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Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame Inductee

Let’s see how good I really am at this Search Engine Optimization thing. We’ll use a real-life example of incredibly bad customer service at Nissan of Manhattan and maybe, just maybe show Nissan USA and Nissan of Manhattan why bad customer service is bad business. Nissan of Manhattan, I want your attention.

Yesterday, I took my 2008 Nissan to Nissan of Manhattan to have the brakes looked at. Nissan of Manhattan isn’t where I purchased my Nissan, but they’re geographically convenient for me, and I had used Nissan of Manhattan once before when my car was struck by a truck while in Manhattan. Nissan of Manhattan was close-by then, too.

My Nissan is still under warranty. I chose Nissan of Manhattan to service my brakes because of that, and only because of that. Past warranty, I’m happy to have my vehicle serviced by a third-party service provider at a much lower price. But before I brought my vehicle to Nissan of Manhattan I first checked with the Nissan dealer where I bought the vehicle and with Nissan of Manhattan themselves to make sure that my brakes were under warranty. I was told exactly and explicitly the same thing by both the other Nissan dealer and Nissan of Manhattan: with the exception of the brake pads, the car was under warranty and the service would be performed at no charge.

I asked the same question again when dropping off the vehicle at Nissan of Manhattan, and received the same answer for a third time. I received that answer from Nissan of Manhattan Service Consultant Jackie Murphy. Ask her if you like; her email address is Several hours after I dropped off my car, Ms. Murphy called to tell me that the charge for servicing my brakes at Nissan of Manhattan would come to almost $900. Her explanation was that this was because the front rotors needed machining and the rear rotors were rusted beyond repair and needed replacement.

Remember, I’d been specifically told that the only part that was not covered under warranty was the brake pads. I was not pleased, and told Ms. Murphy as much. Her response was that she had no way of knowing ahead of time that there were other parts in my brakes that might need service. I pointed out the whole “I asked you a very specific question and you gave me a very specific answer” thing several times, and Ms. Murphy transferred me to her supervisor, one Jennifer Barbieri, the Service and Parts Director at Nissan of Manhattan. You may reach Ms. Barbieri at Ms. Barbieri informed me that rotors are considered a wear item and therefore aren’t covered by warranty.

We discussed that “brake pads” thing yet again, including the fact that Nissan of Manhattan’s Ms. Murphy had been just the latest person to tell me the same story. No luck. In fact, Ms. Barbieri then went on to point out that the rear rotors had been destroyed by rust and that this was a sign of my negligence. I then placed a call to Nissan of America’s Consumer hot-line. It was there that I encountered a Nissan employee who made a point about rust: rust is a sign of something being kept wet and not used for a long period of time. This is my car. I drive it almost every day. There’s no way 31-month-old brake rotors should rust under those conditions. Unless they are defective. Oh: and he also told me that brake rotors are absolutely covered under Nissan’s new vehicle warranty.

And though he stopped short of using these words that means one thing: the employees at Nissan of Manhattan had lied to me.

The issue here would be why Nissan of Manhattan would lie to me about this. And now we can talk about business change and customer service. As Nissan of Manhattan’s employees correctly pointed out, Nissan of Manhattan gets paid no matter what. Either the customer pays them, or in the case of warranty service Nissan America does. Remember: Nissan dealerships like Nissan of Manhattan aren’t owned by Nissan America; they merely license the Nissan name and sell Nissan products. And that’s fine, except it creates two problems:

  • First, As Nissan of Manhattan correctly pointed out, when a part fails under warranty they need to ship it to Nissan America or they risk not getting paid for performing the repair. Which also means that if there’s any question at all about whether they “should have” considered the part warranted dealers like Nissan of Manhattan have an incentive to refuse warranty service.
  • Second, pure and simple, there’s the issue of a customer, at your establishment seeking repairs and to have his vehicle returned, being the path of least resistance. “I’m sorry Mr. Yablon, but you can’t have your car back until you pay me even though you might be right that you shouldn’t need to pay for this warranty service. BECAUSE WE SAY SO.”

The situation this creates is that customers, seeking warranty and customer service for which they have already paid, become merely one point on a triangle of parties that see each of the other two as enemies.

Customer service can’t be delivered under those circumstances. And what Nissan of Manhattan did to me when I went looking for warranty service would be bad enough if it stopped there, but it got worse.

Nissan of Manhattan’s Ms. Barbieri revealed to me that Nissan America provides a monthly allowance to each of its dealers for parts that don’t need to be returned. Ms. Barbieri, “in the interest of customer service”, decided that this month she’d include my brake rotor repair in that bucket of goodwill. Meaning that she essentially said to me “now that I’ve lied to you about your right to warranty service after my employee had promised it to you I’m going to do you the great favor of using money that I can’t use for any other purpose on shutting you up”.

I feel all warm and fuzzy, don’t you?

It gets better. Nissan of Manhattan didn’t charge me for the brake rotors. But they charged me for the labor involved in repairing one set and replacing the other. Which means, again, Nissan of Manhattan denied me the warranty service I had already paid for and Nissan America has confirmed is in place.

Net result after a lot of unnecessary aggravation: I saved about $300 by fighting hard after two Nissan of Manhattan employees lied to me. But I had to fight, and shouldn’t have needed to do that. And I should have saved $550. I just ran out of time and energy.

I told a story about lying as a form of customer service once before. And like then I want to be clear that my point in telling this horror story courtesy of Nissan of Manhattan is way less about venting than about showing you an example of what customer service and business change is not supposed to be.

And also to teach Nissan of Manhattan, you, and anyone with questions about the value of Search Engine Optimization just how useful a tool it can be. Just search the Internet for “Nissan of Manhattan” or “Nissan of Manhattan Customer Service” in a few weeks. You’ll see; Nissan of Manhattan is going to remember me.

Happy Thanksgiving to you. And also to Nissan of Manhattan.

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