Nissan Dealership Won't Refund Deposit

Jay writes in with a question: how do you get back your deposit from a car dealership when a deal goes sour? The salesman jacked up the price after an initial negotiation, and now won’t refund the deposit: “He said we’d be surprised at what he can make up to keep the deposit.”

Hi Consumerist,

I’ve been reading your website for quite a while and need some help for my brother. He went to Bay Ridge Nissan in Brooklyn, NY to lease a Nissan Pathfinder. He negotiated the deal to 311 a month and 1200 out of pocket costs. When I went with him to the dealership on Wednesday to pick up the car and sign the paperwork, the numbers were all changed. They added a bunch of fees, including a mysterious prep fee. After much negotiating, we decided not to buy the vehicle. My brother had left a $500 deposit earlier, and they said he would get it back.

Today, the salesman called and begged him to come take the car. After he said no, the salesman said he’s not getting his deposit back. The salesman also intercepts any phone calls to the manager and says we must only speak to his manager and his manager will be in tomorrow. He said we’d be surprised at what he can make up to keep the deposit. I’m wondering what to do to get the deposit back.

Jay, your brother is going to have to do an end-run around this scammer to reach the manager—we suggest finding new ways to contact him, whether it’s by having a wife or girlfriend call with a made-up story or staking the place out for a few days to figure out when he’s there and then intercepting him in person. (Btw, have you seen this page of contact information?) It probably isn’t worth it, though: there’s always a chance he’s as corrupt as his employees, and you’ll just be prolonging the inevitable. Instead, you might want to read our post “How To Kick A Scammy Car Dealer In The Nuts” for tips on how to make the rogue salesman’s behavior a financial liability for the dealership.

Your other recourse is to take the dealership to small claims court, where you stand a good chance of getting back your money.

Whatever you decide to do, you should also report the dealership to the New York Attorney General’s office via their complaint form, and while you’re there read up on their advice and warnings for car buyers in New York.

“How To Kick A Scammy Car Dealer In The Nuts”
“Suing Big Companies In Small Claims Court Is Fun And Easy”
“How To Take Your Case To Small Claims Court”
“Consumer Issues” [NYSOAG ]

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Comments

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  1. sgodun says:

    Bay Ridge Nissan. Hoo boy, lots of stories about THAT place.

  2. Call the cops…

    Or, you could tell the prick in person that you’ll make sure his family has a closed casket wake when you’re done with his face…. that’s just me though.

  3. bsalamon says:

    they have lots of commercials on TV…now I know why

  4. SOhp101 says:

    I’ve actually experienced a very similar situation at a very similarly crooked dealership, and guess how I tipped the situation in my favor? I made my deposit with a credit card.

    If his brother didn’t, his best course would be to report to Nissan, the AG, the BBB, and file the small claims court suit while you’re at it–there’s no way you can lose (make sure if he settles he pays for any court costs too).

  5. ClayS says:

    I having bought a new car in many years, but wouldn’t you get a signed sales invoice when you leave a deposit? You know, showing all charges, the deposit, and the balance due?

  6. grandzu says:

    Stop screwing around and go to small claims court on livingston st and sue him and the dealership.

  7. babaki says:

    the last time i bought a car i put the deposit on my credit card. specifically for this reason. the same thing happened to me, i got a better from another dealership and wanted my deposit back and i got the run around, so i called AMEX and told them the story, and they charged back my card. I HATE CAR DEALERSHIPS. i wish it wasnt always a hassle to buy a new car.

  8. scoosdad says:

    Ah, end of the month quota filling time. The salesman must have been just shy of getting his number for the month and didn’t want to lose this one.

  9. The Porkchop Express says:

    I would try to get in touch with the manager/owner before going to small claims court. If they don’t help…small claims, BBB, AG, local media (for fun really).

  10. mopar_man says:

    @babaki:

    Buy a used car? I’d sooner someone else take the depreciation hit.

  11. Consumerific says:

    Jay please update us in 24 hours, I hope the dealership gives you a call to rectify this matter.

  12. renilyn says:

    I guess I have never run into this because I have never put a deposit down on a car (new or used)… why would you do such a thing?

  13. soulman901 says:

    Depending on how he paid the Deposit he might contact his Bank and let them know.
    #1 Reason not to use Cash on deposits. Always use a CC or a Check.

  14. SaveMeJeebus says:

    The first and last time I went to a Nissan dealership was when I was considering an Xterra. I had a check in hand but the salesman would not deviate from the four-square sheet and the monthly payment information (refused to show purchase price). I was “prohibited” from taking it home and from using my little BA-II in the dealership so I told them to blow it out their ass.

