This would have not happened using Ed Car Guy.
From the N.Y TimesIT’S the holidays and you want uplift.
Well, find an elevator, pal. Because here comes a downer.
Our tale this time comes from a hotel clerk and recent immigrant from India named George Karikulathileliyas — henceforth known as Mr. K. The question below is based on his e-mail and several follow-up conversations with the Haggler.
Q. I bought a Nissan Murano from Star Nissan in Queens last year. I thought the price was $35,985, because that’s what it said on the sales agreement I signed that evening.
But when I received my financing document from Chase, the price was $39,754. The difference — nearly $4,000 — is a mystery that I have spent more than a year trying to solve.
I also purchased a $2,495 service contract, which the salesman at Star Nissan said I had to buy or else I couldn’t drive the car off the lot. I called Easy Care, the company in Atlanta that administered the contract, and canceled it almost immediately. A rep there said that, per the company’s protocol, it sent a refund check to Star Nissan.
But my monthly payment has never changed. Easy Care said it did not have the power to reduce the outstanding balance of my loan, and my lending bank, JPMorgan Chase, said the same. Only Star Nissan, both companies contend, can do that.
I have called Star Nissan at least 25 times to get some answers about what I believe is an overcharge of nearly $6,300. And I have visited on roughly 10 occasions. Every time I’m told the same story: Only the finance manager can amend my contract, and he isn’t in the building.
I brought a friend along for one visit and after several hours of waiting, my friend asked what seemed like a reasonable question: “If that finance manager resigned tomorrow, who would we speak to?” A Star Nissan employee grew so enraged that he told us that if we didn’t leave, he would beat us.
I have been in touch with the state attorney general’s office but it has not helped. Can you? George K.
New Hyde Park, N.Y.
A. A call to Star Nissan was returned by Gus Tsolkas, the company’s general manager. The Haggler will say this for Mr. Tsolkas: He was willing to talk. And talk. Very loudly.
What he was unwilling to do was yield an inch.
He stated that on the day that Mr. K picked up his car, he had agreed to a number of add-ons — a $25,000 “theft benefit,” a seven-year warranty, a five-year roadside assistance contract, a car alarm and a remote starter. Together, Mr. Tsolkas said, these explain the aforementioned $3,800 gap.
It was news to Mr. K. that he’d acquired any of these goodies and protections. But he readily acknowledges that he signed many documents the night he bought his car, in part because his children were nagging him to leave — never bring kids to a car-buying negotiation! — and in part because he felt pressured by the salesman.
Mr. Tsolkas produced two of the documents Mr. K signed at the dealership, the roadside assistance contract and the $25,000 “theft benefit.” What he didn’t do was produce any figures that detailed how much these and other add-ons actually cost. Nor did he share any documentation of the purchase of the car alarm or the remote starter — two items you’d think Mr. K. would know he owned.
Mr. Tsolkas was also unable to explain why the Easy Care refund was never credited to Mr. K. (Easy Care confirmed that Star Nissan cashed that check.) He said he’d look into that.
In the vain hope that at least some of this dispute stemmed from a failure of communication, the Haggler convened one of his patented Three-Way Conference Calls of Reconciliation, which brought together Mr. K. and Mr. Tsolkas for their first-ever conversation.
It didn’t go well. Mr. Tsolkas basically said he didn’t believe Mr. K.’s story. He said it was impossible to visit Star Nissan 10 times without meeting the finance manager. He also described as “ludicrous” the notion that one of his employees would threaten a customer.
At moments during this hourlong dialogue, contentiousness morphed into a place where low comedy meets sophistry. When the Haggler asked for written proof that Mr. K. had bought a remote starter, Mr. Tsolkas countered with this gem: “Why don’t you ask him to prove that he didn’t buy it?”
He also implied that Mr. K. was playing the guileless-immigrant card to win the sympathies of the Haggler.
The Haggler doubts it. And his doubts were deepened when he learned about a lawsuit filed against Star Nissan by Joseph Collins, who bought a $94,000 sports car and optional packages from the dealership in January 2009. Star Nissan later demanded another $10,000 for a maintenance package, which Mr. Collins contended a salesman told him was included in the original deal. A judge awarded him a full refund and Mr. Collins is now pushing for legal fees and punitive damages, claiming fraud.
As part of evidence collection for this lawsuit, Mr. Collins’s lawyer subpoenaed the more than 30 complaints against Star Nissan filed with the Better Business Bureau since April 2008 — a track record of contract disputes and refund issues that earned the company a B.B.B. grade of F. In a dozen instances, Star Nissan simply did not respond to the bureau, suggesting that it was not just Mr. K who had a hard time getting this company’s attention.
Will Star Nissan credit Mr. K. for that Easy Care contract? Will the dealership break out the costs of other the add-ons sold to him? Will Gus Tsolkas display even a millisecond of concern about the way Mr. K. was treated?
Most important, will the attorney general’s office — which is supposed to help people like Mr. K. — get involved?
This episode of the Haggler will be continued.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep it brief and family-friendly, and go easy on the caps-lock key. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.
A version of this article appeared in print on December 26, 2010, on page BU5 of the New York edition.