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Dealer Scams and Intimidation (Big name auto group dealerships)

rmedin12 rmedin12
New User | Posts: 2 | Joined: 11/14
Posted: 11/08/14
07:13 PM


I'm new to this board but I just wanted to post my most recent experience. I apologize for the length but feel the need to be extremely descriptive. I hope this serves to help others.

I have been searching for a new (used) car for almost two months with nothing to show for it. I've spent a couple hundred dollars having various vehicles inspected only to be disappointed (though I recognize in the long run that I'm better off getting this third party inspection). The first car that I found that I liked enough to purchase was located in NY but the dealership is part of an auto group with a branch 30 min away from me. I contacted their customer service and asked about having the car xfered for inspection/purchase. I was instructed to visit my local branch. There I was told that I needed to put down a 500 dollar deposit to hold and transfer the vehicle. After insuring that I had written documentation that my deposit was fully refundable dependent on inspection, I happily obliged. I was told to expect the car in three days. I call the dealership in 3 days time to verify the cars arrival. They told me it was not there yet, that it will be there tomorrow. Ten minutes later I receive a phone call from a different salesperson who informs me that SOMEONE ELSE has placed a hold on the car and if that person chooses not to buy it, they will have the car xfered to me. The call then "disconnects" (??) and when I tried to call back for an explanation I was put on hold for 3 min and again the call "disconnected." At that point it was late so I decided to go to the dealership in person the following day. Upon my arrival I immediately tell them that I was my deposit back and that I'd like an explanation of how a car with a hold/deposit down on it could have possibly been reserved by SOMEONE ELSE. At that point the salesman admits that it was put on hold for an EMPLOYEE for purchase at the other branch. I reiterate that I want my deposit refunded. Im left alone to wait for nearly 30 minutes. They come back and explain that they couldn't find my receipt. Not to worry, I had all of my proof and documentation. They then FINALLY refunded me.

I took that deposit and immediately went to another dealership. I found a comparable vehicle that I liked and informed the salesman that I would like to buy and am capable of buying at any point if the car/price is right but that I am not desperate to purchase. I take a quick look at a jeep, snap some pictures, talk some specs, and tell him ill return tomorrow. I return the next day and take the car for a test drive and place a deposit down on the vehicle and arrange for my mechanic to inspect it. The earliest he could squeeze me in was in 3 days on Saturday morning. The salesman had no issue with that. He then introduces me to another employee who I didn't realize at first was the F&I manager. Suddenly I find myself sitting in front of this guy who's talking to me about interest rates and financing. I tell him I don't want to talk about financing before I've even had the vehicle inspected. I do let him know that regardless I have outside financing but at this point this whole conversation is moot because I haven't gotten the okay from my mechanic yet and haven't even had a chance to talk numbers with the salesman. (Am I wrong here? Seriously why would I hand over my SSN to someone for a car I'm not sure is good to buy??? and why would I talk financing when I haven't even discussed sales price???) At this point though, everyone was polite and I left.

This morning (Saturday) I go to the dealership as arranged at 8:30 am to pick up the car for inspection. My mechanic finds a couple of problems but overall found it to be in good condition. He made a couple of notes and provided an estimate of the cost of repairs- nothing super major. He gave the okay to purchase. I return to the dealership and was asked how the inspection went. I let them know it went well but that my mechanic did find a couple of little issues. The salesman asks to make a copy of my inspection report and says they are going to have their mechanics go over everything. I agree to come back in a couple of hours. When I do, I am made wait for 30 min. Then the General Manager sits down with me and goes over the mechanic notes and the corrections they made. I let them know everything sounds good and tell him I'd like to speak with the salesman I was working with to try to work out a price. Again I am made to wait. Suddenly the F&I manager comes in and sits down NEXT TO ME at the desk so close so that I actually got up and pulled my chair away from him. The salesman comes in and sits immediately across from me. I was literally backed into a corner. My salesman who until this point had been extremely personable and friendly and accommodating was surprisingly silent. He literally said nothing. The F&I manager, however, proceeded to for lack of better words, violate me. He puts down a sheet of paper with numbers and interest rates and charges and I ask him politely to take things one at a time. I told him I wanted to focus on the bottom line car purchase amount to start. He tells me there is ZERO room for negotiation in the asking price. Needless to say I was surprised but I simply responding by asking him to please explain to me how he came to his valuation of the vehicle value. He tells me he pulled a variety of sources. I ask again which ones. He does not give me an answer. At that point I pull out from my folder valuations from Black book, Clear book, Edmunds, and the KBB valuation that the salesman had given me originally (which I knew was inflated). I had the car fax which had an accident reported on it (My mechanic checked everything and found no structural damage and everything was repaired correctly, however I do know that an accident diminishes the value of a vehicle. I put all of my research in front of the F&I guy and tell him that while I recognize that he needs to make a profit, I am fully aware of the fact that the valuation they placed on the vehicle is highly inflated. I asked him to please justify that valuation. At that point he became increasingly more aggressive. He began speaking loudly and very quickly, gesticulating with his hands in a very aggressive manner. He tells me he paid 9000 on trade in for the car and put 800 of work and then marked it up by over a grand. Again I asked him to justify his 9000 valuation on the trade-in which was significantly higher than the Black Book. He tells me he gave a customer 9000 because they were buying a 25000 car. He then says that I wasted their time and that if money had been a concern I should have spoken to them about it days ago. I repeat that I did not see the point in negotiating a price before my mechanic gave the okay on the vehicle but that I have been very prompt with them and have not been leading them on. I tell him again that I am ready to purchase the vehicle but I want to pay for a fair valuation. He tells me that not only did I waste his time but I wasted my money on a mechanic (because the car is in perfect condition he claims) and that I wasted his money because he needed to have his mechanics reinspect it. I tell him that thats not really a concern of mine. I am entitled to have a third party mechanic inspect it and if their team needs to go back in and fix a few things then that charge is his to eat (NOT MY FAULT).

