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