June 25th is a day that will go down in infamy. Several notable things happened at some point in history on this day:
Custer made his last stand in The Battle of Little Bighorn. (1876)
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was published. (1947)
North Korea invaded South Korea, sparking the Korean War. (1950)
Prince released Purple Rain. (1984)
A good friend was born. ([redacted])
And now I’m adding “The Odyssey of the Flattened Run Flat”.
To understand where I’m coming from, you’ll need a bit of context. Preeminent of which is the fact that I drive Mercedes-Benz. Am I bourgeoisie? One look at my wardrobe and you’ll know that is not the case. Rather, I simply made the mistake of test driving one during an impressionable time in my life… and that experience stuck. I’m talking “instant convert”. And one of the many platitudes I would have expounded to you as to why the cost was worthwhile was the historical fact that “Mercedes-Benz takes care of its own”. As in if something went wrong with the vehicle while you were relatively near a certified service center, they would move Heaven and earth to get you rolling again. At the very worst, they would set you up for the quickest and most convenient service appointment possible. If advisable, setting up transport for your vehicle to the service center was a given.
So, bourgeoisie? No. Spoiled? Maaaaybe. Now that we have gotten that out of the way — what happened?
Simply put, I got a flat tire. But not just any flat tire. I got a flat on a tire that is designed to not go flat. My tire went flat in less than 10 seconds. I literally watched the pressure fall via the sensor warning. I wasn’t really concerned by that because I get it: Things fail all the time. The part that was concerning was the mitigation — or lack thereof — which happened afterwards.
As I alluded to in the “bit of context”, events like this normally wouldn’t be a thing. Tire goes flat. You call Mercedes-Benz customer service. They come out and change the flat for you. You head in to get the normal tire replaced & rebalanced. And just like that, you’re on your way. Normally, we’re talking maybe 1 to 2 hours of minimal inconvenience. However, I don’t have a spare; vehicles with run flats aren’t equipped with them. “No problem,” I thought. The vehicle even helpfully noted that it detected a breakdown and requested that I allow it to call Mercedes-Benz Roadside Assistance. Of course I said, “Yes, please.”
And then the Odyssey began.
Y’all — my flat occurred right around 5pm, and I didn’t get home until around 1:30am. I ended up having to call AT&T Roadside Assistance. And because of the ensuing, horrific, comedy of errors, I had to pay $321 out of pocket for a late night transport. The confirmed wrecker that was originally supposed to transport my vehicle was cancelled… because AT&T’s own Call Protect app has AT&T’s Roadside Assistance number listed as a severe spam threat. That means my phone never rang while their own app dutifully blocked all inbound attempts to reach me. I had even spoken with the transport company twice after they were confirmed because they had to switch out the originally scheduled driver due to medical issues. AT&T Roadside Assistance assumed I was ignoring them and cancelled the ticket. Which they never informed me of. For about 2 hours. I would still be there waiting to hear back from them if I hadn’t followed up for a status update.
And don’t get me started on that POS app you get shunted to if AT&T Roadside Assistance can’t immediately process your call. At least half of the issues I ran into with AT&T were due to confusion sewn by that app.
The real kicker in all this sordid mess? Mercedes-Benz Roadside Assistance never once answered any of at least 10 calls. Never once. I listened to that utterly annoying “someone will be with you shortly” message and music hundreds of times while I waited for help for more than two cumulative hours. The “service” — the cost of which is built into the vehicle price — completely failed me when I needed it most.
The Mercedes-Benz emergency service which is synonymous with OnStar? They are excellent; that team is on the ball and always respond instantly. Roadside Assistance? Whomever runs that group needs to be publicly tarred, feathered, and then fired for incompetence. Maybe they’re not the person who is supposed to be answering the phones and getting people the help they need. But they’re the person who has fostered an environment where the very customer they’re supposed to serve isn’t.
The day wasn’t a complete wash though. I got to catch up with some folks. The last of which is a good friend I’m eternally grateful for because he sat there with me for most of the Odyssey, AND he was the person who brought me home after the transporter picked up my vehicle.