A few weeks a go, my partner decided he needed a new car. No problem, he lives with The Vehiclist, right? He did all his due diligence, deciding what kind of car he wanted while studying the internet, reading reviews, looking at model comparisons, reading the surveys and the like. When he narrowed his choices down, he built the models online then looked at dealer’s inventories and made a decision. Last thing to do was to drive the model. My partner and I lease our cars – because for us, it make the most sense, both in terms of financial and emotion attachment. He currently had 6 months to go on a vehicle from Lexus to finish out a 3 year lease, but he was ready to change out now. Luckily, the value of the Lexus was perfectly inline with what he’d have to pay to buy it outright – the “buy off” in leasing terms. He could trade it in, the dealer would get the exact amount out of it. Basically, a wash. So on a sunny afternoon, we made our way into the Audi Beverly Hills dealership. It is a brand new facility, loaded with lots of gleaming fresh examples of new Audis. We were quickly greeted by a salesman, we’ll call “Geoff”. Silver haired and friendly, he used to sell Mercedes Benz’s and was now excited to be slinging Audis. And although we stated that we weren’t going to buy today ( why do they always ask that? Who makes huge financial decision like this off the cuff ? – Oh yea, consumers dealers love because they are too blinded to get a good deal ), we were interested in seeing the AUDI A7 just to see it in person – to judge the colors – which can be hard to tell on a commuter screen build, or in a brochure – but more importantly, to see if my partner could even fit in comfortably – he, being 6 foot, four. Geoff was very amiable, pleasant and informative. We spend over an hour with him, as he took us to see the lot where the inventory was held and my partner got to look at the different color variations. Once he found out that I edited an online car blog, he regaled us with fun and interesting stories, the kind only a seasoned car salesman can. Plus it turns out, he is quite the motorcycle fanatic and showed us many pictures of himself on his bikes from the 80s. He offered us a test drive, but honestly, we knew the car would be terrific, and my partner fit – mission accomplished. We didn’t want to waste Geoff’s time and appreciated the time he already spent with us. He politely informed us, that should we have any questions, to not hesitate to call him, and because of my partner’s color choices being rare, we should move while the inventory was available – ” This isn’t a museum,” he was fond of saying, ” we sell them”. He spent a lot of time telling us how being a new franchise, Audi blessed them with lot of inventory, and how lucky we were to be with such a professional and eager team of people ready to make us a deal. He gave us his card – even his personal email because I was asked to work on a story involving motorcycles, and here I had just met a nice guy who volunteered to help. We left feeling really positive, thinking we were in good hands.
But, a few days later, when I emailed him to inquire about some information involving the motorcycles, I never got a response. Ok, I figured, -he was probably busy. a few more days later, and I thought, well, maybe he just was being polite, and really never had any intention of helping me. Ok. Perhaps I miswrote out the email address and he never got it. Whatever the reason, I decided to be fair, and when my partner decided he wanted to go back – a mere four days since our initial visit, I called Geoff up and never mentioned the unreturned email – it wasn’t important, and I made an appointment. Or rather tried to. I told him my partner wanted to test drive it, and that should all go well, we’d take it that day. Geoff thanked my for calling, saying it made things so much easier than just having customers show up but he didn’t have any time for the day I asked him. When I suggested another day, he said it was his day off. The following day, which was also his day off, he said he’s call me around noon – he had a personal errand to run in Orange County, but if he could get back in time he would meet us at the dealership. Now I think everyone is entitled to their days off, and I thought it was really generous of him to offer. Of course, if we were hell bent on getting an Audi sooner, there are lots of other dealership nearby for us to go to, but we thought Geoff was nice, and wanted to give him our business. Dealing with the right salesperson is the most important part of the buying process. Here is someone you will be dealing with for a few hours, and you want to feel comfortable. Despite the email snub, we figured he was worth waiting for. In the meantime, while we waited for Geoff’s days off to come and go, we watched online as the cars my partner picked out disappeared from the dealership’s inventory. My partner was getting anxious and was ready to commit. Then Tuesday afternoon came -a full week since we first went in – and Geoff never called. He told me it would be around noon, and by the time I called him at 4:30 and left him a message, I had a feeling we were not getting a car that day. He called back twenty minutes later apologizing for the delay – and asked if the next day would work. It did – sort of – we had an open afternoon that Wednesday, but plans in the evening. Knowing how long car purchases can be, I was nervous about the time, and felt that Geoff”s casual, if not lazy attitude towards getting us into a car might catch up to us. Nonetheless, we agreed after I suggested three o’clock. He said he had someone who might be coming in at that time but that they hadn’t confirmed. But, he generously decided since I was asking for it – in effect confirming at we would be there, that he would put the other person off. We would be doing us a big favor. WTF? The red flags were shown a second and third time, and this time, I didn’t miss it.
