Another business you should avoid (UPDATE)

I don’t know why customer service, honesty and integrity elude some business owners. After all, when you take care of your customers, it ensures they come back, right?

So why is it difficult for some business owners to do the right thing?

Some are simply thieves, who are out to steal your money. Others are just incompetent, and need a little goading to do the right thing. But it’s those who claim that customer service is important to them, and yet proceed to avoid personal responsibility for their screw-ups, that perplex me!

As an example…

In late November, I financed a vehicle for the Redhead. The goal was to find him a safe car that he would drive for a few years, and one for which he could afford to make the payments himself. Ultimately, even though I was the one who financed the car, it would be his – something he paid for on his own and something of which he could be proud.

We looked at a few vehicles, before connecting with Absolute Auto Sales in Fredericksburg, VA. The dealership apparently prides itself on its honor.

Absolute Auto Sales is founded on trust, integrity, and respect. We are proud to offer these values in our sales and business practices so our customers keep coming back. The vehicles on our lot have the best prices and quality in the area so come by and see us today!

Just remember the words, “integrity and respect.” You will see them later.

The owner appeared very knowledgeable, and helped me settle on a 2001 Mercedes CLK430 for the Redhead. Yes, it was a 2001 vehicle, but it had very low mileage (82,000, which is great for a car that old), and the engine sounded great when I test drove it. It was smooth other than a bit of a shimmy, which Derrick promised to have examined when an inspection was performed on the vehicle. He wouldn’t give me any more than $5000 for my 2010 Nissan Versa, because it did have some slight cosmetic damage and high mileage, and he explained thoroughly why, so I wound up with about $1000 of negative equity, but overall the Mercedes appeared to be a really good deal for my son at $8000.

The vehicle passed inspection, and Derrick told me he even had a mechanic put in a new wheel hub, because one of the lug nuts was stripped, and he did not want my son to have a blowout and not be able to change his own tire. He showed me a receipt that said he paid $550 for it.

He struck me as thorough and honorable, as well as knowledgeable.

That was November.

In December, the Redhead did, in fact, have a blowout, and it turned out that the lug nut was, in fact, still stripped. I note with interest that Derrick seems to have foreseen this happening. But the lugnut was stripped. Nothing was replaced. I wound up paying nearly $900 to replace the bent rim and tire that resulted from that incident. The mechanics at the nearby Mercedes shop said they did not believe the hub was new.  I contacted Derrick and told him that the person who claimed to have replaced the hub on that wheel may not have been completely honest. He said he would look into it.

It is now early February. I took the car in for a scheduled maintenance and had the mechanics at Mercedes run a diagnostic on the vehicle. Imagine my shock when they told me that the front brake rotors were worn 2mm below standard, which could not have happened in the 2 1/2 months we owned the vehicle! There are also significant oil leaks in the rear main seal. The front engine and transmission mounts are worn enough to be dangerous. The rear spring link bushings are worn and have caused significant damage to the rear tires (which now that I think about it, could explain Derrick’s interesting foresight), so the other tire in the rear has to now be replaced. Oh, and the lug nuts on that tire? Several of them are stripped as well.

The Mercedes mechanic told me he honestly had no idea how this car passed inspection! The grand total for this mess? $6000!

I’m certainly curious how this car passed inspection. The State Police requires that the rotors be checked during inspection. They also require that A MINIMUM of two wheels and drums be removed from each vehicle at the time of inspection. Had the person who performed the inspection done that much, they would have seen the worn rotors and would have certainly seen the problems that caused the problematic wear on the rear tires.

What else does the State Police require? This (pay special attention to the text I have bolded above).

8. – INSPECT STEERING & SUSPENSION FOR:
       (Jack up front end as shown in “Official Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Manual”.)

  • Wear in bushings, kingpins, ball joints, wheel bearings and tie rod ends.
  • Looseness of gear box on frame, condition of drag link and steering arm.
  • Play in steering wheel; leakage of power steering fluid in the system.
  • Wheel alignment and axle alignment.
  • Broken coil springs, spring leaves and worn shackles.
  • Shock absorbers.
  • Broken or weakened frame.
  • Broken or missing engine mounts.
  • Lift blocks.

9. – INSPECT TIRES, WHEELS & RIMS FOR:

  • Condition of tires including tread depth.

  • Mixing radials and bias ply tires.

  • Wheels that are cracked or damaged so as to affect safe operation.

I don’t know about you guys, but I doubt having the car for 2 1/2 months could have caused such significant wear so as to not be able to pass inspection!