  15. frankadelic says:

    Good luck in getting your brother’s money back, Jay!

    If he’s still looking for a Nissan stay away from Koeppel Nissan in Queens [www.koeppelnissan.com] as they’re really shady.

  16. blitzcat says:

    @renilyn: When the dealer is only getting one of a new car model to use as a demo until production ramps up, and you want to buy that car before they make it into a demo. My decision was made up that it was the car I wanted, and there would be no more for 3-6 months.

  17. MDSasquatch says:

    Consider yourself lucky, NISSAN sucks! I went into a dealer (Sheehy Nissan in Glen Burnie Maryland) with pre-approved financing from my credit union, picked out a car, test drove and decided to buy.

    Salesman comes back with an offer, we counteroffer, his next offer is “My sales manager thinks you ought to go to CARMAX”.

    I took my business to Sport Chevrolet in Silver Springs Maryland and I thank God every day. The Chevy I bought is a far superior car and the service is unbeatable.

    If you want a good deal go there and ask for Gary and only Gary; trust me!

  18. ProjectGSX says:

    Put a stop payment on the check. It will cost him $25 or so in fees from the bank, depending on where you bank.. but if the guy is being a prick, just dont deal with him at all. Cancel the check.

  19. yogamom123 says:

    You best bet is too call the district manager, also if everybody would bombard the dealership with calls for this person it would help also. Good luck!

  20. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    Was the car was special ordered or transported from another dealership? In that case, I think they’re entitled to keep the deposit, though I admittedly don’t know what happens when the actual purchase falls through because of BS fees.

  21. North of 49 says:

    I effing hate Nissan after they scammed my mother for a second time with their “leases” back in the 90’s. Her credit was not good enough for a loan so she leased the vehicles and always owed too much in the long run. Her payments were close to what her rent was and it was hurting her finances even more. She would have been better off with a second hand car than a lease, but noooo the scammy car salesmen convinced her into a second then a third lease instead of paying off her first car and buying out the lease. they also refused to honor the warantees they conned her into buying and charged her extortionist fees on repairs.

    I hate Nissan with a passion. I won’t even look at the vehicle.

  22. digitalhen says:

    i have to admit, Nissan in NYC are incredibly shady. the manhattan dealership pulled the same scam – i had to go there in person and demand a check from them there and then.

    i endedup buying my Nissan from Carmax to avoid the hassle. but to be honest, i would sooner just avoid Nissan altogether given the hassle i had with it.

  23. ARPRINCE says:

    It’s good to know that he backed out of the deal! Hope he gets his deposit back soon.

  24. timsgm1418 says:

    ahhh It’s Silver Spring..there’s only one spring.sorry I grew up there and people always added the extra S…@MDSasquatch:

  25. ThomFabian says:

    @babaki:
    Your two situations are quite different. If the place you put a deposit down is willing to honor the price you agreed on when you put the deposit down then you shouldn’t get a dime of your deposit back. What did you think you were giving them money for? The article is about a dealer unwilling to honor the deal they agreed to, so of course he should get his money back, but YOU backed out of an agreed deal because you got a better one elsewhere. I see no reason you should see a dime.

  26. Traveshamockery says:

    Get your money back (threaten small claims court) and get out of there – tell the fools their dishonest dealings have lost them a customer for life, plus everyone else you can tell to stay away.

    …of course, your brother didn’t happen to SIGN anything saying he’d forfeit his deposit…did he?…

  27. sleze69 says:

    I think it is just a good rule of thumb to never buy anything from Brooklyn, what with all the shadiness.

    Hopefully you didn’t sign any binding arbitration deals when you gave the deposit…

  28. marsneedsrabbits says:

    In the meantime (while doing the email bombs & contacting the state AG, etc) round up $5.00, print off a bunch of flyers which say that Bay Ridge Nissan in Brooklyn, NY rips off their customers and stand on the public property next to the dealer (i.e., the street) and as people drive up, hand them a flyer explaining the situation. You only have to cost them one potential sale to cost them more than your $500.
    It’s all listed in the first link “”How To Kick A Scammy Car Dealer In The Nuts””). [consumerist.com]
    While it may only take one sale to cost them your $500 dollars, make sure they know you are in it for a lot more than that.
    I bet they’ll settle.

  29. Antediluvian says:

    People! Have we learned nothing from Hank Hill?
    @marsneedsrabbits was the closest.

    When you make your fliers, unwittingly enlist the assistance of a domestic terrorist cell who will actually damage the merchandise while shifting blame to you. Then the dealership will be so scared they’ll help you six ways to Sunday.

