Tuesday, June 29, 2010

whoops I've done it again....

Well, I thought I was the drama free type, but evidently I cannot seem to get enough of it.And I do not mean the kind like in "Little Children" or "An Education", where my world is rocked by lust and confusion. I mean the kind like in "Extreme Measures" or "Lakeview Terrace" where I evoke the wrath of a psychopath and quiver in my strappy wedges for a few weeks until it blows over.

It all started when my car got smashed by a DWP truck on the first day of Summer break. If you read my post about Summer break, it was not exactly idyllic, so, in choosing a body shop for my car, I went with convenience and proximity to a rental car place over reputation. I dropped it off, with the kids and travel car seats in tow, at, let's call it Larry's so I can live long enough to see my 41st birthday. A lovely helpful man, with a name right out of a beloved children's book, checked me in,took all the info-my name, address, phone etc.- and told me they would call me when they determined the extent of the damage. I signed the repair contract and left. I walk to the rental place after a quick lunch with the kids,only to discover that they specialize in luxury vehicles. The man offers me a Hummer or a convertible. I need a Corolla,and they are fresh out. The other rental place that used to be across the street is now a lattice covered boutique. I call Enterprise and they, too, are out of vehicles, on a Wednesday of all days. I am furious.My plan was perfect and now I am stuck on La Cienega in the heat of the day with one sleeping kid and one complaining kid.I call a cab. The cab takes us to the only rental place I can think of that I know has Corollas.Inside ten minutes we are driving home. Voila.

Ten days go by, and after the perfunctory calls to and from the insurance company that somehow take up entire mornings where I could be exercising or writing, and I get a call, while driving the Corolla, that my car is going to considered a total loss. I pull over.I am speechless. It had a rear trunk window that was smashed and a big dent in the rear wheel well, but I drove it for a week afterward without incident. The agent assures me that I will get a fair price for the vehicle, and I choose to believe her. She instructs me to go to Larry's and release the vehicle in person so the insurance company can pick it up. I hang up, resume driving and, within seconds,I am hit from behind by a woman while I am sitting at a red light. It was really just a  big tap,  and there is a teeny amount of damage to my bumper. I get her info and drive away, fantasizing about all the extra calls I'll get to make to insurance companies that aren't mine. Yippeeee....

I went into Larry's the next day and removed the remaining items from the vehicle-car seats,miscellaneous kid flotsam, cd's etc. I noticed that they had stripped the covering off the entire interior all the way down to the wiring, even the sun flaps had been removed. I asked why they needed to do that and the guy said that the whole system needs to be checked to determine its repair status. My car,he said, would be "unsafe to fix", so they intentionally returned with a high estimate to make it a cost prohibitive option. Safe, safety- a ubiquitous word these days.I always step back a little when people throw out the  "S" word.Always smacks of manipulation. I kept think about all the pictures on their website with totaled looking cars-much worse than mine- that were returned to their pre-accident condition through the miracles of their body work .Perhaps it had to do with the value of the car,which is almost nine years old. I said goodbye to the excellent ride that drove both of my kids home from the hospital, got me to my wedding location, never let me down, and was really the first nice car I had ever owned. I took a last look at its stripped interior and felt a little pang of sadness. Maybe it was the two thousand dollar head gasket job we had just paid for that set me off, but I felt a little bummed out.

