Toyota Dealer Won't Sell You A Car Because You're "In A Bad Mood"

Toyota enjoys their reputation for great customer service, but does that mean they should stop selling cars to cranky customers who might complain? We don’t think so, but at least one Toyota dealer in Berkeley, California did just that. Berkeley Toyota refused to sell a car to one of our readers because he and his wife were “in a bad mood,” and made the salesman “feel like dirt.”

It started when J and his wife called Berkeley Toyota to ask if they had a gray Prius with a certain options package available. The salesman said they did, and they made an appointment to see the car. When they arrived at the dealership, they found out that there was, in fact, no available gray Prius. That’s when things got weird.

From J’s website:

Javier returned about five minutes later and told us that the car he assured us was available on the phone had actually been damaged and needed repairs before they would sell it to us. Mr. Rios said his manager noticed that we “were upset or in a bad mood,” and wanted to be sure we would be happy.

Of course, we were not happy about coming in to the store to discover the car we wanted wasn’t available. We told Javier on the phone exactly what we wanted, we had already researched the car and wanted to close the deal, not re-negotiate the deal or be offered a different color. They didn’t have the car they promised us available, so we left.

My wife phoned Mr. Rios a few hours later to ask what the manager might have meant by that comment about us being in a bad mood. She explained that at this point she was interested in ANY Prius with a Package #2 and a dark interior, and she was willing to come back in to discuss another color. Javier agreed and said that he would look into what was available and call her back.

Imagine her shock when Javier phoned back a few minutes later (presumably after discussing it with his manager) to say that he “feels uncomfortable selling us a car” since we were so angry and that her husband made him “feel like dirt” on the phone. She reminded him about the circumstances of our experience–that we were ensured that the car was there, that we had no time to negotiate, that we could come right in and sign the papers if they had the car we wanted, and that we were rightfully upset. Nevertheless, Mr. Rios insisted that he could not sell us a car, that he was uncomfortable taking our business.

J suspects that because Toyota ties compensation to customer satisfaction, that explains the salesman’s odd behavior. What do you think? —MEGHANN MARCO

Berkeley Toyota Refuses To Sell Woman A Car [Measurement]
(Photo: Beige Alert)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MeOhMy says:

    If that were me, they wouldn’t have to refuse my business – as soon as I learned that the salesman told me a baldfaced lie just to get me on the lot, they’d never see my face again, that’s for sure.

  2. bluebuilder says:

    I have a feeling that there is more to this story than the customer is saying. I think you would have to really have been a serious prick to make a car salesman not want to do business with you.

  3. thejbs says:

    wait, car salesmen don’t always feel like dirt?

    ok jokes aside, this is a strange tale – if the couple berated and verbally abused the salesman, then I commend him for not wanting to do further business.

    If they expressed their frustration honestly and were willing to move on in good faith and weren’t being two a-holes buying a Prius, then the response is strange.

    Why not just work with another salesman? or the manager?

    and to the original issue – if there is some t-and-switch BS going on – go somewhere else. I’m sure you can find another place to by a Prius in Berkeley!

  4. B says:

    I think it’s a pretty good idea not to spend $20+K when you’re in a bad mood. Surely there are other dealers in the area, ones that have gray Priuii that haven’t been involved in accidents.

  5. SOhp101 says:

    The old bait and switch? If any dealership does that to you, STAY AWAY. Buy from another dealership. There’s plenty of alternative dealerships that are actually ‘honest.’

  6. TedSez says:

    While Toyota does have a reputation for good customer service, their dealerships are also famous for unhelpful/haughty salespeople. I guess you can afford that kind of attitude when you’re company’s cars are so popular (though they’d better hope it stays that way).

  7. homerjay says:

    I agree that there is clearly more to this story. It takes a LOT for a car salesman to turn away business but its not a dumb move to refuse service to someone who you expect will be way more trouble than they’re worth. This may be the case here.

  8. Chris says:

    It’s a little lame, but sometimes it’s better to just cut off a relationship that’s started on the wrong foot. Maybe the manager found that the salesman had misrepresented something (or just felt that the customer believed that was the case), and didn’t want to have the whole deal come undone later.