  30. timmus says:

    Isn’t the deposit to hold the car? If you’re agreeing to some terms and voluntarily putting money down to seal the deal, I don’t see why it would be permissible to backtrack.

  31. wdnobile says:

    If it were me, Id spend a couple of saturday afternoons sitting on the sidewalk with a big sign in my hand that says “THIS DEALERSHIP STOLE MY MONEY _ SHOP ELSEWHERE!”

    Hand a flyer explaining your problem to anyone who stops to talk to you. I guarentee, when he loses a few sales to people leaving… you will get your money back rather promptly.

    I had a Nissan dealership pull this exact same thing on me a few years ago. I went in ,on a busy day and spoke to the manager on the dealership floor, loudly asking “why are you scamming me out of my deposit?” and explaining and showing him the flyers. I left with my cash in about 10 minutes.

    It ALWAYS works. Why? Because your 500.00 deposit isnt worth as much as the 4 or 5 $30,000 sales he’s gonna lose every time you show up.

  32. ptkdude says:

    @MDSasquatch: Your hatred is misdirected. Why do you hate Nissan for something the dealer did? That’s like hating Coca-Cola because Kroger wouldn’t sell you a twelve-pack for $2.00.

  33. MissTic says:

    did he fork over cash? if so, he’s screwed and should follow the advice given here – become a PITA (pain in the ass) until they pay it back. If he wrote a check, cancel the damn thing! And never leave a deposit in the future or use a CC with protection.

  34. FLConsumer says:

    I had something similar happen with Infiniti of Clearwater. Price sounded good… too good. I called up my “home” Infiniti dealer which didn’t have the car I wanted and wasn’t able to get it and they advised me to go into the Clearwater dealership with a check made out for the exact amount offered on the phone and head into the dealership with only that check. Sure enough, they wanted far more than the # they had verbally sent and faxed me. Went across the bay & bought the same car for $500 more at the Tampa dealership.

  35. gorckat says:

    @timmus: He negotiated the deal to 311 a month and 1200 out of pocket costs. When I went with him to the dealership on Wednesday to pick up the car and sign the paperwork, the numbers were all changed. They added a bunch of fees, including a mysterious prep fee.

  36. jamar0303 says:

    Bah, and I was thinking of getting one of those nice new GT-Rs. Looks like I’ll be buying a used Skyline GT-R instead.

  37. JGB says:

    Hell, I wouldn’t buy a car from Nissan, if for no other reason, because they have been trying to crush that poor bastard with the first name Nissan who owns the URL nissan.com.

  38. LawyerontheDL says:

    You can always bring the dealership to small claims court – the contract changed and they have no right to keep your deposit. You may also want to contact the Attorney General and even Nissan (after all, the dealer is a franchisee of sorts) I would alternatively go the heck in there and demand to see the manger. Be polite, firm and, while not yelling, loud enough to be heard.

  39. llynglas says:

    i had a similar problem at a local Ford dealer. They ‘sold’ me a car they just could not deliver. They started to drag their feet over returning my $5K deposit. So, the next Saturday, when I dropped by to see if they would give me my refund, I brought my young kids (3 and 6), gave them sticky, melting ice-creams, and in front of the store manager told them that they could play in the new cars until Daddy had finished talking to the ‘nice man’.

    I had my refund in 5 minutes….

  40. mzs says:

    Why do people lease? I’m paying less than $300 a month to own a Grand Caravan, this leasing business just does not make any sense to me. Is it simply so that people can have more car than they could otherwise afford?

  41. TheHoff says:

    Hold up the sign outside on the sidewalk saying BAY RIDGE SCAMS or some such.

  42. MrEvil says:

    @mzs: Leasing can sometimes be cheaper than buying a car outright….but I’m still not seeing it. One advantage though is that some states only charge sales tax on the payments you make on the car rather than on the full purchase price of the car. Unfortunately where I live in Texas…it’s full purchase price of the vehicle leased or not.

    They say its good because you’ll always have a warranty…but I’ve never had a year’s auto repairs equal more than a year’s payments on ANYTHING. But I only buy domestic brands that have dirt cheap replacement parts and do alot of work myself.

  43. GearheadGeek says:

    Okay… this is *NOT* a “blame the victim” screed, but I do wonder why the original “deal” didn’t include the actual price of the car? Did Jay just not include that in the info he sent to Consumerist? Or did he allow the shady 4-square salesman to make a deal on monthly payment + down payment with no idea what the final price actually was? If it’s the latter, it might even be worth losing the deposit to get out of the deal depending on how much nastiness was hidden in the numbers.

