Joined: Feb 27, 2010
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August 16th, 2018 at 8:52:32 PM permalink
I have just had an unusual experience in purchasing a new car. I thought it might interest/amuse some of you.

My wife and I had been considering various options for a replacement car and had spoken with sales reps at dealerships representing three manufacturers. On Sunday 8/5, we signed a contract to purchase a Honda. The vehicle with the exact combination of features we wanted was listed as being in transit to the dealership, with an expected arrival between 8/7 and 8/9. I advised them that we would be departing on a short Florida vacation on 8/9, and we did.

While we were in Florida, I received a call confirming that the vehicle had arrived and would be prepped and ready for us when we returned home. We arrived home late on 8/13 and went to the dealership the next afternoon to close the deal.

At the closing, two very minor discrepancies appeared. First, the declared selling price of the vehicle had increased from the figures presented to me on 8/5 by a grand total of 23 cents! I asked the salesman (called a “Sales Consultant” at this dealership) and Finance Manager how the heck the price could go up by that amount, but I never got a straight answer to that question. I wasn’t particularly concerned about the $0.23, but the existence of a change at that point seemed like a puzzler to me.

Second, in completing the purchase documentation, I signed a form where I acknowledged that the odometer reading at the time of purchase was an even 80 miles – I hadn’t checked it myself, but that’s what they said it was. Twenty minutes or so later when I sat in the parked car and was receiving explanations on how to operate the gazillion electronic features that I had never had on a car before, I noticed that the odometer read 99 miles. I pointed out this discrepancy to the Sales Consultant, and he asked, “Is that a deal breaker?” I told him it wasn’t but that I was just curious as to who had gone for a 19-mile joy ride while I was either in Florida or was in the Finance Manager’s office signing paperwork. He made up some tale that I didn’t believe, but I let it slide. I wasn’t really concerned about the 19 miles much more than the 23 cents.

I traded in my previous vehicle, had made my down payment on the car using my credit card, and then paid the balance in full with a check for $23,500; i.e., no financing/lien. Earlier that day, I had transferred funds to my checking account to cover that check. I also signed an authorization allowing the dealership to process the check electronically.

That was on 8/14, and mid-day on 8/15 I received a call from a Finance Administrator at the dealership. She said that they had just discovered that they “might” have processed my check electronically not the expected once but twice! I checked my on-line banking records and said that there was not yet any indication that the charge had come through even once. I told her that I did not carry an adequate balance in my checking account to cover an extra $23,500 charge, so something needed to be straightened out and quickly. She said the dealership would try to get any second charge pulled back (if it really existed) and that they would pay any resulting overdraft fees. I followed up that call with one to my bank to advise them of the possible problem, and we discussed appropriate ways to deal with it. The bank representative assured me that they had no indication yet of a charge coming through at all.

This morning, 8/16, I checked my on-line banking and found that my account was overdrawn by almost $19,000. I called the Finance Administrator and reported that their “oops!” had hit the fan. I also reported that I had been reviewing the documentation that I had been given when closing the purchase and realized that I did not have copies of several important documents that I had signed. She agreed to have copies of all of the documents available for me to pick up, and she said that she would have a check from the dealership in the amount of $23,500 for me to pick up at the same time to cover their double charge.

I called my bank again, described the situation, and said I wasn’t at all sure that picking up such a check was a proper way to resolve the matter. The bank rep agreed and said that she would set it up to have the duplicate charge rejected and sent back to the dealership.

I went to the dealership to pick up the missing documents and to tell them to hold that check until I decided whether I should pick it up. I talked to the Finance Administrator (who may not really be much more than a clerk), and she introduced me to a Finance Manager (one of several at the dealership, and a different one than I had worked with at the time of closing the purchase.)

I told that manager about the two minor discrepancies noted above (23 cents and 19 miles). I then told her that double-processing my check and grossly overdrawing my account was not a minor issue at all and could cause me a number of problems. We then went over the purchase transaction and documentation in some detail, and more discrepancies appeared. For one thing, their computer records of the transaction reported a different Sales Consultant and different Finance Manager than the ones who were really involved in the transaction. That seems to be an internal problem at the dealership (possibly involving a salesman getting screwed out of a commission), but it didn’t seem to represent any skin off my nose.