    Good for the dealer for avoiding a problem, really. The customer is obviously free to go elsewhere, where he’ll feel better about the experience.

  9. mikesfree says:

    I expect that they move a lot of these cars out in California. That said, if he didnt want to deal with them, he could probably sell it to the next bloke wanting the battery powered econo/penaltybox.

    If you dont like the dealer, do business somewhere else and tell everyone you can how much you hate them.

  10. Lots of car dealerships get paid based on those customer satisfaction surveys… for their bonuses. The dealership is probably borderline negative already. Find another dealership.

  11. jwismar says:

    I bought a Toyota a few years back, and at that time, ALL of the people at the dealership were very paranoid about their customer satisfaction scores. I had three or four different employees mention, “You’ll be receiving a customer satisfaction survey in the mail, and I’d really appreciate it if you would give me a ‘5’.” I thought that was pretty unprofessional, really, and was tempted to mark them down just for that reason. In the end, though, the only person I gave a bad score to was the salesman, who was a bit of a jerk.

  12. gorckat says:

    Reading the story at the originating blog illuminates their frustration a bit-

    They got to the dealership and had to wait 2- (35?) minutes for the salesman to bring the car around. When he showed up without the car, he was saying they sold a Prius meeting their requirments a few days earlier and the other hadn’t been checked over by the service dept yet (the service manager said he can do a car in an hour and a half the day it arrives, if they need to).

    They filled out a credit app before finally being told it was going to be a few days due to damage and repairs.

    I’d be hot at that point. My wife and I got snowed by a salesperson who said they’d accept our third-party financing, but slipped a credit app into the paperwork that my wife filled out not realizing what it was. They then refused us a car since we didn’t qualify for Toyota financing, even though we had paperwork showing approval for our loan.

  13. Ass_Cobra says:

    I’m in the more to the story camp. I’m guessing that the salesman made an honest mistake, there is a grey Prius, it just likely wasn’t flagged as damaged. There’s no mention of them being offered another car (to substantiate the bait and switch allegations) just that well the dealer wants to repair the car before they sell it.

    Just because you’re buying something expensive from someone does not give you the right to treat them indecently. Plus if a transaction was going to be nixed for bad vibes I can’t think of anything more stereotypically perfect than a Prius purchase in Berkeley

  14. d0x says:

    I also agree we arent getting the whole story. You can pretty much punch a car salesman in the face and he will still sell you a car…

    Hell if i was a car salesman and you said you would buy the car I’d let you hit me if the commission was right.

    They must have done something or acted like total jerks to get this reaction. It is possible the salesman did make a mistake..after all they are only subhuman.

  15. Greeper says:

    I’m a small business (cabinet design) owner and on several occasions I’ve said, thanks but no thanks. Usually it’s bc the person is obnoxious but a few times the person had a demanding demeanor and I could tell they would be the type who complains about a nick on the back of the cabinet box (the part covered by the countertop) or something like that. So I just said no even though I had no real basis for doing so. And I feel good about that. (My brother owns a pizzaria and when someone complains about greasy pizza he politely bans them forever…no soup for you!!!!)

  16. typetive says:

    I find it hard to believe that someone selling a Prius (which are not that easy to come by) is refusing a sale based on what they think their customer approval rating will be. Toyota dealers have been reaming customers because of the high demand for the Prius for three years – they sell the cars for far over MSRP and force options at a premium (pin-stripes, upgraded rims, leather) that no one wants.

    My jaded guess would be that they had better “marks” for those cars and didn’t want to waste their time with some savvy buyers.

  17. formergr says:

    It’s weird that the couple was so adamant that they only would entertain a grey Prius, but then when they were home and called the manager for clarification, all of a sudden they were ready to entertain all sorts of colors with dark interior.

    I think the calling the manager back was already weird– if you feel you’ve been baited and switched, write off the place and find another. Why would you be concerned what the manager thought of you?

  18. schvitzatura says:

    J.D. Powers be damned…I have my down payment, give me the #!@^$*& hybrid!

