I knew it as soon as I left the dealership. I’d done a good job with my first leasing experience. I’d done my research, made a list of things I wanted, gone to two dealers to price shop and negotiated as well as I knew how (which was not very good compared to the professionals I was up against). But I knew almost immediately I’d forgotten one thing which would eventually catch up to me. I’d forgotten the tow hitch.
And I knew I’d eventually need the services of a tow hitch because, for many cars, that’s how you affix a bike rack. And with our 6 and 8 year olds, bike riding had been in our past and was definitely going to be in our future.
For a while after getting the Dodge Durango, I was able to throw both kids’ bikes in the car, as they were pretty small; but one day, after noticing my little guy Parker had really taken a shine to riding, my wife took him to the bike store and upgraded him — and when I say upgraded, I mean he got a better and much bigger bike. Of course, when Tyler came home and saw Parker’s new bike, the three of them immediately headed back out to the bike shop for his upgrade.
So now I had two BIG bikes and two kids who really wanted to ride, but no tow hitch. First, I went online and ordered one for my car. It came a few days later and, with some effort, I was able to install it myself. Then, I went back to the computer to order a good bike rack — one that could hold all four of our bikes and didn’t inhibit convenient access to the back of the vehicle. A few days later, it came and — again, with some effort and a few fits and starts — I was able to assemble and install the rack.
A few hours later, we’d be going to Tyler’s football practice, during which Parker loves to ride his bike around the surrounding area with his little gang of little brothers, so I put his bike on the car. Eventually, with kids and bike in tow, we drove forward (yes, this is important to our story) out of the driveway. We arrived at practice with bike secure, unloaded and went in our separate directions — Tyler to practice, Parker riding around and me to the bleachers.
I started to back up anyway, after which the beeping quickly became a steady stream of sound followed by the car auto-breaking. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this feature, it’s actually pretty cool — the car can detect when you’re going to hit something and beeps a warning of increasing intensity. If this warning is ignored and the car “thinks” it’s going to hit something, it will automatically activate the breaks, hard.
It didn’t take me more than a moment to figure out what was going on. The car thought the bike rack was an object it was going to hit, and therefore kept slamming on the breaks every time I moved back a few feet.
“What the heck’s going on,” asked the kids with increasing laughter, as they found the bucking bronco situation hysterical.
“Let’s ask coach what to do,” Tyler said, pointing to one of the guys walking by the car.
“No!” I said with embarrassment. “Put the window back up!”
“There’s got to be a way to disable this feature,” I said to the kids, trying to convince myself. And after a few moments of bouncing around in the car’s settings, I was able to find just the thing. All it would take was one touch of a checkbox to uncheck the parking assist feature and have me on my way.
And so I pushed it. And the box unchecked.
“I did it!” I said to the kids triumphantly. “Let’s go!”
As I began backing up again, the beeping started and the brakes activated.
“What the heck!?!?” I said in frustration.
As I look at the screen, I noticed that the check box I’d unchecked was again checked. And so I pushed it. And then, a second or two later, I noticed that it rechecked itself. And so I pushed it, and it rechecked itself and again, and again, and again.
And so I Googled it, and found one discussion thread of this problem happening to someone else. And with frustration mounting, read of how they had to go to the dealership to get things straightened out.
“How are we going to get out of here?” asked Parker.
“Three feet at a time,” I said.
And so we did. With a dozen or so fits and starts, I managed to get the car turned around and headed home.
The next day, I called Dodge and booked an appointment with a woman who said my problem was “really strange” — definitely not what you want hear, and akin to a doctor saying of your symptoms, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
At the appointment, I was directed to one of three gentlemen checking in cars for their service appointments. After relating my story, Jason said. “Yup. I know exactly what it is. I had a guy in here a few weeks ago who attached his boat the back of his car and then this happened. He had to get someone to help him remove the boat because he couldn’t back up. He was pissed, but happy that it was going to be such an easy fix.”
“These other guys,” he said, pointing to his two co-workers, “they’ve never seen it before.”
“Well then I’m glad I got you.” I said.
As I reflected on my relief that he was familiar with the problem, I thought it was ridiculous he was the only one. And I thought how much more difficult or unpleasant my service visit might have been if I’d wound up with one of them. What should have been a quick fix might have been a lengthy investigation with inconclusive results.
Having been in business for almost eight years, I can tell you that one of the most important things is to learn from your hard lessons, mistakes and “near misses” — to extract every drop of value you can from them, and to do everything in your power to make sure they don’t happen again. If Dodge makes the mistake of this particular computer glitch, they should extract maximum value from it by making sure everyone knows what happened, why and how it’s fixed.
But apparently everyone didn’t know about it — certainly the woman booking my appointment didn’t. Hearing from her, “Ah yes, this is a known issue on some cars. We’ll have you out of here in two hours,” would have saved me a lot of stress.
And so as we work to make our organizations and departments stronger, let’s remember that when we take our lumps, we must leverage those experiences to the hilt, share the information and make sure everyone on the team gets the message. Because nobody should hear the disquieting words, “We’ve never seen that before,” when it’s simply not true.