I want my car and I want it now!

Sometimes, as we all know, things can go very wrong, despite the best efforts of all concerned. The following tale of woe does actually have a happy ending but the whole sorry mess could easily have been avoided had attention, as always, been applied to the detail.

The story begins with an enthusiastic car buyer (we’ll call him Mr. Smith) spending quite a few hours on his computer looking at used cars. He’d done all the right things, he’d drawn up a short list with pros and cons, worked out how much he could afford, the potential running costs and what were his “must haves” and at the end of the process he felt he had located the perfect car for his needs.

The mileage was right, the provenance was good, the colour was his first choice and all the “must haves” were present and correct. Mr Smith certainly had all his ducks in a row. All that was left was for him to make the call to the dealership and make his purchase; such was Mr. Smith’s conviction that this was absolutely the car for him.

The call was made and Mr. Smith arranged to visit the dealership the following day. Unfortunately the next day happend to coincide with a snow deluge which was accompanied by its trusty sidekick “travel chaos”.

Mr Smith made it to the dealership though which is more than can be said for the salesman he had arranged to meet. Luckily because of the weather the showroom was not exactly overrun with customers so Mr. Smith was able to find someone else to assist him. Sitting at the desk with the salesman Mr. Smith made it quite clear he had already chosen the car he wanted and the salesman could clearly see the printed web pages in Mr. Smith’s hands and so, quite rightly, assumed this particular sale was going to be somewhat of a formality.

The weather outside was truly miserable and neither of the two parties really wanted to leave the warm and comfortable surroundings to venture outside and take a closer look at the snow covered car (yes it happens) but, of course, this was a big mistake. On the strength of the (admittedly very good) web description and imagery of the car concerned Mr Smith signed on the dotted line and arranged to come back the next day to collect his new car.

Oh dear what could go wrong? Well unbeknown to the salesman and Mr. Smith the car he had just purchased had actually already been sold to someone else. Had the original salesman that Mr. Smith spoke with on the phone already known this and wanted to get Mr. Smith to the showroom to sell him something else? Perhaps and had the two men been brave enough to venture outside they may have seen a “sold” hanger through the windscreen but the fault probably lies with the salesman who sold the car and didn’t update the necessary records and tell the relevant people.

Needless to say when Mr. Smith discovered this unpleasant piece of news he was far from happy. In fact it’s safe to say that he was beside himself with rage. He didn’t feel he’d done anything wrong in not actually setting his own eyes upon the car before handing over his debit card and held the dealership entirely responsible.

Of course the sales manager held his hands up and gave Mr. Smith a full refund of his deposit but sadly this wasn’t enough for Mr. Smith as he insisted that the dealership provide him with the actual car he had “purchased”. It was explained to him that, of course, this was not possible because someone else (i.e. the owner) was driving around in it as they spoke and that they would try very hard to find him something similar. But that was not enough. Mr Smith wanted the car (his car) and if they wouldn’t provide him with it he would have to “take steps”.

The sales manager hoped that once Mr. Smith had calmed down he would accept the genuine mistake for what it was and move on with his life. He accepted that perhaps Mr. Smith would not be buying (another) car from them anytime soon but as no one had actually been hurt and no money had been lost he figured that was probably the end of it.

Mr. Smith didn’t think that at all, however. Three days later he was back at the dealership but this time he was holding a handmade placard which said, in big black marker pen “DON’T BUY FROM (dealers name withheld) THEY ARE LIARS!!!”

Now any one will tell you this sort of thing is not good for business and the dealership could not afford to have but a single potential car buyer put off by Mr. Smith’s one man protest. So the sales manager asked the affable and pretty receptionist to go and offer Mr. Smith a (gourmet) coffee and invite him in for a chat.

It turns out all Mr. Smith really wanted was to be “loved-up” as we say in the trade. Flowers were ordered for (the probably long suffering) Mrs. Smith and the five star treatment given to Mr. Smith and after about two hours guess what happened? Yes Mr. Smith brought another car!

The moral of the story? Well number one dealers always update your stock straight away and Mr. Smith if you’re going to spend that sort of money at least have a look at the car before you buy it (and we don’t just mean a photograph!)

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7 Responses to I want my car and I want it now!

  1. Ling Valentine January 12, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    It is outrageous to suggest the customer was in any way to blame for not looking at the car. What the hell did the customer do wrong? The customer was fantastic in trusting the dealer and buying the car unseen. Sheesh! If the dealer’s systems are so poor that car had not been updated on the sales system (how can that be possible if the car had been sold, as a deposit has to be declared for VAT purposes on the same day?) then there would probably not even have been a “SOLD” sign in the car, in any case.

