I bought my first Honda in 1984. It was a white 5-speed Civic with 60,000 miles on it and I loved it and drove it for many years without any problems. In 2007, after leasing several cars, I was on my way to the Toyota dealer to buy a de rigueur Prius when I serendipitously passed a Honda dealership and pulled in. I told the salesman where I was going and he bet me that if I sat in the Honda Civic I would buy it. What audacity! I laughed in disbelief and then took a seat in the Civic. It was truly amazing. The way the dashboard extended over my legs in stages was so beautiful, so functional, and so exquisitely designed. Again I chose a 5-speed and I think that Honda's clutch and shift-stick are wonderfully efficient and easy to use -- something obviously unavailable in a Prius. To this day I still love every time I sit in my Civic and look at the dashboard -- I feel as if I'm in some sort of a futuristic time machine. It feels both safe and fun, both practical and fantastic. It is difficult for me to imagine a more joyous ride.
But I will not buy another Honda.
Firstly, last year I received a letter from Honda taking responsibility for uneven or rapid tire tread wear in 2007 Civics. They provided a form to fill out and submit along with my receipt for $459.96 for the four tires that I purchased in 2011 when a Honda repair person told me that all of the tires needed to be replaced immediately due to uneven tread wear. I sent in the form and my receipt and a few weeks later received a letter stating that I didn't qualify for the refund for unspecified reasons. Strike one.
Secondly, the passenger airbag light went on a few months ago and I brought the car into Santa Monica Honda where they offered to inspect it for $45, which I paid. I was told that there was a defective sensor that needed to be replaced and it would cost around $525. I asked them to check to see if this was covered under the warranty and they got back to me a week later and told me that it was not covered. But this was not the problem: the problem was that having the passenger airbag alight rendered the computer that controlled ALL of the airbags on the car inoperative, including the driver's airbag. Having seen the Styrofoam explode from the plastic front bumper when a motorcycle careened into me a few years ago, I did not want to drive the car without airbags. I told them I would come back in a few weeks to fix it and about 24 hours later the passenger airbag light mysteriously went off and has never come back on. So why were they going to charge me $525 for a sensor that did not need fixing? Strike two.
Thirdly, I received a letter from Honda in December stating that there had been coolant seepage in some Civic engine blocks and they were extending the warranty and compensating owners if this had already occurred. I recalled having paid $50 for mechanics to seal such a leak in the engine block two years ago while they were replacing the brakes. I sent the receipt along with a form to Honda and a few days later received an unsigned form-letter back stating that I did not qualify for a refund because I had gotten the brakes fixed (also) - what????? There was no telephone number or name on the letter or no way to appeal. Although "Block Leak" was clearly circled on the bill I submitted, they would not refund the $50 I paid for sealing the block leak. That's three strikes, Honda. You're out!
Hondas are beautiful and awesome vehicles but Honda's customer service sucks. I suggest that Honda direct all of its employees to purchase a pair of Warby Parker glasses and a pair of sneakers from Zappos to see what great customer service feels like. My Warby Parker lens were scratched and Warby Parker replaced them free of charge and even paid for shipping both ways. Zappos delivers shoes to my doorstep the next day and their customer service representatives always do their best to make sure that I get exactly what I want and need.
Brand loyalty is a commodity; making customers feel valued is an integral part of doing business in the new economy (in most economies, really) - particularly when it is always possible to find competitive prices on the Internet. When companies skimp on attentive and pleasant telephone representatives so that they can return short-term higher profits to their shareholders, this is an unsustainable business model. Similarly, many companies have tried to save money by automating customer service and this is often infuriating to the consumer. Honestly, I would like to send a bill to Anthem Blue Cross for the hours and hours I've spent on the telephone pressing buttons to answer redundant questions and then waiting and waiting to get a living human representative. Instead, I just switched to Blue Shield and I pray their customer service is better.
After taking some flak, Google has now instituted an awesome video customer service program for its new Helpouts section. Meanwhile my Yahoo email account has been giving me "Failed to send" messages on 20% - 25% of my outgoing emails and I have no idea how to get in touch with anyone at Yahoo.
Honda sending me letters informing me that they would like to take responsibility for problems but then rescinding their offers does not create a trusting relationship. Oh and, by the way, Honda, I'm the poster child for Honda Civics. Professional, urban, Ivy-League educated, well-traveled, could drive a Prius or B-mer but chose a Civic because of the reliability and smart design. Not that that matters. It certainly doesn't. But integrity does. So I will enjoy driving my beautiful Civic around for the next few years but unless Honda's customer service changes drastically this will be the last one I own.