18 monts ago, I casually began a search for a used car. My family is historically a GM family, but I also considered one model from Toyota, one VW, one Honda, and one Ford, against several GM vehicles. About 4 months in, I had narrowed my search to one specific GM model and began a regional search. I live in Virginia, have family in South Carolina, and cover a wide territory for work. As a young professional this is my first “real money” car purchase. No new car this time, but maybe next time.
Based on internet searches, I set out to return to Virginia from Carolina with four planned stops to look at cars. Fred Caldwell was number three. I called the dealership and reached Richard who gave me directions from the interstate and had the car warmed up when I arrived...as I remember the high was 30 degrees that day.
The car was as promised, in fantastic condition. Clean, never had a fluid leak. All factory options except sunroof (I’m tall, so I prefer not to have a sunroof cutting into headroom.) Factory perfect inside. One small door ding and 5 stone chips (all touched up) outside. Outstanding for a 4 year old vehicle with 60k miles. Carfax checked out with the expected services for that year/model. Clean southern car with no history near the beach (salt) or snow (salt.)
On the test drive Fred demonstrated the On-Star, discussed the origin of the vehicle, but could not get the satellite radio to work, as it “required activation.” The car even had the dealership installed splash guards and wintertime slush mats. Cherry of a car. Rode perfect, and showed no signs of the mechanical problems that plague this particular model.
As we entered negotiations I brought up the GM Certified Used Warranty, as the car was advertised with one. Richard said that the car was not actually certified and steered me towards purchasing a third party warranty on my dime. I pointed to the price of other examples, and pointed towards the price I wanted including the GM Certified warranty. We finally settled that he could certify the vehicle but could not offer much of a break on the price due to the cost of certification. Then he tacked on title, tax, and tag fees. Again I questioned this. I was going to register the vehicle myself in my home state, not in SC. Therefore I would be paying sales tax, registration fees, titling fees, and plate fees at the DMV counter in Virginia. All I needed was a signed over title. Richard replied that he even had to pay this fee when he purchased a car (no doubt because the dealership processed tax, title, and tags for him) and that he could not come back on this fee. He would leave off sales tax. Richard had me where he wanted me, and commanded full asking price of the car. I accepted this as the cost of finding what was probably the nicest, best condition, most loved example in existence of the exact car I wanted.
As Richard sent the car back for warranty certification (and to wash, fill the tank, and have a second key made) I visited a local branch of my bank to obtain a certified check. The car was ready upon my arrival and I headed home for Virginia. Richard shook my hand, and promised to have the sale documents to me in a week so that I could register in my home state before holiday travels. He also promised to send a copy of the owner’s manual, since mine was missing and this was required for GM Certified Used vehicles.
Two weeks later, I followed up with the dealership to find the missing paperwork, as I needed to register before holiday travel. No luck, as they could not locate the paperwork. I left for holiday travel with a temporary tag on the vehicle.
After holiday I followed up and it seemed they should have already arrived. We figured out the problem. The package had been sent without any type of tracking or certification to the wrong address. They used my old address. Virginia does not reissue your license when you move, but they issue a “change of address” card that you present along with your license. Rather than sending the package to my current address…the one hand-written on the sales contract…it was sent to the address on the copy of my license, which coincidentally, had the change of address card copied right next to it. So, I rushed back after holiday and committed a federal crime when I went to the mailbox at my former address and collected the sales documents. Fortunately the new tenants were on holiday and allowing their mail to build up, so I had my package. Otherwise the dealership would have had to file for a replacement in SC, no doubt another 3 week process. Again, all Richard had to do was sign over the title and send me on my way, but he couldn’t give up that pesky, title, tag, and registration fee. Thanks for the hassle. So now I’m bitter when standing at the VA DMV, paying all those fees for the second time around. Retroactive strike one against Richard’s sales techniques.
