When I decided to put a Becker Europa AM/FM cassette radio in the Healey, I realized I was compromising. It was a 1980s radio going into a 1960s car. Most people wouldn’t realize that it was inauthentic, but I did. For someone who went to great pains to restore the car to its original condition, it was a very hard choice.
But I wanted to be able to listen to music, to play the great many cassette tapes I recorded back in college when music was still good, and the radios from the 60s, AM only, were not going to cut it. So I closed my eyes, held my breath, and compromised by getting a Becker Europa 599.
The problem with buying an old radio is that it might not function as it did when new, so I sent mine off to Becker AutoSound in New Jersey for a clean and lube when it arrived in 2003. And, having no particular memory of anything concerning, it came back and worked fine. Into the Healey it went, and old songs came out of it.
But time goes by, and parts wear out. The left tuning knob moved freely, but the little red line on the dial refused to move with it, making it rather difficult to tune into my tunes. I called my old friends at Becker AutoSound to inquire whether they were still there, still working and could fix my 599.
“Sure. Send it over, we’ll have it on the bench in about five days and give you an estimate for the repair.”
“Cool,” thought I. So I did. It arrived there the next day, because priority mail does wonderful things at times, and I received an email notifying me of its receipt.
After a week, it occurred to me that I had yet to get an estimate from my old pals, but not wanting to be a pest, I put it out of my mind. They would get to it. At two weeks, I became a little less patient, so I gave them a call.
“Hey, you got my radio two weeks ago and I haven’t heard back from you yet.”
“Hold,” said a male voice.
After a brief wait, “Can I help you?” said a different male voice.
“Yeah, you received my radio about two weeks ago, and I’m calling to find out what happened with my repair estimate.”
“Hold,” said the second male voice.
After another brief wait, “This is Ed.” I repeated myself, because what else was there to say?
Ed asked for my name, then said, “It’s probably the little black wheel. It’s a pain to repair. I’ll get it on the bench tomorrow morning and call you.” He hung up before I could say anything, not that I had much to say.
After lunch the next day, and no call from Ed, I called Becker AutoSound again. First male voice answered, and after telling me to hold, Ed got on the line.
“Wait, what do you mean ‘its done.’ What about my estimate?”
“I thought you wanted it done when we talked yesterday.”
We didn’t talk the day before. Ed talked at me then hung up. But it was done, so what was there to do?
“How much,” I asked? “$190,” he replied.* “It was all labor, no parts.”
“That’s more than the radio is worth, Ed. I could buy another one for half that,” which is true as they’re fairly readily available on eBay.
“Well, it’s done. What do you want to do?”
“I’m not going to stiff you, Ed. You did the work, even if it’s twice what I would have agreed to.” I gave Ed my credit card information. The next day, the radio arrived, even though it was sent by UPS ground at twice the price (which was billed to me) of priority mail. Even UPS ground has its good moments. As it turned out, I was only charged $177, including return shipping, so maybe Ed cut the price in recognition that he never got authorization and gouged me just a bit.
Here I was, unwrapping the bubble wrap from my very expensively repaired, if untimely, radio and looked at it. It looked no different from the front, but the back was missing the end of the power cord with its half of the fuse holder.
It was after 5 pm, but I took a shot and called Becker AutoSound. A male voice answered, and I told him who I was and that the returned radio was missing the half of the fuse holder. “Hold,” he replied. The second male voice got on the line and said, “We’ll send it to you,” and hung up. No apology. No information. Just “click.”
I waited for UPS to arrive yesterday. No truck of an indescribable green/brown color arrived. I don’t know if they sent it yet, or if they did, how they sent it. I don’t know if they understand what part was missing. I considered calling them back to ask, but was concerned that they would not be as warm and friendly, helpful and informative as they had been up to now. I really didn’t want to be that customer who was a constant complainer.
Or to be more honest, I was pissed, and feared that I might not be my usual pleasant self on the phone if I was told, just one more time, to “hold.”
I hoped to reinstall the Becker Europa 599 radio in the Healey today, so that I could have music tomorrow, as the Healey club joined the MG club and the rest of the Brit marques for our annual Fall Foliage Tour. It may arrive today by mail, or late this afternoon by UPS. I could go to the store and buy a new in-line fuse holder, though it would involve some extra cost and effort to install as the original clips into a socket on the back of the radio.
But I don’t want to. I want someone to do what they’re supposed to do in exchange for my payment. This seems to be happening less and less lately, and I wonder in the quiet of my garage whether anyone else thinks this is not an acceptable way to do business, as I’m often told that the better solution is to just be patient and accept irresponsibility as the way things are these days.
After all, it’s unhealthy to get upset over such petty matters. But wouldn’t it be a hoot if, once the fuse holder arrives, it turns out the radio doesn’t work?
Update: The mail came. There was nothing from Becker AutoSound.
Update 2: The time for UPS to come came and went. Nothing.
*Oddly, my credit card was only billed $177. Maybe Ed got the amount wrong. Maybe Ed decided to charge less in light of the fact that he did the work without authorization. Nonetheless, it’s still more than the radio is worth, but less than it could have been.