Why Kwik Fit on the Finchley Road in N. London are such silly silly people.

So there I was, getting stuff out of storage when I heard an ugly scrape-scrape sound every time I put my foot on the brakes of my big, somewhat battered, but faithful old Ford Galaxy people mover.

Hardly swearing at all, I contacted my favourite petrolhead, Alex Small, for advice on where to go in London – I go to a fantastic place in Penryn when I\’m in Cornwall, called Tristan Garage, but that was 300 miles away. Try Kwik Fit, suggested Alex, I trust them.

***

OK. So I found the nearest Kwik Fit and carefully drove my car there. The man was very helpful. \”Oh yes, madam, we can strip down the wheels for you today and give you a price this afternoon.\”

***

Nothing happened for two hours so I rang the garage. \”Oh yes, madam, I tried earlier but your phone was engaged.\” Was it? I had been working on my emails, not on my phone, but never mind.

***

\”Yes, I have a very excellent price for you. We have stripped down the wheels for you. The discs are badly worn, they are scored and rusty so we will have to replace the discs and the pads and we can do all that for only £348. Also your rear tyres are very worn, very bad, we can replace them as well for only £580 including VAT which is £85 off!\”

***

I\’m afraid I laughed at him. Poor Mr Kwik Fit\’s garage is in a very posh wealthy area and he had clearly mistaken me for one of the rich ladies who live there. The state of my car and my total lack of fashion sense should have tipped him off, but perhaps my RP English bamboozled him.

***

\”Oh I don\’t have that kind of money,\” I said. \”I hope you can do me a better price.\” Mr Kwik Fit made noises about doing just that, so I decided to leave the car there.

***

I needed to come and get some things out of my car so I traipsed back up the road from Costa\’s, and got them out before the garage shut for the evening. One of the other gentlemen there let the car down from the ceiling. I checked the rear tyres and they didn\’t look too terrible and had more than 2 millimetres of tread on them, nor could I see any of the cracks that Mr Kwik Fit was telling me about. The hubcaps had definitely been taken off the wheels, that was certain. Perhaps that was what \”stripping down the wheels\” meant? Mr Kwik Fit said he could definitely get the work done by 1.00pm the next day.

***

I\’d already contacted Alex to find out what he thought. He was appalled and very chivalrously said he could get the train with his toolbag and replace the pads for me for two thirds of what Mr Kwik Fit was quoting, including the trainfare.

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Then I talked to a chap I know who drives for a living. He was deeply disapproving too. It\’s a really simple job, he said, just like Alex had.

***

Back I went in the morning, a process involving two bus rides as I didn\’t have the car. I sat in Mr Kwik Fit\’s reception and asked him how much the parts would cost.

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\”Oh no, I can\’t tell you that, we can only give a price for the job.\”

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I made a note of that. \”OK. So how much do you charge for labour and how long do you think it would take?\”

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\”I can\’t do that, I can only give a price for the job.\”

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So I rang lovely Tristan Garage who told me a lot of interesting things about the discs which they\’d MOT\’d two months previously – and would definitely have told me about if they had been that badly worn, and how a lot of garages used to fail cars on the brake discs being worn so they could charge for replacing them and how the rules had been tightened up a lot and how they didn\’t reckon it would take more than an hour to fit the pads, which would cost around £40. The whole job, including the discs they didn\’t think I needed, would cost around £150. I allowed for them being in Cornwall and still I was being overcharged by a LOT (not mentioning the tyres which Mr Kwik Fit seemed to have wisely abandoned).

***

So I tried for a compromise. Could Mr Kwik Fit perhaps just fit the pads and I\’d get the discs checked later.

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\”Oh no, we\’re not allowed to put new pads on worn discs. We wouldn\’t be doing 100% job.\” I have to admit that his face while he said this looked truly noble.

***

I phoned and asked Alex about that and he said a rude word.

***

Mr Kwik Fit was perhaps getting tired of me discussing all this in a loud voice in his reception area and laughing a lot in a cynical way. Rude of me, I know. He then came up with his trump card. \”You can always take the car away, madam.\”

***

I beamed at him. \”Good idea,\” I said, \”I\’ll do that.\”

***

So a lad came out and tightened the wheel nuts, front and back – though the front ones looked remarkably untouched for wheels that had been \”stripped down\” – and put back the hubcaps. Another chap manoevred the car off the ramp and I drove it carefully back home feeling quite sorry for Mr Kwik Fit.

***

Because he\’d been very very silly. What had he achieved by all his flimflam and black-box prices which he couldn\’t break down into a proper estimate for me? He\’d quoted me a price that I suspect was based on his assessment of my social status which unfortunately doesn\’t correspond with my bank balance because I\’m a writer. And that price was remarkably high. When I challenged him on it, he didn\’t clasp his forehead and say \”Tut tut, madam, I got completely confused, we should only have quoted £250 for the job, all in.\” I would probably have gone for that, just to get the damned things fixed. But no. He knew I was talking to people who know an awful lot more about cars than I ever will. Did he say, \”Just for you, I\’ll sort out the discs?\” OK, maybe Kwik Fit have a lot of very silly rules about that, in which case it\’s Kwik Fit who are a very silly company and I apologise to Mr Kwik Fit.

***

There I was, commercial gold. A walk-in customer. A new customer. Mr Kwik Fit\’s job was to turn me into a satisfied customer, a regular customer who would tell other people how great Kwik Fit were.

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Instead he amazed me with the amount he was charging for a very basic job, tried to sell me new tyres I didn\’t really need, told me the discs were terribly worn when they may not have been and got me asking around for somewhere less expensive and inflexible. And of course I was asking people who were into cars who will probably gossip about it, because that\’s what human beings do.

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How on earth did any of that make any commercial sense at all? Just because Kwik Fit get away with charging the rich people of TempleFortune a fortune for their car-witchdoctoring, doesn\’t mean they always will, even with some mere ignorant female like me.

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Now I\’ve written this blog too. I think I\’ve found somewhere else to get the brake pads done. I\’ve wasted a lot of time on a simple job that should take an hour and cost, at a reasonable maximum estimate, £200 including VAT. Not £348 or God forbid, £580 for the tyres as well.

***

Will I go back to Kwik Fit? Nope. Ever? Nope.