Buyer beware: a cautionary tale on details

Before I had kids I used to be secretly horrified by the conditions of the cars of my friends with kids. How hard is it to keep your car clean, I wondered sanctimoniously. Ha. Shame on me.

How hard indeed. My little Mazda 5, a car I continue to adore into its fifth year, is filthy. Despite my ongoing (oh fine, occasional) efforts to keep it tidy, I have failed. My car is a mess. I have managed to keep the outside more or less clean, depending on the season, but the inside is no match for me. Candy wrappers, hot chocolate cups, bits of crayon, goldfish crackers, and pieces of dollar store crud toys are just a few of the things ground into the upholstery and carpet. I’ve slopped enough coffee in it to fill a kiddie pool, and you could make four whole dogs out of the dog hair in every crack and crevice. And why why WHY Starbucks, do you insist on giving me those little green stopper sticks that serve no purpose whatsover except to migrate into unreachable fissures and reproduce?

In every season but winter, I honestly do make efforts to keep the interior clean. I just don’t understand why it’s so consistently dirty – I throw away the trash regularly. Well, there’s the aforementioned coffee slops, of course. And erm, the undisturbed dust on the dashboard. And well, of course I haven’t done anything about the dog hair, because oh my christ but it is everywhere. But at least I try, when it’s not winter, to pass a vacuum over the hotspots every month or two, and fish out the flotsam and jetsam the kids wedge under the seats. All bets are off in the winter, though.

Which is why I was cursing this endless winter just yesterday when I found myself with my head mostly under the front seat and my arse sticking out the passenger side door, fishing Crayola marker lids and car wash receipts (oh the irony) out from under the seat. I filled an entire bag with accumulated crap. Though my hands were frozen into claws as I continued to root out bits of a deteriorating Wiggles colouring book and a dried up chapstick, my heart was light. I was removing the surface clutter in anticipation of a more serious cleaning – I’d acquired a coupon for car detailing, and my car was going to have a well deserved beauty appointment!

185:365 My new Mazda 5!
Back in the day when we were both a little more shiny and new.

I don’t think I can put into words exactly how excited I was about getting my car detailed. Not just a quick pass at the gas station vacuum, not a few embarrassed swipes at the dashboard grime with a napkin before my mom got into the car, but a full-on bath! Maybe, maybe – dare I hope? – maybe they could even vanquish that odd but omnipresent smell that was less like new car and more like, well, feet?

And I don’t think I can put into words how annoyed, how frustrated, and how mortified I was when Canotek Auto Detailing refused the job.

I have waffled back and forth on whether to out the company here. I try to always be cognizant of the reach of my voice, and to always use my powers of social media for good. I have to be righteously offended to turn on the spotlight and out someone for crappy service. Sorry to say it, but Canotek Auto Detailing belongs in the hall of shame.

I cleared most of a precious Wednesday off to make the 30 km trek out for my appointment. He barely glanced at my car before telling me that oh no, there was no way he could do this job in 45 minutes (though I’d been told on the phone to expect the appointment to last 60 to 90 minutes.) No, it would be extra to clean this car.

No thanks, I said with my best smile. I’d read some reviews that complained of this business upselling, and I was mostly prepared for it. Do what you can in 45 minutes and that will be good. Oh no, he said, I can’t do that. I can’t just start the job and not finish it. I asked him what’s involved in the package, and he says interior vacuum, clean surfaces, exterior wash, window cleaning, and undercarriage wash. Great, I say, looking at the snow still caked on the roof and falling outside. Skip the exterior and undercarriage wash and just do the vacuum – that’s all I want. He flat out refuses.

No matter what I say, he’s got an argument. Just do the vacuuming, I say and he replies that he can’t run his $1700 vacuum for 45 minutes, he’ll burn out the motor, he’ll pay more in hydro than he will earn from the coupon deal. He is fixated on the $7 that he says he earns from the group deal and I tell him that I totally get it (you might remember I costed out the value of these deals from a business perspective and it’s rarely worth it for the business) but that he chose to offer the deal and I am choosing to take him up on it. The more we talk, the more obstinate he gets. I hate confrontation and I don’t like to be rude and I really just want my car a little bit cleaner than when I got up this morning. I’m totally willing to negotiate on what gets done but when tell him that there’s no way I’m paying for anything extra, he flat out refuses my business. He tells me to go back to Living Social and get a refund, because he’s not running the risk of ruining his expensive vacuum and paying all that electricity consumption for $7.

I’m equal parts shocked and mortified as I back my car (still dirty) back out of the bay. I mean, yes, the car was dirty — that’s why I bought a detailing package! And yes, I get that it may have been dirtier than baseline. But for a business owner (I checked, he was the business owner, or at least said he was) to completely refuse to honour the deal or come to any sort of compromise was, in my opinion, ridiculous. He clearly gets by on the up-selling, and while I’m sympathetic to his need to make a profit, I’m not cool with him doing it via bait and switch. His obstinance and eventual rudeness didn’t do much to ameliorate my opinion of him and his business, either.

Don’t get sucked in by this deal. I’ve got a note in with Living Social, and I’m reasonably confident they’ll refund my money, but I’ll pursue this if I have to. He’s still running a deal with Groupon, although his website is returning a 404 right now. (Kinda wish I’d clicked that before I bought the deal. :/)

So, anyone want to recommend a car detailing place? Preferably one with an industrial vacuum and a better attitude? Because, sadly, my car still smells like feet.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

13 thoughts on “Buyer beware: a cautionary tale on details”

  1. Look up Denis Begin on my friends list…he lives in Stittsville and does an amazing job in his home garage….

  2. The whole purpose of these group deals is to sell off extra stock or to entice potential customers in so that you can prove to them that you are worth coming back and paying full price. Great for crew companies or companies having a slow month.

