Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dear CAA...

I don't write complaint letters very often, especially not long ones, but this was a special occasion. I've dealt with some unprofessional jerks in my time, but this person takes the cake:
 
Dear CAA,
I've been a member since I owned my first car and motorcycle in Canada and so far have been a very happy customer. Your employees and contractors were always friendly. They often significantly exceeded my expectations in delivering their service, providing not only highly professional but also compassionate care in my time of need. Being an avid long distance motorcycle rider I had my share of mishaps, all of which were made considerably easier to cope with by fine folks from CAA.
Unfortunately, there are always bad apples and I feel obliged to report them since I know you care about your customers and want to maintain a high level of service you are famous for. I recently had an extremely unpleasant experience with one of your contractors, Kevin Douthwright, the owner of Ralph's Auto Repair Ltd. from Apohaqui, New Brunswick (RalphsAutoRepair.com). It went from cordial to rude to verbally aggressive and vulgar, to extortion. I am not the only person that directly experienced such behavior from Mr. Douthwright with regards to this matter. Here is how it all went:
- On August 8, 2014 my motorcycle suffered a catastrophic engine failure on New Brunswick Highway 1. I called CAA, was dealt with very efficiently and the tow truck arrived within half an hour.
- The truck driver Daniel Douthwright was very friendly and helpful, so I decided to have the bike towed to his shop since he has the tools and knowledge to inspect and possibly repair the bike.
- We quickly found out that the engine has seized and the repair will likely cost more than the bike is worth and will take considerable time. After examining several options to transport the bike to Toronto (Daniel was very helpful there too) I decided to get on the bus home and leave the bike behind.
- Upon my return home I exchanged several e-mails with Daniel (he was always very responsive and understanding) to figure out what to do with the bike. No solution was found, but we had a general agreement to sell the bike as a whole or in parts and split the proceeds in order for me to recover some of my losses and make it worth his while as well. 
- I bought an identical bike two weeks after my return to Toronto so I contacted Daniel to see if he can remove some aftermarket parts from the bike and mail them to me. This is when he started to avoid my e-mails, so after waiting for a few weeks and repeating requests for a response I decided to call.
- My first call to Ralph's Auto Repair was answered by the owner, Kevin Douthwright. This was my first contact with him since I didn't meet him while I was at his shop. I asked to talk to Daniel, but Kevin insisted I deal with him since it's a business matter and he is the business owner. I explained what I need and he said he has no issue with removing the parts for $75/hr in labor, plus the cost of shipping. I agreed and he gave me his e-mail address so I can send him the list of what I need.
- As soon as I sent the list, Kevin called me back complaining that it's "half the bike" (total weight of all the parts I requested was under 20Kg) and that it will cost 2 hours of work (which sounded just about right to me) and $500 to ship it (which was a gross over-estimate). He said that he doesn't want to do it and that he feels pressured. I explained that I only want to find an option that is acceptable to both of us, but I have nothing to say if he doesn't want to do business. He repeatedly asked for me to "come and get it" to which I replied that I'll examine the options and let him know.
- Thanks to uShip.com, I quickly found a shipper willing to transport the bike door to door for around $400. That worked for me very well, so I e-mailed Kevin right away to expect someone to come for it in the near future. I also offered to compensate him for his time and effort in helping to prepare and load the bike.
- The shipper I engaged sent his trucks on three different occasions, but was unable to pick up the bike. According to him (and I have no reason whatsoever to doubt his report), the bike was behind the shop, sunk in mud up to the axles and impossible to retrieve by towing truck. Requests by the truck driver for assistance with loading were flatly denied by representatives of Ralph's Auto Repair on whose property the bike was. Their behavior was described as very rude and uncooperative. According to my shipper, the bike cannot be removed from the property without a forklift or at least a winch, none of which the shipper has, but the shop does. My shipper also told me that Kevin offered to transport the bike to his location in Moncton for $150, but refused to just extract the bike for the shipper to pick it up, for any price.
- On December 18 I called Kevin to see what can be done. He was very rude and started ranting about how the shipper arrived after business hours and he "wasn't about to do any work at 6PM" (BTW, as per their own web site, Ralph's Auto Repair is a "24 hour towing" operation) and how he wasted too much time with this (he only answered a few phone calls and did absolutely no other work). My polite insistence to find a way to do business for a fair compensation resulted in a statement that "the bike is gone" and that it was "thrown in a dumpster", after which Kevin hung up on me.
- I called him back immediately, just to tell him that he is very rude and unprofessional and that I'm amazed he can run a business while treating his customers like that.

- He hung up again, only to call me right back. This time he was not just rude and verbally abusive, but also vulgar. He told me to "Shut the f**k up and f*****g listen!", after which he practically yelled the ultimatum to pick up the bike within seven days and pay $50 for loading it up. I barely had time to agree when he hung up on me for the third time.
- Not willing to suffer any more abuse over the phone I followed up with an e-mail just to confirm that I accept his "offer". He replied that he doesn't want to receive any more communication about this and that he will charge every attempt to contact him an additional $25. I just responded that i agree, to which he responded "$25", meaning that my response will cost me $25.
- At this point I pretty much gave up hope since I was obviously dealing wit a person that cannot be trusted with anything. However, my shipper was kind enough to attempt another pickup and he finally managed to get the bike loaded. Not after he paid Mr. He paid Mr. Doutwright the $75 ransom, but the request for a receipt was simply ignored (Mr. Doutwright went into the shop, locked the door and turned off the lights).
I finally received my bike on March 3, but that's not the end of the story. I won't bother you with all the damage the bike suffered due to passive neglect and active abuse while in Mr. Doutwrights custody. I'll just mention the fact that the removed the exhaust pipe. His son Daniel did mention in one of his early e-mails that he received an inquiry from someone interested to buy the exhaust pipe, but he said that he refused it. In any case, I never authorized the removal/sale of the said pipe and intend to send an invoice for it to Mr. Douthwright for it (not that I expect any response except maybe more profaqnity ::( ).
My entire e-mail correspondence with Daniel and Kevin Douthwright, as well as my shipper is available.

Speaking of my shipper, he deserves to be mentioned again as he was nothing short of extraordinary. The service he provided is above and beyond anything I would expect from, let alone ask for, a close friend or relative. He was absolutely brilliant throughout this whole ordeal and if it wasn't for his professionalism and persistence my bike would still be rotting in Ralph's Auto Repair, right behind the shop and trucks that bear CAA signs. He is:
Paul Matchett
President
Choice Logistics
Dartmouth, NS
That's it. I hope you'll do what needs to be done to protect the reputation of your organization and prevent people like Kevin Douthwright from ruining it.
Best regards,
Vlad Marinkovic
Toronto
CAA# XXX XXX XXXXXXXX