Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's the Service

One of my pet peeves is poor service. This has not been a good week for me. It started with my wife and I trying to buy a car (need I say more?) and ended with us actually buying one.

It amazes me how many dealers have incredibly poor service when it comes to buying a car. I know most of them are probably intentional sales tactics, but they drive the buyers nuts and I rarely buy from one of them and if I do, I will never go back. Nor will I talk nicely about them to anyone else. I don't buy cars often enough to effectively combat all of their techniques.

I was surprised at how many dealers seemed to have lost cars, couldn't find the keys to a car we were wondering about buying, had cars with dead batteries, didn't know their inventory, didn't have the websites up-to-date, had cars listed that weren't really for sale and just wandered around the lot looking for cars. It seemed quite obvious that most new car dealerships just had a few used cars as a way to get you to their door and then try to upsell you to a new car.

I get aggravated at how many salesman like to get their exercise trudging back and forth to the office to get keys. "Oh, you want to actually open up the door and get in the car and not just look through the window? " I know this is a sales tactic so you will look around and talk and fall in love with some other car while they are trudging back an d forth, but it drives us crazy.
I'm surprised at a salesman that didn't offer a card when we wanted to look at a car at one of the other Larry H. Miller dealerships (did you think that we would remember your name after talking with a dozen salesman from Salt Lake to Orem?). He could have taken us there and gotten the commission if we had bought that car--at least that's we he told us at the beginning. For some reason became completely uninterested in helping us at that point.

Larry apparently likes to impose a $200 mandatory, non-negotiable etching service all their cars that pays $2500 if the car is stolen at not recovered within 30 days. Of course this is not disclosed until we have basically decided to buy the car.

I should have walked out. But I am not the greatest negotiator and after investing so much time, it is difficult to do that. But I will never buy from them again. If you do, make sure to ask up-front about that fee. And let them know that if they are going to sell a car to you, you will not pay it. And insist on seeing the paperwork for the guarantee. What the salesman claims (the recovery service is good for as long as you own the car) is likely not correct (it is good for only 5 years). In fact, insist on seeing the paperwork for everything before you sign anything. You'll save some aggravation in the long run.

We had arranged for our loan online and had a blank check to sign once the deal was settled. Then they said they couldn't use our check (I'm guessing they had deals with other banks that required non-cash paying customers to use their financing services). So they had to send us up to another Larry H. Miller dealer to do the paperwork.

We sat there in a virtually empty showroom waiting for them to get things together so we could get our car and get out of there. As part of that process, they needed the key to our trade-in so they could get mileage from it. Fifteen minutes later, with no notice, or request for permission, someone pulled the van (with my wife's purse in it) out of the parking lot and took off down the street. I ran over to the sales desk to ask why someone had taken my car. For some reason, even though we had already negotiated a trade-in price at the Used Car lot, this dealer decided they needed to drive it as well. I was furiuos and told them they absolutely needed to let me know they were going to do that and get permission before they had someone take off in it.

Finally, after nearly two hours, the dealer finally got us out of there. I'm guessing that since they hadn't done the sale, we were at the bottom of their list in getting things done.

As part of the package, we had negotiated some work to be done. It turns out they won't even order the parts until they get the money from the bank we did the online financing through. They'll let us drive away a vehice worth thousands of dollars, but won't order a $150 part so that we can get it done soon (and we only have 30 days to get the work done).

Of course, all this was only the tip of the iceberg--I'm tempted to go to car dealerships and pretend to be buying a car and write about all the poor service and sales tactics that are used. But I think that I have better things to do.

Notes to Larry H. Miller:
  1. Get your used car inventory up-to-date. In this day of databases and web applications and API's, it should not be that hard to do. Even if you are turning over hundreds of cars a week. I realize that you may have a vested sales interest in not doing that, but it will certainly help those of us that are looking for a car to buy.
  2. Make your etching service optional. You may think it is a good thing (and probably brings you substantial income), but that one thing, over almost any other thing that happened to us at your used car dealership, will keep me from ever being a customer of yours again.
  3. I will never buy a car at a Larry H. Miller dealership again. I will shop there, but it will only be to get comparisons to use to buy elsewhere.

Sandwiched between starting to look for cars and actually buying was Thursday at the Skyroom in the Wilkinson Center at BYU. We were at BYU for an awards ceremony and had reservatations at the Skyroom for a late lunch. Almost all of us chose the salad bar.

Unfortunately, the waitress didn't inform us that the salad bar would be closing 20 minutes later. 10 minutes before it closed she came over and let us know that we should get what we wanted because it would be closing in 10 minutes. I told her the she probably should have told us that when we ordered (to her defense, she claimed that it was a new policy that she didn't know about).

So we loaded up, but then I decided I wanted a little more pasta, so went to get it and was told by a waitress that it was closed and I could not have any more (even though there was still food on the bar). I returned to my seat fuming. My wife said I should have gotten what I wanted anyway, and I thought, you are right. So I marched right back and got the food that I wanted.
As for all those who didn't get the salad bar, they didn't get their food until the salad bar was closed and the rest of us were done eating.

Notes to BYU Skyroom:

  1. Be sure to tell the customer that the salad bar will be closing shortly if they are ordering the salad bar
  2. If you forget to tell them, make it up somehow (reduce the meal price, offer free dessert, SOMETHING)
  3. If they happen to go to the salad one minute after it closes, don't tell them they can't have anymore--you don't have to restock everything, but they should be able to get what they want until you remove it.
  4. If you are going to seat people and take their money, you need to make sure to give them the same service as those that came an hour before you closed.

Shortly I'll share with you a good customer experience that we had (a couple of years ago, but noteworthy nonetheless, and I didn't have a blog to talk about it at that time).


daltongirl said...

You deserve a trip to Disneyland, where people will treat you right.

And that story is exactly why we buy our used cars from private parties. My adrenaline got going just reading about it. Of course this means that daltonboy has to climb into the engine, under the car, and perform all kinds of other amazing feats of mechanicism, but it's worth it not to be treated that way and cheated (quite as much).

007 said...

You know, I have only bought from a private party one time. For some reason, I have this thought (obviously unfounded) that buying from a dealer is somehow safer, so that's why I have put up with it. You can also see more cars in a shorter period of time. But I just might change my mind for the next car (which hopefully won't be for a number of years now).