On December 6 we bought a 2013 Toyota Corolla at the Toyota dealer in Murfreesboro. All 2015 models were ruled out because my wife did not like their "fish-mouth" looks. We were shown only two cars, a new 2014 Camry and a 2013 Corolla with more than 40,00 miles on the odometer. The Camry was rejected by my wife because she feared that its dark color would cause the car to heat up excessively when parked outside during the summer. The only lighter-color car we were shown was the Corolla.
I thought it was part of a protocol on the part of trained sales personnel to have a prospective customer (1) be given a wider choice of vehicles and (2) be offered to test drive at least one of them before a deal is closed. None of this happened. Instead I was kept busy with endless talk about spectacular warranties that came with the drive train of all Toyota cars.
Meanwhile, it had become dark outside and it was rapidly turning colder. But when I suggested that we return home at that point and continue in daylight on the following Monday, both salespersons, ******** and ***** protested vigorously. At previous car purchases, it had always been the salespersons who had taken charge of the sales protocol. That included their insistence that I drive one or several vehicles prior to closing a deal on one of them. As already mentioned, at this dealership I was kept busy looking at all sorts of written explanations and forms. Besides, increasing fatigue prevented me from keeping close track of all proceedings.
Thus it happened that the first time I sat in the car was when I drove it home after paying for it in full. Had I driven the car earlier, I would never have considered buying it. Compared to the excellently equipped 2009 Kia Optima that we had traded in (for a sum of $6,000), the Corolla was a simplistic and, on the road, a very noisy vehicle. Incidentally, we wanted to trade off the Optima, because we were getting tired of driving to Nashville to have it serviced.
Another disappointment at this dealership was that during the negotiations Mr. ***** the chief salesperson, had orally priced the Corolla at $14,000. I thought that was on the high side, but Omar's glib sales talk rapidly turned to other topics, leaving in their trail my intent to negotiate a reduction to #13,000. Recent eye surgery kept me from checking all the numbers that were faintly printed on the forms that were later handed to us. I trusted, however, that a reputable dealership would not fudge the numbers that had previously been cited. I was therefore all the more surprised as well as angered, when later at home I studied the numbers in greater detail and discovered that the price of the car had been raised to $14,598.
Despite our dissatisfaction with the car and the unpleasant surprise regarding its price, we resigned ourselves to our fate and decided keep the car for a while, perhaps two or three years. But we no longer saw a need for the two extended warranties that I had bought on the day of the purchase, totaling close to $2,300. Less than two weeks after the purchase I returned to the dealership to cancel the warranties and to request a return of the amounts paid, minus stipulated fees totaling $75 (leaving, as I recall, more than $2,200). My only wish was to take care of this matter and get out of the dealership as soon as possible.
But events took a turn in an unexpected direction. A higher-ranking salesperson (I only remember his first name, ***** had heard that we were not especially satisfied with the purchase we had made. Adopting a very chummy attitude, by putting an arm around my shoulder, he offered that I could take home and check out a car I had looked at while I was waiting, a 2014 low-mileage Camry. It was not as well equipped as our Optima, but it was a great deal quieter than the Corolla. Still another employee had written down some numbers that would make a switch from the Corolla to the Camry possible. I was offered $12,000 for a car I had purchased just a few days earlier for over $14.5K. Besides, I would have to pay for a second time a $598 "processing fee." In other words, additionally to the approximately $2,400 price difference between the two vehicles plus the taxes for this difference, they wanted us to pay another $3,000 plus. I am a pensioner and this is a large sum for us. It is especially aggravating to us that any additional payment could have been avoided had the salespersons at the first encounter shown us more vevicles, including this used 2014 Camry. I would have gladly paid the Camry's price, had they shown me the car the first time I was in their office. We had gone there specifically to look for Camries.
**** then performed with great rapidity some seemingly skillful but difficult to follow calculations, accompanied by exclamations of "I will lose money on this deal" and "I doubt the boss will approve this." He reduced our direct "losses" on the Corolla first to about $1,500 and, upon my protests, to $1,000 (on this $1,000 I had to pay sales taxes for the second time). Moreover, it was either a rule or a law (I can't remember his exact words) that required payment for a second time of the $598 "processing fee."
All this took a long time and I finally gave in, mainly due to sheer fatigue.
Upon further reflection, I have to admit that I cannot exempt myself of some criticism regarding the outcome of the described events. We are too mild-manneredor not sufficiently brazento walk out from negotiations moving into an unwanted direction. Furthermore, I am 86 years old and have greater difficulty than I had in earlier years following when someone reels off a complex list of data and large numbers.
Nevertheless, I take liberty of raising a few questions with your office about the specific actions of the Murfreesboro Toyota dealership.
