Hanging Out in Rockford: Good service, bad service

On my way back from Chicago, I approach Arlington Heights Road on the interstate. Shortly after the toll gate rejoins the IPass lane, a car 15 or 20 lengths ahead of me spins out of control. I press the brakes, and realize that even with this amount of distance between us, I am doomed to hit someone. I start steering to the right, crossing lane after lane, looking for a way through. I almost find a way, but then I panic at the last moment, hit the brakes a little too hard, and go into a slide out of control.

I slide sideways into the car in front of me, a Monte Carlo that is stopped in the lane between the two merging roads, sort of a reverse T-bone. The lady driving the Monte Carlo has stopped because another lady in a Jeep has hit her, but I don’t know this at the time. Then, another car, I don’t even see what it is, takes off the front end of my Villager, and keeps on going. The driver probably didn’t have any insurance.

I am heartbroken. I loved my Mercury Villager/Nissan Quest. It was the third one I had bought from Fran Kral, right across the street from the Irish Rose, and I had recently made the last payment. I was looking forward to several more years of trouble-free service, based on my previous experience with the vehicles, and best of all, no payments. I call Mike at Mike’s Automotive, and he arranges a tow for me. The tow turns out to be from my friend Nancy at Haas Automotive. I’ve got fresh fish in the back, and I need to get it back to the restaurant.

Then, I go through the insurance company thing where they don’t want to repair the vehicle, and I wind up looking for a new van. I rent a Ford van from Enterprise in the meantime, thinking I’ll give it a try, and then, if I like it, I’ll buy the Mercury version from Steve, but there are definite problems with the cargo area. It just won’t work for my purposes. At the rental agency I see a new Kia Sedona, and I make a mental note to check one out. I look online at all the minivans. The Sedona is very highly rated. I settle with the insurance company, and drive to Elgin to pick up a check. On the way back, I stop at Rock River Kia.

My salesman is a young guy named Ron. He is not pushy and goes out of his way to show me every van their company sells, including the Nissan and the Mazda. I really like the new Nissan, but the floor is no longer flat in the new model of the Quest, and I have to rule it out. I settle for a beautiful, white, 2006 Sedona that has a $4,000 cash rebate on it. I just buy it and want to go home; it has been a long day, and I have to go to the market again the next morning. Ron says I can bring the Kia back to have it detailed. I make an appointment to do so.

A few days later, Elisha and I drop the new van off to be detailed. They have to remove the plastic that covers the carpet, etc., and then it needs a good wash job. It was really dirty the night I received it on account of all the snow we had been having. All the guys at Kia like Elisha. They try to sell her a new convertible. The next evening, I go back to pick it up. Ron asks me right away to go take a look at the new van. There is a big gash in the right-hand door. In addition, the right rear bumper looks to have suffered some impact. He looks right at me and says, “That wasn’t there when you dropped it off, was it?” I say that, to the best of my knowledge, it wasn’t.

We go back inside, and Baker, who is the lead man in the Kia store, puts me on the phone with the general manager. He is at the airport on his way to Detroit to buy cars. He assures me they are going to take care of it. I am impressed by their sincerity and honesty. A few days later, they make my new van look like new. What a bunch of pros.

Saturday morning, my friend Crissy, the bartender at Café Greco, calls to tell me about a truck she has rented. She has been doing business with this company for some time. Because of the bad weather, it has taken her longer to move than she has anticipated. When she tries to retain the vehicle, she alleged the business wanted to charge her daily rental for each additional four hours she needed the truck. When someone receives exemplary service, he or she tells a lot of people. When they feel they have been screwed, they tell the world. Crissy knows a lot of people.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the March 7-13, 2007, issue

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