Saturday, June 8, 2013

Final Drive: Believe

Believe. Do you believe? What do you believe? The sound of Josh Groban singing the hit single from the movie, Polar Express, comes to mind as I write this. I do not mean think or know or hope, which are different concepts in my mind. Somewhere in the bible it says "as a man believes in his heart, so he is" (For those that need to know, it's Proverbs chapter 23, verse 7). There are many contexts to this. When you are entering a right hand decreasing radius downhill turn too hot, do you believe you will make it through? Have you had moments when you are in over your head on a bike, does belief pull you through or is just luck, skill or a combination or all three? Imagine jumping out of a plane with a parachute. Do you know it will open, believe it will or just hope? Personally, I skip the skydiving altogether. Jumping out of a perfectly good plane is totally beyond belief to me.

Beliefs can be built upon knowledge and with the above examples, practice can give the foundation of believing as it were. But there are situations in our lives where believing doesn't have a foundation in knowledge and praxis per se, but the other way around. We use facts and limited experiences to justify what we believe. This is a much more common occurrence than one would believe and sometimes with dire consequences, most times just expressions of our ignorance. What's even more unbelievable to some is that marketing and sales people use this this knowledge,  some would say against us, or just to their advantage. Whatever the case, it can be amusing to watch and sometimes deflating to experience cognitive dissonance with regard to our beliefs. No, George Washington didn't chop down a cherry tree as related in Parson Weems' fable, there is no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny either. Our society seems bent on creating narratives that at best are untrue and at worst foment a hypocrisy that makes one wonder if anything we are told is true. At this point you are probably wondering where I am going with this. Believe me, you'll have to wait.

Speaking of marketing, sales and beliefs, an important part of all this is something called Top Of Mind Awareness or TOMA. When you think of mobile phones, what comes to mind? May be iPhone or Verizon? When someone says soft drink, what comes to mind? Coca Cola? Pepsi? When someone says motorcycle, what do you thing of first? Harley Davidson? This is TOMA. Along with these brand icons comes along a narrative that companies create, develop and promote in order to elicit emotions, usually and hopefully positive ones that either encourage you to purchase their product and if not, have it in the top of your mind when such a product class is mentioned. Sometimes groups of people that believe the narrative promoted by the manufacturer get together and form clubs. Sometimes they are called fans, true believers, Kool-Aid® drinkers, etc. Whole industries have grown around this, particularly journalism, which purports to report objectively about things, whether politics, homes or gardening and motorcycles too. In turn, advertising money is spent in these publications by said brands and the merry-go-round spins happily around. Like in the Wizard of Oz, what happens if we look behind the curtain or in Matrix talk, take the Red Pill?

I usually do not subscribe to being a fan of anything, at least not in the last 10 years or so. The closest that I came was with Apple computers. I worked with them every day and not only did I believe they were the best, but somehow they had powers beyond what the facts supported. I still like them a lot and think (or believe) that the Mac operating system is the best that is out there right now. Magical? No. I've also looked at BMW motorcycles the same way in that the brand represents quality and quality that is above what other motorcycles not only represent, but are in reality. Sometimes reality challenges that narrative and cognitive dissonance ensues. BMW's narrative is "Unstoppable". Really. I haven't had any day ending problems on mine, but since owning one, it's become apparent that BMW's are less than "Unstoppable". I would read about the common problems: Failed final drives, fuel pump controllers and fuel strips on boxer based bikes (newer machines have leaky water pumps and switchgear that breaks eventually unless it is caressed with the lightest of touches). Even I had fuel strip failure and even felt like I was part of an inner circle of those with failed fuel strips, some of whom have had as many as 7 failures. Then a series of events in the last few weeks hit home. An owner of a 8 month old K1600GT had a fuel pump failure. OK. BMWs come with a 3 year/36K mile warranty, so it should be fixed. Well, BMWNA refused to replace the fuel pump under warranty because he didn't have enough mileage on it. You read that right. Since he only had 2000 miles in 8 months, BMW deemed he didn't ride it enough and it was his fault, due to his neglect that the fuel pump failed. Around the same time, a fellow BMWMOA member was having leaking seals problems with his R1200GS, I believe it is a 2005 model. It's been repaired under warranty and on his dime several times. BMWNA said that the problem was a defective engine block and it wasn't worth fixing because an engine costs $9000 and the bike is worth may be $8-9000. OK. So they offered him $2500 off a new one. The owner felt it was low and decided to go on a email campaign with the help of friends from the BMWMOA to persuade them to chip in a little more because the cost to him in dollars and inconvenience. They came back with a offer of $1200+ to buy it back and stern warning to those that participated in the email campaign:

BMW Motorrad: Hi Rxxxx, thanks for your opinion on the situation. We have provided what we feel is a reasonable solution and you have declined to accept it. We ask you to refrain from encouraging other fans to email members of the BMW staff because it may limit the response time for your fellow Motorrad community members who may have a problem or concern that needs solving. You are free to post on the main BMW Motorrad page however in future, if you continue to promote your situation on other BMW Motorrad users posts, we will have to delete them.

The arrogance of the BMW staff. What was more surprising is that a lot of beemer riders sided with BMWNA. Some called my acquaintance names because they believed he was looking for a freebee. Understand that BMW admitted the engine was defective and the owner had a lot of documentation of dealer repairs. Normally I thought most beemer riders were more logical than other motorcycle riders and didn't fall prey to narratives, Kool-Aid® drinking or other fanatical behavior. I was wrong. In fact they will put up with poor customer service and problems with their bikes that I don't even see with Harley Davidson riders or Harley Davidson bikes,  but in Harley Davidson's defense, I've heard from owners that say they get treated very well by dealers and the MoCo. My Kawasaki's and friends that own them (I am a member of the Vulcan Bagger Association) have had much fewer problems while outlaying much less cash.

So, the bloom is off the rose, there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny and BMW Motorcycles aren't Unstoppable. Rather than wallow in cognitive dissonance, I would rather face reality for what it is: BMWNA is a faceless corporation that cares more about it's pennies than doing what is right. Got it. Check that one off. So, at this point, what I believe is based on experience as opposed to believing a narrative that isn't based on experience or any other facts. I guess they could say that their narrative isn't that they give the best customer service in the world. Fair enough, but I've never seen a company dig in its heels like this one. It's like doubling down on wrong.

So, what do you believe?

Thank you for reading this blog.