High pressure sales.
May 21, 2006 10:41 PM   Subscribe

My wife succumbed to a high-pressure car salesman when I was out of town. Help me get some or all of my money back!

My wife and I test drove several cars at a dealership and took one home overnight, with the understanding she'd return it the following evening. The sales staff knew we were a husband/wife looking for a car together. I was out of town for the weekend. The sales staff knew that too, and I told them we'd talk early next week about the vehicle. When my wife dropped off the test vehicle on Friday night, they proceeded to sell her a car, despite her saying "I'm not comfortable making a descision without my husband here" several times. They pushed the extra junk like gap insurance and a service contract on her too.

When I came home Sunday, there's a very slightly used 2006 Mazda Tribute in the driveway, and my wife is in a deep funk.

I'm in Wisconsin, if it makes any difference from a law perspective. There's a 3-day return on new vehicles in WI, but this one is used. (However, they checked the "new" box on the contract. Typo? or Way out?)

My wife and I like the car, but I am angry at the way she was treated and taken advantage of. I'm also angry that the staff ignored me as the other half the buying party. They had her in a sales room for 3 hours! What's the best way to make my anger known and get some compensation for the poor treatment we received?
posted by cosmicbandito to Shopping (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wisconsin Purchase Cancellation

Purchase cancellation

Many consumers mistakenly believe they have three days to cancel a motor vehicle purchase contract. They do not. The 3-day "cooling off" period only applies to sales the dealer makes away from the dealership—for example, at a mall or fair grounds. If you sign a purchase contract at the dealership it is a binding contract. The dealer may charge you a penalty if you cancel the deal. By law, the penalty cannot be more than 5% of the purchase price of the vehicle.

If you order a new vehicle to be delivered at a later date and the vehicle is not delivered within 15 days of the anticipated delivery date recorded on the purchase contract, you can cancel the contract without penalty.

If you are unhappy with your purchase, talk with your dealer. Some dealers will make a goodwill adjustment, or even cancel your contract without a penalty in order to satisfy a good customer.
Dealer Section can help

If you have serious concerns about your vehicle purchase or lease that you cannot resolve with the dealer, contact Wisconsin Department of Transportation's (WisDOT) Dealer Section at (608) 266-1425 or by e-mail at dealers.dmv@dot.state.wi.us. The Dealer Section may be able to work out a settlement between you and the dealership if the dealership sold the vehicle improperly.

Wisconsin Division of Consumer Protection:
posted by frogan at 11:16 PM on May 21, 2006

"...took one home overnight..."

That's called the puppy dog close and it's a huge sign to the dealer that you are going to buy the car. To expect them to just take the keys back when she returned the car and wait for your call after a signal like that is a little naive. Even an impeccably good dealership would have turned the pressure all the way up when you drove that car back onto the lot. I don't know that the dealership did anything wrong, your wife could have walked away at any time, pressure or no pressure.
posted by 517 at 11:43 PM on May 21, 2006

This Q&A and the previous Q&A it references may provide some tips.
posted by acoutu at 12:17 AM on May 22, 2006

I sympathise with your predicament, genuinely, but it does not seem to me like there is any wiggle room here at all. Your wife bought the car.

The only possible way out I can see is if the same dealer has another, more expensive, car that you would rather own. In those circumstances they will probably take the original car back.

I have been on the receiving end of the hard sell like this and it is difficult, but not impossible to resist. Suggestion: teach your wife the two golden rules.

1. We don't make decisions like this alone. (And this had better be true).

2. Broken record. (Simply repeat #1 to whatever the salesman says. They soon realize that they are more likely to lose the sale than make it by persisting).

This works very well, not just for your wife, but for yourself when you find yourself being pressured by a sales person for an item which you are genuinely interested in but do not wish to commit to right now.
posted by unSane at 12:19 AM on May 22, 2006

Go straight to the dealership tomorrow - don't bother with a phone call - and complain, complain, complain. Stay calm, but tell them how angry and disappointed you are about the way they treated you and your family, and ask them if what they earned is worth the negative word of mouth you are about to unload into the neighborhood. Tell them you will not stop talking about the fact that they knew you were out of town and pressured your wife anyway to everyone you know in multiple media unless they cancel the sale. Tell them you will be complaining to the car manufacturer, too. Tell them you're not leaving until you get that sale cancelled.