    Always get the price first, in writing. Only talk payment AFTER the price is fixed, and only if the dealer can beat the terms of the pre-approved loan you had when you walked in. You DID have a pre-approved loan for “up to $X” before going car shopping, right?

  44. GearheadGeek says:

    @MrEvil: In TX, consumers don’t see actual leases anyway, which is why that sales tax amount is the full price of the car. TX consumer “leases” are really balloon-note financing agreements in which the finance company agrees to buy the car back at exactly the amount of the balloon payment at the end of the term, provided all the other terms are met (car in good condition, decent tires, not over the mileage allowance.)

    The “lease” company would have to pay an annual property tax on the car as profit-making property which doesn’t apply to personal vehicles, so they can’t compete with purchases if they do a “real” lease unless they’re leasing to a business that gets tax advantages for leasing over purchasing.

  45. Tank says:

    I especially love how people blame the brand for the crappy service at a franchise. That’s like blaming Toro because the hardware store is inept.

  46. GearheadGeek says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: “prohibited” from using a calculator? Heh… talk about a dealership with something to hide.

    When I bought my current car, I took my laptop into the dealership and plugged the numbers into a spreadsheet I’d prepared beforehand… I ended up netting a better deal than it needed to be for me to buy the car and feel good about it, the dealer moved a car they’d had on the floorplan for nearly 8 months and beyond a funny look from the salesman when I started putting in the numbers, no one complained about me analyzing the deal they were offering. Oh, and I took the financing from them because they beat my credit union by 1.8%

  47. iMike says:

    1. Don’t be a payment buyer
    2. Don’t place a deposit on a car. They have more.

    Similar thing happened to me at Schaumberg Toyota against a pre-order of an ’04 Prius. I finally sent a snail mail letter to the GM of the dealership politely asking him to sort out the refund, which he did, and quickly.

  48. hexychick says:

    We’re all assuming that since it’s not stated, this guy didn’t get a receipt and he paid in cash. Supposing that’s the case, would a police report do any good at this point?

    Otherwise if the guy paid with a credit card, he could have it reversed, file fraud charges, etc. If it were a check, a stop payment could be issued.

    I’m really more curious as to how someone can leave a dealership with the intent to buy a car and have zero paperwork with them when they leave. You pretty much just handed the guy $500 to spend. How can you not have something to back up that $500?

  49. mrbiggsndatx says:

    too bad this dealership wasn’t in Seattle, cuz then you could just ask E.L.F. for help, lol! Thats why I ride a horse to work! YEE HAW COWBOY!!

  50. GrandizerGo says:

    People are jumping on Nissan for an admittedly crappy sales location…

    I love my Nissans, wouldn’t trade them for anything, (except an Infinity, but I can’t afford that)

    I would go to the place, sit outside the managers office and wait for him to get there.

    ALL LOCATIONS have a manager. If he is on vacation or sick, someone else fills in.

    You should NOT have left without your money THAT DAY though!

  51. jerros says:

    My brother worked as a car dealer for years. Each place does buisness slightly differently, and while dealerships and salesmen are always competitive it sounds like the dealership you went to is down right cut-throat.

    I’ve honestly never heard of any salesmen intercepting phonecalls to a manager before, and the fact that he’s called up begging you to come in for the car is another sign he’s not doing well.

    I went to the website of this nissan dealer, and got a little information you may want to try this before going any further.

    Call the main bay ridge nissan dealer number and ask to speak with Manny Licitra (General Manager) or Jonathan Pearlmutter (General Sales Manager). If they ask who is calling tell them “An unhappy customer” and leave it at that until you actually get one of these men on the phone. And certianly don’t say what salesmen your calling about. Once you get them on the phone explain your situation.

    Also many car dealers these days have a guy who works to garuentee people have good sales experiances. They all have different titles but if you ask the person who patches calls you might be able to get ahold of him as well.

    You’ll need to be very persistant in order to get your deposit back. In fact it is more likely that they will offer to knock down the price of the car as well as remove all fees than it is for them to give you the deposit back. But if you press them real hard for the money you will get it back.

    As for “Making stuff up to keep the deposit” well that’s just a lie. He is taking advantage of the fact that you’ve left money there in order to twist your arm and force you into a lease you do not want.

    I’m sure you’ve learned this already but still…you should never leave a deposit with a car dealer until all papers are signed.

  52. GearheadGeek says:

    @GearheadGeek: D’oh! RTFA carefully. I missed the word “lease” until I saw it in someone’s comment, so never mind my ranting about “get the price first.”

