Friday, 8 September 2006

And our Gold Service demolishes your windscreen!

Here is an account of an incident. It is not very interesting but reading what the outcome was may be helpful to anyone who is involved in a similar situation.

Last month someone said to me: “I suppose you know your car's got no front number plate?”. I hadn't noticed, and when I went back to the carwash I had visited earlier that day I found the plate and its plinth lying on the ground. So I filled in a claim form and sent it off with this photograph.

I then had a standard letter from a heavy mob introducing themselves as the claims handlers for the car wash owners (a major oil company):
Please advise in writing why you are holding our client responsible. For you to succeed in a claim you need to show that [our client] failed to follow legal requirements imposed by legislation, or otherwise failed to do something it should have done, or did something it should not have done.
Without prejudice to liability, please forward two repair estimates in respect of your damage. We are currently making enquiries into this matter.

In reply to this drivel I merely wrote:
…I am holding your client responsible because their car wash tore off the number plate of my car…. The car was a standard model in excellent condition and there can be no reason for it to be damaged other than some fault in the car wash mechanism…. I enclose a repair estimate from the franchised dealer who normally services the car.

Their reply was brilliantly fatuous:
...enquiries do not reveal any liability on the part of [our client]. [Then, repeated, the paragraph about having to prove that their client failed to do something they should have or did something they shouldn’t have…]
We can confirm that there were no reports of any similar claims involving the car wash and no faults with the car wash have been found. In addition, we are able to confirm that 57 vehicles went through the car wash on the above date without incident….. we do not believe that the damage sustained to [sic] your vehicle is the result of a breach of legal duty. Therefore, we regret we cannot be of any financial assistance in this matter.

This was beginning to get more interesting, so I consulted m’learned friends. Their advice was that a judgement could go either way, but that it might be worthwhile to write another letter. So I replied:
I have taken legal advice, and it has been pointed out to me that
1. Your client, on the evidence of the photograph and the receipt which I forwarded to you, does not dispute that their carwash caused damage to my car which cost £107.42 to repair.
2. The fact that your client received no other claims for similar damage on that date or subsequently is irrelevant, as is the fact that no faults have been identified in the carwash machinery.
3. Your client has a duty to ensure that their carwash does not damage any standard model cars put through it. Clearly in this instance—which may or may not have been a unique occurrence—the machinery did cause damage, and a judge is likely to take the view that your client’s denial of liability is nugatory.
Therefore, unless I hear from you before the end of the month that your client has reconsidered the matter of compensation I shall institute proceedings to recover the full cost of the repair.

I was not optimistic, and the only reason I went to so much trouble was because I had waited for years for an opportunity of using the word “nugatory” (quite appropriate here, though it is also what they call factories in Montélimar).

It seemed a good idea to make clear that I was keen to make a substantial nuisance of myself, so my letters were on a heading describing me as Freelance Journalist (which I very nearly was in the fifties), and indicated that they were being copied to Mr Robert Gibbs-Williams of Messrs So-and-So (top City lawyers: I have no idea whether they employ him, or indeed whether he exists at all).

Just before the end of the month I was told, or rather advised, as lawyers say, that:
Our investigations have revealed that no other incidents of that nature have been reported [you’ve already told me that, you idiots]. However, as a gesture of goodwill we are arranging a cheque in the sum of £107.42 to be despatched to you…

So my advice to anyone who suffers a similar misfortune is: Never Give Up.


Grumio said...

From the self-deprecating opener "not very interesting reading" to the skeweringly accurate set-up "brilliantly fatuous", on through the deployment ('use' is too small a word) of 'nugatory' and the gently flamboyant invention of Robert G-W, this is vintage OMF. Throw in probably the world's first ever pun on 'nougat' and you really have a gem.

Current readers can find here the very essence of OMF in this article's pricking of pomposity and its celebration of the power and colour of words in a grey world.

Future scholars in search of a distillation of the oeuvre need look no further than these 775 precise words of OMFery.

Jolly well done.

Minerva said...

I loved it too and really, really want to use the word 'sweet' but know that your hatred of rotten, obvious puns will mean that this comment will be deleted and my ip address banned from all future posts on OMF.


Tony said...

Why no, Min, you are always welcome. You remind me of the girl in the song, "And now she's gone, but not forgotten...Her soul was pure, but her puns were rotten".