(And get your wife some assertiveness training, but you know that.)
posted by mediareport at 1:28 AM on May 22, 2006

Unfortunately, I think this is a problem between you and your wife, not your wife and the dealership.

I'll be the first to admit that there should be a special ring in hell for car salesman. People worry about being perceived as rude when dealing with these salespeople, but you have to get over that.

That being said, your wife is an adult. She wasn't an underage kid being held for questioning without a parent present. She could have left at anytime, yet she signed a contract without waiting for you. I suspect that she'll have to live with the decision.

But by all means try and get rid of the extras that you don't want. It never hurts to try. Good luck! :)
posted by bim at 1:58 AM on May 22, 2006

Do as mediareport says. Talk to them. Tell them you like their place but you had no intention of buying that car and ask them how they'd feel in your place -- depending on who you have to talk to, use "man-to-man" or whatever idiotic language you think might work -- with some sales team trying to take advantage of his wife while he was out of town.

But be prepared to get a lot of high pressure. They're in sales -- they do this shit for a living, and money comes before honor. They might bring in two or three guys to give you a surroundsound explanation for why they just can't help you. They might tag-team you. They probably will tell you it's legally binding and you're wasting your breath, and you won't be able to say otherwise unless: maybe call a lawyer before you go and ask whether there is any hope of reversing this sale. Then you'll know whether you have any legal footing.

No matter what, mention that check box about "new" or "used". They need to clarify in writing (including on a new copy of that contract) that they are selling you a used car. If they are pretending, perhaps for some reason advantageous to them, that it is a new car, they need to correct it. At least don't let them get away with two scams in one.
posted by pracowity at 4:12 AM on May 22, 2006

Speaking as a former car salesbot (don't hurt me!) - this happens all the time. As far as the dealership is concerned, the wife is the final arbiter, so whether you're out of town is merely trivia. Historically, wives make the final purchasing decision, so if she shows up, it's a done deal.

And, it happens all the time the way you described it. When somebody takes the car home, they're buying it. In part, because they're attached enough that they want to see it in their driveway and show it to their friends, and in part because once you're attached enough to want to see it in your driveway and show it to your friends, the hard sell isn't that hard.

That said, plenty of people experience buyer's remorse, and coming over to yell and scream, talk like a man, throw paperwork* around is not going to get you out of the contract. Car sales is a game of pressuring people into cars for a living; they know what they can get away with under the law. Your best bet is to take a legal representative with you, and to keep it simple. Refuse to talk to anyone but the financial office manager or dealership manager- they are the bosses, and they signed off on the sale. Anybody lower down the rung is just going to soft con you, to get you out of their hair. Lo and forthwith- offers of floormats, oil changes, and tire rotations shall likely abound, "Sir, would you feel a little better if I ..."

But realize- talk, even with a lawyer, may get you nowhere. A contract is in play and they don't have to do anything. They know that fighting the contract in the court will cost you more in time, grief and money than merely paying off the car- most people won't go there. If you're mad enough and your credit can take the ding, tell them you'll rubber band it (quit paying for it and let it get repoed.) Oh man, nothing pisses off a car salesman more than getting a rubber band- it screws up their sales for the month during which the car is returned, so it's a future whammy at an unknown time.

Better yet, and better for your credit score, call your local investigative news outfit. Car sales outfits don't care if you badmouth them to your buddies- everybody complains about how they got their car. But oh boy, they care if News 6 has their dealership on the 6 o'clock news, asking why they abuse women. Just be aware that they may not care either- 1, sweeps is almost over and 2, this happens every single day of the year. They probably get a LOT of stories like this, so yours needs to be especially compelling.

I'm sorry I can't be more positive for you. Even if you can't get the car contract cancelled, you may be able to renegotiate the extras- sure, the extended warranty and GPS subscription is nice, but they're gravy. Many times, they're offered by independent companies- the sales office gets a cut for getting them included in your deal. They'd rather give that up than the whole sale, so try for that angle if nothing else.