It certainly does appear that whoever did the inspection did not do their due diligence, and Absolute Auto Sales wound up selling me a car that was dangerous to drive. Dangerous! I put my son in that car and let him drive it!

Let me repeat this. Because of this obviously faulty inspection, my child was driving an unsafe car!

Did Derek know about this? Did he know about the car being dangerous, and simply not tell me, choosing instead to make the sale? Did he not talk with the inspector who performed the inspection on the vehicle and ensure it was done properly? After all, the guy did claim that there was a stripped lug nut on one of the tires and claimed to have replaced it, charging Derrick $550! So was it negligence or just plain unethical fraud? What happened?

That’s a good question. It’s not one I can answer with any certainty, because as of this writing, he has refused to call me. I have sent numerous emails and texts to his phone. While he answered almost immediately in the past, he has pretty much ignored all my attempts at communication.

All I asked for was information about who performed the inspection. I did not ask for any kind of refund. I simply asked him to call me to discuss the problems and to give me the name of the person who did the inspection on this car – a car, which I bought for $8000, but which will cost me more than $14,000 thanks to this apparent fraud on the part of the inspector.

I realize I bought a used vehicle. I realize  there is no warranty on it, and I certainly do not expect a refund. But the damage to this vehicle should have been obvious to anyone performing the inspection, and I wonder if Derrick knew about it when he delivered the vehicle to my possession. The fact that he now refuses to get in touch with me and to give me the name of the person who did the inspection is telling.

It certainly appears that Absolute Auto Sales simply had someone stick a state inspection sticker on the car without actually… you know… inspecting the car! It certainly appears that if Derrick didn’t know about all the problems, he didn’t want to know and simply wanted to sell the car, without concern for my son’s safety.

And that is unacceptable! That is not the way to run a business.

Integrity and respect?

Is it honorable to avoid responsibility for your actions?

Is it respectful to ignore numerous messages from a customer, just because you already have their money?

Can putting a child in a car that is obviously unsafe to drive be considered respectful?

And I will be damned if I don’t at least let every person who reads this blog know that if you are in the Virginia area, you should never do business with this particular used car dealer.

Never.

UPDATE: If you were wondering about the emails I sent to Derrick, please see below.

Slide1

Slide2

Slide3

Now, I suppose it’s entirely possible that email could be screwy, but I also sent a message through the “contact us” link on the site, and two text messages.

text

I suppose all those means of communication were a fail? Interesting, given the fact that I used that number to have an entire conversation with Derrick just a few weeks prior to this.

Honesty. Honor. Integrity. Still a zero. And he still hasn’t contacted me despite numerous attempts on my part. Sad.

UPDATE 2: I just now finally got a phone call from Derrick King. He claims he never received my emails, never received my texts and only NOW looked at the second message I sent through the contact link on his website. Now, I understand if there are email issues, but here’s the thing, when I asked him for the name of the shop that performed the inspection, SEVERAL TIMES, he hung up on me. Just like that. I told him there was an easy way to resolve this: give me the name of the shop that performed the inspection. He refused.

OK… State Police here we come.

UPDATE 3: Just got off the phone with State Police. He took the car to an Exxon Station in Woodbridge, VA to get it inspected, and according to their files, this shop did the bare minimum. Looks like I will be lodging a complaint.

When you stick an inspection sticker on a vehicle, the assumption is that the vehicle is safe to drive. This one apparently wasn’t, and now I will be paying thousands to make it so.

UPDATE 4: After Mr. King rudely hung up on me when I demanded the name of the inspection station, I just received the following email.

Per our previous conversation the vehicle inspection was in the vehicle when it was sold.  We are not in the office as of yet but we will reseach the information for you. We apologize for not responding sooner as you emails we being filtered to our lead management system we are now aware of this problem are mitigating it immediately.  We appreciate you patience while we research our records. 

Thanks in advance

I would assume that as the owner, he would receive said emails, as well as the ones sent through the site, as well as the text messages. But, whatever…

I have the name of the station. I have the name of the manager of said inspection station. I have gotten the State Police involved.

33 responses

  1. Sorry to hear about your misfortune. It is sad that so many people simply suck.
    I personally could not pull stuff like this on another human being.

    Hopefully, anyone doing a search on Absolute Auto Sales in Fredericksburg, VA, will come across this.

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    1. I hope so. The worst part is that I asked for information – not money, not anything else. And he still won’t reply.

