Murphy and Me

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

That’s Murphy’s Law.

Named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on a project designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash, Murphy’s Law and its corollaries explain why sh*t happens and causes the angst in our lives.

Like this, for example:

We purchased a 2012 Ford S-Max from a dealer’s lot in Cascais (two hours from where we live in Portugal) with the standard, required, one-year guarantee.

Soon, both the “Engine Malfunction” and “Traction Control” warning lights came on, as the minivan lost almost all power.

Murphy’s Corollary #1: “Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.”

We pulled off to the side and searched the manual downloaded earlier to our mobile (after discovering the printed manual in the glove box was purely in Portuguese. Even the diagrams!). In English, we read that the instrument cluster warning symbols alerted us to “stop driving and seek immediate assistance from a properly trained technician.”

Immediately, we eased the car into a nearby underground parking area and left it there, locked.

Friends drove us home.

Murphy’s Corollary #2: “Nothing is as easy as it looks.”

Not knowing anything about the technicalities and legalities that govern guarantees provided by (commercial) dealers selling used vehicles here in Portugal, we went online and Googled the Internet.

It didn’t take long to discover some interesting information on an official European Union “Your Europe” website page. The link is below.

“Q: If the product is defective, who is responsible for putting things right? A: The seller, even for purchases made on an internet platform.”

Yeah, right.

Murphy’s Corollary #3: “Everything takes longer than you think.”

It was Saturday. Both the auto dealership and our insurance agency were closed. Wouldn’t the weekend be when people had time to go shopping for cars and need insurance if they bought one?

Weird, huh? Welcome to Portugal!

We waited until Monday, then contacted the dealership in Cascais … our insurance agent … a towing company … the local Ford dealership to alert them we’d be bringing the vehicle to them for diagnosis … the area’s only rental car agency … and a taxi company, to pick us up and drive us around to all these places in Castelo Branco.

Murphy’s Corollary #4: “If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.”

Later that day, the Ford technician contacted us with disturbing news: All four fuel injectors need to be replaced, at a cost of €1,500-€2,000. He attached an analysis and cost estimate to the email.

Murphy’s Corollary #5: “Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.”

We sent the report to the dealer who sold us and guaranteed the S-Max. We waited and waited for a reply. The dealer insisted that the repairs be made in Cascais … and that we arrange to have the vehicle towed there.

But the insurance company balked at towing it such a great distance.

Meanwhile, from the Ford dealership, we learned of other problems: When the mechanic opened the hood, he poked around and said to us, “The motor has rust. This is not good.” He could offer no assurance that we wouldn’t experience even more problems down the road.

Murphy’s Corollary #6: “If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.”

We contacted Cascais again, reviewing our experiences with the dealer and vehicle since purchasing it. Among them:

The day after we got it, the air conditioner wouldn’t work. Dealer said it was working when he drove the car to us. But a mechanic found only 10% of the “gas” necessary for the air conditioner to function. We paid €100 for the air conditioning system to be filled with gas and recharged.

Murphy’s Corollary #7: “Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.”

We believe we’d been sold a defective vehicle.

Deliberately, perhaps.

After the sale, the dealer certainly wasn’t cooperative. In fact, we hadn’t even received our legal ownership papers for the S-Max!

If there are lessons to be learned here, I’d caution: (1) Be very careful when purchasing a car if the dealer isn’t a reputable, full-service dealership; (2) Never purchase a used vehicle until it’s been inspected by a qualified, objective mechanic; and (3) Buy a vehicle as close to home as possible.

We certainly appreciate all the ideas, input, opinions, and feedback received from concerned folks via Facebook.

So, add this corollary to Murphy’s law: “Post a problem on Facebook and people will *Like* something that’s terrible, comment with advice and admonishments, attribute any mistakes in what they’ve written to auto-correct, and insist that you’ve written too much.”

“Much ado about nothing?”

That’s William Shakespeare, not Murphy.

But between Murphy and me, the Bard never purchased a used car in Portugal!–WBhuoJgPkp0qeVupNK3zXayUYz_Y

From EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good. Available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats, please order your copies today from Amazon … or your preferred online bookseller.

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2 thoughts on “Murphy and Me

  1. 1. Use the Complaints Book.

    2. I had a similar problem with my eye glasses. A screw broke in the frames leaving a stub still screwed in. I took it to a local optician, who said they couldn’t extract the stub and replace the screw and I would need new frames. I selected frames, and of course lenses would need to be cut. I pointed out they were varifocals and they needed to be cut exactly so that the centres would stay in the same place in relation to my eyes. I asked if they needed to take measurements and they said no.

    When I went in to collect them, it was clear that they had miscut them – both the focus and astigmatism were way off. I went back when the manager was there and they measured the distance and it was 2mm narrower horizontally and 4mm off vertically – but they insisted that they had cut the lens correctly and refused to make me a new pair. As I was filling out the complaint form, they cleaned my second set of identical glasses and broke the frames on those. Their response was to offer me the set of frames I had already chosen – for the lens which were no good. I filled out a second complaint form.

    I then took the first frames and the 2nd lenses to another optician who extracted the screw stub and made a single good pair from the original frame and the 2nd set of lenses. Cost for this 5€.

    I then went to another optician to get a prescription for replacement glasses for the 2nd pair, and the price for similar lenses and frames was c. 900€. So what should have been a 5€ repair is going to cost me that without very much hope for getting the money refunded.

    • WOW, Paul! It appears that we learn our lessons the hard way. Is there any easy “manual” that alerts us to potential snags and pitfalss such as those we have suffered? BTW: I certainly did use the Livro das Reclamaçãoes.

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