  53. Trick says:

    Similar issue when we bought a toybox from Mike Thompson RV in Fountain Valley, CA. I was at fault here too. We went looking for a 2007 Fleetwood HyperLite and ended up working out a deal on a Keystone toybox. Turns out the Keystone toybox had a much heavier tongue weight and even though our truck could handle the weight, Keystone themselves claimed they don’t recommend any of their trailers for my truck (’06 Nissan Titan.)

    I had only put down a $2000 deposit and called that following Tuesday (gave deposit on Sunday, talked to Keystone on Monday.)

    MT RV really wanted the sale but knew I was not going to buy the Keystone. So they really worked the price of the HyperLite to just a $2000 over the price of the Keystone to keep me as a customer. I actually saved about $2300 by going this route vs. haggling over the trailer in the first place!

    The key to getting MT RV to cooperate was the fact that I used a credit card for a deposit. If it was cash I probably would have had to really fight and the minute I got it, I certainly would have went elsewhere.

    This way *everyone* wins. I got a better deal than I would have just a few days before during their big sale and the dealer still made money because trailer mark-ups are worst that Monster cable mark-ups!

  54. Trick says:

    Now a re-hash on my Nissan experience… Two dealerships, both contacted by e-mail for quotes on a 2006 Nissan Titan back in 03/2006. San Louis Obispo Nissan and Santa Barbara Nissan.

    The gal with SLO Nissan played all the games, wouldn’t give me price, wanted me to come in or call.

    The guy with SB Nissan asked what I wanted and quoted exactly what I wanted.

    The gal with SLO Nissan quoted me for a fully loaded LE 4X4 crew cab even though I had not told her I may be interested.

    SB Nissan waited until I asked for options, gave a price then found the one truck I wanted (200 miles away at Fontana Nissan)

    SLO Nissan finally gave me a quote that was a few bucks cheaper than SB Nissan after I told her she did nothing but waste my time and I will drive further down the road to buy from SB Nissan.

    SB Nissan asked for a deposit at first but after speaking with the sales guy about payment options, he just agreed to bring the truck up on my word… the truck arrive in the evening, I looked it over and it was exactly what I wanted.

    It took about an hour to do the paperwork, which was exactly what I was told over the phone. I wrote a check and SB Nissan didn’t even take a credit report (didn’t even ask for my SSN) so I know they didn’t check after I left.

    It was by far the best experience I ever had at a dealership…

  55. jwissick says:

    Easy solution. Pick up a nice big banner and a friend. Sit right in front of the dealership with the banner. “Ask me about / dishonest business practices!”

    Have a nice picture of a RAT on the banner.

    Make the dealership PAY you to go away.

  56. jwissick says:

    Ask me about (sales person’s name) it should read… sorry

  57. spinachdip says:

    @Lo-Pan: re: alerting the local media

    My first thought was, “The problem solver segment on the 11 o’clock would eat this shit up!” But then I realized car dealerships are a HUGE source of ad revenue for local affiliates. I wonder if they would have the balls to bite the hand that feeds them.

  58. pda_tech_guy says:

    Just so you know, that misterious “car prep fee” is a very expensive car wash.

  59. TechnoDestructo says:

    Ask him what is to stop someone from wandering through (or, if it is fenced, past) their lot at night spraying paint remover into the air.

  60. Consumerific says:

    If he has not called you, I suggest you give
    General Manager Manny Licitra (Phone: (718) 238-8000)
    a call. Please update us on the status.

    When I read this story I gave the dealership a call to inform Manny, The General Manager, about your problem. He said he was not aware of your problem and my impression is that he wants to do the right thing and he stated that they always give back deposits.

  61. wav3form says:

    Car sales is a greasy, greasy business. Even when you get a good deal you get ripped off somehow. Greasy stuff.

  62. deedrit says:

    Administrative Contact :
    Bay Ridge Automotive Group
    marco.sorgi@bramcorp.net
    6410 6th Avenue
    Brooklyn, NY 11220
    US
    Phone: (718) 439-4530

    Technical Contact :
    Michael J Motto Internet
    support@mjmi.com
    719 Raritan Rd
    Clark, NJ 07066
    US
    Phone: 732-382-4000
    Fax: 732-382-4000

  63. Blueskylaw says:

    Instead of negotiating to $311.00 a month, he should have negotiated on the price of the car, then get the monthly payment based on price, term and interest rate.
    I went with a friend of mine to buy a new beamer and it was supposed to be a roughly 30,000 loan over 5 years with 5,000 down at 5% interest. Then the guy asks how much can you afford to pay per month? I said give me the monthly payment based on those terms. He never did so we left. The guy just did not get it that we knew he was trying to scam us.

  64. Blueskylaw says:

    .

  65. pda_tech_guy says:

    ..