This past weekend, my wife and I purchased our second car from Ken Grody in less than twelve months, and the experience was quite a bit different than the first. There were several five-star moments throughout; don’t get me wrong. Unfortunately, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
I was drawn in to the dealership by an email that I received which had two Fusion Energi cars at very enticing prices. The pair were both Certified Pre-Owned – read: great warranty – and one of them came equipped with the elusive and priceless HOV lane stickers. We brought our four-month old son with us, and found the cars moments after getting him in the stroller. Our plan was to find a car that costs less than the amount I’m spending monthly on fuel for our Rubicon.
Mike Dehrab approached us with a kind greeting and immediately got to work selling me the car, while my wife wandered with our son. Very-little sales work was needed. I did have a few questions about the Energi system specifically, and Mike, who owns one himself, was quick with intelligent answers and just the right amount of the expected salesmanship.
We took the car I ultimately bought for a test-drive, and upon returning, got down to the real business. Still in the parking lot, I explained that I knew the vehicle was several thousand cheaper online, and that I qualified for several of Ford’s discounts, in addition to the fact that I was not just a repeat customer, but one that is back 11-months later.
Mike didn’t miss a stride in telling me that the Ford discounts were only on new vehicles, but loyalty means a lot, and as a veteran himself, he was going to do his best.
What followed was a trip to the sales office to complete the credit app while our ancient trade-in was assessed. We weren’t holding out for much on it, but knew the KBB value and had recently added brand new rims and top-tier tires. The amount offered was low, but hard to argue a subjective decision.
Where it started to get fuzzy was when Mike returned from finance with an offer we turned down, went back to them, and came back a second time with completely different numbers. Not just on the price of the vehicle, but straight down the line. It wasn’t adding up. This wasn’t a huge deal, and he fixed it quickly. It was at this point that he also mentioned a lower interest rate could be had if we chose a shorter term. That would be good long-term, but again, we’re looking for a specific number each month that makes driving this car cheaper than our Jeep.
Mike began explaining the warranty on the vehicle. I jumped the gun, politely cutting him off, and explained that we would not be buying any extended warranty or service plan. We purchased one on our last vehicle, and might again in the future, but save your breath – it was not going to happen on this sale. He was quick to tell me that he does not sell warranties or ESPs; finance does. “Just explaining what comes with the car.” Fair enough, and he left it at that.
Once in agreement, we moved to Finance Manager Mike Long. My wife would be financing the car by herself, so I took our now antsy son and did laps around the sales floor. I popped in and out of Mike’s office, noticing that he was rapid-firing the paperwork at my wife with very-little explanation. At the time, I was thinking that we had just done this less than a year ago, and thankfully, we weren’t in the office adjacent to Mike’s, where another finance manager was putting the screws to an elderly couple.
At one point when I stopped in the office, I stopped Mike and explained that we would not be purchasing any additional plans, warranty, maintenance or otherwise. None. He hadn’t started his pitch yet, but I wanted to save us all time. He stated that he understood, and the print-sign-tear-file-repeat continued.
When presented with the final contract, my wife found an error – a cost of a little over $1/month – and asked for it to be corrected. Along with that, she pointed out that the interest rate had dropped from X.9% to X.6%. Strange, but not worth arguing. We were getting a better deal, Mike was flying through the paperwork, and our son was ready for lunch and a nap. Let’s go!
We finished, shook hands, and eventually drove off in our newly-detailed and fueled Ford Fusion Energi.
Hopefully you’re still following along, cause here comes the ruse. While going over the paperwork early in the morning, trying to get the MyFordMobile app to work, trying to get Sirius to work, and trying really hard to figure out why the vehicle-generated Health Report is stating that there is still a recall on the vehicle, I find a line on the contract that doesn’t add up - $800 to Ford Maintenance. Mike Long added a service plan.
Not just any service plan, but a “Basic Maintenance Plan” at 7500 mile intervals for 36,000 miles. So, let’s do the math: Any Ford dealer will do the basic maintenance service for about $75. That puts the value of the available services at $360. Okay, so it’s not worth it, but how did we not notice, you ask? They adjusted our interest rate and lowered the price of the vehicle. (“I’m sorry, this is as low as we can go. We’re not making any money on this deal.”) I woke up my wife and asked, “Did you at some point change your mind and add this ridiculous ESP?” Nope, of course not. Nor was it ever explained to her. So, why did she sign for it? Most-likely, like you would have been, and I certainly am constantly guilty of, I look at the final numbers, and sign where I’m told.
We went back to the dealership at open and Sales Manager James Ramos helped me out. I didn’t need to explain why $800 for 4 oil changes was a bad deal. He knew it, and agreed completely. He notified finance to draw up a new contract and booked the Fusion for service the following day to handle the recalls. I would be leaving it behind for the evening, and they provided a loaner CMAX. Another finance manager had my wife sign a new contract and we were on our way. Unfortunately, they gave us a car full of smoke and empty of gasoline, but our timeline left us no option but to take it. I guess it was their only option at that moment. FWIW, they offered to fill it up after we brought it back, hoping to quickly swap it out. It wasn’t the cost of the gasoline, but the time.