First, when offering a dissatisfied customer a trade to higher-priced car on the lot, should a customer-friendly dealer not be willing to settle for the price and tax difference between the two cars and let it go at that, especially when the main cause of the dissatisfaction can be traced to the same dealer's previous lack of professionalism? After all, when I spend more than $10,000 in cash, could I not expect to deal with well-trained professionals?
Second, is there indeed a law in Tennessee that requires dealers to charge the steep processing fee for the second time when a just-purchased vehicle is traded for a newer and more expensive one?
I would greatly appreciate receiving a brief reply to these two questions. Of course, I would also value any additional comments and explanations regarding the car-purchasing experience described in the paragraphs above.
**** * *******
*In calculating the amount owed on the 2014 Camry, the entire value we paid for the 2013 Corolla, or $14,598, should have been listed, not an estimated $13,565.79 trade-in value. The main reason is that the Toyota salesperson failed to have me test-drive the car (I was the one who led the negotiations on our side and I made the payment). It is an important reason. For had I been behind the car's wheel before, that purchase would never have taken place.
* Returning to us the sales tax on the difference between the value we paid and the estimated trade-in value.
*Returning to us the $598.00 "Processing Fee" that we paid for the second time, when the exchange of the vehicles took place, plus the state sales tax paid on this amount. Because the Corolla was sold to us by dealer employees who failed to follow proper procedures, I consider the second transaction a continuation of the first. There was therefore no justification for making us pay that processing fee for a second time.
*A set of new rear tires. It is hard to believe that a large dealership sets the price of a car with heavily worn tires at $17,000.00.
*A CARFAX, or equivalent document, certifying that the 2014 Camry has not been involved in any major accident.
Worked with customer after his purchased of the Corolla. After speeking with customer about complaint of overcharge and that we never offered customer test drive. I spoke with our Sales team as this in not our procedure (every customer is offered test drive)they said they did offer test drive to the customer's wife and she didn't want to that they knew all about the car and didn't need to. And that the total cost of vehicle was discussed the customer and he agreed to price and signed Contract. Customer also said vehicle had bad vibration and rode rough. Offered customer to come in and let our Service Dept look at vehicle and he didn't accept offer. When i mentioned that our Sales team did offer his wife the test drive he agreed that this did happen. The customer came in and talk with our Sales and did agree to trade in Corolla for Camry. Our Sales team did work with customer because they knew he was unhappy with Corolla and worked the numbers to Satisify both, the customer and Sales Mgr. Customer agreed.
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
As I expected, the Murfreesboro Toyota dealer replied to my complaint in a manner that was extremely laconic and high-handed but lacking in accuracy and completeness. In fact it seems they did not even bother to read all of my complaint or my suggested resolution.
Point 1: "the total cost of vehicle was discussed the customer and he agreed to price .."
Obviously, the person who wrote the reply was not present at the negotiation. Guided by the principle "the customer is always wrong and my sales staff tells nothing but the truth" he disputed my version of events and credits that of his salespeople. I found the Corolla price I was orally given at the negotiations, $14,000, on the high side and intended to bargain it down to $13,000. I also told the Toyota lead person, Mr. ***** that I found the trade-in value conceded on our Kia Optima, $6,000, very much on the low side. Mr. **** then launched an extended explanation of the warranties coming with the purchase of Toyota cars. Following my wife's intervention, the conversation moved to food specialties of Syria and Egyptthe respective home countries of the two salesmen. Subsequently we all moved outside to look at the Corolla, but due to health problems with my feet I soon went inside again to sit down at a table. Nevertheless, the price of $14,000 "stuck in my throat," because I had been unable to bargain it down. When it came to loud and forceful oration, I was no match for the Toyota salesmen. The $14,000 was the price to which I had reluctantly agreed. Assuming this to be a reputable dealership I was fully confident that this would be the price printed on the form I signed, not the higher one I later discovered. Besides, as I explained in my complaint, recent surgery on both my eyes made it difficult for me to make out many numbers printed weakly on the colored paper of the forms I signed. It was only on the following day that I was able to study all the detail printed on the various documents.
Point 2: Although I was not very effective, I was after all the chief business negotiator on our side and I also signed the two checks in payment for the car. Furthermore, in the Reply, the dealership clearly confirms that "every customer is offered test drive". Was I not considered a customer? These are sufficient reasons why the test-drive offer should not have been limited to my wife. As I indicated in my complaint, had I been given a chance to drive this vehicle, we would never have considered purchasing it. In two respectssmoothness of handling in traffic and noise penetrating from the engine department to the insidethe Corolla's performance was significantly below that of my 2011 Ford Focus. In other words, the test-drive offer, which the Toyota salesmen evidently took very lightly, was the most crucial and decisive segment of the negotiations.
