A week or so after the service manager told me I was going to need a $5,000 engine replacement, my phone rang.
"I'm not sure who you've been speaking with, but I just got a call from [name redacted]. He's pretty far up the food chain. In fact, I've only ever seen his name on company memos, I've never actually spoken to him until now. He has instructed me to replace this engine for you for a $1,000 deductible".
Now, I've never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I was still a little miffed that I'd even have to pay that. But I kept my mouth shut about it and gave him the go ahead.
Some days later, I received an email from my club contact. It contained a forwarded message from another person in the FIAT corporate chain. This email basically said that customer negligence was the issue, that I'd let the car run out of oil and ruined the engine myself, and they were only replacing my engine as a "goodwill gesture".
Now it's important to note here that even though I'm not Italian myself, I still have one helluva temper. This email sent me right over the edge, and I called the service manager to ask him where this piece of information had come from.
"Not from us", he said. "The car arrived here with a full dipstick and the old oil in the jug looked to be about the same amount".
"Then where did they get this idea that I'd been negligent with the car?"
"I'm not sure. But like I said before, if you would change your oil every 3,000 miles...". Every time I talked to that guy, the conversation would end in a lecture on oil change protocol.
So now I'd gone from a valued customer (who had gone out on a limb to beta test their cars) to a typical American driver who doesn't take care of his cars. This really rubbed me the wrong way.
But I kept my mouth shut because I wasn't paying $5,000 for this engine, was I?