THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING: It had been such a good day. I had a new recipe that I was about to prepare for the first time for dinner. It was 5:40 p.m. I was preparing diced chicken, veggies, and sliced potatoes for a scrumptious meal. Then, the phone rang. I got some of the most dreaded news for an operator, just short of a catastrophic crash My night dispatcher blurts out, "We have a bus broke down with 19 passengers onboard in Palos Verdes.”
I could not believe that our bus with a mere 30,000 miles on it was broken down more than 100 miles away. Panic set in. How would I get these people home? Should I roll another bus from Bakersfield? It will take at least three hours to get a chauffeur in and on the road. Is it a minor fix? “Calm down and take three big breaths” I uttered to myself. I called the chauffeur and got a run down on the problem. I then called Pat Butler from Tiffany Coachworks to discuss the situation with him and see about my options.
He had a technician from Tiffany call me to discuss what might be preventing this bus from going more than 10 miles per hour. Pat gave me the name of a few limo companies in Los Angeles that have purchased buses from him. I put the tech and the chauffeur in touch with each other and they begin trying various procedures to try to clear a filter of some kind. Fortunately, the breakdown occurred in the parking lot of a country club with a restaurant and the passengers decided to go have a nice two-hour meal. So the clock started ticking. . .
Meanwhile, I called the two companies Pat told me about to no avail. I called Diva Limousine since we are affiliates and asked them for help. “No can do”, they said. They referred me to two more companies. One said it could get a bus to my people in about an hour and a half and gave me a rate. I called the second company, which said they could do it and have a bus there in 45 minutes, but at a much higher price. Deciding that convenience should prevail over price, I reluctantly agreed to pay $1,000 to get my passengers home. However, this company wanted me to complete a credit card authorization form and provide a photocopy of the front and back of my credit card. Not easy to do from home. Fortunately, I have a fax machine and a digital camera so that problem was solved. The bus was dispatched to pick up our stranded passengers.
On to the next problem: Getting the bus towed somewhere. I called Ford Roadside Assistance. They insisted that our driver remains with the vehicle until their driver arrives. That meant when the passengers load up on the rescue bus, the driver will be stranded in Los Angeles or wherever the bus gets towed. Knowing this, I scrambled up another chauffeur and dispatched him to a destination unknown in Los Angeles to pickup the driver.
The rescue bus arrived at the same time as the tow truck, and our passengers boarded up and continued on their journey home. Meanwhile, the tow truck driver refused to tow the bus because the nearest Ford dealership was closed and there was no safe place to leave the bus. So, the driver and the bus were left behind waiting for a ride home.
TIFFANY'S FAULT? Meanwhile, we gave the keys to security so we could send another tow truck in the morning to load it up and take it to the nearest Ford dealership. The next phase of the nightmare was being told the repairs would be about $10,000 and not covered under warranty by Ford as it was a design defect from Tiffany that caused the problem. Tiffany claims it was not their problem since they did not do any modifications that would have caused it. As of today, the bus still sits at a Ford dealership 100 miles away from home and no one seems to know when we will get it back. Each day we refund a minimum of $1,000 to clients who had that bus booked for holiday light tours and parties here in Bakersfield. So, you could say the nightmare continues and I am so ready to wake up from it and realize it was a bad, bad dream. By the way, I picked up fast food for dinner at 9 p.m.
--- Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor
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