I heard the alarm go off for the third time but I was on the telephone in my office and couldn’t see which car it was, I wasn’t unduly worried as this was a common occurrence we were having huge problems with the entry system on the Mercedes remote alarms, which was a flashing light system, you pressed the remote and waited for the light to go green before opening the door, but it seemed to take an age for the red light to extinguish and if you opened the door before the light changed the alarm went off, and you had to lock the car and start again. Even customers who had had cars for months (and me because I am dreadfully impatient) were still setting them off.
However, a couple of months before we had had an incident I saw a suspicious looking pair walking around our compound I approached them and asked them what they were looking for and wasn’t really satisfied with their answer which was something like “what’s it got to do with you, are you writing a book?” now if I’d have known then what I know now, I would have said “no actually I am writing a Blog”, but blogs hadn’t been invented then so I had to resort to threats, so what I actually said was “look mate we have a mechanic in there who can kick start a 747 and if you don’t watch it I will whistle him, you shouldn’t be in here so please will you leave”, I then shadowed them at a safe distance because I didn’t know how far away Clemmy would be able to hear me whistle, they left the premises walked up the road and got into a black Rover 620, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to read the registration number as it was too far away.
The 2 undesirable’s set off in the direction of the BMW dealer, I was convinced that they were up to no good and I knew the Sales Manager at BMW so I thought I’d give him the heads up just in case, I telephoned and told the receptionist that I needed to speak to Ernie urgently, you guessed it she put me on hold and I was left listening to Green Sleeves.
I rang back and this time told her if she put me on hold again it could possibly be the last call she ever answered at that particular garage, this time she grasped the importance of my message but Ernie wasn’t at his desk and all the Sales Execs were dealing with customers so I asked her to get someone quickly but then Ernie answered and I explained that I thought he should be on his lookout, no sooner had I told him than he said “F###” they’re driving off the forecourt in one of our cars and slammed the phone down.
Our Dealership was right at the end of the Motorway so I ran out to get my car hoping to cut them off, my car was referred to as the “Stealth” by the rest of the staff, it was an Obsidian Black E Class Avantgarde with Black Leather and 19 Inch AMG Alloys I could easily catch a Rover 620 in that, I’m not sure what I would have done if I had caught them but I never got to find out as my car wasn’t there our valeter had taken it round the back to give it its daily bath, I watched helplessly as the BMW closely followed by a black Rover 620 sped past a few seconds later and made their escape.
I held an emergency Sales meeting and everyone was warned that we needed to be on our guard, if I saw any keys lying around the person responsible would get the worst car that I could find as a demonstrator and would have to do the Mcdonalds run every day for the rest of time, all keys had to go back and be locked in the key safe which was situated in the Sales Admin office and that everyone needed to keep a lookout for anyone acting suspiciously.
It appeared that no one was going to silence the alarm so I apologised to the person I was talking to and walked to the door of my office to tell someone to get off their backside and shut it up, all the lads were dealing with customers and the alarm stopped but I went to the door any way I was just in time to see a guy who I later described to police as looking like ‘Stan Collymore’ (sorry if they arrested you and that was the start off all your troubles Stan) Stan was driving off the forecourt in our new Mercedes Benz C Class it didn’t even have any Number Plates on it, but what it did have was a tracker fitted. Again I would have given chase in the ‘Stealth’ but we had just had a delivery of New vehicles and the ‘Stealth’ was blocked in behind them!
The car that had been stolen was going to be part of our demo fleet and was waiting to be taxed for the new registration number in September, we fitted every demo and service loan car with a tracker since one of our service loan cars had been stolen a few years previously, Keith Harris of “Keith Harris and Orville fame” had borrowed it I think Orville had been left in the boot but we never got a ransom note so they must have just wanted the car, anyway back to my story I immediately rang Tracker to activate the system, ran back to my office cut the waiting caller off and called the police, there could be no escape we had them!
Within 5 minutes the Police helicopter was hovering above us and there were four police cars on our forecourt, one of the Police Officers said the tracker signal was being emitted from a car in our compound, then he asked me if the thieves had brought the car back, this tickled me, and trying my best not to laugh I replied “In your experience Officer How often has does that actually happened then? I have to say the Police Officer wasn’t amused and I made a mental note to antagonise him any further. Now those of you who have read my previous blog will know a little about the abilities of my Sales Administrator and it was her job to register the Trackers that were fitted by our workshops.