However, another major discrepancy soon raised its ugly head. It seems that the vehicle that they sold me was not the vehicle that I had contracted to purchase! It had all of the features I was expecting, so I hadn’t noticed the problem, but it had a different Vehicle Identification Number.

That discovery initiated a bit of a scramble around the dealership to find out what had happened to the vehicle I had contracted to purchase and what vehicle I had really been driving around. Once again, I was given a tale that could be true, but it wasn’t really convincing. The story went something like how inventory gets moved around between dealerships, and sometimes they have to make changes as to which vehicle gets delivered to a customer. If that happens, the salesman is supposed to advise the buyer in advance of the situation, but that was not the case between my salesman and me. When we finally got copies of all of the purchase documents in front of us, it became evident that the VIN and stock number had been changed on several documents, very likely after I had signed them, because I don’t recall any such numbers having been lined out and handwritten over at the time I was signing.

I had great difficulty believing that an established dealership, one selling cars every day, could screw a transaction up to this extent. But they did. (The Finance Manager assured me that this was not the usual way they conducted business and that they did have a set of checklists to assure that everything was handled appropriately and completely. Except it wasn’t.)

I expressed my displeasure with the way the transaction was handled, but I kept the vehicle and left the dealership with the documentation that I felt I should have had in the first place. I called my insurance agent and reported that the vehicle that I had really purchased did not have the VIN that I had reported to them earlier, based on the preliminary documentation. The insurance agent was as surprised as I was that such a thing could happen at a dealership.

Over these next few days, I will be monitoring my bank account to see how this mess progresses. I will also be interested to check the title and registration that I receive from the DMV to see what vehicle they think I purchased.

Has anyone else experienced such a screw-up by a new car dealership?
Joined: Oct 19, 2009
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August 16th, 2018 at 9:17:28 PM permalink
You are right about the inflated job titles.
Cars come mainly from Car Brokers inventory and dealer's inventory.
Dealerships often try to shop around for a different vehicle (ie, a cheaper one) and use that to fulfill their commitment to you but are indeed supposed to get a signature on the correct VIN. The dealership keeps the price difference, of course.
They will nick a salesman's commission to get a deal to go thru.

I know someone who lives near an unmarked building that is a car broker's inventory. Video cameras EVERYWHERE. Just one side of the building has at least ten cameras aimed at the neighborhood.
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August 17th, 2018 at 5:09:10 AM permalink
Yes, I think they're screwing with you.

Yes, they need to reverse the transaction and repay you immediately for the duplicate charge. Check is not enough.

Yes, they needed to be honest with you, that they had not delivered the exact car that you contracted for, and attempted a cover-up rather than potentially have you cancel the sale.

It matters a lot that they gave you a VIN in advance that you gave your insurance company. It matters a lot that they ran the charge twice, which shows on YOUR bank account. And it matters that there were a half-dozen things wrong and they asked you to accept them rather than making it right. It matters a LOT that you signed acceptance of an odometer stmt and then got a car that didn't match it. In Florida, that's a felony, fwiw.

Mosca is in that business for a long time now. I would suggest you PM him and ask him to look at this and discuss it in detail. He's good people.

IMO they owe you the CARFAX on both cars. That second one might have been titled and returned with problems, or for any number of other reasons. Might not match, feature for feature, what you paid for. Could technically be a used car, for which you paid a new car price/premium. Could even have been in an accident and repaired in those first few miles. Could have been a demo model in another dealership. All of that takes residual value off a car.
If the House lost every hand, they wouldn't deal the game.
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August 17th, 2018 at 5:48:42 AM permalink
BBB said it best, I agree with her 100%.
I am a robot.
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August 17th, 2018 at 5:49:19 AM permalink
The VIN error does happen, but it is rare. Maybe once every 5-10 years I’ve had it happen. Last one I remember was 2006. Carelessness is always the reason: someone writes something down, then it changes and no one tells anyone else. In my last one it was two exactly identical cars, the salesperson had the wrong one cleaned and gassed without checking the VIN plate. The stock numbers were almost the same, like 1344 and 1334, something like that. I saw it happen once where no one discovered it for almost a year (not my deal). Big PITA to fix, two pissed off customers. Glad it wasn’t me.