    California culture or some Japanese harmonious “hammer the nail that sticks up” sensibility in operation here. Geez louise!

    This sounds too much like an episode of Curb, to be real.

  19. dculberson says:

    I also have a hard time believing we have heard the entire story. Yes, the dealer made a mistake initially, but I’m willing to bet the customer did more than honestly and coolly explain their discomfort. And if you fly off the handle at someone, you should expect them to treat you differently or even refuse to service you. I would, and I’m not in that industry.

    Two keys to a situation like this:

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”


    “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

    I refuse to treat someone like a jerk even if they wrong me. I leave and take my business elsewhere. If they didn’t truly wrong you, then you have less to apologize for later, and if they did, you don’t reward them for their behavior. But always treat others like a human being.

  20. zyphbear says:

    Well, while the story is slightly odd, I know some sales reps have a history of being rude and disrepectful to the customer for no reason.

    Example: in 2000, my parents decided they wanted to switch from a station wagon to a mini-van to fit the family and have extra room. They had a White 1998 Ford Taurus Wagon (new when bought), they went to one of the local Ford dealers, wanted to trade it in toward the new mini-van, the salesperson at the dealer told them, and I quote “that car is just a TURD and isn’t worth anything. I won’t even bother trying to get the trade in value. If You want to get a car, you’ll have to pay for it on it’s own with no trade in.” My Parents tried getting a supervisor, but no one wanted to help them for some reason. So They left.

    While the car was used by a family, it was still very nicely treated (no teens had driven it yet either!) and kept clean, when detailed, it was very hard to tell it was pre-owned. They went to another Ford dealer in the area and got a HUGE chunk (something like $8-10K for only a 2 year old car was still pretty nice) taken off the mini-van they then ended up buying.

    Our Family had gone back to that second Ford dealer and gotten at least another 4 cars over the next few years, we were loyal customers until most of the staff was changed because they focused on customer service and the new reps didn’t care. About a month ago, the dealer decided to retire and closed the dealership. But that’s how to get and keep a customer.

  21. KevinQ says:

    Even if all the facts are as J suggests, “being denied a car because the salesperson doesn’t like my demeanor” is really low on my personal list of customer service issues to get upset about.

    They’re a private business, and as long as they’re not discriminating against protected classifications (race, gender, etc) they can do business with anybody they want, for any reason.

    Seems like a non-issue to me.


  22. kimsama says:

    Nuh-uh. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called to confirm something I wanted was available and the person on the phone swore up and down that it was available, only to come in and have it not be. This only happens with (1) total crap customer service (in which case I write it off and find a new place for my business); or (2) when they are trying to pull a bait-and-switch (in which case I blow my lid and never return).

    I highly suspect the latter was what happened, and good for the customers for complaining and probably pitching a fit when the dealership out and out lied to them and wasted their time, but bad for them for trying to go back and buy from the dealership later. That is totally confusing, and just makes me wonder why they wouldn’t go somewhere else (unless they were trying to bait Javier and waste his time this round).

  23. JayDawg says:

    Compensation is certainly affected by customer satisfaction scores. You should be able to knock a couple hundred bucks off the price by promising good satisfaction ratings.

  24. Itch says:

    Calling back the manager and saying that your criteria has changed isn’t -that- strange. Especially if your needs have changed or you have an immediate need.

    Last August my wife and I placed 500 down for a 2007 Honda Civic of specific color and conditions. We knew we were being picky (more me than her) and were able to wait for what we asked for. Delivery was scheduled to be beginning of November, when they were to be released. Well the day it was to “arrive” at the dealer we were called and told that Honda does not make the combination of options we wanted, despite promises from both management and sales folk.

    Needless to say we didn’t buy from them, directly. One phone call got back our deposit, one more to another dealer found a car that matched 75% of our criteria, and we were done. But we had a need, which lead to that change.

    At the same time, I can also believe dealerships being driven by happiness metrics. I’ve heard many stories the past few years saying that the scores on customer surveys being critical to getting bonus or even maintaining their jobs. I would figure the last is an exaggeration but it keeps with what others have been saying.