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  2. Here’s a suggestion. Here in Oklahoma city all four of the major TV stations, when told of something like this, will do an investigation and AIR it. If that can be done where you are, I suspect this guy will break a record making it right if he sees it’ll cost him such bad publicity. I’d check with local broadcast stations and see if any of them will help you.

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    1. Hmmmmm. Interesting idea. The problem is that it was an “as is” sale. The thing is, though, if they slap an inspection sticker on the car, they’re confirming the car PASSED inspection and is safe to drive. So I may be able to address it that way. The person who did the inspection outright lied. There is no way they couldn’t have seen what was going on with that car. I spoke to an attorney and brought up the option of bringing suit against the guy who did the inspection. If he works for the dealer, he could be held liable. Maybe that’s why the dealer refuses to answer who did the inspection. But I don’t know. I’m still doing research. I’ll post more when I get more info.

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  3. I shared your post and while I am not in Virginia, I know what this is like. You want you kids to safe as possible, at all times and circumstances. Trust is a hard earned thing and once gone, almost impossible to restore. Too many dishonest scum bags out there and they exist here in Oregon and all over.

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    1. I know. I feel like I failed him somehow. I know he knows that I did my best to make sure he was in a safe vehicle, but I feel like maybe if I knew a bit more about cars, I could have prevented this. I feel horrible. I’ve sent Derrick King – the owner and person who sold me this car – links to my updated review on cars.com, Yelp and this link here. I WILL find out who did the damn inspection! And I’m going after them!

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  4. Legally, when they inspect a vehicle, they are required to put in the car a little pink slip, signed by the person who does the inspecting. Sometimes, depending on the garage, it might be a computer print out. If you get pulled over by the police, that slip can be asked for and if you don’t have it, you can be cited.

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    1. I’ll check inside the glove box. Do you know if it is supposed to have the inspector’s identity on it?

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    2. I’m pretty sure they have to sign it. Might not be a legible signature, but it should have the business name that did the inspection. The state police have really strict guidelines for those guys to hold an inspectors license.

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      1. Perfect. I’ll take a look. Hopefully something is legible. And THANK YOU for the good advice!

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  5. State cop would likely recognize it. They see them all the time.
    Virginia used car dealers are notorious for being shady (sorry sad but true) It is super easy to get a dealers there. I am in Maryland where the state inspection is MUCH more severe, and I have customers bringing me cars from Virginia quite often. The cars usually will not pass MD inspection w/o thou$ands of dollars of work. One girl bought a C class mercedes and didn’t make it home before the engine failed to the tune of 7 grand, and they would only pay 2 grand to the repair…Lesson here ? Cultivate some sort of relationship with an independant mechanic shop, and pay them to do an independant pre purchase inspection before you buy any used car. If the used car dealer will not agree to doing that, run away.

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    1. Jesse, that’s sound advice. I wish I had been smarter, but I don’t have a whole lot of experience buying cars, and I’m even worse when it comes to knowing what’s wrong with them. But I certainly won’t allow people to take advantage of me. Especially where my child is concerned.

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  6. Sue the dealer. Your lawyer can then make them disclose who did the previous inspection. And then sue that person.

    Ethical independent used car dealers are out there. I’ve just never known of one.

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    1. I doubt I can sue the dealer, because the car was sold “as is.” However, if they slapped an inspection sticker on the vehicle without doing an inspection, or lying about the obvious things that were wrong with the car, that may be actionable. I am talking to an attorney.

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  7. NIcki, working on a relationship w/ an independant shop also works in keeping your cars working w/o being “taken” there too. You might have to try a place or two until you find a good “fit”. Once you do, the occasional box of donuts or something will earn you bonus points…I have a small place, mostly work on classic cars, but I LIKE my customers. I look out for them, and they too are loyal to me. Its win win, and being comfortable going to a place where you are a known customer will save you money and headaches down the road.

    Contact the Virginia State police, and get hold of the inspection division. Try to do that soon, and it is quite possible that they will do the work figuring out just who inspected it, and apply the appropriate penalty. Fudging inspections can bring some big fines.

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    1. Jesse, thank you. I’m going to do that. Hopefully they can help.

      I wouldn’t even know where to start looking as far as mechanics go. I don’t know whom to trust. I’m a bit gunshy now. I have no idea about cars, and I’ve gotten screwed more than once. I treat people courteously, and I give return business to people who treat me well. I am seriously afraid to trust anyone.😦

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  8. the inspection sticker should have a serial number on. tracing it to the inspector should be easy.

