How my topless vacation went wrong.

This is my sweetheart. Every summer for the last five years, we’ve gone on a topless holiday. She looks great topless, and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s all good clean fun.

Except this year we didn’t manage our little getaway.

We planned one. Actually, planned it well in advance. Knew our route from Poland all the way to Croatia.

We also planned ahead by having the car taken to the local Audi dealer in Poland. Explained that we were going to be on the road for over a month and wanted to make sure everything was A-OK.

We’d had a recent problem with the roof, as well as a couple of exterior lights that were out. A service visit seemed prudent to ensure we’d have smooth sailing. Dropped it off, then picked it up, with a clean bill of health.

Oh, and then paid the fairly substantial bill. But that’s the price of using an authorized top flight Audi dealer. Or so I thought.

On the first day, one of the brake lights was out, again. By day four the roof stopped opening again. Goodbye topless vacation. Bummer.

I tweeted to @Audi_Online and initially things seemed favorable. But every response regarding getting it repaired was couched in “if we ascertain the dealer did something wrong” conditional language. Great, somebody put the lawyers in charge.

Well, the dealer said it was fixed, and less than a week later it was “unfixed” — that seems like something did go awry. But I hardly wanted to drive to spend the day at the dealer (while on the road) without some assurance it was going to be dealt with swiftly and for free. (I paid once which seems adequate).

Finally we decided to simply manage it when we returned to Poland. So I fired off another e-mail to Audi HQ to let them know we were ready to get it fixed, but wanted some oversight since the first time seemed like we’d gotten less than perfect service.

It was like we were starting over. Another non-committal letter from Audi Poland offering vague promises of assistance, in Polish. Even though all prior communication had been in English. I called them. They said they’d get back to me, they didn’t. Ugh. Disappointed.

At this point, I’m pretty steamed. This is when this article was born, and a topic I think should be of interest to Audi, and just about anybody else in business.

What is the point of having a brand if it stands for nothing?

You have beautiful cars. So do others.

You have fast cars. So do others.

You have well engineered cars. So do others.

A brand, like a friend, is pretty worthless if they vanish at the first sign of trouble.

In today’s market, where there are many product and service options, focusing just on the sale is dumb.

The sale should be the beginning of a love affair. An initial exchange after which you get closer ties.

My topless vacation could have been saved by someone guarding the Audi brand. Instead it was a game of ping-pong in which both parties lost.

No topless vacation for me.

No love for Audi.

One person at Audi standing up and saying, “Hey, get that into a dealer and we’ll make sure you are taken care of promptly” would have generated an entirely different story, and a bucket load of brand allegiance.

Interestingly, the name Audi means “to listen” in Latin. They would do well to engage in a bit more of that. Because when there’s no listening in a relationship, it’s usually the beginning of the end.

So it’s probably no surprise that next year, I’ll find a new partner for my topless adventure.

UPDATE: Now informed that the car needs additional repairs for the roof to function. That’ll be another $400 (Remember this was paid for previously) and take another six days. Just in time for fall. You can’t make this up.

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