tech yesterday if they are using more Motorcraft oil and filters with this new advertising campaign, and he said no. No because they are still doing business as they were regardless of the advertisement. Same Valvolene, same Car Quest knock off. The technician actually asked his boss why they aren't using Motorcraft and was told they were Quick Lane, and not Ford. Notice how I listed the similarities (and there are dozens more) above? And it's not just oil and filters that aren't Motorcraft. If they up sell you a fuel filter or an air filter it also isn't Motorcraft.

Another thing in the flyer that irks me is the diagnostic fee. It is on “special” for $39.95 as advertised on the same flyer. This is for a gasoline engine. It is usually $89.95. Follow me on this one. If you bring your car in with a check engine light on, and this is a normal day, you will spend $89.95 to have the computer diagnose what the light is saying. Once diagnosed, the service advisor will tell you that the repair will cost some amount of money. For example, you bring in your car and it needs a new widget. You will be told that the diagnostic charge will be included in the price of the repair. Say the repair for parts and labor is $100 everywhere to replace this widget. You expect to pay the diagnostic fee plus the price of the repair. You expect to pay $189.95 + tax. You are incorrect. Excluding “shop fees”, “paperwork” ,and “environmental fees” You will pay for 1.5 hours of diagnostic and then the $100 for the widget. 1.5 hour of diagnostic is around $132. When I asked, I was told that $89.95 is a “special offer.” If you bring your car in, get the diagnostic, leave, come back the next day and demand just this one repair it will cost you 189.95 + taxes and fees. If you have the repair done that same day, on the same ticket, it will cost you around $50 more. Bait and switch.

Why do I care? Because when these people leave, I smile and tell them to have a good day. I work in this place. It is my reputation as well as everyone I work with at stake here. I loath this situation. Why don't I carry it farther? Because I make less than $10/hr. I have a family to care about. If I lose my job, then what? I am forced to suppress my misgivings in order to feed my family. I don't like it one bit.

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Comment by Roger Rotge on October 30, 2008 at 7:04pm
Doesn't make me feel any better.

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