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Unwind Rewind

October 22, 2013

Every time you post a comment to an article we publish online, I get an e-mail from our content management system. Lately, I’ve been receiving quite a few alerts regarding “Unwinding a Deal,” a “Mad” Marv Eleazer column we posted on Aug. 7, 2012. In it, Marv described unwinding as “an accounting nightmare” but identified five situations in which it can be the best choice for you and your customer: spot deliveries, buyer’s remorse, issues of fraud on the part of the buyer, vehicle doesn’t perform as promised and, finally, unmet promises. 

The article received two comments from dealers within a month of its posting. One called it “the most ridiculous thing” he had “ever read.” Another reader posted this comment on Sept. 4, 2012: “If everybody has done their jobs, the customer should be happy.”

I didn’t receive another alert until five months later. This time, it was a car buyer. “What if you get buyer’s remorse but haven’t paid for, financed, picked up or delivered your trade?” he wrote.

“Unless state law requires physical delivery to complete a sale, then you would legally be on the hook; however, there are ways to work out any situation,” Marv responded. “As a dealer, we would much rather move on and just maybe make a future customer out of you rather than hold your feet to the fire and have you trashing us everywhere you go.”

That was just the beginning. Over the next several months, Marv played Dear Abby to 12 disgruntled car buyers — one of whom even asked if he would coach him through a call with the dealership. The guy was a first-time buyer and the F-150 he bought broke down one day after he purchased it.

Next was Brando, the poster who overstated his income before driving off in his spot-delivered 2013 Scion. Well, his income didn’t meet the finance source’s requirements and the dealer, he wrote, accused him of fraud. Knowing the fraud charge was used to scare Brando back into the dealership, Marv simply instructed him to return the vehicle and pick up his trade-in.
There was plenty of buyer’s remorse on Marv’s blog page, too. One woman wanted out of her brand-new Lexus because she felt the ride in her 2002 Avalon was much smoother. “I paid a lot of money for this car, and I would expect it to ride as good as an 11-year-old car,” she wrote.

Here’s how Marv responded: “Even in the short span of 11 years, there [have] been vast improvements in ride technology that puts the driver more in touch with varying road surfaces.” He then wrote that her recourse might be limited since the vehicle didn’t have a mechanical issue.

There was even a poster who only wanted out of the service contract he added to his deal. Marv explained that’s an option anytime but then wrote: “I have this coverage on my personal cars and enjoy the peace of mind it provides.”

Then there was Janice, who claimed she was “talked into” purchasing a 2010 Honda at a “special blowout sale” staged at a Home Depot parking lot. She felt it was an awful deal and wanted out, mainly because her salesperson claimed she was getting $11,000 for her trade-in. But when Janice looked at her copy of the worksheet, she noticed the dealership only paid $8,000 for her trade. Marv suggested she recheck her numbers before returning to the dealership for an explanation.

Lelani purchased what she was told was a new 2013 Kia Forte. The vehicle, however, had 2,500 miles on the odometer. The only thing she could get out of the salesperson was that it was part of an unwound deal. To make things better, the dealer promised a full detail, an offer that went unmet, she wrote.

She also discovered stains in the floor mats, one of which emitted a foul odor. But that was minor compared to what Lelani discovered at the DMV office. Apparently, the vehicle had been previously registered. “That means they blatantly lied to me,” she wrote.

“It’s stories like yours, Lelani, that make my blood boil,” Marv responded. “Now let’s look for a remedy.”

Marv suggested returning to the dealership to see if it could produce the proper paperwork to restore the vehicle’s value to new status. “Now, if they can’t prove it, then you bought a depreciated car and paid for a new one,” Marv wrote. “You have options at this point. Ask them to unwind and walk away."

So how would your dealership respond? And what’s your obligations under state laws? Folks, this is great blog material or, at the very least, the makings of a great Facebook post. Obviously, this is a touchy topic that needs to be addressed carefully, but just know that Marv’s blog is the No. 2 search result when I type “unwind a car deal” into a Google search.

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