Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dealership Shout-Out

I'm typically not a big fan of car dealership service departments. The repairs are often more expensive, and I often feel like I'm being up-sold. However, I had a good enough experience today that I thought it deserved a shout-out.

My 2001 Honda Accord needed some recall work. Something about a potential problem with the driver's airbag inflator using so much pressure, that some metal part could explode, sending metal fragments into the driver, should the airbag ever deploy. It sounded sufficiently scary, so as instructed, I called my local dealer to arrange for the free repair.

I called Leith Honda two days ago. They were very pleasant on the phone. I was asked to fax the recall notice, they would order the part, then they would call me when it arrived so I could set an appointment for the work. Yesterday I got the call, and we arranged for an 8AM appointment for this morning. All very professional.

Upon arrival at Leith Honda, I simply pulled up under a portico, and was met by a pleasant and professional check-in agent who quickly got some necessary information from me, told me the repair would take about an hour, and then pointed me to the customer service waiting room. I never had to step out into the bad weather, which was much appreciated.

In the waiting room, instead of the obligatory "Mr. Coffee" pot with burned coffee brewed several hours before, I had access to a professional "one cup at a time" coffee machine that actually made a decent cup of coffee. (Not being a fan of styrofoam cups, if I ever have reason to return, I'll bring my own cup.) There was also a supply of chilled bottled water, along with a basket of granola bars and other snacks.

Perhaps the biggest perk of all (which I had confirmed ahead of time) was the availability of free wi-fi. I was able to log in to my home PC using GoToMyPC right from the waiting room and accomplish the morning tasks that would have had to wait, had I been in most other auto service waiting rooms.

The service was complete in just under an hour. The agent who led me to the check-out counter was very pleasant, and the checkout staff person was efficient and professional. Best of all, the repair cost me nothing other than 50 minutes of round-trip driving time.

I usually dread having to take care of auto service. Calling, scheduling,'s always such an inconvenience. Thanks, Leith Honda, for making this one of the most convenient and pleasant auto service experiences I've had.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

School Clothes

Growing up in the Philadelphia area during the 1960’s, we were always on a traditional school calendar. The schedule where you went back to school the day after Labor Day. We always dreaded that last Monday night, because even though it was a holiday, it was also a school night…the first one of the year. Our school bedtimes kicked in, and the next day the freedom of summer would be over.

There was always one bright spot at the beginning of the year. The weekend before school started, we would go shopping for new school clothes. (This was back when we had school clothes and play clothes.) I still remember what it felt like to put on a brand new pair of pants, a stiff new shirt (button down with a collar was required in those days), and a new pair of shoes. Once the tags were unpinned (remember the straight-pin price tickets?), our new clothes were ready to go. They smelled new, and when we were allowed to choose the latest style, we felt like we looked really sharp on that first day back in class with our schoolmates.

Another highlight of the new school year came the evening after our first day of class. We came home armed with that year’s requirements for school supplies. What fun we had picking out a new 3-ring binder, subject dividers, book covers, pencils and erasers, rulers, notebook paper, and pencil cases. When we got back from the store, we got to organize everything and get our textbooks covered, all prepared for another year of hard studying.

Well, some things never change. Even though many schools in our area have moved to a year round schedule to accommodate a growing school population, and even though I’ve been out of school for many years, my mind still functions on a traditional schedule. After all, I had 13 years of public school, 4 years of college followed by 10 years as a public school teacher, and finally all those years raising 2 children through public school and college (all on a traditional schedule). Old habits are hard to break. As the August calendar page gives way to September, I still get that “fall” beginning-of-the-school-year feeling. And I get the urge for new “school clothes”. (OK, now it’s “work clothes”).

Because I travel so much for work, I have a set of clothes that is always ready for the suitcase. I never wear these clothes at home. Once laundered, they get folded and stacked on a shelf in my closet. When it’s time to pack, it’s a simple matter of selecting the appropriate number of slacks and shirts, and along with the underwear and socks, into the suitcase they go. My travel shoes, belt, sneakers, and my toiletries never even leave the suitcase. I even have separate gym clothes for travel.

Every September, having worn the same clothes on business trips for an entire year, I find that things are starting to look a bit worn, and sometimes I tire of wearing the same things over and over. So when that old “new school year” feeling kicks in, off to the store I go! I’m not a big shopper, but this is one time during the year that I check out the goods at a lot of stores, picking out new pants, shirts, and shoes to wear for the next year. Makes me feel like a kid again! And boy, do I feel sharp my first few times out wearing the new stuff!

Every other year in September, I get to satisfy my “new school supplies” urge by replacing my suitcase. I’ve found that no matter how high the quality, after two years of packing and unpacking, not to mention hundreds of trips through baggage claim, most any suitcase is going to break down enough as to require replacement. Again, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I check out the newest crop of luggage at all the stores, and after I make my selection, I take my new bag home and spend an hour or two figuring out the best way to organize all my travel stuff. It really reminds me of the old days getting my new school supplies organized for the new school year.

Like I said, some things never change! Once a kid, always a kid when that traditional school calendar says summer’s over and a brand new school year is about to begin!