It dawned on me what must have happened my Sales Administrator had got all the registration cards mixed up and we wouldn’t know for sure which one was in our demo until we deactivated and removed every last one of the trackers from the cars in stock, to make matters worse we had a compound full of new Mercedes Benz vehicles which were all waiting for delivery to their new owners, lots of them had trackers fitted and one of them was transmitting a signal to the Police,
A guy called Stuart Dawson worked for us as a mechanic, he was the son of the comedian Les Dawson and he was brilliant, he had attended military school and then went on to work for a professional racing team, I think now he has been poached by Mercedes Benz and is working for them as a teacher, but at the time I was lucky enough to have him as a colleague, what he didn’t know about Mercedes Benz wasn’t worth knowing.
Stuart and I set about finding the cars fitted with trackers, disconnecting them an matching the serial numbers up with the correct cars until the offending one stopped transmitting when it did the Police helicopter returned to base and the patrol cars drove off with my new friend in the Police force still glaring at me and shaking his head, it took us a lot longer to disconnect the trackers than it should have as Stuart had his Dads sense of humour and the irony of the situation was not lost on us, neither of us could see for laughing as tears rolled down our face, we had just about come to our senses and was getting on with the task when I said to him in my best Liverpudlian accent, “Scuse me there La, I stole this car about 20 minutes ago, and I’m not happy with the way it drives so I’ve brought it back, no hard feelings ey, I’ll come back next week and nick one with a bigger engine if you don’t mind, eeergh, any chance of a lift to the bus station?” we both cracked up again.
It was several hours before we had checked every device and was left with the missing serial number that could only belong to our Aquamarine Blue C180 Automatic, another call to Tracker and it was activated but the thieves had a healthy head start we just hoped that they hadn’t had time to sweep the car for a transmitting signal and if they had that they’d done it before we’d got the right one switched on.
The next morning I got a call from Greater Manchester Police, the signal had been picked up by a patrol car and was coming from a garage in a Street in Bury, there appeared to be no one at the house but the Police had it staked out, I was also told that it would probably be featured on a TV program that was being made about the Stolen Vehicle Recovery squad based in Manchester as they were also in attendance. They asked me to take the spare keys but when I told my Boss that there was a TV camera at the scene, he straightened his tie flattened his hair and said “its best if I go”
The Police found the owner of the house and arrested him at his place of work, apparently they also arrested a number of other people and when they searched the house they discovered the location of several stolen cars which weren’t fitted with trackers, they also recovered was huge stash of keys from different vehicles that had been stolen and presumably ringed or dismantled and sold for spares.
How did they manage to steal the car from us? Well If it had been anyone else I wouldn’t have believed them but we had a Sales Exec who was always immaculately dressed, immaculately groomed, had impeccable manners, he was always polite, his paperwork was always perfect, you could see your reflection in his shoes, he was always cheerful and he really bugged the crap out of the rest of us, but only in a nice way he was a good lad, and a great Salesman, on the Target board he was down as Mr La De Da Chris ******, he told me that he had been out on test drive in the car when he got back he removed the trade plates and as instructed took the keys back and hung them on the board in Sales Admin and pushed the door shut.
The thief must have followed him in watched where he put the keys and seized his opportunity when Chris had gone back to his desk with the customers, because of the time of year we were waiting for all the cars to go out on September 1st our key cabinet was full to bursting, all the keys were tagged and marked with the model, colour, and chassis number of the vehicle and when we examined the key safe later we discovered that it was one of the plastic tags had got stuck and stopped the door from locking and allowed the thief to just pull it open.
It could possibly have been the perfect crime except that the Mercedes Benz alarm had some teething problems and a brilliant piece of equipment that should be fitted as standard to every car called tracker http://www.tracker.co.uk as of today 20,266 vehicles valued at £441.8 Million have been recovered and 2,061 arrests made, my Boss and our car never made it to the TV program as the recovery of our vehicle was very mundane, no shots were fired, no one said “You’ll never take me alive Copper” and there wasn’t even a car chase, as for Mr La De Da Christopher ****** just in case he had been lying to me I gave him the stolen and newly recovered Mercedes Benz C180 as his new demonstrator which the rest of us thought was a girlie colour and wouldn’t be seen dead in, To be fair Chris couldn’t care less his perfect twin daughters and wife loved the colour so he was just as cheerful as ever.
it was a happy ending for everyone concerned, except perhaps Stan Collymore and the gang of car thieves.