Graeme P Chatham (East) Ltd
I’ve kept clear of writing this review for over a year now, mainly because I’ve been waiting for my first service to come through, but also to let some of the earlier feelings subside from my experience with the Sales team. However now seems the time to write this.
When I first looked at the Honda S2000 GT I took a few test drives as I really wanted to be sure about what I was buying, and that I really wanted to make sure the car was perfect for me.
With the way the Honda garages are in Edinburgh this gives you the choice of either going out of town or to one of the two Chatham owned dealers in the city. Having been into Chathams a few times and already having been taken out for a test drive I returned with my partner to test drive again, in the hope that I could take it out and let her feel the excitement I felt when driving the car.
There was nothing I could do to take the car out without someone from the garage. This frustrated me at the time, but I did get the owner to take me out and the offer was there for him to then take my partner for a test drive too. So they did try and make reasonable measures to accomodate me, however, for me experiencing a car is much more than being driven somewhere for twenty minutes and then driving back. The practice of Peugot of allowing a three day test drive is excellent, however, an hour on my own would have been all I needed.
I bought the car that day. I knew I was going to make up my mind there and then and all I needed was a final drive. Buying a new car, nevermind a fast and gorgeous sports car, should be a wonderful moment and a great experience. A few things about how I was dealt with really spoiled the experience for us, and it definitely tainted my experience.
Let’s put aside the fact that I felt totally uncomfortable at the negotiation stage of the sale, not helped by the fact that I was told it didn’t matter that I was about to pay the entire car off through switch and give them all the cash there and then, instantly. Let’s also forget the issue I had with bargaining on the price, having bought the top model and a range of additionals to the car to bump up the price, I managed to get just £200 off.
What really did it for me was the after sales service.
“Oh yes” I was told, “we never give away a car empty”…when we got the car it had a half tank of petrol and a small potted plant.
I’d asked at the point of signing if we would get some freebies with the car, eyeing both the Honda umbrellas, jackets and caps behind the salesman. “Oh yes” I was told, “we never give away a car empty”.
They were really having a laugh though, when we got the car it had a half tank of petrol and a small potted plant. Wait a minute. I didn’t just buy a used little Honda, I bought your top of the range sports car, with £200 off of course.
To add to that I’d left the roof with the dealer while I drove away, we intended to collect it a few days later with a friend who had a car boot big enough to carry the roof stand. After all it was a lovely day when I collected it. The day after I got the car home I found that the drivers door had been marked, obviously opened against a wall and the paint chipped. So when I returned to collect the roof and stand I let them know of my unhappiness. I pointed out that I wasn’t overjoyed with the gift, half tank of petrol and that the door was damaged, I even suggested a touch up kit.
The response I received was pathetic as far as customer relations go. They can’t afford to give a full tank of petrol with every car they sell – how many brand new S2000’s are they selling? – and the workshop might be closed by now and they’d have to climb a fence to get in.
Eh? What? No “let’s have a look at the car”, “really sorry sir, we could have that fixed for you”, “here’s a couple of Honda caps that we got for free, have these”. Nope, nothing like that.
So when I returned home to find the official Honda Customer Satisfaction Questionnaire sitting in my hallway I decided to fill it out and return it.
A few days later I got a phonecall from Greame Chatham to talk about the problems. I was out and the rather strong tone made me decide to call a few days later. When I did I was made to feel that I was in the wrong and how dare I criticise his garage. “They’d never received comments like this”. I felt that it was me to blame and I was in the wrong, and the emphasis was more on fixing their reputation with Honda and getting me to back down that it was with solving my problems. I heard a lot of talk and explanation, but no more petrol, no Honda gear, and more importantly, no touch up kit.
It was left at that for a while. Chatham suggested I contact him directly when I needed something and not to deal with the sales people. However a little while later that very same salesman phoned me and asked if they could use my car to show to someone the colouring of the inside and out, they didn’t have one in my colour and there are only a limited amount around at any one time. So I obliged, I said I would be delighted, I just wanted to make sure the car was washed and polished beforehand which I would do. The salesman decided to call back on the Saturday and let me know when their customer could come see it. I never heard from him again.
So it came time for my first service, and having done loads of research on the car I knew what to expect. I should buy my own oil and ask them to fill it for me if it needed to save me a lot of money, that was probably the first thing I found out. Except with the past history of this garage I thought I would give them a go and find out how much they charged me and if it was reasonable.
I was treated very well by the team and although the bill was around £160, I didn’t feel it was too expensive considering the car. I’m sure if I’d done more than 3,500 miles I’d have needed a bit more work! They were polite, prompt and very obliging when I needed to cancel my appointment at short notice and rearrange.
However the problem I’m having with the drivers window clicking continuously at low speed and excessive wind noise from the rear of the window at high speeds was not fixed. The greasing of the rubber seals did nothing and the clicking was apparent as soon as I was down the road. I think a return visit is required.
I thnk, for me, the experience has been ruined by the experience with the sales team and the lack of after sales care. The workshop staff were very good, and hopefully will resolve the cars problems on my next visit.
Perhaps I’ll be better prepared in my next new car purchase, and perhaps it won’t be a Honda. However I don’t know if it will be at Chathams, and whether it is or not, I’ll certainly be better prepared next time for the aggressive sales process.
However, it doesn’t end there. There’s one final chapter to this story before it ends.
As I was reversing out of my quite narrow garage I inadvertantly skimmed the brick wall outside the doorway. I was surprisingly calm, probably because it was all my fault, or perhaps I knew I could get it fixed really easily, or maybe it’s because it wasn’t that bad. The damage was low on the front bumper and quite small where it caught the brick wall about half a foot off the ground. It was about the size of your spread hand, taking the form of around fifteen to twenty scratches ranging from polishable paint scuffs to deep scars in the moulded bumper.
After checking some online sites and knowing a neighbour that recommended a mobile repair company, I thought I would try out Chathams again for a quote, just to see how the fared against the competition. It turns out that their bodyshop is slightly separated to the rest of the company. I had thought totally, but afterwards I discovered that it was in location only. At the time it seemed totally different, as the story reveals.
Asking for the bodyshop I was directed across the road to underneath the arches at Abbeyhill, where I was met in a portable hut by Eddie. A nice chap Eddie, we chatted and joked as we went over to look at the car. He made a few comforting noises as he looked and I worried that it sounded all too much like a plumber looking at your leaky tap and about to sting you for new piping around the house.
Eddie made his noises, made some notes on the quotation sheet, and turned to me…
I was dumbfounded. I’ve paid hundreds before on my last car for some bodywork to the bumper. I had to check again.
“Are you sure? Just £68? I was expecting £200.”
“Well if you want you can pay me that and I’ll go on holiday.”
Not only that but it was quoted on the Thursday afternoon and I was booked in on Monday morning. 8am in, 3pm out and £79 later – the quote didn’t include VAT it appears – and my car looks brand spanking new. Spotless.
If I was really to struggle I could say that I should have been told about the VAT and that the car was pretty dirty inside afterwards. Neither are a big deal. I would guess that they didn’t clean the inside of the car as I’d said to leave the outside since I like to do it myself, and they also pointed out that since I had the hard top off and the soft top up, they were concerned their detergents would mark it.
Overall their bodyshop is a stunning service, friendly too, with stunningly cheap prices. I’d wholly recommend them for any bodywork on any car.