  25. Dr. Eirik says:

    Reminds me of a short but cruddy experience with a Toyota dealer a few years back. My wife and I were expecting our first child and we were trying to decide what to do about her car, she was driving a Saturn coup that was just not going to work for long and I had a small SUV. We planned at the time to replace my car with a sedan and she’d take the Tribute.

    We went to look at Camrarys, and the dealer acted like we were completely wasting his time. He did show us a car, but he made it very clear he wanted to be with a customer who had money.

    Until, as we were leaving, my wife mentioned I was a doctor.

    Suddenly, we were best friends and he finally showed interest in selling us something. By that time, we’d already soured on the dealership and left.

    Ended up keeping the Saturn until our second child and bought her a used Dodge Caravan.

  26. dkinney3 says:

    I agree we need to hear more. I do know about dealer ratings, my local Mazda dealer said to bring in report form and they will fill out and give me a free oil change, so when I bought my new 07 MX-5, I did and they did. They also did when I bought my wife a 2002 protege. I would like to hear “the rest of the story” sometime.

  27. gardencat says:

    Yes this is an odd story. I would like to hear the dealerships in depth point of view on why they refused to do business based on a bad mood.

    If I had been treated the way this couple had been…my first response would be to walk out the door saying, “Okay no problem, I’ll just take my business somewhere else.” End of story.

  28. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    I’ll have a serving of “more to the story” and a side of “but maybe it was just the dealer”. Customers who go over the top rarely reflect on their own behavior, and may be unaware of how out-of-bounds they were, or simply deny it, unable to let go of the assumed righteousness of their rage.

    On the other hand… the one and only time that I ever talked to a Toyota dealer was the worst experience that I’ve ever had with a car salesman. My then-wife and I were looking for small sedans, and had a number of dealerships on our list. Things went OK until we told him that we’d think about it while we looked at other makes and models. “What’s there to think about?”, he replied rather petulantly. I said something about wanting to research that particular make/model/year on the web, and he started ranting about how everybody had to look everything up on the goddamned internet these days, and actually followed my wife and I out of the car lot and to our car, whining all the time.

  29. Amsterdaam says:

    Hey, they were trying to buy a Prius, the salesman did them a favor.


    But seriously folks, there has to be something not being said here, because regardless of how satisfied the customer is, that is still one more car off the lot and I think Toyota would prefer it that way.

  30. Ayrton Senna says:

    There’s more to the story. Guaranteed.

    Next point:
    The salesman may have some small bonus attached to his CSI (customer satisfaction index) scores, but probably not. These scores, however, are hugely important to the dealership. At one extreme, excellent CSI results in big trophies and considerable sums of manufacturer $upport. At the other, not only can a store be denied said money, but the lack of that support can entirely determine their success or failure.

    Furthermore, the “all 5’s” (a perfect review) is requested because, almost universally, a manufacturer regards customer surveys as pass or fail — anything other than “excellent” is binned regardless of the glowing praise which might surround it.

    I’ve asked customers to leave the store before if they’ve been especially rude to a salesperson. I’ve never regretted those decisions, but I can assure you that a negative CSI score never came into my reasoning. At the end of the day, selling the cars is what matters most, and a customer has to be a REAL wanker to avoid being sold.

  31. tinymon says:

    As a business owner I have often, ok three times, told customers that I would not sell to them and to never come back. Each time I received so many positive comments from others in the store that it actually provided me more business.

    If you’re a butthead you should be denied everything in life. That way there would be fewer buttheads…Either because you got the message and started being nicer or you simply died.

  32. mathew says:

    When I was buying our Prius I had all kinds of crappy experiences locating one. It was the first time I had actually purchased a car, and given that I had the money in cash in my checking account and would settle for any package with GPS in any color except black, I was expecting it to be a pretty straightforward process. I was also interested in buying the extended warranty, so I thought the dealers would practically be falling over themselves to prostrate themselves at my feet. Oh, boy was I wrong.