* You say it's a 2006 with very low mileage- that is a new car. It was probably used as a dealer drive (salesfolks earn the right to take cars home from the lot for personal use, up to a certain number of miles,) and legally, that's still a new car. Consumers can get a semi-decent deal buying the dealer drives- a thousand or two off the sticker price in exchange for (less than) 10,000 miles already racked up on the warranty. They didn't make a mistake on the paperwork; they just didn't bother to explain it to you.

(YMMV, I sold cars in Indiana; laws differ by locality.)
posted by headspace at 4:37 AM on May 22, 2006 [4 favorites]

Well, I don't think I'll be able to help you with the car itself, but I recently bought a car and got stuck with some extras I didn't want, so maybe I can help you there.

headspace mentioned that a lot of the 'extras' they sell you are actually offered by third-parties. This is true, and usually very helpful. When I got sold some extras I didn't want, I called and cancelled them directly with the companies that sold them. This includes things like GAP insurance and any goofy 'tire insurance' policies. I even, through an outright lie, got sold a different 'payment plan' that allowed me to make payments every 2 weeks instead of every month. That would have been great... if it hadn't have cost $400.

Another thing: I don't know if your dealership does this or not, but I just bought a Mazda from a dealer in Houston. The salesman told me that I'd be getting a survey in the mail in a few weeks, and if I checked anything other than "EXCELLENT!!!11!" in all of the boxes that he gets fined $50 for each! (Again, a car salesman said it, so I doubt it's actually true. Can you tell I have a bit of contempt for these people?) Regardless of what happens with returning things, I would tear the sales staff a new one on any evaluations that you complete.

If you were pretty sure you were going to buy the car anyway, then you might as well just keep it and admit that you could have gotten a better price. But I would cancel ANY extras that the salesman sold her. Those that can't be canceled by a third party, you can probably cancel with the finance guy/salesman. Also, if you got a loan on the car from the dealership financing, go to your bank (or a local credit union) and apply for a loan there. You'll almost surely get a better interest rate, and that's more commission out of the salesman's pocket.

I agree, there should be a special circle of hell for car salesman. Sorry, headspace... It's the 98% of sleazy, rotten car salesmen that make the other 2% look bad.
posted by cebailey at 5:10 AM on May 22, 2006

P.S. What dealership was it, and where?
posted by cebailey at 5:10 AM on May 22, 2006

Oooh yeah, the comment card, I forgot about the comment card! Policy varies company to company, so the 50 bucks per ding may be a lie, but you get in worlds, worlds, worlds of trouble if that card isn't all sterling. (They're in sales, they ought to be able to convince you to mark everything perfect, even if it wasn't.)

Those comment cards help decide which dealerships get which perks. It can make the difference between the corporation allotting a dealership 5 of the brand new hot-model to have on the lot where people can touch and love and drive and buy them, or just a lot of catalogues to try to sell the new hot model by delivery. Guess which one the dealership would prefer?

The cards are a bit of a con game- lots of places offer you a free oil change if you fill out the card (with a wink and a nudge that you really need to fill it out perfectly to get that oil change,) because it really is that important to corporate-dealership relationships. The threat of the card probably won't change anything in the re-negotiation phase, but it might make you feel better to know that you get to screw them back after they screwed you.
posted by headspace at 5:25 AM on May 22, 2006

I have heard several places that the extended warranties and gap insurance are returnable within 30 days. That may be worth investigating, and like cebailey says, you may have better luck dealing with the companies that administer them directly.
posted by zsazsa at 5:38 AM on May 22, 2006

But oh boy, they care if News 6 has their dealership on the 6 o'clock news

Given the large amount of money car dealerships dump into local news broadcasts, I doubt you'll get much traction with local TV reporters. Pressure from auto advertisers to kill stories is very real:

A half a dozen news directors singled out local car dealerships and auto manufacturers as the focus of squashed stories. "We don't aggressively go after car dealers," one news director admitted. Another reported a "negative story on an auto dealer canned under pressure from client."