At that point though Im already feeling incredibly pressured. Not only do they literally have me backed into a corner, flanked on either side in close proximity by larger, older men, but, one is raising his voice at me accusing me of costing him money while the other is sitting silently in front of me nodding along. Then the F&I manager starts presenting me with some APRs and monthly payments. Again, he was speaking so fast I was having trouble following along but I do catch that he's talking about a significantly longer term than I had intended. I remind him I had outside financing but he says he knows he can beat their rate because he has a special relationship with this lender. I ask him which lender, but he will not tell me. I ask him how he can even offer me such low interest rates without running my credit, he says its  based on the car not on my credit. I ask why a lender would loan blindly based on the car rather than credit.. Im then told its an estimate dependent on approval and the APRs may be higher in the end. By that point I had three different sheets filled with APRs and term lengths and monthly payments etc etc etc with notes scribbled all over them. I became so overwhelmed. I asked them to please give me some space to think. The F&I manager told me I needed to make a decision because they wanted to put the car back out on the lot. I took some space and it was like the veil dropped. I was able to catch my breath and I realized exactly what was happening. I realized that even though I prepared myself and educated myself, they were still trying to strong arm me and manipulate me. I go back in and my original salesman sits down with me and tries to make small talk about the weather. NOW he has something to say but when I was getting verbally berated by the F&I manager he was mute. I tell him that Im sorry if he feels that I have waisted his time but that I am happy to buy right now on the spot if I can wrap my head around the numbers but unfortunately the numbers aren't adding up to me. He asks me which numbers Im having a problem with. I tell him a. the asking price, again because of the inflated valuation. b. the high fees (one of which was just abbreviated) and c. the financing.

Specific to the fees, I tell him that Im astounded at their 500 doc fee and that while I know CT doesn't place a cap on documentation fees, they are charging far higher than the state average (by nearly 200 dollars). Then I ask him to explain this mystery abbreviated fee. He said that fee is for safety inspection and getting the car ready for sale. I asked him to please show me an invoice or an itemization of the costs of the safety inspection and car preps that would amount to the hundreds of dollars they were charging. He said he could not. If I hadn't known already that they weren't being transparent I was painfully aware of it then. I just felt really sad and disappointed because I had allowed myself to think that the salesman WANTED to sell me the car and badly as I WANTED to buy it.

Finally I told him straight up that all of these tactics may work with other buyers but Im an educated consumer. He admitted that he realized that the moment he saw me walk in with a folder in my hands that day (maybe that explains the sudden shift in treatment and disposition). I tell him first of all that I am fully aware of the value and condition of the vehicle. Secondly, I will not pay undocumented, frivolous fees. (He offered to get rid of the random abbreviated fee- too little too late). Lastly I tell him I know exactly how dealer financing works. I told him that Im fully aware of the fact that they arrange lower APRs with lenders and then collect a FINANCE RESERVE on a low interest rate by raising it by X number of percentage points before I sign off on it. I told him that even if he could beat my rate, I wasn't going to fall for that because they'd still be making a lot of money on the inflated value and on the back end financing. I tell him I'm disappointed but that I am not emotionally invested in the car and am going to choose to walk away. I asked him to return my deposit, which he did without issue. He tells me to let him know if I find something else on their website that appeals to me. I tell him to give me a call if he decides he's actually willing to be fair and negotiate (I'm not expecting a call).

Best part is, I walk out of the dealership and my car was BLOCKED IN by one of the dealer cars. UM WHY???? There were parking spots just a couple of spots away, it was by no means over crowded in the lot. Explain to my why they parked a dealer car immediately perpendicular to my car. I had to wait another 10 minutes for someone to move the car out of my way.

