Stone = Dealership. Blood = Fair Deal.

Dana sent in her tale of buying a car and nearly being hoodwinked at sale, but thanks to her dogged persistence and detective-like compendium of evidence, she finally got the deal she deserved, the deal that had already been agreed upon in writing. The deal that, for some reason, wasn’t sitting at the dealership when she walked in to pick it up.

Her tale serves as a good primer in being a prepared and aggressive consumer. She says, “Bottom line: it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t easy, but I got the car I wanted at the price I wanted.”

For all of you looking for a story of a business being definitely wrong and a customer being completely right, and winning–this one’s for you, after the jump….

Dana writes:

    “I researched for six months before I bought my first new car. I asked for bids at for the exact model I wanted, with all options I wanted. I got a faxed and emailed quote of a a price well below sticker for the car I wanted.

    I’m getting ahead of of myself, though – I researched the car all over the Internet, but provided the information I needed to know what was a good price and a good time to buy – in my case, it was August, and I bought a current-year car just before new models came out. I knew the new models weren’t going to have any features I couldn’t live without. I pre-arranged financing through my credit union. I knew all about invoice, sticker, hidden add-ins, things I could negotiate out of and things I coudn’t. I knew what stunts the dealership was likely to pull. I was the salesman’s nightmare, an informed buyer with no trade-in who was ready to walk away.

    I talked to the dealership and stressed that when I came to pick up the car I wanted no delays – I wanted the cruise control installed, the car ready to roll off the lot and go home with me that very day. I told them I expected to sign the papers, write a check for the down payment, and drive away, and I expected it to not take more than an hour. I was driving 45 miles to get there and I was not going to make a second trip if the car was not ready to go. I put all of this in writing, faxed and emailed to them. I retained copies of their assurances that this is what I woud get. I took copies of every piece of communication with me when I went to pick up my car.

    Needless to say, when I got there “my car” was parked out front – right color, model, and year – except that it was manual transmission and there was no cruise control. The dealership staff was all smiles until I pointed out that this was not the car I ordered, or the car they offered.

    Oh, that’s a mistake, they said. We couldn’t possbily sell you one of these with an automatic and cruise installed for that price.

    I said, here’s the paperwork from you where it says automatic and cruise, with your quoted price on it. Now get me my car and I’ll sign the remaining paperwork and go, or we’ll see each other in court.

    Ohh, that’s terrible, they said, we not only don’t have that car on our lot, the car you’re describing doesn’t exist. It’s late in the model year and a red automatic [car model] is not available. So sorry. But you can have this one!

    Tell you what, I said. I’ve had some theater training and I can project my voice pretty well. You get on the computer, call some other dealerships, and you find me the car described on this piece of paper, for this price, and meanwhile we’ll see how much business you can do while I’m standing in your showroom complaining at the top of my lungs about how you’re trying to rip me off. I’m not embarrassed to make a spectacle of myself. I can do a full-on tantrum if you like. I can also go out and inform every prospective customer on your lot about how I’m being treated. I want to go home with my car as soon as possible, but I’ve got time to make a big noisy fuss until I get it.

    It took them a half hour, but they had my car driven in from another dealership. In addition to the automatic transmission and cruise control, this one had extras I hadn’t ordered – upgraded floormats, upgraded exhaust pipe, a rear cargo mat, a couple of others. They were so anxious to get me out of there they threw them in for no extra charge. By this time they were so flustered they forgot to ask for the down payment check (I sent it in later, because I am honest even if they were not). The only thing they managed to do to me was hold up the title/registration for a couple of months, but the DMV and my credit union helped me straighten that out.

    Bottom line: it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t easy, but I got the car I wanted at the price I wanted. It’s a great car. I know I could have saved money by buying used, but unfortunately people who buy this particular car hang on to them for years, and the resale value is high. I could sell the car today, eight years later, for maybe $4,000 less than I paid. This was one case where buying new was the right thing to do.

    One final note – the first thing I did when I got it home was remove every piece of dealer identification from the car – stickers, logos, license plate holders. It amazes me that people pay good money for a car and then drive it around with free dealership advertising on it.


In a followup, Dana disclosed the car purchased was a 1998 Subaru Impreza L Sport wagon, “bought at Valley Subaru in Longmont, Colorado. I don’t recommend the dealership. The car is the best one I’ve ever owned.”

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