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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

Red flags: choose to stop before they stop you

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

I recently bought a gorgeous Fiat500 dualogic auto 2015. It had taken me some time to decide that maybe I no longer needed the power, nor the expense, of my (aging) mk1 AudiTT, and figured the cost of the work I wanted to do on the car would be off-set by a newer car that needed less done. (This is not to say my TT was not roadworthy, it had sailed through its MOTs, but opening the door one frosty spring morning (!!) had broken the window regulator on the driver's side, and a few too many "brushes" with the kerb meant I really needed to refurb my alloys.) I took the Fiat home on April 28th, and on April 29th found myself calling the AA on a dual carriageway roundabout because the gear had jumped to neutral while driving. Thankfully my husband also came out and pushed me to a "safer" place. The AA towed the car to the dealership. They called me that afternoon saying the car had started fine and wasn't throwing up any fault codes. I took it back.

Although wary I managed a careful short trip on a smart motorway (no hard shoulder) without incident, and I began to think, OK, maybe it was a one off. May 2nd, the same thing happened again - luckily this dual carriageway had a bus stop, my husband was in the car so he saw what happened, and our friends were following and caught dashcam footage. My husband eventually got it started and we returned to the dealership and I said I could no longer trust the car and wanted to return it.

May 3rd the dealership called and said that they'd spoken to Fiat, it was a "known issue" and Fiat was going to repair it - if I wanted a car in the meantime, they had one and I could have my purchase back on Thursday.

What would you have done?

I have to admit, it was tempting...I'd made the mindset shift to choose the car, Fiat was going to fix it - under warranty so at no cost, and I'd also borrowed money from my dad to buy it in the first place (paying him back being that little bit easier than the bank...BUT given that he used to go with me for purchases, we'd already had the conversation over whether he even trusted me to choose correctly despite a clean test drive), and in truth, I dislike conflict and didn't want to "upset" the dealer.

There are many many reasons why I could quite easily have said "oh go on then". Perhaps they resonate with you, not just in this situation, but those pertaining to jobs, relationships, even other things "that don't seem to work". I have always said, when it comes to emotional connections, there are many similarities across situations and we can learn much from our behaviours in one area.

A "one off" could be just that

However, while I wasn't going to run scared - despite the rather frightening first incident - if it was a "one off", I had nonetheless looked up the issue and found a few forums that confirmed my concerns - it was happening to others, there were no fault codes, but there were a few fixes available.

BUT if it's not, how much are you willing to "get used to"!?

On the forums I also saw what others were doing - admittedly, their cars were out of warranty, and they couldn't initiate a return under the Law (Consumer Rights Act 2015, short term right to reject). One person had noticed that their gear slipped out when braking in 5th and 4th, so was careful to only brake in 3rd; another was able to breathe a sigh of relief if the car worked after the first 10 minutes because a "cold engine" seemed to be the problem; and others were just not driving theirs.

Let's for a moment, break down this behaviour - just how much is a car controlling you!? Just how much can be applicable to our actions in other walks of life.

I know that when I want something, or like something, I will "get used to" quite a lot, without really thinking about what I'm compromising of myself to do so.

Which voices do you heed?

Then, of course, there will be conflicting opinions - I know many people, when I bought the car, had commented on how much they loved theirs and how reliable it was. There's even my own voice which says - well you've committed to it now, stick with it...and don't tell your dad you messed up... Many people, including myself know that a second hand car is likely to give problems early on - my TT did, but it's since run beautifully for over 4 years. But there were also others who asked "Is it worth the risk - there will be other cars" and one in particular - my husband, explained "The problem is, if you cannot identify the fault, and you cannot replicate the fault, then how do you know the fault is is not even that there's any nefarious behaviour, but simply, the system doesn't allow you to know for sure."

Stopping at the red flag

I'd already gone past one red flag by taking the car back the first time the incident happened, and given I'd had a second one, especially in so short a time, I decided that no matter what the "mind monkey chatter" (or real chatter) was going to say, I wasn't going to risk a third. I went to the dealer on Tuesday with my "letter of rejection" received my old car back, and expect a full refund of the balance in 14 days.

...and (after a lot of admin, where my car insurance must think I'm loopy) I've now booked my TT in for a refurb on its alloys.

It "might never happen"...but what are the consequences if it did?

Maybe I missed out on a lovely little (newly fixed) car - with the advantages of low road tax and low petrol costs. Maybe I need to continue to find different ways to off-set my carbon footprint. Maybe I need to keep reminding myself - I took the test drive and everything seemed fine and that's all I could do beforehand. BUT what if that fix didn't work, or it failed again - at best I'd be late for an appointment (a "no-no" if you're freelance!!); but at worst I wouldn't arrive at all.

There are reasons why we ignore red flags, but weigh up the benefits of doing so against the worst case scenario on the same route

Perhaps one red flag is a one off - but note it, and address it. If nothing else, it means the other person is aware (in my case I flagged (ha!) it with the dealership, and later with the DVSA). Two - especially of the same or similar thing - and one can no longer plead ignorance (even though they may not be responsible). Consider what other courses of action are available to you, as well as really reflect on the benefits of continuing to ignore the warning over the possible consequences of doing so.

As a coach I cannot tell you what to do, and as a friend I don't - because I need you to know I'm there whatever your choice - and the outcome; but what helped me bring this to a conclusion which I am happy with was:

- Reflecting on my reasons why I might ignore a red flag (especially the emotional reasons - and not just the "because I like it" ones...when I dug deeper a lot was centred around not wanting to tell my dad because it felt like it was another mishap I could clock up...even psychologists have personal work to address!)

- Knowing which voices have my best interests at heart

- If your story resonates with others that you hear - look at their current situation and ask yourself if that's what you're willing to "get used to"

That is not to say that red flags won't go away. And actually, in any other circumstance, if I could see that a fix had occurred (even if it took time, or even relapsed) I would have chosen differently...but if a fault cannot be seen, it cannot be properly fixed. And perhaps, that's the biggest lesson of them all...and a reminder of why self awareness is one of the biggest assets any of us can possess.

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; or her Radio Show "The Wellbeing Lounge", and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt


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