“Just let me take care of it,” the man demanded of his companion. “It will be free.”
As my wife and I took our seats at the next table, the man called the waiter over and started loudly berating him because the steak was cold, they were in a rush to make the play, and the service was lousy. The manager appeared and, after a short conversation, agreed to comp the dinner with profuse apologies. I detected smirks on the couple’s faces as they left.
We discussed their gall as we enjoyed our own meal, then headed to our play. To our surprise, the couple was at the same play.
To recap, they smiled while eating steaks, then complained they were cold. They smirked while leaving the restaurant in a rush, then waited close to an hour to gain admittance to the theater.
I spend a little bit of time helping defend dealers who get involved in litigation. In case after case, we are able to make a logical argument that the aggrieved customer was not completely upfront with the dealership during the transaction and, had the truth been known, the dealer would likely not have gone through with it. Many attorneys refer to this as the “dirty hands doctrine.”
So how do you protect yourself? Not an easy question to answer, so let’s start by dividing less-than-honest consumers into two groups.
1. Subprime Issues
There are a couple of theories as to why subprime consumers are far more likely to deceive dealership personnel.
One theory is that they are desperate to obtain financing and will provide or manufacture whatever stip you need to get the deal funded. Another theory is that they are subprime because they look for shortcuts in life and often fail.
The misinformation we’ve used in past cases to support the dirty hands defense include falsified credit applications and manufactured proof of income.
The FTC shut down three fake paystub and stips websites in 2018. Dozens more remain open for business.
To offset this risk, you must take the time to vet the documentation. If the decimals do not line up on the paystub, it might be manufactured. If the time at address is listed as five years, yet the driver’s license was issued six months ago and has a different address, it might not be right on the credit app.
The FTC shut down three fake paystub and stips websites in 2018. Dozens more remain open for business. Your compliance officer should periodically review stored websites on employee’s workstations and block any suspicious ones.
2. Prime Issues
I have also been called as an expert witness in cases involving prime customers who, through a review of the evidence, are making false claims to try to get a free lunch.
Some are like our fellow diners, trying to get something for nothing. Others are perhaps just filing lawsuits to try to extract a settlement to go away. Or, heaven forbid, an attorney needs work!
The best defense in these types of cases is to have the facts on your side. My Law 101 professor constantly drove home the point that, if you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If the facts are lined up against you, become a bully.
Your attorney can best defend you if the paper in your deal is properly executed and supports the fact that you have negotiated and consummated the transaction in a transparent and compliant fashion. We call this the paper or digital trail — the final desking worksheet, menu, buyer’s order, RISC or lease agreement, and product enrollment forms. Agreed to terms must be consistent throughout.
Like it or not, some consumers are looking for freebies. Sometimes we need to slow down, make sure we have the documentation correct, and ultimately protect ourselves against the consumers looking for freebies.
Good luck and good selling.