I've seen similar claims from TV and newspaper journalists for years now, which is why it's worth noting that there are other things you can do to publicize the story in ways they wouldn't enjoy. Still, it might be worth contacting a station they don't advertise with.

Talking to a lawyer, going down there and making a polite-but-firm pain in the ass of yourself - again, no yelling or screaming - is your best bet for getting any kind of recourse on the car, the extras or just the satisfaction of expressing your anger to them directly.
posted by mediareport at 5:43 AM on May 22, 2006

If you're mad enough and your credit can take the ding, tell them you'll rubber band it (quit paying for it and let it get repoed.

This was my thought too as a last resort. I doubt negative publicity is going to faze the dealership, because it will only work against your wife, too.
posted by chef_boyardee at 6:46 AM on May 22, 2006

Slightly OT, but high-pressure tactics are not unique to auto sales. My wife just bought a piano, and the techniques the salespeople used are exactly the same as those used by car dealers (except she couldn't park one in the driveway to impress the neighbors). I expect almost any big-ticket item is going to be sold the same way. You have to be able to say "no" and mean it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:01 AM on May 22, 2006

As someone who also used to sell cars (until I couldn't sleep at night), I have to agree with everyone else above. When it comes down to it, and I hate to say it, "you" bought a car. Car salesmen (but more realistically, car lot MANAGERS, as car salesmen are actually nothing more than pissed-on messengers) are slime of the lowest level.

However, I did want to point something out - while you may not believe in extended warranty, I did want to point out that GAP insurance may be the best thing you can ever buy on a car. If you have ever totaled a car you are upside down on (which is something like 95% of all cars on the road), you'll be thankful you opted for the insurance.

Just a side note. Carry on.
posted by plaidrabbit at 7:32 AM on May 22, 2006

There was a case in Wisconsin not too long ago of a Madison-area dealership pushing a $35,000 SUV on a brain-damaged woman. I believe that the dealership ultimately rescinded the sale, in part based on the media coverage the case was getting. However, those are pretty extreme circumstances...
posted by handful of rain at 8:18 AM on May 22, 2006

I think this may be an expensive but important lesson for your wife that sometimes she shouldn't be "nice," to people who are trying to get her to do things she doesn't want to do. It'll come in handy at PTA meetings.
posted by Good Brain at 9:22 AM on May 22, 2006

In some cases, even if you can't return the car, you can cancel the additional insurance. Check edmunds.com. Also, send in your story to the Consumerist, the better business bureau for your area, and the newsdesk at every TV station and newspaper around. You could also go to the dealership and start informing all of their customers about the shady dealings that go on, and encourage them to buy from somewhere else.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 11:06 AM on May 22, 2006

This is random and a bit over-the-top, but I've seen a disgruntled consumer stand in the median of a major roadway across from a local dealership holding up a large sign expressing his greivance. BOB'S TOYOTA RIPPED ME OFF!!! in large hand-painted letters sure gets your attention. Will probably have no practical effect other than salving your wounded pride, but there you are.
posted by junkbox at 11:41 AM on May 22, 2006

If they won't do the right thing, picket them (walking only on a public thouroughfare) and explains the facts (and only the facts) to anyone who asks. If you inject opinion into your story they may sue you.

See this story.
posted by donpardo at 12:12 PM on May 22, 2006

"I did want to point out that GAP insurance may be the best thing you can ever buy on a car. If you have ever totaled a car you are upside down on (which is something like 95% of all cars on the road), you'll be thankful you opted for the insurance."

Right, but NEVER buy it through a dealer. they pressure you into GAP insurance because they make money off of it. I was quoted something like $500 for gap insurance once. My insurance company told me I could get it through them for $10.

Cancel the gap insurance and buy it through your regular insurance company. Car dealers are pure slime.

