14 October 2011

The Bushcutter Saga

The first thing to say is that we’re having unseasonably warm weather. It’s normally quite mild in October but not this warm! I can usually remember the last time I swam in the pool the previous year and it’s usually mid-September when the night chill cools the water down to a painful 18 degrees but this year, the water temperature is staying stubbornly above 20 so it’s a delight to plunge into the pool after some gardening or log cutting.

The numerous visitors this year have benefited from the pleasant summer we’ve had and by ‘pleasant’ I mean that it does not get much hotter than 85 degrees (or 29c) although when my family came out in June, the gauge topped 107 degrees (42c) which is pretty hot by anyone’s standards.   But by and large, it’s been a lovely summer.

The nice, but not too hot weather meant I was able to get the debrusailleuse out and attack the brambles which were threatening to take over, but as usual my Stihl Bushcutter  wouldn’t work when required. This meant another run-in with the shop who sold it – it had already been returned twice not long after I bought it last May.

Those who have long memories will recall that my last bushcutter was left out in the rain and the surly mechanic had said that it was water damaged and unrepairable. Nothing is unrepairable so I assumed he meant that it was uneconomic to repair it so I bit the bullet and shelled out a not inconsiderable £600 for a new machine having been given a £200 allowance against my ‘unusable’ Stihl. Stupidly, I forgot to see if the ‘unrepairable’ bushcutter was on sale the next time I passed the mechanic’s shop.

Now Stihls are probably the Rolls Royce of bushcutters, well at least the Range Rover of bushcutters, so they should be pretty rugged and in theory should start every time – but not this one. I did everything by the manual and even bought their special Stihl petrol/oil mixture, which at £20 a gallon is an extravagance which appalled me.

Even this liquid gold being poured into its tank didn’t do the trick so I piled the Stihl into the jeep and drove down to the shop which is a large garden centre/farm supplies business on the edge of Vence.

I took the machine to the cash desk and said it wasn’t working but was still under guarantee.

Taking it round to the mechanic’s shop as I’d been asked, I was ready for my annual lesson in the worst that France can throw at you in terms of ‘customer service’. The guy is so surly he makes Guy and Kitty look like gregarious angels but onward I marched and stopped at his desk where he was working on another customer’s machine. I didn’t expect him to look up and acknowledge me (he never does) and surprise, surprise, he didn’t, so I stood and waited and waited. After about 5 minutes and becoming increasingly impatient, I interrupted his work. The other customer who obviously knows the mechanic better than I did stood back as if amazed at my impertinence.

‘Yes’ was the reply.

‘My Stihl isn’t starting. It’s only a year old and has never started properly. This is the third time in a year it’s been back here’. And then I added, ‘and I buy that expensive petrol you suggested and it’s still not starting.’

He tried a couple of pulls of the starter string and said I should come back in a couple of days, which I did.

‘It’s water damaged’ he said. Using a mixture of French and English, I informed him that this was complete bollocks as it had been in the garage for the last 4 months and was working when I put it away.

Surprised by my tenacity, or maybe it was the emphasis I applied to the word ‘bollocks’, he said, ‘Oh, ok then – leave it with me and I’ll see what I can do’.

There then followed a bit of a saga with new parts being ordered and him eventually repairing it a few weeks later and then phoning me to pick up the Stihl which I did.

As I was driving past him on my way out of the store car park, he jumped out in front of the car forcing me stop and shouted, ‘you must pay, you must pay’.

I went to the cash desk and explained that my Stihl was under guarantee and I wouldn’t be paying a penny, sorry, cent, whereupon the mechanic grabbed my machine, ran to his workshop and locked the bushcutter in a storeroom.

With an air of Gallic one-upmanship creasing his face, he pointed to the locked room and attempted what I can only say was the sort of rubbish we English spout when we try and get a bit above ourselves with French – ‘your machine is hostage until you pay’.

I just laughed and started to walk away but was thinking as I did so that they were the winners. I might have my pride but they had my Stihl.

The stand off lasted another week and then I returned to the store to find they had apparently contacted the manufacturers and they had agreed that the guarantee should cover the work.

As I triumphantly walked out of the store with my bushcutter, I vowed never again to buy anything from them – until the following week when I had to crawl back and buy a new blade for my Stihl, only available from Gamm Vert !

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