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    1. I just looked for the checklist. It’s not in the glove box. Neither I nor the Redhead took anything out of that car. I wonder where it went.

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  9. I have no idea what your car is, but what I would do is to try to find a smaller shop that employs people that worked at the dealer for that make, got fed up with the dealer, and went off to start their own shop. You can call the dealer for whatever make you have, and ask the parts people. They know who is still using the dealer (usually better quality ) parts. Check them out. stop by, are they friendly? OK with taking a moment to actually talk to you? That sort of thing.Some shops are “production” shops grinding out the maximum jobs in a day. This is not a bad thing, but folks there will have less time to spend. You want to feel that they want to genuinely fix your car for you, not just part you from your money. Ask questions.(do research too, reviews and so on) And like I said, when you find a place you like, bribery will get you remembered.

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    1. Will do. Thanks again, Jesse! It’s good to know.

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  10. Comically, I had a similar situation with the son-in-law some time ago. He’s an ortho surgical assistant (a damned good one, as I’m told) and decided he had to have a BMW (evidently for appearances’ sake) to drive. I warned him about the cost of parts, labor, and other things that go hand in hand with the “cute” little used Bavarian wonder and suggested he get a friggin’ pickup truck, all to no avail.

    Things started malfunctioning soon after the purchase and he found his ass in a crack as forewarned. Dear daughter called and asked for financial assistance (remember my warnings) and instead of sending the requested aid, I purchased a maintenance manual for the appropriate Beemer year/model and a rather large set of metric wrenches, sockets, and other tools, having them delivered to their home in GA. When the expected WTF question was raised upon receipt of the items, I explained this is what people did (work on their own cars) when they don’t make enough money to repair their “keep up with Mr. Jones” type vehicle and pay Fritz to do the work.

    When the plea was raised re: “He’s not a mechanic” my answer was “Yes he is – what exactly do you think an ortho surgical assistant does?” No difference between repairing people and cars except with people one must be a tad more careful and think all actions through – a definite plus and a skill/attitude easily transferable to wrenching on a car.

    Not saying the Redhead should be wrenching on his Mercedes but suggesting out when the time to do so arrives (which it will as cars are machines and, as other machines, are all in the same union) something with lower labor and parts costs would be more appropriate for a new driver’s first car.

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    1. Oh I absolutely agree that small maintenance stuff should be taken care of by the owner when possible. In this case there were MAJOR repairs required just so the car would be safe to drive! That’s not something I would expect a kid to know how to fix.

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  11. When I was a inspector in Texas, we had to put all of the cars info on the back of the sticker, along with my signature. The front of the sticker should have a number. DOT should be able to tell you which shop did the inspection by that number. We had regular inspections from DOT and if the T’s weren’t crossed and the I’s dotted, we caught holy hell.

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    1. The sticker has the model of the car, the year, etc. But no information about the shop. I have contacted the State Police to see if they can help.

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  12. Nicki, sorry to hear about your used-car troubles. While I have little advice on how to sort it out other than what’s been given to you, I have some suggestions for the future.

    1. NEVER TRUST THE SELLER ABOUT THE CONDITION OF THE CAR. Always have a car you are interested in purchasing inspected by an independent third party. A local dealership for that brand is often a good place, or an independent shop that specializes in that make. Or just a shop that you have dealt with before and trust. You will have to pay for this yourself, probably between $50-100, but it’s worth it for anything you’re serious about. You’ll get a list of any faults, and should get an estimate for correcting them as well. You can then take that list, along with the ‘Blue Book’ values, to the seller for negotiating purposes. If you use the same shop for your repairs, or at least to order parts through, you’ll help cement a great working relationship. (I’m fortunate in that I’m an aircraft mechanic AND know a bit about cars/trucks, so I can do a pretty good inspection myself with nothing more than a mirror and a flashlight. But I still get a shop to check the fiddly bits that require specialized tools or computer checks.)

    2. (And really, this should be #1…) Research the make/model you are interested in thouroughly. There’s an online club/discussion board for every car ever made these days. And Wikipedia can often be a usefull starting point. Browse around, read about the common faults and fixes and useful modifications, check the NTSB website for recall information. Know some of the major/minor things to look for when you are shopping around.. (I know, this is easy when you’re single and have no life…. A bit more difficult when you have a family.) Get the kid receiving the car to do some of this. It’ll be his/hers anyway, they should be involved and informed. Check your local library, bookstore and auto-parts stores for maintenance manuals. (Even if you don’t do the maintenance yourself, it’s a good resource to check up on shop-performed work.) Take this info, and the fix-it list from step 1, and think about doing some of the work her/him-self. Lots of vehicle MX that sounds big and scary…. really isn’t. It may be time-consuming (just ask me….), which is another consideration entirely….. But it’ll also leave you, and/or your kids, with a huge sense of self-satisfaction, competence and confidence.

