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Done Deal

How to Lose a Customer

The editor shares a story of good intentions gone wrong. He believes there’s a learning lesson for all, including himself.

March 7, 2017

So the word around the office is I’m an expert in buying cars. I really detest the title, mainly because I’m really not. I also fear I’ll be held responsible if something goes wrong. Well, something did go wrong. But there’s a lesson to be learned, and I’d like to share it with you.

See, last month, one of my millennial colleagues said she needed a new car and wanted my advice. I told her to check with her bank to see what kind of finance deal she could secure. If she belonged to a credit union, even better, I told her. “F&I managers love to rip up those checks,” I said.

I also encouraged her to check the various lead-gen sites for vehicle reviews and pricing information. I even told her to print out one of those price certificates from TrueCar or Edmunds and take it with her to the dealership. Finally, I endorsed the purchase of a vehicle service contract, explaining that being open to such protection could serve as an additional bargaining chip.

None of this got her excited. To her, buying a car was a hassle. And, well, that’s exactly what it became.

Of course, my colleague ignored most of my advice and pulled the trigger President’s Day weekend. Apparently, she and a friend, whom she described as an astute negotiator, did the deal via text.

“I need to find the best deal for me,” read one of the texts. “I’m going to speak with some dealers and see if I can find someone that will accommodate my needs.”

The salesperson asked what her needs were. “I need to be at five years and 60,000 miles, bumper-to-bumper, for under $18,000,” she responded. Yup, she negotiated the price of the vehicle and service contract together. The salesperson met her price and she thanked him. “You’re welcome,” he wrote back. “You owe me coffee.”

At some point, the salesperson informed her that the vehicle had custom paint, which meant an additional $300 charge. She said the color wasn’t important and asked him to put her on another car. Instead, the salesperson agreed to waive the charge, and she agreed to the deal.

Well, by the time she drove off the lot, the out-the-door price rose by almost $2,000. An email was waiting for me when I returned to the office after the holiday weekend.

“I need your advice,” the email read. “After spending the entire day at the dealership, I bought a new car. But I’m realizing now that everything I had negotiated with the sales guy wasn’t relayed over to the financing guy. … To be completely honest, I was so tired from spending so much time bartering with the guy that I let my guard down and just signed. I realized after the fact that the finance guy swindled me. Please help.”

I figured that the deal she negotiated over text didn’t include taxes, and I was right. But there was something else. Listed under “Cash Price Accessories” was the $300 charge for the custom paint. Trying to make her feel better about the deal, I told her the dealership did charge an acceptable doc fee and that she got a great price on the service contract. I also told her that, according to TrueCar, she got an “Exceptional Price” on the vehicle.

But nothing helped. She wanted the deal she thought she negotiated, and who could blame her?

My advice to her was to contact the general manager and calmly ask that the deal be rewritten to what she and the salesperson negotiated over text. But I told her to be prepared to accept an alternative solution, noting the dealership is under no obligation to unwind the deal since the contract has her signature. She left a couple of voicemails, but a week went by and no call back. I told her she may have to handle the situation in person, but I knew deep down that wasn’t going to happen.

My friend refuses to drive the car. It now sits in her garage, reminding her every day that dealers can’t be trusted — even though the office’s car-buying expert told her there was nothing to fear. The unfortunate part about this situation is the dealership will never know about her dissatisfaction or how a few oil changes could have made things right.

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Author Bio

Gregory Arroyo

Executive Editor

Gregory Arroyo serves as executive editor for F&I and Showroom magazine.

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