Sometimes something happens and you need a window in your car replacing. Most insurers have a glass replacement service as part of their policy and many stipulate the glazier you must use - which can be the only reason Autoglass is so successful.
They're perhaps the best known supplier of windscreens and body glass, yet their service is truly shocking. I have had the misfortune to use their services on several occasions over the years and every one of them has been a disaster. I accept that everyone has a bad day from time to time, but Autoglass has a 100% failure rate.
My first experience was in February 1998, in Bracknell. My VW Golf had picked up a stone chip which I wanted fixing. Their depot wasn't far from my office, so I dropped the car off and left them to it. That evening I went back and found that the chip hadn't been repaired because when they'd attempted it the chip had started to spread - fair enough.
Next morning I came out of the house to find the screen had cracked half-way across so I went back to Autoglass where I was informed that this can happen if a chip repair causes it to spread, and that'd I'd have been told this before they started the repair. I hadn't been told that, because if I'd known that I'd have left the chip for another time as I couldn't afford a new screen straightaway.
After some negotiation they agreed to waive the excess, and fit a new screen for me. Irritating, but not the end of the world. A few days later the car was written off when someone jumped the lights and rolled the car over.
Some time later, my parents' car, a VW Polo, was broken into in a station car park near Letchworth. Like mine, their insurance insisted they use Autoglass. Unfortunately the fitter who replaced the window neglected to replace the waterproof membrane inside the door, so as soon as it rained the water got in soaking the carpets. After some negotiation, and two attempts, the membrane was replaced and the problem solved by taking the car to the depot and a more senior member of staff carrying out the work.
In 2001 I bought a SEAT Cordoba, and a few months later, a couple of days before its first MOT with me, I picked up a stone chip that promptly cracked halfway across the screen. I phoned Autoglass and they sent a fitter to my house near Cambridge. As soon as he arrived he told me he'd brought the wrong screen (apparently there were four possible screens for my car: tinted and untinted, each with one of two rear view mirror mounting options).
He suggested that I take the car to the depot where they had the screen in stock, which I duly did. On getting the car back, it was full of glass slivers and discarded sealant from when the old screen was removed. I would have expected to get my car back with the debris from the replacement cleaned up - particularly the fragments of glass. Within a couple of days it also became apparent that the trim around the windscreen had not been refitted correctly: one bit rattled thanks to a broken clip, another made a bid for freedom having not been secured properly.
A return visit to the depot got the trim refitted, but I'm sure it would have been possible to get it right first time. Or even second time, as the trim came off again shortly afterwards.
After moving to Gloucestershire the following year, my colleague needed a new windscreen in his company Ford Focus. Autoglass were the company's appointed contractor, so they set about replacing the heated screen. Just as they were finishing I happened to be in the car park as my colleague picked up something from the passenger seat and asked if it was important. Apparently it was the connector for the heating elements, which should have been attached to the new screen before it was installed - and no, it couldn't be fitted now as the screen would need to come out again.
It's a worry that a supposedly qualified fitter can miss something he himself had disconnected. My colleague had to make another appointment to have another replacement screen fitted - bonded windscreens cannot be removed without damage.
My next contact with Autoglass was with the Ford Transit of a voluntary group I work with. I'd spotted a chip in the windscreen, so called Autoglass to site to repair it. I wasn't expecting them to be successful, and I wasn't disappointed. On the phone I'd been told that if it wasn't possible to repair the screen it would need to be replaced, and I'd already agreed to that. What I wasn't expecting was the fitter to turn up in a Ford Fiesta.
He took one look at the chip and explained that as it had already been 'repaired', he couldn't fix it again and that the screen would need replacing. I assume the original repair which had failed had also been carried out by Autoglass. Having already been warned that this might be the case, I told him to carry on and replace it - only he coudn't. He didn't have a screen with him as it wouldn't fit in his Fiesta... I was amazed that they'd come to a job without the required parts, but on reflection I shouldn't have been given their previous track record.
Whenever possible I use a different glazier because the incompetence of Autoglass doesn't seem to be confined to a particular depot or fitter given that every contact I have had has been substandard in Letchworth, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Letchworth and Aldershot, and over a number of years.
Whilst living in Gloucester I had a window in my SEAT broken overnight. I called Auto Windscreens, whose depot was nearest to me, and dropped off the car that morning. It was replaced promptly, efficiently and correctly first time, and the car has returned to me clean and tidy. So it can be done. Perhaps Autoglass could take lessons?