Sunday, July 18, 2010

Car Dealers Suck - Part II

Last week I wrote the first part of this article, in which I described how I got a crooked car dealer on tape explaining how he likes to bait and switch his customers (I was also stupid enough to erase that tape rather than send it to the local TV station as one of my readers suggested). Today, I'll share another installment in the series.

Last Monday, at 4PM in the afternoon, I get a voicemail from an agent named Ron at Steven's Creek Hyundai. Saying something like "I got great news for you. We have found the car you want." I call back, and sure enough, Ron goes on and on about how he's finally found the car I have been asking about. Only problem is that it's in LA, but he's willing to ship it over - for a shipping charge of about $400. Awesome. Finally, I'll get my new car. I ask for a quote and he says, not to worry, he's already emailed me a quote. I tell him I will check my email and call him back later that evening.

In my email I find the quote, which includes the following excerpt (actual font sizes & highlights):

"Please note: The following price is good for the next 2 days.

Here is your Internet Pricing on the:2011 Hyundai Sonata SE with carpeted floor mats, cargo net, cargo mat, ipod cable, auto-dimming rear mirror.

MSRP: $23,845
Your Internet Price is: $20,597*.

!!This is an Internet Special Price only, You MUST Bring this Ad to qualify for this Internet Special Offer!!"

OK. Something is suspicious here. How can it be that the quoted price is so much lower than the invoice price? I send Ron an email reply which includes the following language:

"Thank you for the quote. 

Can you please clarify what other charges will be added to this quote?

Since I am paying cash (via BoA cashier's check) what would be the amount that I would need the check to be for?"

He doesn't respond to the email, so I call him. Over the phone he insists that it's all legit. This is the price, he says. There are no other charges, he assures me. I am still suspicious, but I decide to check it out. We agree that I would come to meet him onsite the next morning.

The next day, I print the quote, and I print the list of government taxes and fees (doubly so, after my previous dealer incident), and I take a break in the middle of my work day to drive to the dealership.

Ron greets me with a wide and friendly smile, asks me to take a seat, and says that he's going to print out the details and will be right back. He disappears for 20 minutes, which I spend doing my email and getting progressively annoyed. When he shows up, he has 3 pieces of paper in his hand. The first he shows me is a list of 5 cars he's located in California - this, he maintains, are all the cars in the state that fit my specifications. OK. Next, he shows me a poorly printed page with the vehicle specs. All seems to be in order. "Wonderful," I say, "how do we move this forward?"

"Let's talk about the price," he says and reveals the third piece of paper. The third sheet is a white piece of paper with three hand-written lines.

Ron points to the first line and says:
"Are you a member of the US military?"
I say, "Ron, you know I'm not. We spoke at length over the phone. You know I am a business executive."
Ron, with a note of triumph in his voice, says:
"well, you are not getting THAT rebate".
He crosses off the line that says: "Military Rebate - $500".

He points to the second line and says:
"Are you a college graduate?"
"Absolutely", say I with a grim smile.
"Ahh," says he, "but did you graduate in the last 24 months?"
"No", I admit.
A triumphant grin returns to Ron's face, and he crosses off the second line on the page, which says "College Graduate Rebate - $500".

Then he point to the third and final line. "Do you own a Hyundai?"
"No. I drive the crappy, old Geo Prizm that is parked on the street right there"
The third line disappears. When it was still there it said "Hyundai Loyalty Rebate - $400".

"Let me get this straight," I say, "you are expecting me to pay $1,400 more than the price you quote me in writing yesterday? Even though I asked you in email and you confirmed to me over the phone that this was the actual price you were asking for?"

Genius Ron looks at me with an innocent and injured face and fires off a volley of explanations in quick succession: "You have to understand, those rebates are not my money, I can't give them to you" and "how could I know that you are not a military man?" and so forth.

But I have no patience left. I cut him off at the pass, and I basically lose it. I say something like "Why the F*** are you wasting my time, Ron? I spoke to you over the phone at length. I asked you if there were any other charges. I asked you repeatedly if there is anything else I should know about your quote. You chose to drag me down here knowing full well that you had no intention of honoring the quote you gave me."

I then left, never to return.

I am still searching for a single, honorable car dealer, who will negotiate with me in good faith and honor his commitments. That dealer will get my money and will get a loyal customer who will gladly tell the world that honest dealers are not yet extinct. Sadly, so far, an honorable dealer appears to be an unfounded urban myth.

Don't shop at Steven's Creek Hyundai. They're just dishonest idiots who will waste your time and money.

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Rob Bennett said...

In a competitive society, the low pull the good down. There are probably lots of people in the field who hate having to engage in those sorts of tricks. Can they survive if they elect not to participate in the tricks and if the tricks generally work for those who do participate in them?

