Sunday, January 20, 2008

Toyota of Naperville

I wouldn't normally do this as it doesn't seem to be a fit with this blog. But Mom started it with these comments to my prior post, so I figured I'd just let 'er fly, as the man says. Here were the comments worth expanding upon:

The idea of building things to last isn't just a comment on warranties though. I am wondering what kind of affect it would have on our economy if we were no longer willing to accept poor quality goods.

Would that create a demand for skilled workers? Would it shift our point of view back to thinking in the longer term personally as well as politically? What kind of an impact would that have on our trading partners?

I'm a big believer in quality, always have been. So given this, and that an opening was provided - and importantly, that the story is worth telling - here goes a little history and my story.

In 2002 my wife and I bought a Toyota 4 Runner from a nearby dealer in DuPage County (not Naperville). Subsequently in 2006 (because my then-employer provided wheels), I bought a Toyota Camry from the Naperville dealership. The experience was so good that when my mother-in-law needed a car, we went with her to Toyota of Naperville to help her buy her Corolla.

All of this is necessary background to what happened yesterday. We've been in the midst of a terrible cold snap - I think it made it up to 8 degrees today, and it was 1 degree yesterday when my wife and I went out for a date to see a movie. After that, we stopped at Target before we were heading home. Only we got a flat tire. I mean completely flat.

I got the car jacked up, the lugnuts off the wheel and then... nothing. I think the wheel was frozen on, although I can't be sure. What I can be sure of is that it wasn't coming off. It's not bragging, they say, if you can do it, so let me say this and leave it at that: I'm quite strong, and I wailed on that tire for probably the better part of a half hour. It wasn't budging.

The problem, then, was time. It was 6:30 when I gave up and we had to call for assistance. The first couple of calls were unsuccessful. We got lucky - and here we were thinking about how unlucky we were - when Pat answered at Toyota.

Without identifying himself, he mentioned that while the dealership was closed, he'd get someone to pick us up and get the car towed to the dealership, where once in side, hopefully it'd be easy to get the wheel off. When our ride came, it was Pat himself, who mentioned that he was just walking past a phone in the empty service department when we called.

What Pat didn't mention but we later discovered when he gave us his card, was that he was the General Sales Manager of the dealership.

1) After the dealership was closed for a half hour on a Saturday night, the General Sales Manager picked up a ringing phone in the service department.
2) He personally picks up a couple of people who had trouble with a car not purchased through their dealership.
3) He arranges for a loaner car - at no cost - until we can get our car towed to the dealership and fixed on Monday.

All of which bought him a late night at the office; we probably said good night to Pat at 7:30.

So here's the deal. I'd love to hear stories like this if anyone else has them. In today's world, we moan and crab about how bad service is and believe me, it can be bad. But there's still professionals like Pat O'Brien at Toyota of Naperville who go above and beyond and create fans for life.

If you're in the market for a car in the Chicago area, the dealership is worth the trip. Actually, the dealership is like any other; it's the people that are pretty special.


Call Me Mom said...

What wonderful service. Undoubtably that work ethic is why Pat is the General Sales Manager. People do make a difference.

Which is why I am wondering about quality goods. I believe it used to be a mark of character and a source of pride to work for someone who produced a high quality product. Is the same still true today?

Michael Tams said...


You ask a persistently troubling question. I think that like most traditional values, this sort of thing (quality; pride in craftsmanship) might seem quaint to younger people, if not to people in general. I know a gentleman in Oklahoma who still instills that pride in his workers, and maybe he can shed some light anecdotally on what he sees in his industry?


Anonymous said...

There is a pretty simple way to get a tire off of an axle when it has frozen (or rusted) in place.

You loosen all the lugnuts on the wheel about half way, and then drive the car for about 10 or 20 feet. Turning the car can help, because it puts lateral force on the tire that will cause it to angle over and break free of the axle.

It works like a charm. Just don't loosen the lug nuts too much...

Michael Tams said...


Where were you when I needed... nah, just kidding. Good tip.

The end of this story is that we learned that we were at "throw-away" levels on the rest of the tires too, so replacing all four was the only thing to do. If you've done this before, you know the cost is surprising.

I'm amortizing it over the five years we've had the car... still.


Anonymous said...

Do your homework. Toyota of Naperville is being sued along with their salesman James V Gentile. Currently the salesman is having criminal and legal problems. Fraud was presented by salesman and dealership! Besides of committing Fraud the salesman made 19 blocked phone calls to my cellphone. Read the stories on the and do a search either Jim Gentile or Toyota of Naperville.Civil suit filed in Dupage County and the case number is 2007L001166 and the criminal case is in Winnebago County. I would never buy another car from them again!

Michael Tams said...

Anon, um, II:

Clearly you had a different experience than I did. Your experience, painful as I trust it was for you (for I don't particularly have any interest in the details) doesn't negate the positive experience I had. But thanks for the tip and for instructing me to "do my homework." I love it when anonymous posters come to my blog and tell me what to do!


Anonymous said...

thanks for the link....

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