Moreover, the main reason why my wife declined the test-drive offer was not the one stated in the Reply. It was that she felt very cold, because she was not dressed for the rapidly declining temperature. In fact, she suggested to the salesmen that it would be best to interrupt the negotiations and continue in daylight on the following Monday. Unfortunately, she yielded to the vigorous protests of the salesmen regarding the time and gasoline that would be wasted driving home and back to the dealership again.
Much of the following time was taken up with clearing out the many items my wife was carrying around in the Optima and putting them on a bench outside. This activity distracted me from bringing up the test-drive question which was my intention at an earlier point but which I had suppressed because I felt it was the professional responsibility of salespeople to go through the sales protocol and that they would think I tried to tell them what their duties were.
Other Points raised in the Reply:
The offer, alleged in the Reply, to have their Service Department check out the Corolla: It was never made to me either orally or in writing. Perhaps there was a breakdown somewhere in their internal lines of communication.
The trade-up from the 2013 Corolla to a 2014 Camry: As I explained at length in my complaint this deal was presented to me as an effort on their part to "make good" on my dissatisfaction with the Corolla purchase. I thought this meant a straight trade-up that would require us to pay the price differential between the two cars plus the sales tax on that difference. My assumption turned out to be incorrect. This was mainly an effort to wrest additional large sums out of my budget. I managed to whittle down those sums to about $1,600, but gave up at that point partially due to utter fatigue on my part but also because I wanted my wife to have a car that was better than the Corolla.
The upshot of our deals with the Toyota dealership is that we paid over $16,500 in cash and gave up a well-equipped 2009 car with about 70,000 miles on the odometer which the dealer undervalued at $6,000. That is a total of $22,500 for a used, moderately equipped Camry driven 28,000 miles with worn tires that will have to be replaced before the end of the year.
In the suggested Resolution I made, among other requests, two rather modest ones (modest in relation to the total we paid) that the dealer replace the more heavily worm rear tires and that the dealer provide proof that the Camry had not been involved in a major accident. The dealer's Reply disregarded these requests.
I cannot escape a final overall conclusion regarding our experience with the Murfreesboro Toyota dealership: nurturing customer goodwill is what they preach, customer exploitation is what they practice.
Final Business Response
I do apologize for this but it is my understanding that when customer traded out of the Corolla that all previous complaints was resolved.
Our Sales team offered to let customer drive Camry home just to make sure that this was what he wanted. Customer was given ample time for the purchase just to make sure he wanted Camry. Again customer agreed to the purchase and prices.
Unfortunately we will not be able to return any sales tax or processing fee. As this was discussed during negotiation.
We put tires on used cars when the tread depth requires us to. And if tires were put on our used vehicle it would change the price of vehicle. So this vehicle did not meet the requirements.
We have the Carfax and the customer can come by any time to pick this up.
Final Consumer Response
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
What is striking is the large volume of words Toyota sales people can deliver per minute and, in contrast, the extreme brevity of their written reply to a complaint. But because this brevity omits essential detail, it furnished a flawed account of the events leading to this case.
I told the Toyota sales person **** repeatedly that it was their previous unprofessionalism (no test-drive) that made me wish to trade to a better vehicle. This was the reason, in my view, why there was no justification for offering me less for the Corolla than what I had paid them a few days before and to charge a second time the $598 processing fee. I therefore "agreed to the purchase and prices" of the Camry UNDER PROTEST, as I did not really have any options other than stay with the very unsatisfactory vehicle they had previously sold me.
I understand why they may not be able to return any of the sales tax. They give no reason, however, for their inability to return the processing fee they charged for a second time. When I argued this point during the negotiation they gave me a speech about this being a requirement. It certainly is not a legal requirement, as an official of the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission assured me. Nor should they be unable to return the more than $1,000 by which they reduced the value of the Corolla, when they priced it as a trade-in. This is a more than $1,600 "penalty" which they exacted for the favor they did me for going along with the trade-up.
"We put tires on used cars when the tread depth requires us to"
As I have pointed out a number of times, it is the rear tires about which I am mainly concerned. The low remaining tread depth on these tires makes it unsafe to drive this vehicle for any extended period.
And finally, if they have the Carfax for the Camry, would it be asking too much that they mail it to me? Moreover, why was it not given to me when I purchased the car?
A last comment: It is evident from this exchange that the Murfreesboro Toyota dealer is:
(1) totally obtuse to nearly all the points I raised;
(2) adhering to the typical small-town lawyer's position of pointing to my signature under their documents, disregarding my observations that my eyesight is impaired andassuming this was a reputable dealerI had believed the numbers given me orally by one of their salesman;
(3) entirely unconcerned about the ethics of their conduct. I am 86 years old and not at all experienced in dealing with fast-talking and unscrupulous persons. They can pat themselves on their shoulders now for having wrested out of me more than $22,500 for a used car, of the lower-trim rank, and with worn rear tires. But few observers would classify the conduct leading to this result as highly ethical.