I started taking lessons again after a 2 year gap from one of the other larger driving companies. My previous instructor was great from that company, but I had lost his contact details so couldn't resume with him. So I thought I'd give a relatively smaller independent company a go. Came across DriveJohnsons' youtube channel and was impressed (naive much) with what I saw and decided to give them a whirl.
I should have paid closer attention, there were tell tell signs during my first lesson that something wasn't quite right. Firstly my driving instructor was due to pick me up at 12.30pm, text me an hour before the lesson to say that he was going to be late and if I could do 1.30pm instead. Little did I know that this would turn out to be a regular occurrence. So he picked me up got chatting and I explained to him that I am a nervous driver and need to build up my confidence etc. The first lesson had no structure, there wasn't any focus on trying to tackle and learn about say roundabouts or bay parking or clutch control etc. No. Just general driving. By the end of the lesson he was like, 'see that went well, you are not a bad driver'. Not going to lie, this made me feel great. However, a good informative instructor will always back up his positives with things that they observed that you need to work on. If they sense you are weak on clutch control or roundabouts, then what they will say is, 'ok for the next lesson we will be tackling this until you are confident enough and then we will move on to this- but for now don't worry you are quite capable of driving well'. But there was no structure to any of the lessons, it was just general driving and every now and then we would do a manoeuvre, maybe once or twice, then we'd move on. At the time I thought this was normal, it is only now that I've changed driving instructors that I know it is not.
His time management was woeful to say the least. If it was an afternoon lesson, he would always delay it by half an hour. By the end of our time together- 6 months (had a 4 week holiday inbetween)- we changed the lesson time to 8am. This time though, he never delayed the lesson but would turn up at 7.40am expecting me to be ready. And instead of finishing the lesson at 9.40am, he would finish the 2 hour lesson at 9.20am! By the time the lesson was over I was so exhausted from driving that whenever I was meaning to confront him on this issue, I would forget and be glad to be home.
Earlier this year he stated that I was ready to book my test, even though something told me I wasn't, but being the naive fool that I am I booked it. This was when things really started to go from erratic to horrendous. Twice he never turned up to the appointed lesson at 8am in the morning. The first time I let it go because he said he was ill. However, the second time I sent him a reminder the morning of the lesson saying that I will be paying him that day, he replied back to me apologising saying that his alarm clock did "go off" and that my text was the thing that "woke him up" and if I could reschedule the lesson to that afternoon. Which I could not do as I'm a working adult and I had things to do that day! He would then continue to do this several times, rearranging MY scheduled lessons because a few of his pupils were "parents" and had to arrange child care needs for there kids, so he would sacrifice my lessons to book theirs in in my time instead!
When we did eventually have lessons, he would then constantly forget to do mock tests with me and would apologise and promise to do it the next week, then forget again. When I did request extra lessons from him within the week, even going as far to book a few days off work to do them, he would get back to me late saying he couldn't do them because he had to wait for his pupils to rearrange their times before getting back to me. but he had no problem rearrange MINE to accordate others! I finally lost it with him (I know I should have lost it ages ago) when he didn't turn up to my last lesson. And when I rang him to ask why, his excuse was that he was in St Albans because his other pupil had a last minute test rescheduled to then. So he could not have told me this earlier, at least a DAY before I would wake up early for my scheduled lesson?
I finally plucked up the courage to email drivejohnsons and demand a refund of the remaining lessons I had with him, and i made it abundantly clear to them that I no longer wanted anything to do with him or the company. A day after sending them that email, the driving instructor then proceeded to constantly call my phone. I listened to the voicemail he left and he stated that he was instructed by the office manager at Drivejohnsons to call me and arrange a refund directly with me! I sent a furious email back to DriveJohnsons saying and I quote "I see no reason why I should have to have- what will inevitably be- an awkward conversation with the instructor I no longer want teaching me; and explaining to him why I no longer want him to teach me. It is a rather dubious situation to put a customer in to say the least."
To which the office manager replied back to me saying that she will handle the refund herself. Well common sense prevails then.
You might be thinking why I stayed with this driving instructor if I was having all these problems with him and the company. I mainly put this down to my own stubbornness and fear that if I were to change driving instructors that I might fall further behind in my learning. Luckily though I have changed and it is the best decision I have ever made. My new instructor is amazed that I spent all that time with drivejohnsons and I still haven't done certain tricky test routes that are a must to do before the test. Seems like drivejohnsons were just making life easier for themselves and dragging out my lessons and taking my money.
Long and short of it is - AVOID AVOID AVOID AVOID! I am seriously considering reporting them to BBC's Watchdog as well!