    This is a demonstration of how completely useless some dealers are.

    The car could easily have been sold in the same way (ie double-sold) to a different customer on the phone, or via the internet, so to partly suggest the customer should insist on eyes-on the car, is complete rubbish.

    If the car (say £10,000 worth) had been a pile of £20 notes on the floor, then certainly more care would be taken by the dealer. cars should be treated as their cash value, as assets.

    To analyse this situation and say it was caused by snow on the physical cars (obscuring a SOLD sign in the windscreen) is the verdict of a simpleton at Motor Trade Insider. Completely wrong. The dealer is entirely responsible for having poor systems, not being in control of his physical stock, having stupid staff and messing this trusting customer around.

    A customer should be able to entirely trust a car dealer to act properly, and to know the status of their stock. This customer is not at fault, at all.

    The dealer is fortunate the customer was so reasonable. Staff should be fired. Certainly, I would do that… starting with the Dealer Principal who runs such a crap ship.

    Name the dealer! Why be shy?


    • MTI January 12, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks for your comments Ling.

      Of course the situation is entirely of the dealers making and (unfortunately for the person concerned) a head did roll but we were just making the point that, as buying via the internet becomes ever more popular, a buyer should always follow the same process as if they were buying traditionally because you obviously (as this story proves) can’t trust dealers to get it right every time.

  2. Ling Valentine January 12, 2011 at 11:07 am #


    Well, it happens with me, too. My dealers also make these stupid mistakes. In the last 3 months, I have had a 2.0 Kia Sportage petrol (instead of diesel as ordered) delivered, and a 3dr A3 (instead of a 5dr A3 as ordered), and a Qashqai+2 (intead of a normal Qashqai as ordered). I have had a few wrong colours too. Dealers are careless and inept in many cases.

    These are all new cars, and my order form has CAP standard descriptions, and every email contains full description, so it is the dealer (all different ones) who make these mistakes.

    Dealers are just (generally) useless.

    I always get a (large) cash settlement and buy out my customer annoyance immediately. Eg: £500 cheque for the wrong colour. £750 for the 2 missing doors. Bear in mind these are lease cars… So there is no residual effect.

    Glad someone got fired in that case. They deserve it. I wish people would get fired at my dealers, but mainly they seem to just accept these mistakes and do it again :).



  3. steven cushing January 12, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Aren’t we overeacting just a little bit s**t happens they are only bits of metal anyway and no one died! I think we should just chill a littlte and realise people make mistakes I’m sure the guy who lost his job didnt set out thinking “I know I’ll p**s a customer off today and cost the company money and give it a bad rep. Is it not allowed anymore to ever do something wrong without getting hung for it? No wonder people are just in it for themselves. As you say the bloke still bought a car so all’s well that ends well!

  4. David Murby January 12, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    My view on these types of issues is that once you accept that something has gone wrong – and these things happen – it’s what you do about it that’s key. Which is clearly shown by this story. Why didn’t they talk to Mr Smith, explain the problem, and ask him what he wanted to happen next – accepting that he couldn’t have the car he originally wanted.
    Often if you take the time to talk to people and ask what they want the answer is relatively simple – in this case the bloke just wanted to be taken in hand and given some TLC.

  5. Ling Valentine January 12, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    Hmmm, Steven, this is the problem with many dealers, they think “yeah well, people make mistakes”. Or “these things will happen”. But, they shouldn’t. If it was a pile of cash (say at the bank) then it wouldn’t happen, eh?

    But, to the customer this is very big thing. He will have lost face with his wife, his mates (after telling them he has bought a car, then to say he can’t have it) and he will have had that fleeting moment where he wonders if his money is at risk. I wonder if the deposit refund was immediate, the minute they found the error, or if it took a while to give him the money back?

    And to MTI, I say that as internet buying gets more common, how on earth is the customer expected to physically inspect the car? What if the dealer is 500 miles from the customer?

    No, the issue here is a) a stupid dealer, b) poor staff, c) poor systems. All need fixing.


  6. Mark Robbins January 13, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    A mistake was made, what’s the big deal here? we are all only human i’m afraid, still it could have been worse, the customer could have dealt with me with his placard, as the owner of the establisment i would have relished the chance to tell him exactly what he could do with said placard………………..

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