Wednesday afternoon, and Geoff met us with a handshake, and pawned us off on some underling – he apologized saying he already had two customers he was juggling. We were right on time, but Ok, I know how these things go sometimes. His colleague was nice, he took us over to the lot, my partner picked out the car he wanted, drove it and when the colleague asked us what we wanted to do next, we said we’d take it. Despite Geoff’s colleagues’ obvious attempts to kill time, he went and had our Lexus appraised, got the official buy back info from Lexus Financial, and we waited for Geoff to appear. …Ever. He never did. Then, the dog and pony show started – you know, that bullshit song and dance where the sales person, in this case, Geoff’s underling, goes back and fourth to some mysterious manager who pulls up numbers and begins to figure out just how aggressively they want to rape you. If has been my experience – having bought many luxury cars over the years, both for myself and for friends, that a true indication of how a dealership handles the fairness of a sale comes down, not to the numbers, but is in direct correlation to the amount of smoke and mirror steps they do on the go-between process here. If the manager comes out, looks you in the eye, shakes your hand and starts dealing, chances are you will get yourself a fair deal – one where you don’t pay too much and they still make a profit. But it was becoming clear that this would not be the case. “Mike” the manager, had sent out a number that mathematically just didn’t add up. When I pointed this out to the underling salesman, he couldn’t explain it – was I the only one with a calculator? He would need to go ask Mike. And we waited. And waited. Then, the underling came out and said the 5 grand discrepancy was the difference in the value of the Lexus and what was owed. He had attached the 5 grand to the list price of the new Audi. uh huh…. Since we all knew that was bullshit – he all had access to the same information from Lexus financial as well as the printed information from multiple sources showing the actual resale worth of the Lexus proving it was a wash, the real insult here was that Mike knew what my partner was paying a month on the Lexus. Had he taken the time to add up that amount times the six months my partner had left on his lease, he would have figured out it didn’t equate 5 grand and therefore was basically saying, ” I think you’re stupid .” Why would my partner trade in a car and pay an additional 5 grand when he could have paid less and just turned the car in to Lexus? ….So this is the mentality we are dealing with. When I balked, the underling ran and got Mike, who only then came out from behind the curtain to deal with us face to face.
The first thing he asked looking at us was. ” Who writes the car blog?”
He came out with revised nunbers – though still not changing the 5 grand surplus he wanted. Instead he made the monthly payment lover by upping the length of the lease from three years to four. Again, this is insulting. Here you have a customer who has a three year lease who is getting rid of it at 2 1/2. There is no way we were going to sign up for four years, and we made that clear at the beginning. I guess it was ignored. Also, the numbers included a cap reduction cost – something we made clear that we never pay on leases – it doesn’t make sense in a lease. We made it clear in the beginning, but here it was, on the revised numbers, again, we were ignored. Mike explained to us that Audi models build equity in their leases, and that they leased out for a higher monthly amount than, say BMW, but that they held their value higher, and that at the three year mark, my partner could get out of the lease and be making money, and that we just didn’t understand that. Of course that would only work if we wanted another Audi, and the way this was going, that prospect seemed to dim by the minute. Mike was asking for $1,350 a month to lease a very nice and fully quipped Audi A7. When I pointed out that that kind of money buys you a lot of car choices, he agreed saying it was Panamera territory. Then he started his crocodile tears saying he just couldn’t take away the 5 grand because to do so would mean that he would be losing money, and he furiously stamped at his keyboard to show that the numbers looked like he would be down 2ooo dollars. Again, we were insulted. He was dealing with a car at list price. Something no one should ever pay, and certainly we weren’t about to. Nevermind that publicly accessible information shows what his invoice is, a number almost 6 grand below list, he just whined that he’d couldn’t let the car go at a loss. Needless to say, we were out of there. I had had enough. He said he’d continue to work on the numbers, possibly find another car that wasn’t equipped so highly, but he’d do something to see if he could make it work.