A capitalist (competitive) society will only be able to continue if most people believe that personal integrity matters. I have seen many comments at blogs in which people have indicated that their belief is otherwise, that so long as you do not get arrested what you have done is okay. We are suffering from an Ethics Deficit today. That's my belief, in any event.


JIm B said...

You have to wear your hard edge "deal" hat with these folks and turn the tables. Remember these guys don't care what you think of them, they're just trying to make the sale happen. The challenge for you is you don't want the inventory on their lot. I guarantee that if you pick a car physically present, and tell them you will buy it on the spot but they get ONE chance to make you the right deal, you'll get your car at a great price.

Keep in mind, they'll make zip on financing as you're paying cash.

Doesn't hurt to go in on the last day (or two) of the month. Sales guy will need the deal to keep his job. Dealer needs the sale for incentive payments.

Honor, integrity, courtesy? Not at the car dealer. Best of luck to you!

Shadox said...

Rob - I am right there with you. I work in business development - it would never occur to me to play such games with customers.

Do they actually believe that I will give them a dime of my money when they treat me like crap? Does that actually work with anyone?

Jim - problem is Hyundai is only making a small number of the basic model of the car. They are trying to push the one with the navigation system, which is $2,600 more expensive.

God knows why anyone would want a $2600 navigation system when you can get a better navigation system for $300 at any electronics store in the country. But that does make my buying situation more difficult.

Anyway, I am starting a series of international trips, so I have to put my car hunt on hold. I'll pick it up again in late August, and will try to take your advice about coming late in the month.

Benb said...

WOW! What a riveting and crazy story of how car salesmen can rip people off. This is almost like... everyone's worst nightmare, except YOU fought back. Good for you!

John said...

For full disclosure, I am an internet sales manager...

Unfortunately, you seem to have run into a couple bad apples, which is odd considering you're doing your shopping generally over the net. You've done the right thing as far as doing your homework and budgeting appropriately, so it's a shame that you've had to experience the "old days" of car sales. Did they throw the keys of your trade on the roof as well?

I'm not sure why an internet department would conduct itself as you've documented...might be a regional thing...but our internet department would never employ such tactics. We're a huge dealership, and at the very least it would make no sense to waste your (and our) time with the "rebate game". If you sent me a request, and I quoted you back, that quote is going to include the base model plus options you request (window sticker if new), rebate options WITH qualifications, and price OUT THE DOOR, based on the tax rate where you're registering the vehicle in California.

The ONLY unknown is if you're financing and your score is significantly better or worse than what you relayed in your e-mail. In that case, your rate might change, but all my quotes are based on cash purchase terms. You talk about finance at the dealership, unless other arrangements are made in advance.

Good luck in your future attempts at getting a new (or new to you) vehicle. I wish we sold Hyundai as it'd give me a chance to show you how a REAL dealership works.

One more'll help you if you ignore all the ancient advice like "go at the end of the month"..."go when it's rainy" ..."go 15 minutes before the dealership closes.." ...all nonsense. Just know the exact car you want to buy and how much you're willing, and have the ability, to pay. That way when you get there with the proper quote, there won't be anything to do except write a check and drive away.

Shadox said...

John - thank you for a very detailed comment. I should probably apologize for the inflammatory title of these two posts.

Car Dealers don't suck. It's just the two I mention specifically in my posts. And maybe even just the individuals I worked with - but their behavior impacts my view of their entire organization.

I am still looking for an honest dealer such as yourself. I know exactly the type of car I want. I was very specific in my email requests. But it has been such a hassle so far.

I must admit that after 11 years of driving my old car, I am sort of looking forward to driving a new one. This experience is sort of ruining it for me. Oh well - I'll keep at it. I'll eventually get what I am looking for. It might just be more painful than is absolutely necessary.

John said...

One thing you might consider is that often certain makes and models are just rebadged versions of another manufacturer.Example: The Pontiac Vibe is actually a Toyota Matrix, with a Pontiac emblem on it. Similarly, much of what Kia offers are just rebadged Hyundai models, and even those vehicles unique to Kia are produced with Hyundai internals and both lines share the same warranty.

This might help you to expand your horizons, spur greater competition, and allow you to obtain the best price possible for the vehicle with the exact charateristics you desire. of our franchises here is a Kia store, so I'd be happy to show you how an internet department is SUPPOSED to work, even if you didn't wind up buying a Kia.

Hopefully then our industry could get some much needed good press, and you get a car you actually want without the car buying headaches.

Cheap New Cars said...

Unfortunately, you seem to have run into a couple bad apples, which is odd considering you're doing your shopping generally over the net. You've done the right thing as far as doing your homework and budgeting appropriately, so it's a shame that you've had to experience the "old days" of car sales. Did they throw the keys of your trade on the roof as well?

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