    There were dealers who didn’t respond to inquiries. Dealers who wanted a non-refundable deposit for the privilege of joining a months-long queue. Dealers asking $3k over MSRP.

    Did find a good dealer in the end, and they got me the car in a month. Autofair Toyota in New Hampshire. Great folks, if anyone in New England is looking to buy a Prius.

  33. Who says a business has to sell you something? There has to be more…

  34. J.D. Roth says:

    I have a feeling that there is more to this story than the customer is saying.

    Just another voice in the chorus here. This is way too one-sided, and there’s obviously something missing.

  35. emax4 says:

    I agree that the salesman did the right thing, but yes, there is probably more to the story, and custys do forget to mention their own mistakes. If you were the salesman and had goals to meet, would you want to deal with pricks just to close the deal? Keep in mind that you want to keep a customer that will keep coming back, and with these customer’s attitudes, you probably wouldn’t see them again or even expect them to come back.

    I worked in a music store for a few years and had similar customers. There were only a few of them like this but I refused to deal with them because they were pricks. It’s not worth trying to make an effort to please them when they’re already pissed. What would you do if you were the salesman? Do you approach people in general who look pissed or upset or do you generally play it safe and stay away from them?

    I thought every business in America had the right to refuse service to anyone.

  36. welby345 says:

    I don’t know. There may not be anything else to this. I have had soem horrible experiences at dealerships before. Things like this are always hard to beilev. Imagine the girl who had the word “dyke” on her receipt. How many people would have beleived her had she lost the rececipt and had no proof?

    Even if we did ask the delaership, do you really think they would tell the truth?

  37. It’s Berkeley – all bets on normal human beings are off.

    (and yes, I did my time there).

  38. I’ve done a lot of car shopping, and these things stand out: Toyota and Honda salespeople are not that great because they get a lot of people who want cars and most of them get pretty picky on the packages. Most of the time I get the “what do you want” vibe, and I tell them and they say “yes” or “order”.

    but buying new cars is a painful proposition no matter where you live.

    I am waiting for wal-mart to start selling cars (no, i’m serious, and I think it will work).

  39. JNelsonW says:

    There’s definitely a hole in this story, and it strongly suggests “J” was acting like a dick. If not, then its just weird. If so, I say good for the salesperson for realizing their dignity was worth more than one commission.

    As much as I hate bad customer service, people treating customer service personnel like crap is even worse. The misplaced hostility and unearned sense of entitlement of some people revolts me.

  40. sweetpea12 says:

    Regardless, Toyota does seem to have a bad rep in terms of customer service. Here in NJ when we tried buying a car, the first Toyota dealership we went to, they made the Asian guy come talk to us because we were Asian. He didn’t speak coherent English and kept trying to sell us cars we didn’t want. Then the second Toyota dealership we went to, they wouldn’t let us park in the parking lot. They wanted us to park at some restaurant’s parking lot and walk all the way over. They were on a highway, how are we supposed to walk over?? Once they said that we said goodbye and got a different car instead.

    On the other hand, car salesmen are generally scummy. Maybe it’s not just limited to Toyota.

  41. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    The compensation based on the CSI is true at least at the Hyundai dealership I bought 2 cars from. The first saleslady was great first class service and I gladly sent in her CSi with 5’s. but some of the other workers ..not so much. So I scored the dealership differently. They asked me to bring in the CSI to get a free oil change. I did and the Mgr looked it over while I was waiting for my oil change. He comes over and asked about the reason I marked things down for different departments. I told him of my experiance and he tried to bribe me into changing my survey to all 5’s with free accesories and oil changes. Even the saleslady came over and she had all 5’s becuase if the dealership doesent rate all 5’s nobody gets their $. She said that was how almost %50 of her earnings were made. I relented and changed a few things but told the Mgr next time things had better be better or I wouldn’t buy from them again. 2nd car I bought from them was really a all 5’s experiance, I dont know how much was them actually wanting to do the right thing or that they knew I would give them a bad score..

  42. djsyndrome says:

    “I find it hard to believe that someone selling a Prius (which are not that easy to come by) “

    Hello, and welcome to 2007. Not only are Priuses (Prii?) easy to come by, Toyota is now offering incentives on them.

