Notice I said 1st. We’ll come back to that!
Just before Xmas, Janet and I took our car to the car wash behind Robinsons Mall. I get the car washed far more often than I ever did in the US. For one thing, driving through the dust and dirt makes a freshly washed car dirty in no time.
For another thing, the car washes in the Philippines are cheap. For that reason I have developed the habit of cleaning the car inside and out. I never shelled out for the complete in and out service in the US. If I wanted the inside done I’d do it myself with the vacuum. No way I was paying US prices for what was usually poor service.
But for 190 pesos I get the inside and out done by hand; no machines here. It usually takes at least an hour, so Janet and I drop the car off and go into the mall for shopping and /or lunch, which is what we did on the day in question.
As we were wandering the mall I heard the dreaded intercom sound that you hear regularly in Robinsons, “Will the owner of car X, license Y please come to…” This invariably means your car’s been wrecked; please get it the hell out of here.
But this time to my horror I heard, “Will the owner of the Blue Ecosport, licence number xxxx…” That’s all I had to hear. “Is that our car?” I yelled to Janet. We hurried outside, with Janet encouraging me that it probably wasn’t our car. From 100 yards away I could see our car surrounded by Security Guards. This is not a sight you want to see in the Philippines. As I approached the lead guard said, “It’s not that bad, Sir,” and then proceeded to show me the damage to the back of the car. “It is that bad,” I corrected him.
The “supervisor” of the car wash was there and immediately told me, “We will fix it, Sir – don’t worry!” At the time I didn’t get the whole story – just that the car wash attendant backed into something. The day we dropped off the car, being right before the holiday, was very busy and crowded and I remember asking the attendant if he wanted me to move the car or would he do it. My mistake.
I took it all in stride; what was I going to do at that point, particularly since they immediately took responsibility and said they would fix it. “Do you have a body shop guy?” I asked. “Yes, Sir.” We were given the manager’s and owner’s names and phone numbers.
I found out later that Janet was threatening them in Visayan. No one wanted the police brought in but Janet made it clear that if they didn’t do the right thing, that’s exactly what would happen. The Security Guard wrote up the incident and I signed. I joked with everyone and shook hands. What else could I do other than see how well or poorly they fixed it.
Since it was right before Xmas and we were driving to Alcoy for the holiday on the Roll on – Roll off ferry, I agreed to drop off the car after we returned.
Now things weren’t too well organized once the repair process began. Took a day to coordinate with the man whose name and number we were given as to where and when to take the car. We dropped it off a few days before New Years and were told it would take about 3 days to fix. On the 3rd day Janet began texting the guy. Responses were glacial. “Maybe today, Ma’am.” Then, “maybe this evening, Ma’am.” It began to rain and Janet was advised. “We can’t put on the top coat because of the rain, Ma’am. Maybe tomorrow morning.” But that morning we were leaving for New Years. So Janet texted the guy, “We will pick it up Tuesday and expect it to be ready and perfect.” The simple response came back, “OK.” No Ma’am this time!
Monday night in Southern Cebu it rained like it would never ever stop. The ferries were cancelled but by the afternoon they were running again and we dashed back home. Janet texted the guy and got no answer. But the next morning he texted that the car was back at the car wash since they wanted to wash it before we picked it up. We were already out and about so we returned to the scene of the crime. It hadn’t been washed yet so we examined the repair closely.
Janet and I had discussed in advance what we would do if the repair was not perfect. What level of imperfection we would accept and what type of shoddy work would mean a call to the police. But all that was unnecessary. I’m no expert but the car looked great and I couldn’t tell it had been in an accident.
Interestingly Janet asked who had had the accident and fingers were pointed at the culprit. I was amazed that he still had a job. We had actually gotten the whole story before; the car had been backed into another car, which was more severely damaged than ours. That car was apparently un-drivable and the owner had yelled and screamed that he needed his car.
Janet yelled at them that if we let them wash it they better not put a mark on the car or the police would be called immediately. Under the category “these guys have cajones” the lead guy asked what about a tip, since we were not paying for the car wash. Janet yelled, “What about our inconvenience for losing our car?” I got to smile and take it all in.
So just as we had done two weeks before we went into the mall, shopped a bit and had lunch. The intercom was silent this time and we picked up the car, which looked great. Idiot that I am I did give a tip. We hopped into our car and headed home, happy to have it back.
Now considering the driving environment here in Dumaguete what are the chances we will never had another accident; probably zero. But at least we know you can get good body work done. Just hope it doesn’t rain and ruin the top coat.