The insurance company called me on Monday and informed me that the body shop would not release the car to their tow truck driver because of an outstanding bill. Evidently a sizeable check had been mailed, and cashed, and yet they wanted more. The agent told me that their hourly fees were beyond exorbitant and that they had logged in fifteen hours of labor(which included six hours of glass cleanup) to tear down and rebuild the rear of the car. I was furious. I revisit the web and, to my horror, realize that, in my haste to get this done quickly and easily with two kids in tow, I had somehow missed the numerous negative reviews of Larry's. I don't mean the "average" or "didn't really wow me" reviews. I mean the " STAY AWAY!!!!!" " BEWARE!!" " these people are con artists" " do not do what I did" " they had my car for a year" "it took months to get my car back" " SCAM ALERT!!" type of reviews, with lots of exclamation points and capital letters. There were also some good ones, but all five stars were lit up like a Christmas tree and the posts read like a  Michael Medved movie review - "This place is amazing! Unbelievable customer service!" " Larry's is the best place in town". Yeah, Larry's mother must have written some of them because the experience they described doesn't exist. Fixing your car isn't FUN, so I simply don't believe any of the good reviews Larry's got because they lack the specificity of the negative ones. The people who don't like Larry's HATE Larry's and everything about it. The people who claim to LOVE Larry's must be friends and family,that is all I am saying.

I realize that my attempt at expedience has gotten me into a whole other predicament.The claim is probably being held up because the insurance company is spending their time trying to get the car back, which isn't happening until Larry's gets their money. Not my problem, but I am paying for the rental car, and it isn't free.

I decide to post my own online review after finding from other reviewers that insurance "issues" are common for Larry's,as are "total loss" vehicles that only had a minor fender bender or grazed a curb. My review details the beginning of my journey with them and highlights the high pricing and the extra charges, and the fact that they cashed the check when they weren't supposed to. I did use the word asshole once, in a dismissive way ("hope these assholes aren't ripping me off"), in the spirit of the seven other bad reviews and posted it last night, feeling like it was the responsible thing to do. Maybe the next fool might actually read it, like I inexplicably didn't.

At 11:24am the next day, I get a call from Larry's,which I miss because I am on the phone with the claims department about the delay and how it affects us. I listen to the message from Larry's on speakerphone on the way to a lunch date:

"Hi, this is ________ from Larry's? I just got through reading your review of Larry's on (insert website here) and I really feel that it wasn't necessary or appreciated?.".He sounds A LOT like Tony Soprano and is trying really hard not to sound mad. He goes on the explain why my insurance company is wrong, and why they are charging what they are charging, and how they have been there for years, and how my post is actually slanderous, and that he will take action as he takes this sort of thing "very personal".He ends most of his sentences with a question mark,except "very personal", which he reiterates a few times.For some reason, the question mark thing scares the shit out of me. I actually pull over because the adrenaline rush of realizing that he fucking called me on my phone about the review has left me shaky and cotton mouthed. His tone is more than a little threatening. I am able-while driving,I'll admit- to delete the post from the site. I caved like a Kentucky coal mine. I crumbled like a day old cookie. And I don't like it one bit. However, in my defense, I met this guy briefly.He is enormous and not in a teddy bear way. He is already and angry person. He knows where I live. He is clearly unscrupulous. He is surrounded by many equally unscrupulous large men with lots of tools at their disposal.He strikes me as someone that I don't want to be mad at me. Were I childless and unmarried, I might have posted a follow up that included an  hilarious transcription of his threatening phone call. I also toyed with editing the existing post down to just "I would have posted how I really feel about Larry's but I got a threatening phone call from the owner". He called twice more in the next three hours- once was the secretary and the other was a hostile message telling me that the check in question was not cashed and that he'd be happy to email me a copy of it, but that he will pursue slander charges against me with his attorney. I sent him an email that simply said "stop calling me.the post has been removed.do not contact me again". I hope that is the end of it and that he isn't some lunatic repair shop guy who decides to break down my face, or sabotage my rental car.
I can't believe I am in this bizarre situation. I am reminded of Adrienne Shelly's fate, and I just want this to be over.I want to do the right thing but I can't take the same risks as I used to.I will probably dedicate my life to the salvation of animals because helping people is too damn dangerous.

1 comment:

  1. OMG OMG OMG!!!!! I cannot believe this happened to you. Arg@!!!!!! BUt it is brilliantly written and a real page turner. Does that make you feel any better???