  43. rbdfoxes says:

    I believe the buyer WITHOUT more story. Two years ago I was shopping for a Honda CRV and was turned out of a large dealership for no real reason.

    I went in with a decent quote from another dealership and said “okay, I have a quote from someone else, what’s your best price?” They said “Show me your quote and I’ll beat it.” I said, “no, just give me your best price and I’ll compare.” And he just said “I’m sorry, I can’t do business with you, please leave.” It was a bit bizarre, but like one person said, they probably sell enough to just to turn away the people who won’t play *their* game.

  44. chickymama says:


    In certain markets there might be more availability, but here in Oregon they are extremely popular. Everytime gas prices go up the new stations contact dealerships about hybrid vehicles and they always state that there is a waiting list (could be a selling tactic but who knows).

  45. TechnoDestructo says:

    Car salesmen pretty much universally put me in a bad mood.

    And how can you get into that business and expect respect?

  46. kalikidtx says:

    Im in the car business, there are many good people and good dealerships in the biz, but many many more ones that are not so good. The come on down we have the car in stock in exactly what you wnat is a classic car salesman lie. And the car was “damaged” is also a classic line. They never had the car and just wanted to get the customer “in the door” so they could sell them something they did have in stock. Also I could see why a salesperson would not want to sell a car to someone in a bad mood. Most car salesmen and paid or their are bonused on what is called “CSI.” Customer Satisfaction Index, and if that customer bought that Prius and gave the salesperson and the dealership a bad score, the salesmen would probably have been in trouble or fired. Deal with a reputable company (a national online auto broker such as CarsDirect) or deal with the Fleet/Internet salespeople at a dealership only. Now they are sometimes as bad as the rest but your best chance is there. Good luck!

  47. Almost a year ago I had signed paperwork for a Toyota submitted to a dealership. I qualified for a loan through Toyota but I found a better interest rate for the loan (through Costco) and asked them to sit on the vehicle (and my 10% deposit) the two days it would take for the check to arrive. The day i received the check they sold the vehicle from under me. Never will I deal with that dealership (Juneau, Alaska) and I doubt I’ll ever buy a Toyota as a result.

  48. derherzeleid says:

    When I worked at a Mercedes dealership, any score below perfect was unsatisfactory, and the dealership needed 90% perfect scores in order to retain funding from corporate. That ended up being a couple million difference from 90% or lower so I can understand why a manager would make that call. There has to be more to the story, because it just seems too weird. If the car was indeed just brought in, it does take a while to check it in, and there is often some sort of paint or etc damage on the cars from being loaded onto the trucks. It happens, more often than you’d expect. Granted, I personally never worked with someone who came in and was going to buy a car off the lot, since that’s not entirely how it works with mercedes. You’d select a color, a model, options, and if it was on the lot, it would take a few days to get detailed and then delivered. Oh, and for some reason, the salespeople always got 5’s because they’d say whatever they had to to get them out, and the service dept would get screwed because promises like expedient service etc would be hard/nigh impossible to fulfill.

  49. xenti says:

    Things don’t get hairy for me until I talk to the finance manager. Last time, after turning down some form of insurance he was trying to sell me for the fourth time, I said “I’ve said “no” four times. If you ask me again, I’m leaving.”

    The ass-hat shut up after that.

  50. jamie02 says:

    This story doesn’t sound odd to me. A salesperson at a Honda dealership did the same sort of thing to me when I tried to buy a CRV. He got me to come to the dealership by saying they had the car I wanted in stock. When I got there, I found out it had been sold several days ago. Since I’d already gone out of my way, I decided to try to reserve a car and purchase it when it came in. I spent several hours there, being switched from person to person, and started getting frustrated when I kept being told that the last person had given me incorrect information and they really couldn’t sell the car/accessory/whatever at the price they offered. (I wasn’t rude, just notably frustrated.) The salesman started asking me how I felt about the way the negotiating process was going, said he didn’t want to sell me a car if I wasn’t happy about the sales process, and eventually said he was sorry he wouldn’t be able to sell me a car. We eventually ended up agreeing on a price, after I got him to stop talking about my feelings–but I think the reason he stopped negotiations the first time was because he was worried about the post-sale customer service call. Apparently the rating you give them can have negative repercussions for them.