We went home empty handed. My partner was disappointed, yet thoroughly insulted. And what of our salesman Geoff? Had he come out to say – “Oh – I am sorry this didn’t work out… let me see what I can do..”? Nope. Not ever. We never saw him again that day. He was probably busy showing some other customers the pictures of himself on a motorcycle in GQ circa 1987. The next morning the AUDI business development office – basically a telemarketing firm jobbed out by the dealership to call you and survey customers and create leads – called and asked how our experience was. “Not great.” I responded. I requested that Mike call me so we can see what progress he had made on finding a solution. The phone operator assuredly me he’d pass on the message and Mike would call me. I am still waiting for that call.
And Geoff the salesman? How about a call that went something like, ” Listen, I am so sorry I didn’t get a chance to see you guys before you left – I am really sorry- I just got so busy and was in the weeds, but let me talk to Mike and see if there is anything I can do…” Nope. Fanatsy…. That call never came either.
Ironically, a few days ago, a full two weeks after we left AUDI, a call came from the Business Development office – ” Hey! Call me back! I have really great news for you!!!!”
Well I have news for you Audi Beverly Hills, we took your advice and went and got a Porsche. Mike at Pacific Porsche was a gentleman, the finance guys sat down with us immediately and they rightly took the Lexus at a wash. They wanted to sell a car, and they did so not only at a fair price – but they managed it without insulting their buyers. They managed it fairly and didn’t act like they were doing us all the favors. They treated us with respect and with intelligence. They assumed we had done our homework and had a at least rudimentary working knowledge of a calculator. We didn’t pay list price, and they still are making a fair profit. We are thrilled …
Of the many morals evident in this story ( never pay list price, do your homework, bring a calculator) none, is perhaps more important than that of good customer service. Audis are great cars. We would have been thrilled to be driving one. It is just that sometimes, they are sold by not great people. I have always loved Audis. My first car being a handed down Audi 5000. I have always presented them in the most favorable light here, and would continue to do so, although admittedly, with a bit less enthusiasm. It is interesting, how one bad experience can tarnish your view.
We all know car buying is a game of back and forth – you want to sell a car, I want to buy one – but you can assure that the game goes off without a hitch, where everyone is happy – if you at least treat your potential customers with respect. That means, don’t insult their intelligence. That means be fair, and customer service 101: call them back. Instead, AUDI BEVERLY HILLS didn’t really want to part with this car. Who knows why? Maybe they had someone else interested in it – someone who would pay list price and possibly over. In which case, good for them. The world is full of dumb people, and if they have someone willing to buy a car at those terms, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t go for it. But that is not every customer. Maybe because they were so busy that day, they just weren’t inclined to make another deal, perhaps the Finance office was already overwhelmed. When I have recounted this story over and over at dinner parties ( this is what I do – I’m the Vehiclist after all) it was even suggested that they were uncomfortable dealing with two gay men. I’d like to think not, but perhaps. I guess I will never know why that deal didn’t happen or why we were treated so poorly, but all I can do know is tell as many people who will listen ( or read about it ) and let them judge for themselves. Buyer Beware is never more true than when it comes to buying cars, and remember, you have a lot of choices out there. If you are buying a car, I urge you to go someplace where you are really treated well, not just at the first handshake or test drive, but throughout. If you aren’t treated with respect and kindness, there are lots of other good dealerships that will. Find them. Read reviews, ask your friends and do your homework. As for “Geoff”, “Mike” and the others we dealt with at AUDI BEVERLY HILLS – all those who seemed so interested and concerned that I wrote a car blog – this is for you. What did you think I was going to write about?
AUDI BEVERLY HILLS is part of the Fletcher Jones Dealer group.