Question: A few days ago, the display on the radio of my 2003 Honda Accord went on the blink. The radio still works, but I can’t see any of the stations.
I called Honda customer service and mentioned that I’d done some research and found that the radios on the 2003 Honda Accords had this problem. She looked into your corporate records and told me that there was a class-action suit and Honda would repair the defective radios for seven years or 110,000 miles. She told me that since that time has elapsed, Honda could not take care of the problem.
She told me that Honda sent a notification to me. I told her that I never received any notification. She pointed out that if the notification was not delivered, it would have been sent back to Honda.
I would like to keep this car, unless it quits on me, but a radio without display is very inconvenient to use. I called a local Honda dealer and I was told that I have to pay $150 just for diagnostic.
I’d like Honda to authorize the repair of the radio by a Honda dealer. I sincerely appreciate your consideration of my request.
— Narendra Goel, Chicago
Answer: Honda was under no contractual obligation to fix your radio. Your warranty expired long ago and as you point out, the class-action settlement didn’t apply to your vehicle because you were past 110,000 miles and it is 2013.
But Honda has a reputation to uphold (full disclosure: I own an Accord, too). So while the car manufacturer wasn’t under any obligation to repair the radio, it would have been a meaningful customer-service gesture — especially in light of the fact that the radio has a known defect.
You found my customer-service wiki with the email addresses for Honda’s managers and appealed the company’s denial to John Mendel, Honda’s executive vice president for sales, by sending him a brief and polite email. (Email addresses at Honda are firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Almost immediately, I got a call from Honda informing me that Honda will take care of my problem, even though the warranty had expired,” you told me. “I went to the Honda dealer and the car was fixed.”
Honda also offered you a $100 voucher, which can be used on a future purchase.
I love this story because this is how the appeals process should work. While rules are rules, a supervisor or manager should also be able to see when they should be waived. Honda took a big-picture view of your repair request. Instead of charging you $150 for what would have probably been a minor part, it realized that you would probably buy your next car from Honda if they fixed this.
Something tells me you will.
And all this without me having to get involved. Stories like this make me feel great about my own car purchasing decision. But I may need to freshen up my resume and start looking for a new job.