Oh, and does the dealer have any sort of return policy? Some may, some may not. Otherwise it sounds like your wife rolled over and got you guys stuck with a pretty large purchase. Next time, don't go away for the weekend and leave her with something like that. :-P

Lawyering up might help, but I think that the picket line idea donpardo linked to is a great idea.
posted by drstein at 12:30 PM on May 22, 2006

I know this is hind-sight, but couldn't she just walk away? Did they not let her leave the dealership until she agreed? Did she feel threatened?
posted by sandra194 at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2006

Re : Gap insurance :

I recently bought a brand new car here in the UK, and the dealer tried to sell me their own GAP insurance. I declined, and found a superior policy with a reputable insurer for half the price.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 1:45 PM on May 22, 2006

Dude, this is the downside to the whole "women are people, too" thing. She's an adult, she's not mentally incompetent (I assume), so... she bought a car. You can't really do anything about that. If you don't want to deal with the results of her decisions as they effect you, get divorced.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:48 PM on May 22, 2006

Seriously, assertiveness training for your wife. And a looooong talk about not making big decisions without consulting the other.
posted by radioamy at 2:30 PM on May 22, 2006

I'm in Wisconsin, if it makes any difference from a law perspective. There's a 3-day return on new vehicles in WI, but this one is used.

You say it's a 2006 with very low mileage- that is a new car. It was probably used as a dealer drive (salesfolks earn the right to take cars home from the lot for personal use, up to a certain number of miles,) and legally, that's still a new car.

So they can return it, right? Or am I missing something?
posted by Aghast. at 3:55 PM on May 22, 2006

There's a line between high pressure and coercion. Did your wife feel threatened? Talk to a lawyer about this angle if you think they may have stepped over the line. That said, three hours doesn't seem all that unreasonable as far as getting all the way through the price/contract/extras negotiations.
posted by jaysus chris at 4:43 PM on May 22, 2006

Just combine Ideas. Cancel the GAP, total it and rubberband it. bad for your credit, and your insurance rates, but oh the satisfaction.
posted by Megafly at 5:23 PM on May 22, 2006

Aghast.: Yes, you missed the first comment in the thread.
posted by beerbajay at 6:33 PM on May 22, 2006

If you absolutely want out of the contract, I think you're going to need to get a lawyer.

If there is some about of money or "adjustment" that would make you happy short of getting out of the contract, I think you can just raise hell on your own. Take whatever amount of money it is that would make you happy, double it, and just start demanding the money. Also demand to get out of all the ancillary contracts for services you don't want. Do all the stuff people are talking about: talking to the dealer, talking to the BBB, talking to the manufacturer, etc. Maybe they'll give you 1/2 of the $ you're demanding. They'll probably take a chunk of it out of the salesman's hide, so it won't be much sweat off the dealership's back. This approach seems to me more likely to succeed than trying to get out of the contract.
posted by Mid at 6:28 AM on May 23, 2006

I notice you said "slightly used" when describing the car. Check the miles, and check your state or local laws. In my state if the odometer reads over 500 miles, it is legally not a new car. If the dealership still sells it as new, this is fraud, and you should be able to report them to your local Commerce and Consumer Affairs agency. The dealership will tell you they sold you this as a demo model. State laws (generally) don't make this distinction and they trump car salesman's opinion. This is fairly common in my state, and happened to a friend of mine, and my father. I'm not sure what recourse this will leave you in terms of getting your money back. That will depend mainly on your local laws, and how actively your state regulates these guys. But, if you have something like this you can use it as leverage when talking to the dealer. It didn't work for my father, but my friend ended up getting the next model year of the van he bought, with a nice upgrade package and full warranty, all gratis, for agreeing not to take pursue his case any further.
posted by MetalDog at 8:01 PM on May 23, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the help askMeFi. The situation is resolved. Went in and did my "controlled rage" act with the sales staff and the general manager. Removed the extra crap from the contract and they're basically buying me a trailer hitch.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:33 AM on May 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thats quite the resolution.. they got off easy. I would have bought it else where.
posted by SirStan at 5:08 PM on October 24, 2006

Just as a clarification from Headspace's otherwise sterling post...

...sweeps is almost over...

Actually, TV sweeps is in November. Keep that in mind as you set your Tivos for all those sweepstastic episodes. Also get ready to hear lots of "Tonight, on Action News 8, a cure for cancer? And how your dog may be killing you. Also, investigative reporter Domingo Ramirez goes undercover at a strip club... selling sex!"
posted by incessant at 12:36 AM on October 25, 2006

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