  51. dotyoureyes says:

    I doubt this would have happened if they were buying a Corolla or a Tundra — but Priuses sell themselves.

    Why bother picking up an unhappy customer when you can sell the car to a happy one later that day?

    Yes, the dealership screwed up, but when you’re buying a product that’s in short supply, the consumer has very little leverage.

  52. jonahstein says:

    I am the customer in this case as well as a former car salesman.

    I know it is hard to believe, but I wasn’t being a jerk! I wasn’t being difficult (especially), hell, my wife made me promise to be on my best behavior!

    We were a car salesman’s dream. We knew what we wanted, he said he had it in stock, we were ready to pay the price advertised in the newspaper and we have good credit. All of this should be apparent from the fact that we bought a Prius a few days later at Broadway Toyota in Oakland, California). We were ready to buy on a Tuesday afternoon, which is no small thing for a salesman.

    Visit my blog for the rest of the story, but the simple fact is that the salesman decided that the possibility of a bad customer survey outweighed the certainty of selling a car.

  53. katewrath says:

    I believe this story completely, no additions needed. To acquire a car, I visited 10 Toyota dealerships in a one week period (trying to buy a Prius, silly me) and was dumbfounded by the shenanigans.

    Few Priuses, all of them marked up $10K+. Among the other choices were bare bones, ancient cars priced like year old, feature crammed cars–and that’s when I could get a price. Multiple times I had to deal with the “wait here, the manager wants to talk to you” game.

    Never having owned a car, my customer loyalty was up for grabs–and I started out determined to end up with a Toyota of some type. At the end of the week, I owned a Honda Civic. Could have gone the other way, but as it happened, the first Honda dealership I visited was fantastic, so I stopped looking.

  54. Voyou_Charmant says:

    Sounds like one side of a story to me.

    I can understand the frustration of being told one thing to find out another, but it’s absurd to me to think that the exchange stated above is ALL that was said. Certainly some statement was made by the potential customer that made the sales person “feel like dirt”, yet the whole statement is sort of dismissed or glossed over as if it were some completely irrational reaction to someone simply being irritated with bad information.

    I would be interested to hear the sales person side.

  55. rogers5275 says:

    I experienced something very much like this in Tallahassee, Florida at the Toyota dealership here. I came in driving my 96 Tacoma that needed some work on it. While it was in the shop waiting I went up front to talk to the sales people. Despite driving that old of a car (and cheap), my wife and I are pretty well off. I owned at the time a successful nightclub and she is a physical therapist. I drive the truck due to good gas mileage and I hate leaving a nice car in a parking lot where lots of people come and go (sort of like Roadhouse but without the slashed tires and broken windshield). As soon as the salesman found out that I was driving the Tacoma, he had no interest in selling me a car. I spoke to one of the managers and she as well had no interest. I wasn’t told to leave or “refused” service, but they put forth no effort to even make a deal. I went to the back, cancelled the work on my truck and drove across town to the Infiniti dealer that we bought my wife’s car from and I asked if they had access to a Toyota through sister dealerships. They replied yes and I bought a new RAV-4 through their other dealership and they faxed all the paperwork to us, and shipped it to us for free. They even said they would do the work on my truck. Excellent customer service there.

  56. Trick says:

    From “Berkeley Toyota Refuses To Sell Woman A Car
    Posted by Jonah Stein under Berkeley Toyota”

    “Javier sat us down and asked my wife to fill out a credit application along with an offer sheet. He took the sheet and went into his manager’s office.”

    That alone was pretty stupid. They should have walked out to the service department and take a look at the car to make sure it is what they want. Any dealer who is not out to screw you will be happy to at least let you look at the car.

