January 16, 2014.
You all know I don’t routinely endorse businesses on the Internet. It just wouldn’t be me! But I no shame when I come across somebody or some company which demonstrates that they have a SOUL, which demonstrates it is run by real people, who go above and beyond, who CARE. About me, the lowly customer. I have just been blown away by TWO local businesses!
Uh, Dad? I Got Into An Accident!
About three weeks ago, my son borrowed the car while I was at work to go goof off with his classmate and friend. I finished work at 4:30 p.m., and he pulled into the parking lot on schedule to pick me up, and ferried me home to Foster Village. After dropping me at the domicile, he announced that he was going to take his friend home in Kalihi. Sure, says I, no sweat. I’ll just catch up on my email and stuff after changing into my borroborro clothes at home.
15 mintes later, sitting at my computer, I get the dreaded phone call. My son was in an accident, took out a 2013 Oceanic Cable installer van while changing lanes on the Moanalua Freeway off-ramp. “Anybody hurt?” No. “All good.”
A Gecko Named GEICO
Next step, contact the insurance company to make arrangements for the aftermath.
I have been with GEICO insurance since the 1970s, and have only made claims against my account twice before, to my memory. Once, my truck got stolen, and they graciously made me whole afterward. The other time, I made a stupid mistake worthy of a “Mayhem” TV commercial and while working under the dashboard of my ancient Honda coupe, bumped the parking brake loose and careened backwards down my driveway only to be “saved” by a guardrail from plummeting 30 feet down an embankment. Poor buggers still fixed my buss up car, no judgements, no questions asked. Man, they are good!
I was so relieved when I called GEICO this time and the friendly lady asked about the status of my car, the need for a rental, and scheduled an inspector to assess the mess. Inspector Sky Close showed up a few days later, deemed the car un-driveable and arranged for the Enterprise Rent-A-Car (who incredibly have offices in several prominent auto body repair shops!). Sky noted that my crappy 2004 Toyota Camry had a “salvage” title (a looong story for another day) and proceeded to assess the damage from my son’s collision with the Oceanic van, taking care to separate the current damages from the previous crash which resulted in the “salvage” designation. This guy is a PRO.
While he was inspecting, I pointed out the prior damage and made sure to let him know that GEICO was not responsible for fixing that rubbish, that I only wished my car to be returned to drivable condition so I could go to work. I really didn’t care about cosmetics.
Sky finished his work, emailed me his estimate and mailed a check, and he arranged for the rental car. He said he worked out of a shop in Mapunapuna, so I naturally checked geico.com and found the sole GEICO shop in Mapunapuna, UnibodyTech, and called them.
I asked for the boss, Mike Chong and left a message. Mike Chong, President and CEO of UnibodyTech called me back! How is that??? When we met, Mike turned out to be a soft-spoken, straight up kind of guy. He looked at my car, shook his head, noted the prior damage and said that it would complicate things. His conscience would not let him simply make cosmetic repairs to this vehicle. He was concerned for the safety of the vehicle on leaving his shop. Not to worry, says Mike, I’ll call you in a couple of days to let you know what’s up.
I didn’t hear back from him for over a week, but I was happy driving the Enterprise rent-a-car and didn’t want to trouble Mike with my worrying phone calls.
When he did call again, it was to let me know that the car was finished, and I should come pick it up! I drove to UnibodyTech and pulled into the driveway. You can actually return the Enterprise car at the body shop! Mike was waiting there next to my finished car.
My first impression? HOLY COW!! The car looked great!
Mike shook my hand, and said, “We did as much as we could, but there were some things I just could not let go. I know I promised to keep your repairs within the GEICO estimate, but some of the preexisting problems in my opinion compromised the safety of the vehicle, so I had to do something about it.”
He opened the hood and showed me where they had cut out a section of my car’s frame and welded in completely new sections. Incredible! But, unfortunately, Mike said, the extra work he had his guys do put him $1,200 over the repair estimate. HOLY CRAP!
But WAIT! Mike said that he would not hold me to paying for that work. It was just that he could not in good conscience let this compromised vehicle leave his shop. Mike is proud of his shop’s reputation and is concerned for the reputation of his industry.
Those dirty rats!
He told me that the person who sold me the Toyota basically bought an insurance wreck, fixed a few cosmetic things, then dumped the car on me when I was desperate for transportation. Mike said that guys like this give his industry a bad name, and he was doing his part to uphold the reputation and integrity of auto body professionals in Hawai’i.
He asked that if, in the future, I came into some extra funds, if I would be so kind as to repay him, he would appreciate it. But he also said that he expected nothing for his extra services. He asked me to put in a good word for his shop and for GEICO guy Sky Close, that would be appreciated. “Recommend me to your friends, if you get the chance.”
Heck yeah, I can do THAT! Here you are, folks, I love these guys! These are super real, super nice, hard working, honest people who deserve all the support I can bring.
Top it off, two nights later, just after I told my wife about what Mike had said, I was watching KHNL news and there was Mike being interviewed as an auto collision industry expert! How appropriate.
Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL
The aforementioned son leaves for college in two weeks, and all available money for the foreseeable future has been vacuumed up in pursuit of his higher education. I would gladly give Mike some cash, but, alas, I have none, and won’t have any for some time. This post and my personal endorsement are the best I can do, for the time being. I will always look for ways to repay Sky and Mike for helping me out when I most needed it. Mahalo nui!
If any of you, my friends, can help by patronizing these businesses, these people, I would be grateful. Please let me know, if you do, and I am sure you will be relating to me how impressed you were with Sky, Mike, GEICO and UnibodyTech.
August 30, 2013
February 26, 2013, Carlos Santana played the Blaisdell Center Arena. Hawaii boy Benny Rietveld has played bass in the Santana Band for many years now. Special guest on Samba Pa Ti was Hawaii’s Brittni Paiva on ‘ukulele. Photos copyright Blaine Fergerstrom. Ask first.