Tags on car. Excellent, it’s official. I wanted to get that satellite radio working, so I called the number included with the sales documents, only to find out the vehicle didn’t have factory satellite radio installed. Really? Looking back, the abbreviated advertised feature list didn’t spell out satellite radio, But Richard said it was there. Oh well, guess I can’t expect Richard to know about his cars, especially when I call ahead and he knows what car I am coming to look at. Wait, that actually would have been a reasonable expectation (one he gave me no reason to second guess.) Most of the other cars of this model included sat-radio, even in lower trim levels, so I guess I wanted to believe Richard. I really would’ve liked sat-radio. I guess I’ll have to get it for my next car since there is no aftermarket kit available for this year/model…the very reason I was glad this car “had” it. Retroactive strike two against Richard.
No owner’s manual ever appeared and I wasn’t about to follow up. Surely Richard had long since forgotten about me. I got a copy in PDF from the internet. Retroactive strike two.
After seven months of driving and approaching the end of the GM Certified Warranty period, I had a few things I wanted my local dealership to check out. So there I was in the service drive pointing out three small concerns when my service rep types in the VIN and alerts me that my vehicle was never given a Certified GM warranty. He sees the inspection, but not the enrollment. What? So in the end that big expensive warranty that Richard was so concerned about never happened. Really? That was part of our negotiation…and turns out he didn’t follow through AND PROFITED FROM IT!
So there we are on the phone, back and fourth on the phone. Eventually, after asking me about the mechanical concerns and consulting with HIS OWN service department about an estimate of cost, Fred Caldwell’s Sales Manager, Jerry, agreed to cover the service at my local dealer. Really? Your “Top Honors” sales consultant failed to complete the deal, has since left (or been released from) the dealership, and you agree to cover the issues only after you get an estimate? What if it had been major? What then? Clearly I’m an out of town customer that will never come back, so do you just ignore doing the right thing?
In the end, Jerry did the right thing and forked over for a diagnosis and a replacement dome light assembly. The dealership never addressed the other two (more major) concerns, one of which I since had corrected on my own dime since the dealership couldn’t figure out how, or was coerced not to fix it.
I’ll get over it. It’s a good car and will fit my needs for years to come. Did I pay to much? Yes. Especially considering the car had no warranty. Did the dealership make things right? Kinda. But in the end I trusted the small town Chevy dealership to take care of me in the first place. I was an out of town customer. A freebie if you will. All you had to do was have the exact car I wanted. I’ll never come back for those free oil changes or car washes. Not worth my time. I came in on a Tuesday morning at the end of the month and paid in cash. I was likely the only car you sold that day. I wasn’t taking up your “prime sales hours.” I came in on a slow day. No, I wasn’t buying a $45k Tahoe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat me well. But instead you were probably only making your minimum so you either intentionally or neglectfully decide that I’m not worth backing up the sale with the warranty you promised as a part of the deal (not to mention, as advertised.)
Perhaps I would come back for my next GM purchase. You’re not that far out of the way. Just give me the warranty and hand my title over at sale, or at least mail it to the right address. That’s all you had to do to make this go right. If I can’t get small town GM dealership honesty from a small town GM dealer, I’ll just shop for a Toyota next time.
And the punch line is that my primary employment is for a company that provides customer service education for comission salespeople. It’s about the total experience guys. Even for a used car that has never come back after the sale, you’ve disappointed me several times along the way. You’ve hurt your own reputation but you’ve also tarnished the GM experience for me…a traditional GM buyer who has many years of driving and car purchasing ahead.
Fred Caldwell Chevrolet. Good dealer for small town Clover? Maybe. Good dealer for out of town shoppers who know what they want? No.
Richard doesn’t work there anymore? Good for you. But that doesn’t really change my experience…without the promised timely delivery of sales paperwork, manual, satellite radio, or certified warranty. And in the end my experience is the only one that matters to me. If you dropped the ball with me, you can drop it with any customer.