    When I bought my 2006 Nissan Titan last march from Santa Barbara Nissan, it was brought up from Fontana Nissan (about 200 miles) and arrived about an hour before I was to pick it up. My salesman walked me to the back, where it was still being washed and let me look it over. I wouldn’t have wasted my time buying it if I wasn’t certain it was what I wanted.

    I think both the dealer and these rubes are lying. The rubes are just trying to get something with this lame complaint they caused on their own.

  57. jonahstein says:


    You say,

    I think both the dealer and these rubes are lying. The rubes are just trying to get something with this lame complaint they caused on their own.

    You seem to think we caused this on our own, which means you are even more cynical than I am. The salesman said he had gone to the off-site lot to pick up the car (they do have a separate facility where they store cars because the dealership is in a downtown area and fairly small. Our only crime was to believe the salesman.

    What I am trying to get is the satisfaction of as many people as possible finding out how Toyota Of Berkeley treats people. Publicizing this experience seems like the appropriate response.

  58. PDQ says:

    I think I’ve got it figured out:

    Go back and read the story posted by the peeved customer and you’ll
    discover that husband had taken off from work and wife had somewhere to
    be, so they were in a hurry that day. Note also that 1) the husband had
    leased a new Prius the month before 2) the wife’s early 90’s Toyota
    (which they bought at Berkley Toyota) was tired and needed to be
    replaced and 3) they had started looking at another Toyota dealership
    three days earlier and that dealership had not followed up with
    husband/wife on finding a silver Prius like the dealership said they would.

    Note also in this Detroit Free Press article that Toyota started
    offering buyer incentives on the Prius at the end of January which ran
    through the end of February due to supply of Prius vehicles exceeding

    The husband posted their story on their website February, 27th, one day
    before the end of the incentives. Berkley Toyota was trying to tell
    them that it would take at least three days to process the damaged
    silver car – which would put them out of the incentive period. That
    might have been why the wife was willing to look at other colors and buy
    while she could take advantage of the incentives.

    Whattya think?

  59. jonahstein says:


    I didn’t actually post till the 27th, but we had already bought another Prius by then. My only motive is to get as many readers as possbile to be aware of the story. Toyota of Berkeley didn’t sell us a car because they were afraid of what we would say on the survey about their customer service.

    My sense of Justice/Irony says public opinion will cost them more than a customer survey.

  60. ChrisNYC says:

    This SALESMAN was “made to feel like dirt?” I say that when a customer is promised that they’ll receive a specific item they ask for, and is then snowed by some shyster who tries to sell them something else — it’s the CUSTOMER who’s being treated like dirt. It’s not like you’re buying a $40 sweater. We’re talking about a purchase of 20-40k, that you’ll most likely be paying off for five years. Shouldn’t you get what you want in the damned color you want if that’s the case?

    The subhuman pricks at Toyota of Manhattan in NYC did the same thing to me. I came in and I told them what I wanted. They said with all sincerity that if they didn’t have it or couldn’t locate it, they’d have it BUILT, as long as I put a deposit down, did their financing, and agreed to the price they quoted. I sadi “No problem” across the board. $500 deposit? No problem. 32.5 for the car? Fine. Six to eight weeks to build it? Great. The thing is, after these pricks got my money and put together the build order, they then proceeded not to put the order IN. They lied to my face, then let me dangle for six weeks, and then they made up some story about — get this — a KEY BEING BUSTED ON THEIR COMPUTER! And, “would you take one in another color, a lower trim level, or 2WD instead of AWD”!!

    When I came back to the showroom to get my deposit back (after NINE WEEKS), the inept “nice guy” that I’d dealt with previously was then replaced by a fat, menacing, “bad cop” who literally sat me in a corner and tried to strongarm me in to taking something else. I told him, very quietly, without raising my voice or using any expletives, that I wasn’t interested in anything else but what I’d ordered, and that in the nine weeks of being strung along I’d decided to get another car from another carmaker. This prick then had the nerve to call me “arrogant” because I wouldn’t buy something that I didn’t want. I’ll tell you what’s arrogant. What’s arrogant is thinking that just because you’re the most reliable, most successful car company on earth, you think you can treat your customers like shit and still expect them to keep crawling back to you.