Dark foggy street with street lights

Fobbed Off

Dark foggy street with street lightsFobbed Off


Standing in the pitch black.  In a park, alone, for 45 minutes feeling pretty vulnerable and increasingly cold.  Plenty of time for reflection.  I wasn’t looking or thought I needed it.  I wasn’t expecting it.  And at that exact moment I definitely can tell you I didn’t think it was good for me.

Let me wind back the clock to recount how I got there.  I have spoken previously about the trials and tribulations of my car.  Following my faulty fob I had booked the car in for its service and MOT.  I arranged to get the fobs sorted at the same time.  Two immediate issues.  The garage could only change the battery in the fobs and a major problem with my crank shaft had been identified, which would need fixing before passing the MOT.  So it would be back to ‘chez garage’ where the fobs could be replaced and re-programmed.

I spent the intervening two weeks talking kindly to a piece of plastic each time I opened and locked the car door – the fob is also the mechanism for starting the engine.  Some hairy moments when I thought it wasn’t going to work but we got there.

However, when I arrived back at the garage, I was informed they didn’t have any fobs in stock, they could order some in but I would have to come back again. It got a bit heated and language was used that sounded like ‘fobbing’, but wasn’t!  I explained I did the school runs, had four kids and couldn’t run the risk of breaking down. The headline response being it was unfortunate but if anything did happen I would have to ring the RAC or AA.  And with that the Customer Service Advisor proceeded to take staff drink orders while regaling stories of his weekend escapades – and all in front of me and other customers.  He did ring the following day and said it would be another eight days before the car could come back.

You really don’t need me to tell you what happened next.  In fact, it was four days later.  A late Sunday afternoon and we had decided to take the kids to the park for some fresh air and lockdown exercise.  Just as the sun was setting and before their tea.  Returning to the car after a nippy 20 minutes, it happened.  Both fobs gave up.  I could see through the window the dashboard telling me key not detected.  I used the emergency key to unlock the car and with a very high-pitched alarm annoying the entire neighbourhood we got the doubly buggy, wheelchair and two car seats out.  It was a long walk home.

The breakdown service was brilliant.  I rang.  They were caring, kind and responsive to my situation.  They agreed an estimated time to get to my car and I got a taxi there to meet them. They rang once to see how I was and a second time to say the driver was running late from a previous call out.  Hence the 45 minutes in the pitch black as I waited. 

This could have easily descended into a woe betide me post about how terrible it all was but perversely I am glad it happened.  For the first time in months, life just stopped.  The brakes jammed.  It was pitch black, silent and no mobile reception for online distraction.  I was forced to think.  Reflect.  And realise life was good, I was very lucky and very privileged.  I could gently scold myself for not ringing to confirm everything was ok in advance of me going to the garage. It was that important, I should have checked. I didn’t.  I was too busy.  A reminder about important versus urgent tasks. And we had left all the family mobile phones in the car so real problems if we hadn’t opened the car.  I like not always having my phone but in the circumstances we faced, an unnecessary risk that day.

And the biggest reflection.  The customer service from the garage and breakdown service was not about money or resources but attitude and approach.  No cost but a big price.  Purple Tuesday demonstrates every day that improving the disabled customer experience is about attitude and approach with funding a long way behind in terms of enabling changes.  In this situation I suspect it didn’t matter if I was disabled or not – the same outcome would have happened.

In a world of four children, a busy job and everything else, the 45 minutes was unique.  The circumstances could have been better but I learned a lot.  And yes, my car did eventually pass its MOT!

Mike Adams
CEO, Purple
24 November 2020

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