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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for April 2014

Nice headlights

I noted, when I bought my Mazda 3 in early 2011, that the dealership installed xenon headlights for me for an extra $220.

I’ve had trouble with the headlights nearly ever since. They would flicker off and on randomly. I brought it back to the dealer, Mazda de Laval, three months after I received the car and well within the headlights’ one-year warranty but the service department couldn’t find anything wrong.

I took the car out to Laval twice to get this looked at. I also took the car to Mazda Gabriel, which is much closer to my house, and they couldn’t find anything wrong either.

Last summer, the left headlight bulb burned out, which is odd for two-year-old bulb that is supposed to last 2,000 or so hours. The car only had 30,000 kilometres on it. After replacing the bulb myself, the left headlight stopped having problems. Around that time, the right headlight stopped flickering, but would either come on or not come on when I started the car at night.

This past March, the right side stopped its binary behaviour and decided to remain off always. Aha, I thought, this will make the problem easier to diagnose.

The first thing I tried was to switch the bulbs from left to right and vice versa to make sure both bulbs worked. They did.

So I wrote to Mazda de Laval:

Obviously, there is a problem with the wiring or the electrical system, and it has been there since the car’s first year due to either faulty parts or faulty installation. Because the problem was reported within the warranty period but not found or fixed despite my complaint, I feel that your service department should finally find and fix this issue at no charge to us. It should be easier to find now that the headlight is not working at all.

The dealership refused, but did offer me 15% off parts and labour, plus use of a courtesy car.

That was still a better deal than I could get anywhere else, so I drove to Laval and left with a Mazda 2.

Nothing will make you appreciate a decent car more than the hamsters that power the Mazda 2.

I had signed off on a minimum $55 charge for labour for a diagnosis. That’s a half-hour of work, but I would get 15% off.

It took the mechanics 1.5 hours to find the problem, they told me on the phone a day later. I guess I wasn’t a priority, but I didn’t mind because I had the Mazda 2 to putt-putt where I needed to go. The problem was that the ballast was faulty.

The ballast is an electrical regulator that makes sure the xenon lights receive the appropriate electrical stimuli (no, I did not major in electrical engineering). Replacing the ballast is beyond my modest capabilities.

It pissed me off that this same service department installed a faulty ballast in my car in the first place. It pissed me off even more when the mechanic told me it would cost $220 to fix (after my 15% off). That was what I paid for the lights in the first place. At least that included installation, but it did not include the $150 or so I would have to pay for the diagnostic work.

After I expressed my somewhat obscene opinion to the mechanic, he sympathetically asked a manager if they could waive the cost of the diagnostic. What do you know? They did.

So I paid $220 to fix the faulty parts that the dealership installed in the first place and couldn’t diagnose until my warranty had run out. It’s not all bad. I do appreciate the 15% off, the courtesy car, and the waiving of the cost of diagnosis, but still….

Bonus loss:

I’ve lost 12 pounds in the last year by keeping a food and exercise diary app and sticking to its advice. I’m a svelte 165. I could still lose another 20 pounds but to do that I have to stop eating Frosted Flakes while I write a blog post.

Viva-ing to Las Vegas

I’ve never been to Las Vegas, which made the tsuris at dawn somewhat palatable.

I’m here for a Waze conference. The company invited North American country managers to Las Vegas for a conference to discuss the eponymous navigation app. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’ve done so much map editing that I’ve reached that lofty level of editorship.

Still, it got me invited. Waze paid for the flight. They are paying for the hotel. How could I say no?

Waze is an Israeli company and although bought by Google remains based in Israel. They used an Israeli travel agent to arrange our desired flights. I was supposed to fly to Toronto and take a second plane to Nevada. Everything seemed perfectly arranged.

I tried to use the automated check-in machine but it told me to see an agent. That slightly annoyed me because I only had a carry-on for the three-day trip. I’ve never flown with just a carry-on bag before. This was a day of firsts.

There was only one agent to guard the gateway to the line to see the desk-bound agents and she was busy running between people who were having trouble with their automated check-in machines. She actually had to deputize a passenger to prevent any of us from entering the queue to see the desk agents.

Some ten minutes later, she returned and admitted us into the line. After another wait, my turn came.

The check-in agent took my passport, consulted her computer, and told me I didn’t have a reservation for this flight. This was odd, since I had the itinerary in my e-mail. I gave her the ticketing code.

Mystery solved. My ticket was purchased for the last name Yveen. (That’s missing the first letter.) This second agent told me there was no way that US Customs in Toronto would let me fly with a ticket that didn’t match my name. She suggested I get the ticket reissued and for that I would have to go to the ticketing counter around the corner.

I didn’t have to wait long at the ticketing counter. It was 6:30 and I still had half an hour to the flight, I thought. The ticketing agent disagreed, saying that they close the flight 45 minutes before departure. I could take the 8:30 direct flight to Las Vegas, but it would cost me $150 plus tax to change the ticket.

My mom is coming into town for Passover today and at this point I was thinking I would get an unexpected extra three days with her. I wasn’t going to pay and hope for a reimbursement later.

I called the toll-free number and reached the Israeli travel agent to explain the situation. Yitzchak told me he needed to contact the original agent and Waze to see if they could pay the extra charge.

A short wait later, Yitzchak called me back. Everything was approved and I should go back to the ticketing counter. I did, but the woman I had been dealing with was no longer there. The woman I had to deal with now said it was impossible to link my incorrect ticket to a new one since they are two different people. She refused to talk to Yitzchak on my phone.

I was about to give up when the first ticketing agent returned. She said it was certainly possible to change the ticket, but that she needed to be paid up front. She also refused to talk to Yitzchak and said there was no way she could accept any form of online payment.

Yitzchak swore on a stack of pitot (pitas) that somebody would reimburse me so I handed my Visa card to the ticketing agent.

Right now, I’m in the airplane. The flight crew was late, so we’ll be late into Las Vegas. It’s not a big deal. This flight was going to get me into Las Vegas Ten minutes earlier than my original itinerary, anyway.

Bonus adventure:

I was chosen to try out the new machines set up at US Customs. I had to stand on my tiptoes to get into frame for the camera. I also had a problem because my flight was not listed as belonging to Air Canada. The nice Customs lady helped me backtrack and choose Air Canada Rouge.

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