Mercedes Benz is the world’s leader in luxury car sales. Some big news for them of late is they have just begun domestic sales of the S-Class luxury sedans in China. Recent successes in China led the company to offer their most touted line of sedans to further solidify their foot hold there. The cars, priced at over $100,000, are the ninth generation of this line, and I hope, a darned sight better than their A Class entry models which we had so much trouble with recently.
Mercedes, as we have stated before, has been and still should be the finest automobiles German engineering can produce. But more importantly, the service which backs these fine cars (or what were fine cars) should be second to none as well. What can China’s Mercedes owners come to expect in after the sale service is the topic of this article?
Our last review of German Mercedes dealership Mercedes-Benz Hess GmbH & Co. KG related the latest in a long drama of what one might call “customer service madness,” in our dealings with one of Germany’s largest Mercedes dealerships. Without going into a “total recall” reiteration of this nightmare, suffice it to say Hess and its sales and customer service ineptitude just has to rival even the most shabby used car lot in the world. Hundreds of Euros, a hundred hours, ten tons of stress, and a close call with the eternal after the fact, we have nearly come to the end of our dealings with this dealership. Let me sum up what has happened so far briefly.
The Mercedes Hess Epic Poem
We begin our journey with the purchase of a used Mercedes A 190 Elegance in October of last year, and ended with the company giving us some of our money back, all be it a little late and a dollar or two thousand short.
- Purchase A 190 as a larger, more reliable car for the family
- Discover transmission fault, which is intermittent
- Experience two flat tires within 200 kilometers
- Pay to have tires replaced after unmounting them ourselves and remounting them
- Mention the transmission fault, told it is symptomatic of A CLass and a minor problem
- Transmission fault gets worse
- Transmission fails to operate under road conditions
- Transmission situation renders A Class virtually undriveable
- Visit Hess main offices to ask if we can trade for a better car
- Employees of Hess rude, arrogant and unresponsive
- Write a news article or two about shabby treatment
- Hess says warranty does not cover fault, wants over 500 Euro to repair
- Call Mercedes main support Netherlands
- Hess willing to repair at no cost
- Write another article or two about craziness
- Hess agrees to “allow” us to trade
- Trade for a Volkswagen Golf at Hess’s suggestion
- Hess values VW at almost 2000 Euro less than our A class
- We accept their suggestion in effort to be done with it
- We drive VW on business trip, engine locks down after 300 km
- Under German law Hess must give our money back
- We decide on a figure somewhere between the original A Class and the VW
- Nearly three weeks later, the VW still broken down, Hess pays 500 Euro less than the agreed sum
As you can see, even the abbreviated list of events is quite long, but I assure the reader, nothing compared to the phone calls, wrecker service, rental car, and other associated aggravation. If it were not for the efforts of one man, Tom Holst, I seriously doubt anything would be resolved even now. We assumed that buying a Mercedes, even a used one, from a large Mercedes dealership, would ensure great customer service and reliability in the end. We were sadly mistaken. Not only were we insulted and minimized by Hess from the onset of this nightmare. Not only have they tried to optimize their financial win at every turn, but no apology or substantial recompense has been forthcoming from anyone there except Tom Holst. They essentially threw this case in his lap, and washed their hands of us.
Calamity Over Calamity
We could have been killed by either the mechanical failure of the A Class, or even more possibly the engine lock down of the VW. We have had to pay for rental car service, even though their warranty service said they would cover it. I believe Hess tried to over bill us for the A Class repair which was carried out as well. The technician who did the repair told me it took him only one hour to install the part, but the labor Hess wanted was I believe 2 to 3 hours. Just recently we learned that even that repair was not sufficient to get rid of the transmission problem, and that car has had to be worked on again. So you see, even if we had accepted their solution and paid 500 euro to fix the original car, we still would have been broken down on the side of the road, or worse.
We are nice people. I guess some folks would call us “pushovers” really. All we wanted was a safe and reliable car to carry our family in. When the A Class proved to be far less than reliable, we just wanted either to trade for another car or “some” of our money back. Even through all the arrogant and pitiful customer service, we still traded for a car of lesser value with them. We lost money, but took their suggested replacement on good faith. The car broke in heavy traffic no the autobahn, jeopardizing us and the other drivers. We simply asked for a refund of an equitable amount even after all this. Three weeks later, 10 phone calls, and absolutely no apologies from anyone but Herr Holst, we received the wrong amount. The latest development on this is that Herr Host informed us that “phase two” of Hess’ intentions would be to repay us the remaining 500 euro after still more days waiting and some proof that we indeed had to pay for a rental car.
Indifference Should Be So Rewarded
You know, companies that have no idea what to do for and with customers should not be in business. The rust bucket Hess sold us had trouble written all over it. Still, all these people had to do from the onset was to be nice. Nice people do not want trouble, they just want to live and let live. Hess is a multi million dollar operation. They have contracts with government, sell a full line of Mercedes vehicles of every description from heavy trucks to the Smart vehicles. In all that infrastructure, after having a news site publish an ongoing story about their pitiful effort to help people, no one at this company even took the time to wonder how much money they lost.
