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Tuesday, May 07, 2013


Eastern Shore Toyota, AlabamaHere’s an unusual article for a travel blog.  It’s about Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, Alabama where we ended up by chance (and a big billboard) when two warning lights flashed on after driving through some powerful, pounding rain.  Unless you are already a customer, you probably will not believe what I have to tell you!  Just imagine…

It’s Saturday.  We are more than one thousand miles from home in a part of the country with which we are unfamiliar.  We have more than a day’s driving to our next destination in Louisiana.  The rain pounds our car making visibility poor, but we are afraid to stop in fear of being rear-ended by another driver and his inability to see.  Two red warning lights come on simultaneously, and we know we have to react. 

We stop along the highway to call the dealership whose billboard we have just passed.  Bring the car in, we’re told, and they’ll take a look.  The dealership is 30 seconds off the highway at the next exit, and it is the largest Toyota facility we’ve ever seen spread over what seems to be acres of cars and a huge building.  The rain is over.

The service bay appears just like the one near our home—until we pull our car up to the waiting service representative, give our name, and then walk to the service desk.  There we are greeted by a huge electronic sign, "Welcome Robert Dembeck."  On the wall behind is a big service star honoring our military far from home.  Our very attentive service advisor, Nate Hicks, is sympathetic to our plight, explains it will take about two hours to check these warning lights, informs us of the basic charge for the service, and invites us inside all the while explaining to us how we might spend our time.  I am thankful we have our Kindles. I think he is joking. 

He is not. 

Eastern Shore Toyota, AlabamaThe building is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  There’s a big TV lounge—not unusual in dealerships—with comfortable seating and a big flat-screen TV tuned into a sports channel. Not unusual.  There’s also a nice computer bar. There's wi-fi.  Also not quite unusual.

Eastern Shore Toyota, AlabamaBut if we would like some ice cream, cake, coffee, or lunch, all we need do is head to the café.  It’s around the corner from the TV lounge, and there are about eight round café-type tables to set a café mood.  There's another TV there, so our viewing will not be interrupted.  This cafe service is free for the customers, but the people who work at Eastern Shore Toyota do pay nominal fees.  The café is busy the entire time we are there.

Eastern Shore Toyota, Alabama
The cafe section had its own TV too
As we sit sipping our coffee, a VIP service representative comes over to sit at our table to make sure we know the possibilities to occupy our time and that we are comfortable and happy about the service we receive.  She chats a bit, content with our contentment, before moving on.

Eastern Shore Toyota, Alabama
Lovely piano lounge in the middle of the showroom--
carpeting included!

Rob and I are quite comfortable in the café, but had we wanted to, we could have moved to the piano lounge with its big overstuffed leather sofa and wing chair, its baby grand piano and some modern sculpture and plants.  We could have chosen from the magazines lying on the coffee table if we were so inclined.

We did walk around the showroom to look at the latest Toyota models, and we learned that should we wish, we could shoot some pool or play Foosball.

You’d think this car wonderland would be noisy and bustling, but all of this is in a calm and comfortable environment. 

Actually, I’ve saved the best for last.  There is a manicurist, Ashley Norris, available for women waiting for their cars.  At her site a sign informs customers that this is a free service and that tipping is not allowed.

Yes, I have my nails done.  Ashley is wonderful and charming.  She, Rob, and I have a great conversation all the while.  Her husband is a National Guardsman who served in Afghanistan, so we immediately have a connection as we are headed to Ft. Polk to visit our son.  She is friendly, and it is a pleasure talking to her.  We talk about everyday life in New York and Alabama.  It is a great experience for us.

We learn about some of the differences in car buying between New York and Alabama.  Unlike New York, in Alabama a buyer can drive the car home the same day.  Sometimes Eastern Shore Toyota has barbecues on Saturday.  They feed the customers, party, and at the end of the day, the lot might be practically empty!  As a POP shopper, I'd probably have a driveway full of cars!

Eastern Shore Toyota, Alabama
a Yankee to boot!
I do have one more “highlight” to add.  Here’s a picture of a fixture in the men’s bathroom.  Wouldn’t want the guys to miss the game, would you?  And, no, I did not take this photo.

When our car is done, we are told that the problem might simply be a glitch caused by the torrential driving rains.  If it is not caused by water, the search and repair is very expensive.  The technicians could not duplicate the light problem, so they do not want to do a possibly unnecessary repair.  They suggest heading to our destination in Louisiana.  If the lights come back on, we need to immediately find a Toyota dealer, but if we’re lucky, our rain soaked car’s computers momentarily misread the signs.  I add this paragraph because it points out how ethical this dealership is. 

I also add that the lights never came back on, and we drove through Alabama to Louisiana for a few days’ visit.  Then we drove up through Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and all the other states between there and New York.

Thank you, Eastern Shore Toyota, for making what could have been a terrible day into something worth writing home about! 

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