What upsets me is that I was NEVER given an opportunity to negotiate. I was by no means trying to be difficult. All I asked them was to explain their numbers. I was happy to buy IF the numbers made sense to me. I didn't have a limit necessarily but Im smarter than to allow myself to knowingly walk out upside down on a loan by financing more than the car is worth. I feel its important for me to note that I was prepared to put 5000 cash as a down payment. I have good credit and a steady job working for the only free standing children's medical center in the state. I am incredibly educated and simply enough able to do my research before signing my name to anything! Mama didn't raise no fool! However, I feel truly that I was treated the way I was because I am young (early 20s) and female and attempting to make a purchase on my own. Would I have been treated that way had I been a man? Who's to say. All I know is I left there feeling so incredibly violated and broken down. I felt not only misled by salesman but bulled by F&I. The worst of it is that for a moment there I almost gave in and consented the numbers. I started to doubt myself and question whether or not I was being difficult. I felt guilty for waisting their time! I nearly gave in just to make them ease off of me. THANK GOODNESS I had prepared enough to eventually recognize what was happening and to walk away. I hope others can learn from my experiences. Unfortunately, I still have no car and am out hundreds in mechanics fees (over these last few months of car shopping) but I saved myself thousands in *** interest and charges by walking away from this deal. These dealerships I visited were no mom and pop shops or buy here/pay here corner lots. I was worked over by "reputable" big name dealerships! Needless to say I am not looking forward to my next dealer negotiation. Im thinking I should just buy a bus pass!

This is my first purchase and I am open to constructive criticism. If I am being difficult please tell me so. I just genuinely felt that I was being fair and hoping for transparency. Maybe thats the problem?  

Trey S. Trey S.
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 01/17
Posted: 01/23/17
06:50 PM

Wow. I'm sorry this was your first experience buying a car. Usually, buying a car from a dealership isn't that terrible. I mean it can be bad, but your experiences were terrible.

Overall, it sounds like you did the right things. You researched the vehicle values, so you had a pretty good idea of the price you'd like to pay for the vehicles. You had a 3rd party mechanic that you could trust to look at vehicles for you.

I think the best thing you did is when you didn't feel comfortable, you walked away. That is the best advice I could ever give anyone. You have to remember that when someone is trying to sell you something, they are on their "A" game or best behavior. If you don't feel comfortable with them while you're trying to buy the car, just imagine how it will be when you have an issue and need their help after the sale!

As for your 1st dealership, that is a bad situation for everyone. As a salesperson, there is no worse feeling than getting a deposit from a customer or telling a customer that a vehicle is available, only to find out another customer has put a deposit on the same car. Unfortunately, since they are used cars, they can't replicate it. The only 2 things that I would be critical of that salesperson/dealership is the lack of communication and taking some time/effort required to give your deposit back. The one thing you have to do in that situation is communicate with your customer about the situation, no matter how bad of a feeling it is. Plus, when you have sold the car and the other customer wants their deposit back, you give it them. That's just common sense.

Moving to the 2nd dealership. I agree with you that the F&I manager should not have been involved in the process at all. That's putting the cart before the horse. Some dealerships are setup where the salespeople aren't very experience and aren't very well trained, so they depend on the F&I managers to "close" all the deals. That doesn't excuse what happened, but maybe gives a reason for it.

I think you'll find a lot of salespeople don't know how to really negotiate. A majority of salespeople shut down as soon as they see a customer with a folder in their hand. The thought of a prepared customer terrifies them. That salesperson should have been able to justify their price and fees, and at the very least let you make an offer on the vehicle based on your research.

One piece of constructive criticism I would give you would be about the financing. There are a lot of variables, but I would tell you to keep any open mind about financing thru the dealership. Let's pretend that you came to a fair price with the salesperson at the 2nd dealership and the F&I manager wasn't a jerk. Say you got pre-approved at your bank or credit union for 3% for 60 months. What if the F&I manager was able to get you 2% or 2.5% for 60 months? Will the dealership make a profit because their bank/credit union will pay them? -- Yes, they will. But at the end of the day, you'll get a loan at a lower interest rate. A few things to be careful of when doing the financing thru the dealership - A. Don't let them send you to 10 different banks. 3-5 is plenty depending on your situation. B. If you were planning on purchasing any warranties or GAP insurance, make sure you find out what the dealership will charge you for those. Remember, they are negotiable too (in most states). Whether or not you want to buy those is an entirely different subject, which could have an equally long response.

I'm sorry this was your first car buying experience, but you certainly learned a lot. You should be proud about the research you did, and you should be extremely proud of the composure you had at the dealerships. I would tell you most people would have bought the vehicle when pressured.

Hopefully this helps. Feel free to ask any specific questions you have.

Trey S.
Calloway Auto Buying  

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