Not Quite the Sparkling Image Expected

Not Quite the Sparkling Image Expected*Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post by Johnny Teater, a good friend and a loyal Jeep owner. I gave Johnny this space after hearing about his recent experience at a Sparkling Image Car Wash here on the north side of Indianapolis.

As the owner of a 2008 lifted Jeep Wrangler, loaded with aggressive tires, I sometimes have the itch to do some off-roading. Today was one of those days… sunny, just had a big rain a few days prior, and about forty-eight degrees. The conditions were perfect for the beginning of the season.

After a little expedition of off-road fun, I wanted to make sure that I got all of the mud washed off before I would be stuck on crutches for a few weeks as I have a surgery to deal with. So I headed to the nearest Sparkling Image Car Wash (which happened to be the Castleton location at the corner of 82nd Street and Bash Road). I have used this car wash for years, having gone out of my way to treat myself to a full service at Sparkling Image every time I visit. They offer both exterior express wash (for just $5) or an exterior and interior clean starting at about $15. I’ve always felt like they did an incredibly thorough job at cleaning my various vehicles. I’ve never had anything but an absolutely pleasant experience at this (or any) location, until today.

As I pull up to the lengthy line, I am greeted by a gentleman telling me that they would not be able to service my vehicle as it had too much clumpy mud on it, and that I would have to go spray off my vehicle and return. I asked if he was serious, to which he took a walk around the Jeep and said that I could pull up next to the dumpster and he would spray it off and get me through the wash bay.

After complying and pulling out of line, and waiting about five minutes, I am again greeted by the employee now telling me that the hose won’t reach, and that he would just spray it off before entering the wash bay. So, I return to the line to await my car wash.

After sitting for a few moments, the employee approaches my vehicle yet again, prefacing me with the statement, “Please donʼt hate me, but…” then went on to tell me that the manager has decided that I would need to spray off my vehicle before he would send it through his bay, but would do the service for free because of the trouble. A little frustrated, but willing to accept the offer, I pull out of line and head to a competing car wash facility that offers spray wash bays, and spray off my vehicle to the point that there were no longer large mud clumps or rocks to be afraid of.

After returning to Sparkling Image, I am greeted by the manager (who later identified himself as Robert). I asked him if my vehicle was now satisfactory to be washed. His response was, “Well, it’s better, but it’s still not great.”

I was shocked. Here I am, at a car WASH, being told that my now sprayed off vehicle, is somehow STILL too dirty to be washed in their wash bay? “What do you mean it’s still not great? I did what you asked, and went and sprayed off the vehicle and have now returned. I fail to see the problem.”

“Well, we are a car wash, not a place built to wash off vehicles with so much dirt from being out having fun.” Robert said.

I replied with, “Well, I’m confused. Last I checked the point of bringing my vehicle here was to have it cleaned off. I don’t feel like my Jeep is in anyway too much of a job to be handled here.”

“Regardless, I’ll do it. I don’t really want to, but I will. You do realize though that I was just going to wash it for free, right? If you want the interior cleaned, you’re going to have to pay for that. If you want to do that, I’ll just take $5 off your price.”

“Hold on a minute. You mean to tell me that after having your guy tell me to go to a competitor to spray off my vehicle and return that you would do a service for free, you’re throwing stipulations on it? I don’t agree with that at all. I was not under the impression that you would just be washing it, but providing the service I originally came to have done. If I just wanted a wash, I would have stayed at the other place. I came here because I expected inside and out.”

“Well, like I said, I don’t really wish to wash your vehicle in the first place, so I feel like $5 off is a very fair deal. With the amount of dirt you have, and with how busy we are, I don’t have time, nor is it worth it to me to lose anymore money on this.”

“OK, so you’re going to tell me that all your going to do after sending me away is give me $5 off and a bunch of attitude? That is in no way a great, or fair deal. I can’t believe you’d even think this is acceptable behavior.”

“At this point I’d rather just not do the job at all. There’s an exit over there you’re more than welcome to use. That’s all I have to say.”

After this exchange of words, I asked for the corporate number from the manager and his name, to which he complied with both requests. I immediately called and ended up speaking with Jessica, the area manager’s assistant. After explaining my frustration and the situation, she politely offered to investigate the situation and said she would have a coupon for a free full-service wash in the mail immediately.

Please understand I am not upset with Sparkling Image as a company. They were fantastic in responding to my frustration, and have managed to still keep a frequent customer for life with their speedy and considerate response. My frustration is with Robert; this so called manager of the Castleton location. You better believe that so long as this gentleman is the manager, I will not be returning to that location, and will be doing my best to send everyone I know (and anyone reading this) anywhere else. He is a poor example of what it means to be in management and customer service. He has managed to make me lose any faith I had in the integrity of that location.

As someone in the service industry, when a loyal (or really ANY) customer expresses that sort of dissatisfaction I understand that my number one priority is to make sure they are well taken care of. Robert, if you ever get a chance to read this, you might want to take note: when you’re a manager in a service industry, it’s your job to put the customer first, not your pride. Your choice to save an extra $10 by refusing me service will have cost you much more than that, I promise you.