HERE IS WHERE IT ALL STARTED DOWNHILL:
That evening, I drove my father-in-law back to the dealership so he could sign a DMV form on the trade-in. The car was in his name, and it was a simple transfer. Mike Long was handling, and he couldn’t leave well-enough alone. I hadn’t planned on saying anything, despite the obvious swindling, but Mike started in. He thought educating me was a great place to start, “Let’s say a vehicle is $5000 and you pay $5000, but there is a….” I stopped him, and stated, “I don’t care how you sell it, I specifically told you and the salesman, we were not going to buy a plan. Period. Also, you didn’t even tell her what she was signing, or that you added it.”
Education didn’t work. Time to insult the wife.
“I told your wife. She knew what she was signing.”
Okay, now I highly doubt that. But, considering what he was implying, I asked if he really wanted to go the route of calling my wife a liar, and asking me to agree with him. I bit my tongue, they finished the paperwork, and we left. Lie number one, check.
Mike Long leaves both of us voicemails – Sorry, but the loan came back. We’ll need to make a new deal. I’m mad, my wife is livid. She calls him and he tells her that her credit score is not high enough for the deal. The credit score. The well-over-700 credit score has mysteriously dropped 100+ points overnight and we’ll need to make a new deal. He does add, though, that we can keep the same interest rate if we’re willing to drop 9 months off the term.
At this point, my wife attempts to contact Ken Grody at the number listed below his picture on the website. It’s the dealership’s phone number, and he doesn’t take calls there. She ends up routed to a Customer Relations Manager who has yet to return the call.
We meet at the dealership that evening, and the car needs another night in the Service department. Bummer, but what choice do I have? In fairness, I was warned earlier in the day that the part they needed likely wouldn’t show up. Also in fairness would be checking the vehicle thoroughly before putting it out on the lot.
James Ramos politely greets us, lets us know that Mike Long is gone for the evening, but the head of finance would be with us momentarily. We take a seat in the waiting area. Again.
Once called into the Senior Finance Manager’s Office we rehash the entire process and lay out all the promises we’ve received over the last 54 hours, and ask why the credit score changed so drastically.
He goes page by page through the paperwork and logs into our application online. Nowhere does it indicate that her score has changed, or that it has any effect on the loan. When we removed the $800 ESP that we didn’t ask for, the price of the vehicle dropped below what any bank would approve for a term that long for anyone. Simple as that, and completely understandable.
So why the lie, Mike? For the second time in this deal, Mike Long has blatantly lied.
I understand his motives for sneaking in the service plan. He greedily wants a piece of the sale and found a way to get it in there without changing our bottom line. Too bad he didn’t just tell us. I might have gone for it, all other things being equal. But, in his own words, “I’ve been doing this for eight years!” You’re right, pal; I doubt they teach that in Car Finance 101.
But, to tell my wife her credit score was suddenly an issue? To what end? I cannot figure out what purpose this holds, other than to disparage her and attempt to sabotage the deal. Perhaps he assumed they were going to lose big; and maybe they did.
At this point, the SFM took everything we were told along the way and put it to one deal. It was a classy move, and overall, one that made both of us more confident in having purchased the car. He could have just as easily agreed that Mike Long is a liar, but that they aren’t willing to go any further.
At the same time, he also adds the second key to the Due Bill. It wasn’t important at the time for Dehrab or Long, but I thought this would probably be my last chance to make it happen.
TWO DAYS LATER
I picked up the car with minimal issue. Apparently, stating a time I would pick it up, and calling ahead by an hour (despite being on time) was not enough for it to be ready to drive off. Another 45 minutes spent in the waiting room. Worth noting that the time was spent waiting for the car to be detailed and fueled, which had also happened 14 miles earlier on the odometer when I picked it up the first time. I guess procedure is procedure.
ONE LAST VISIT….. I hope.
I get a call from JC, who works in KG Customs at the dealership and also handles Due Bills. They’re going to have the key in and need the car for an hour to program it. I explain what little interest I have in spending any time at all in their waiting room, so if I make an appointment, I expect it to be honored. He assures me it will be, so I plan on, and ultimately show up at 0800 on a Saturday. JC is there, has a tech grab it right away, and brings me back the car in 40 minutes, as promised.
SUMMING IT ALL UP
This experience follows the script for bad car sales, and legitimizes every nasty assumption thrown around about used car salesmen and needing to buy a car. At this point, you expect the haggle, and at least somewhat, a struggle. Car dealerships are not making money like they used to, and have margins only slightly north of grocery stores. They need to sell X-amount of cars and X-amount of service plans just to get the bonuses that the manufacturers offer to keep them in the black. I get it. I will never understand the need to sneak or lie, and certainly will not let insult go.