    3. Get a warrantee if you can. Make it part of the deal (after the inspections) to get a 30-, 60- or 90-day warrantee, depending on the age/condition/price of the vehicle, your confidence in it and your repair abilities/finances. If it seems like a great deal, but the seller won’t go for this…. BE SUSPICIOUS. Naturally, this probably won’t work with a private seller, but should be a key point for a purchase from a used car dealer.

    I apologize for the Monday-morning quarter-backing, hope you get everything worked out.

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  13. P.S. If the seller won’t let you have the car inspected, immediately run far, far away from them. No ifs, ands or buts. (Unless you are knowledgeable enough to do it yourself, of course. But if they won’t let you jack it up to check wheels, bearings, brakes, etc., refer back to “run”.)

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  14. Not a dime’s worth of difference betwixt used car salesmen and politicians – both are professional liars.

    Surely the inspection sticker has some manner of serial number on it that can be traced.

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    1. Yep. Called State Police today. They gave me the information I needed. Thing is, if he had given me that information like I asked, I would have advised him not to take any cars to that shop for inspections and gone after the inspection station. But instead, he ignored all attempts at contact, claiming he didn’t get any emails (because apparently the email address I used was for a sales portal, but he’s the owner of the place, so WTF?), and asserting he just got a new phone, so he just didn’t get my texts. And then proceeded to play the victim, telling me how I got SUCH a good deal, how he did SO much for me by bringing the car to me, and how I got a GREAT deal. *sigh* OK.

      Let’s look at the facts. He drove the car from Fredericksburg, got it inspected in Woodbridge where he lives, and then took it over to me. I met him at a gas station with the car I was trading in and we exchanged cars at that point. There was no “hour drive” from Fredericksburg to deliver the car. He had it inspected in Woodbridge. Not far from where I am. He received full price for the vehicle. And the car he received in trade, which he refused to give me any more than $5000 for, was actually a very good car, with nothing but some cosmetic damage (not significant, as he claims) and high mileage. So this victim role is inappropriate, as I’m the one who has to shell out $6000 for repairs to make this vehicle safe to drive in the long run.

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  15. […] occurred to me today that with all the BS I’ve been dealing with as far as bad businesses go, I have failed to make mention of good ones! There are plenty of those […]

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  16. Sorry to hear you’re going through this disgraceful mess, Nicki. I’d be lying if I said I was surprised, though. There’s a reason car salesmen, and particularly used car salesmen, have a terrible reputation in our culture.

    I sold cars (very briefly) about ten years ago. It can be very lucrative, but working 12 hour days six days a week didn’t really thrill me, even though I tolerated it. What really made it impossible for me to stay in that industry is the ethics, or lack thereof, of most of the people involved.

    The dealership I worked at insisted that if a potential customer gave you their phone number, you called them three times a day, minimum, to pressure them to come look at a car. That felt like harassment to me, but that was their rule. Furthermore, management straight told us to lie to people if we thought it’d close the deal. Almost anything was fair play, in their eyes, if it closed the deal.

    I drew the line there, but I heard from other salesmen (usually they were laughing about it) that they’d just hoodwinked a customer and were looking forward to their paycheck. I wound up getting fired when the manager overheard me telling a customer the truth, which resulted in her declining to buy the car.

    In any case, I agree with what other folks here have said: make a stink about it. They didn’t necessarily do anything illegal, but they absolutely did something shady and immoral. The more people are aware of it, the less business this place will get. Since they clearly value profit over all else, hit them in the pocketbook. They won’t even feel it if you aim elsewhere.

    Best of luck getting this sorted out, and I’m glad to hear that no one, particularly your son, was injured on account of this mess.

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    1. Thanks for the shot in the arm, Darth! I honestly just hate dealing with this shit! This should be a great time for the ginger. Instead, the car spent a week in the shop after the first blowout, and now this.😦 Luckily, he is fine and nothing bad happened. I love that small fry!

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  17. […] I was a bit busy trying to solve issues with the Redhead’s car by desperately trying to reach Absolute Auto Sales. Now that I have the information I need and have gotten the Virginia State Police involved in the […]

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