Fix The Van!

Note: This is my personal story. I experienced this and lived through it. Therefore, I know it is the truth.

We own a 2004 Mercury Monterey; a minivan that makes me totally uncool. But I love the thing. It has all the features I want, all the comfort I want and quite a few miles on it. If it weren't so comfy for traveling, it wouldn't have all those miles, but it fits me just right and I love it.

The one problem we have with it is that it has a rear gate/hatch thing that opens with a handle that you pull on. The handle is the problem because it keeps pulling out. We are the original owners of the van; purchased new from McCotter Ford in T-ville before they became Ron Norris Ford. So we happen to know that since purchasing this van brand new (eighteen miles on it), the handle of the back hatch has come off in our hands four times now. The first time it was very close to a year old and McCotter fixed it without a problem. The second time, a short six months later, it happened again and McCotter fixed it again. No problem.

The third time it happened, we were on our extended warranty that we purchased and it cost us a few dollars to get it fixed, but there were no lies and no excuses. McCotter's Customer Service Guy, Mike (forgot his last name) told us how things work inside the van and that the handle kept coming off in our hands because it was held in via a spring and the pressure it put on the things that made contact with the handle. The handle never broke; the spring just kept coming undone and making the handle contacts let go of the handel. That's similar to the way Mike explained the problem to us. That time they fixed it pretty well because it was another three years before it happened again.

This is where Ron Norris taking over McCotter Ford comes in.

My mother and my "Aunt Eliza" (the aunt of my heart) were down to visit in December. While they were down here, we picked up my brother and went bowling as a family. My family had not bowled in years, although my hubby used to bowl on a pretty regular basis and my boys enjoyed it when they were very little. I was never any good at it because I turn my wrist as I release the ball and my average is probably fifty or so. (Pretty good, huh?) While loading back into the van after bowling, Aunt Eliza went to put her bowling ball back into the van and the handle came off in her hands. She felt terrible until we told her it happens all the time. I knew I'd be headed to the car dealership to get it fixed. Which I did last week.

It was on Wednesday, January 6, 2010 that I went to Ron Norris Ford for an appointment at 2:00 p.m. to see them about repairing the van handle. I was told when making the appointment the cost to just look at my van would be $94 but that if they were to fix it the money would go toward the cost of the repair. Not fond of the cost, but needing it done, we made the appointment and showed up.

At the little shed between the dealership sales area and the repair area, I spoke to Jacob who checked us in and I asked him about a second problem we were experiencing in that the seat heater on the driver's side had stopped working and my hubby thought it was a loose wire. Would that be able to be looked into as well? He said they could but it would cost me an additional $99. I said that we would pass on that and look into it ourselves.

We went into the waiting area and sat there for about forty minutes when Jacob came in and said that they have looked at our van and that the repair would cost $485.

Stunned, I repeated the number: "$485?!" He said that the piece would have to be ordered, they would have to order the whole area around the handle as well, and that the piece would have to be painted to match our van color. He added that they were giving us a deal on the painting cost and giving us a price break. I don't remember the amount quoted for that, but I do know that it was something about fifty dollars.

I said no; I refuse. I don't want them to do anything. I was told it would be $94 for today and that is what I would pay. He said it wouldn't be that much, but okay. (Or something to that effect.)

I went up to the check out counter and stood there waiting for someone to let me pay and he came over and said that he and the manager of some sort would take a second look at it, just in case. Well, they came back a few minutes later with the same amount being quoted. With the manager and another guy who had come in, there were three Ron Norris employees trying to explain to me why they were trying to charge me $485 for a repair that I knew wasn't that much work.

One guy said that they didn't keep that piece in stock because it wasn't something that happened that often. Another guy said that the piece had been re-engineered at the factory because they had had so much trouble with it and Jacob was telling me that the handle was held in with circular pieces and that those circular pieces had broken and that's why they had to replace the whole thing. I asked them why they were giving me different stories. One of them denied they were; the others did not reply.

Problem: I had seen that piece out of its sockets three times prior and knew what it looked like in good condition and out of place. First, there were no circles. Second, it looked the same to me when I showed him the piece upon arrival at our appointment time. Third, I took a picture of the piece after we returned home and I ask you, does this look broken? See any pieces that have jagged edges, or have sharp pieces that look broken? Nor did I.

I asked the three Ron Norris employees who were trying to convince me to let them work on my van and pay them $485 for the work if they could give me a piece number. One of them did some work on the computer and printed out a piece number. He made the mistake of including the replacement part number as well as the cost of the piece they were recommending. He also printed out a diagram of the back hatch/gate and the numbers for all of them. That was very kind of him. They also lowered the cost of my visit to $47.50; half of what I expected it to be. That was very nice after the shock of $485.

After going out to a cemetery to take some pictures (yeah, kinda' creepy, but you get them where you can) I came home, showed my husband the invoice. He was shocked at the $485 price tag to fix the little door handle, too. So we decided to see what we could do ourselves.

Tonight, Jan. 12, 2010, my husband went and got the one tool he couldn't find to fix the handle. He spent twelve dollars and got a socket set and went outside to fix it. A few minutes later, he came back in and said it was working again. He used the same handle -- the one that came off -- and it was in the exact same condition as when the dealership saw it (and we were told it was broken) and is linked to the picture above. All told, it took him about half an hour or so to take the interior panels off that allowed access to that area, trip the wire that opened the back hatch and to get the handle back on, working properly and the interior panels back into place.

Twelve dollars and half-an-hour is what it took to fix the problem. Ron Norris Ford was going to charge us $485: $195 of that was the price of the whole back license plate panel and accoutrements (not including taxes which, according to the invoice they printed for us on that piece, would have made it $206.70); which leaves almost $300 -- $300! -- for labor for something that took my husband thirty minutes (without previous experience) to fix -- without a book to look at for help!

Let me guarantee you something: IF I want to do business with a car dealership in the future, it won't be Ron Norris Ford in Titusville.

Will it be for you?



And now there's more to the story. After posting this page on my website on Jan. 12, 2010, I contacted Ron Norris Ford via their website and told them that I had posted this page and sent a link to this page. Now, I've heard back from them and their response is below. I don't make this stuff up, folks.

Below is the exact wording of the response I received from Ron Norris. I omit the company logo, etc., due to copyright laws, etc.

"Hello ,

"My name is Jack Lacey and I will be your personal contact throughout your purchase.
I want to thank you for your request for information on the .
I need to gather a little information from you to make sure that I send you
the options on your vehicle that are most needed.

"1. Are there any mandatory options that you need on your new vehicle
(4wd, dvd, navagation system, wheel chair assist, etc...)?

"2. Do you prefer lighter or darker colors?

"3. Automatic or manual?

"If you think of anything that I may have left out that is of great importance, please
inform me by phone or email.

"Thank you for choosing Ron Norris Ford Mercury!

"Jack Lacey
"Internet Manager"
I'm sorry, but does it take a rocket scientist?

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