Had a customer trading in a leased truck a couple years ago, the VIN on the truck didn’t match the VIN on the contract. THREE YEARS. The truck he was driving was much nicer than the one he was paying for, it was a premium package and he was contracted for a base. We couldn’t make the deal because of the error, legally he wasn’t contracted for that vehicle.

The 23 cents? I would take a quarter out of my desk drawer and offer it to the customer.

The 19 miles, who knows. It’s probably related to the VIN error. I doubt anyone was joyriding your car. There are lots of other cars.

I had the credit card error within the last year, but in the other direction. Customer left a sizable deposit on a card, then came in with a check. When I refunded the deposit, the card terminal refunded it twice. The first time through it hung up. I did a batch close, it wasn’t on the ticket so I ran it again. That took almost a month to fix, but the people were really nice and helped a lot with phone calls to the bank and such.

They’re not trying to screw you though, they just screwed up. There’s really no reason to screw you in that way. There’s no way to turn that particular error into money. Hondas don’t come from brokers, they come from Honda. If this one had a lower invoice than another one, who cares, they’re both getting sold and the net is the same. Most new car salesmen don’t work on commission any more, it’s salary and flat per unit.

I would guess, given that the cars are physically identical and there was a different salesperson’s name on the deal, that someone grabbed the wrong folder when you showed up. That would explain all the discrepancies, including the mileage and the 23 cents. The papers in the system say one thing, the stuff you signed says another.
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August 17th, 2018 at 6:01:52 AM permalink
That's nuts, Doc! I have heard of dealer shenanigans, but nothing like this. I've got to agree with everything Babs said above. I'd also be curious if they broke any laws by cashing your check twice.

Also, since it was a different vehicle altogether than the one you agreed to purchase, I would want to verify that it has all the same trim & options that you thought you were getting on the original car.

The last car I bought (a Honda for Mrs. Joeman), I similarly brought the check for the amount we agreed upon to the dealership. When I got there, they said they had made an error in my favor, and I was actually due a few dollars back!

In my case, I was quoted an 'out the door' price, but it seems for the billing form that they fill out on the computer, they have to back out the base sales price, and all the other charges are added automatically to get the total. My guess is that they don't always get their math spot-on.
"Dealer has 'rock'... Pay 'paper!'"
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August 17th, 2018 at 6:16:41 AM permalink
Again, no one is trying to screw anyone. A lot of people probably got their asses reamed for this. And fixing their mistake is interfering with their future profitability, and taking up time they could be doing something else. No one wants to look backwards in this business, it’s always look ahead.
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August 17th, 2018 at 7:30:08 AM permalink
VIN error definitely happens. I had a dealership send me off the lot in the wrong car once (a nicer one than I paid for). It took several weeks to straighten it out... after which I promptly totaled the car and had to go through the whole car purchase process again...
Variance giveth and variance taketh away.
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August 17th, 2018 at 7:55:27 AM permalink
Good help is hard to find.

Legally, I suppose you could argue that a breach of contract occurred and that you want to undo the deal, but it seems that is not your desire; plus you appear to have ratified and accepted the errors.

So your realistic option is to just suck up their stupidity and drive off into the sunset.
"What, me worry?"
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August 17th, 2018 at 8:33:42 AM permalink
You have more patience than I do. After the VIN discrepancy, I suspect I probably would have walked and politely taken my business elsewhere. And as I'm walking out the door they MIGHT have been able to change my mind... if they reduced the price of the vehicle by a couple of thousand, as a penalty for their screw-ups.

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