    This company completely and utterly missed the point of the Living Social deal and as a result (especially if they act this way to all their customers) probably did more to hurt their bottom line.

    I’m sorry you had this experience, Dani. It is truly disappointing to see a company treat customers this way (regardless of how much they paid for the service).

  3. That totally suck and is super annoying! but what I really want to comment on is that (after my car was totalled in September), I had to replace it. and I a bought a 2012 BLUE MAZDA 5. So, we are twins basically. that’s all!

  4. Tops on Richmond Road (near Woodroffe) does a great job, but is not overly convenient for you. It is not cheap though, check out their prices on their website. I feel it is worth it since I am not doing the work (You can hang out at Timmies or walk up to Carlingwood while the work is being done)

  5. That deserves a complaint to the Better Business Bureau. Seriously. He entered into a contract with you by selling that coupon. He is refusing to honour that contract. Bad business. Make the complaint.

  6. My jaw hit my desk as I read your story. I agree with Susan…file a complaint with the BBB, and Living Social should absolutely refund your “deal”. UGH. so mad for you!

  7. Good for you, outting him. That really was ridiculous behaviour.

    I usually take my filthy car to one of the lovely gentlemen in Edgewater Drive. There are always one or two detailing places open when I’m in the depths of embarrassment over my car.

    A note on the Starbucks “splash stick”, I feel as though you have not been introduced to the amazing features of the stick. It is one of my most favourite things.
    During the beginning of the car ride it keeps your coffee from splashing (or latte foaming) all over your car and right forearm. I tuck the stick into my coffee sleeve to enjoy a few sips and then replace the stopper. That stopper has saved me from coffee scalds and crying like a child, when I knock my beverage to the floor/desktop/other unfortunate surface. Also important while spending time around little people. My coffee is always safely(ish) contained with the lid and stopper.
    When I am finished my coffee, I have been known to reuse my stopper for other purposes… A poking stick while sewing small projects, folding it into shapes to amuse small person on car rides, sometimes I might even use one – toothpick style before going into a meeting.
    If you can embrace the awesomeness of your little green sticks, maybe they won’t be a nuisance in the car anymore 😉

  8. I think he totally missed the part where he is buying new customers. Yes, he might lose money on the first service. But the gamble is that a high enough percentage of those new customers who are convinced to try his service by way of the coupon will come back and pay full price another time. Or at least recommend him to their friends.

    To absolutely refuse to provide you with any service under the described conditions is dishonest in my opinion. Won’t be taking my car there. (Also, not impressed with a professional who is unable to vaccuum an ordinary car in less than 45min. I can do better than that at home with a ten year old $700 machine that may have seen some abuse…)

  9. Thank you for this review. It seems to be the same story with all of these detailing places on Groupon. You just saved me $55 and a headache.

  10. I just had the same thing happen to me at Canotek Auto Detailing. After the guy finished yelling at his female employee, he greeted me, asked me if there was a 3rd seat, when I said yes, he said, well that will be $20 extra right off the bat. So, I am thinking to myself. Ok, so I never use that seat, I just won’t have it cleaned. He leaves with my keys to check my car and as I am standing there, I see about a dozen signs all over the walll with all kinds of different reasons for charging extra, overly dirty, commercial vehicles, taxes, extra shampoo, crystalized salt, (how the hell do you stop it from crystallizing anyway!) etc. You name it, they charge extra for it. he comes back and tells me, I won’t clean that car I said what? He says, it’s overly dirty, see that sign.
    I have 3 kids, yes and there are a few rocks, dirt etc on the floor. THere are sticky fingers on one door, the windows have finger marks, it’s dirty granted, but that IS WHY I AM HAVING IT DETAILED! There are no stains, nothing on the floor, nothing on the seats except my daughter’s car seat. I am appalled. I told him, that I would lodge a formal complaint and that other car detail companies had done it before and never said anything of the sort.
    He doesn’t say, I may not be able to get it clean, or I have to charge you extra, he just outright refuses saying he only gets $12 from the Groupon. Which is incorrect, because I am also a Groupon Merchant and you get half of the Groupon voucher value, $12 would be 25%.
    This guy won’t be in business for long if he keeps operating this way….

  11. You didn’t miss out on anything, in fact his refusal was probably doing you a favour.

    I took my car there to be detailed last year since we work next door, and my boss said he negotiated a good price for us if at least 5 of us took our cars there. When I got there I found it to be the normal price, so the scamming already started..

    They did the most pathetic cleaning job I’ve ever seen. I had to take the car back twice and complain about all the stuff they missed, which was obvious. In the end I grabbed the rag off one of the guys and showed him that it just took a quick wipe to remove stuff they’d obviously made no attempt to do, like wiping the pillars. “Oh, the basic package doesn’t including shampooing the roof”. I didn’t ask you to shampoo it, just wipe it with the damp rag and it looks cleaner..

    When I agreed to leave it with them again to clean it, instead of cleaning the bits I pointed out they had missed, they attempted to polish one of my headlights (which didn’t really look any better) and then tried to upsell me on doing the other one. I’m not going to pay you more to do a poor job of cleaning something I didn’t ask you to do in the first place, when you can’t do what you were supposed to be doing. Also, when I tried to leave, they must have left the headlights on or something, as my battery was flat and my car needed to be jump started.

    At one point the guy says to me “well, your car was pretty dirty”. Yes, why do you think I brought it here to be cleaned? If my car was clean, then there wouldn’t be much point in getting it detailed would there?

    Idiots. I’ll never go there again.

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