On the face of it Hess would have lost nothing by just giving our money back in the first place. All we suggested initially was for them to make money on a trade up, or to repay a “part” of what we originally paid for their junk, $7000 euro. We would have lost 1500 euro, but we understood we had driven the A Class a few thousand kilometers, and were willing to pay for their trouble. As it turns out, we just received this amount. Hess lost the cost of the repair, some of the rental car monies, a wrecker bill, a towing bill for 300 kilometers to get the VW back, the cost of a VW engine replacement, more repair costs for the A Class, Tom Holst’s hours working no this, the administrative costs of reworking this deal, and most importantly monies which they will never regain. Their inefficiencies have cost Adolph Hess Jr, and his business untold Euros.
As a side story, but perhaps one which reflects on Hess’ attitude or ineptness with regard to customer service, I just happened to run across one of Adolph Hess Jr.’s partners in the luxury car realm. R-Company is an exotic car service which offers cars and service to customers from far abroad evidently. According to their website, one of their executives, Mike Pessis, entered into dealings with Hess sometime in 2000. Other associations for R-Company include Lorinser, a world class outlet for rare and super performance Mercedes cars. Perhaps all these underlying relationships are fodder for another story, but it is significant to take note of the philosophies of some of these companies.
Individualists with discriminating taste will find what they are looking for: style and lifestyle expressed in unique automobiles. Automobiles that live up to the highest standards.
Our corporate philosophy is “Perfecting what is already precious.”
For this I vouch with my name.
Your Marcus Lorinser
It is interesting to note that Lorinser sells its superb versions of Mercedes performance cars through Hess, and also world wide in place like Hong Kong as well. So for the S Class people being serviced in China now, there is the option to buy a real classic via one of their dealers there too. Why even Arnold Schwarzenegger has purchased Mercedes performance cars from Lorinser, it has to be a name you can trust right?
R-Company is situated right here in Trier, for people of discriminating taste. Come to think of it, Mihaela and I were customers of discriminating taste, all-be-it people on a budget. We assumed the Mercedes brand, and Hess’ vast experiences and affiliations were meant for even people wanting to enter the Mercedes Benz market. R-Company by the way, offers some used versions of the Lorinser cars like the beautiful example to the left. The price tag of 100,000 Euro may be cause for a little alarm however, if you just had a baby and the economy hit you too. I also took note of the fact that R-Company specializes in the trade and export of new and used cars like the one pictured. The point here is, it is obvious that Hess Mercedes has an idea what excellence is all about. Maybe they are too focused on the high end client and cannot see the little people? Or do the 200,000 Euro clients suffer the same indignity?
Hess’ and even the Mercedes main websites are just not that strong, they should know this. Any story like this one, indexes in Google above their own “cookie cutter” Websites immediately. We did not originally factor this in, in our efforts to report in a very “consumer reviews” way, we inadvertently discovered our stories impacted Mercedes so. That being said, though Germany is not as wired as some countries, the Hess people and Mercedes in general should have taken note of this. A win-win situation for Mercedes anywhere, would have been to ensure we as customers (anyone as customers) were at least minimally satisfied, and that a happy conclusion could have been reported. All anyone wants to know is really the ending of a story any how. So, Mercedes is, if nothing else, obtuse about the power of the Web as a two way communicative device.
You know it is sad that everyone does not have a voice that can be heard. I wish everyone could relate the things that make their lives better, or in this case worse. Companies, even business as a whole would benefit greatly from the type of dynamic where people drive their respective excellence forward. Not many people have such a voice though. I can only imagine all the A Class owners out there, or the car owners in general, who have had similar troubles. This is really the main reason we wrote all these articles. If a company like Mercedes Benz, one of the most powerful brands in the world, can have their reputation soiled by a dealership like Hess, it is a wonder to me that China or anyone else would buy that brand. There should be standards, very high ones in Mercedes’ case, to which dealerships and their employees adhere to. This is obviously not the case though.
Used car dealers are notorious for lying and sometimes cheating their clients. I do not envy the S Class buyer in China, who purchases their luxury car from a dealership like Hess of Trier, Germany. Can you imagine how shabby the service might be outside of Germany and in a country where citizen’s rights are not so highly valued? S Class, A Class, or no class at all, I am disheartened by how we have been treated. This was never about the money, it was about public relations and human beings’ right to expect proper treatment. So the reader knows, we welcome your stores of good and bad customer service. We have already taken steps to employ reporters who can investigate and relate your experiences to our audience. Everything PR is currently the number on PR and Marketing site in Germany, something like 30th in all of Europe, and number 250 in the world. We really consider it our job to speak for people who may not otherwise be heard from. If you see this article, and the announcement to come, please do not hesitate to contact us so that we might tell your story, and in the end help you.
Opportunity Smartness Lost
A smart question for Adolph Hess Jr. and his people might have been; “How can we make this a happy ending, how can this news outlet be turned into an engine for our business?” We never know the opportunities we miss. Opportunities to make money, make friends, be successful, and to grow are all around us. Those articles, read by who knows how many people, might have conveyed a different story, one in which a company treated its customers with respect and gratitude, rather than calloused, obtuse indifference. Imagine what the story would have been like if Hess’ middle management had apologized and taken a better course. The same story that cost Hess and Mercedes in general an opportunity cost, could have elevated that opportunity. Hess will never know how many Mercedes Benz cars were not sold because their actions made them look suspect. Opportunity cost is in reality one of the biggest determinants of a business’ success or failure. All they had to do was be nice. Mr. Hess should ride herd on his business more closely if he is in the business of making money rather than saving a little of it.