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When a leading 'fitter' disappoints

I never actually sent this letter but the story is true. You may also be interested in other experiences I've had with Kwik-Fit, or at least their insurance division.

Dear Mr Fit,

Until the other day, I had a very high opinion of Kwik Fit. I remember sitting in one of your waiting rooms reading through the letters of thanks, seeing how your service was more than just trading money for work and how your mechanics were supposed to be genuinely helpful to motorists with car troubles.

It is as a result of my feelings towards your company that I have, over the past few years of car ownership, put my business your way. MOTs, new tyres, even my car insurance have all been bought through Kwik Fit. Why? because I want to be delighted by your services.

So imagine, if you will, how I'd most likely have reacted when my accelerator cable snapped while I was driving in Newcastle the other evening. It was just after 8 o'clock and I was suddenly without the ability to make the car go in the usual manner. I pulled over on the road linking Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne, with Gosforth and pondered my situation. Then I remembered that there is a Kwik Fit garage a mile or so down the road. I though my luck was in. By use of the choke to control my revs, and the gears and clutch, I limped the car over to the garage - it was shut, but that's fair enough. I left the car overnight planning to return in the morning.

I'm not the sort of person who walks much, nor am I the sort of person to get up before 7am in order to do so, but I was convinced that a few words with a Kwik Fit staff-member would be all I needed to abate the worry of a broken throttle.

I arrived at the garage (Duke's Moor) at 7.45 and (as luck would have it) it was open. Having thanked the early-bird staff member for being open, I explained the problem. His response was unhelpful and surly. "We don't fix them. We're not mechanics!" The stories in these thank you letters of your guys walking miles to help push stranded cars and then fit fan belts made out of nylon stockings started to seem like fairy tales. Indeed, I'm not accustomed to being treated in this way by your staff - one chap at your Westgate Road branch seemed more concerned with fixing one of my car's problems than I!

I was even more mortified when the staff-member went on to tell me that I could bring my car in if I burst the tyres, damaged the exhaust or ruined the brakes. This was bordering on sarcasm, and after the fuss I'd had the previous night, getting the car to where it was, it was most unwelcome.

Now, I know that your normal run of business does not include things like an accelerator cable, but let's face it: an accelerator cable is a bicycle brake with a foot pedal instead of a handle. It's not that complex. If your chap had said that you'd not be able to get parts, I had my girlfriend on standby to go to the Volvo dealer to buy the part for your people to fit - this was not mentioned. The words "we're not mechanics" stick in my mind. If your guys aren't capable of fitting something as simple as a bicycle brake, do I really want them fiddling on with the more complex variety of brakes found in a motor vehicle? If your staff are so unhelpful as to cast me out into the cold morning with the suggestion that I go to a garage a mile or so's walk away (which turns out not to exist on the road I was told it was on) do I really want to continue patronising your service?

Perhaps you would like to answer these questions and tell me why I've had to return to my car and drive it three further miles using the choke alone (not my idea of motorist of the year) to a Volvo main dealer.

I look forward to your reply and the re-establishment of some satisfaction with your service - delight may be far off. So far, I think you can get better.

Yours faithfully,

Ashley Frieze.

16 July 1998 (published 7 November 2000)
Ashley Frieze