There's a reason why car dealers get a bad rap! Though not all of them are bad there are some scammers out there who will really do anything to make a quick buck. These folks share the scummiest things they've seen a car salesman do to get snag that sale.
Resourceful Son Gets Revenge On Dealer For Scamming His Late Father
“My elderly father had just called me in Florida to say he found a real ‘cherry’; a 1-year-old, low mileage minivan at a great price sitting on his trusted local dealership’s lot. He was helping to rebuild an old theater organ and needed something bigger to haul his tools and all the other stuff. I used my power of attorney to have a check cut from his home equity credit line. His new van was paid in full and good to go. Or so I thought.
A few days later he offhandedly remarked there had been a glitch in the van’s title work, or something when he went to pick it up. He said the apologetic and very nice finance guy explained the changes and assured him fixing the problem was no big deal. It should have been a red flag, but dad was happy. And I was busy with the new job and the new house. I let it slide.
His heart gave out about two months later. When I returned home to Pennsylvania for his funeral and to begin settling his estate, I spotted a thick manila folder on the kitchen counter where dad likely figured his only child would find it when the time inevitably came.
The folder contained a bunch of stuff, including the minivan paperwork. I flipped through the pages and discovered there were two sales contracts. For two different minivans. The first was for the low mileage, year-old van that matched the vehicle he’d described over the phone. It indicated paid in full.
The second contract, stashed in the back of the folder, was for a much older, much higher mileage model that was seemingly identical in appearance – and identical in price – to the year-old van he described over the phone. It came with a 48-month, high-interest finance agreement. I pulled the VIN from the van parked outside in the garage. It matched the number found on the paperwork for the older, high mileage, dealer-financed budget lot car. What, I wondered, had dad done this time?
The lady at the bank was also confused. She confirmed the home equity check had, in fact, cleared. The dealership had been paid. The bank also confirmed dad’s credit report showed he’d taken out a mysterious used car loan around the same time and in the same amount as the bank transfer. What, she also wondered, had my dad done this time?
Dad’s vision had remained fairly sharp over the years. He was a retired airline/corporate pilot and, like most pilots, good eyesight was something he prided. But he sometimes needed help with the small print. And he shunned reading glasses.
It’s likely he never really looked at the ‘revised’ paperwork the dealership’s finance guy handed him that day. And it’s equally likely that’s what the finance guy was counting on. They took his full price check, got him to sign a redundant loan at terms that would make a street shark blush, and then sent him off in a different and much cheaper car than the one he thought he was buying.
Dad, clearly, had been scammed. A bait-and-switch. With a twist. A widower – my mom had lost her battle with cancer two years earlier – he lived alone. He had no local family. Maybe, for all they knew, he had no family at all. And he had money, credit, and a tendency to trust people. He looked like the perfect mark.
The dealership, figuring the old man would never notice, had apparently grabbed a nearly identical van from the lot and switched it with the creampuff my dad thought he was buying. They also conned him into signing loan papers on a car he’d already paid for.
The greasy finance guy, of course, kept trying to give me the runaround but I finally tracked him down. When I met him face to face he kept calling me ‘pal’ the whole time. I tossed the folder on his desk and he glared at me. It was like I’d just plopped a turd on his desk. He gave it a quick glance and pushed it aside.
‘Can’t help ya,’ he smirked. But I could tell that he knew what he did to my poor late father. The eye twitch gave him away. ‘I’m gonna have to ask you to leave, pal,’ he scoffed.
The civil complaint drafted by my dad’s lawyer hit the court clerk’s desk two days later. Now, this guy was a carnivore. He was a real go-getter and long-time friend of my father’s. He’d come to know, and like my dad. And he was outraged.
The filing was brutal. It went for the throat. It was also a piece of art. Theft, fraud, conversion, elder abuse. Plus some stuff I think he made up. Loved that touch. All of this was attached to a mountain of evidence, including a newspaper ad for the budget lot van my dad was tricked into buying. The scummy dealership was left with nowhere to hide.
Being a former journalist, I tipped the reporters at my old newspaper on the scam. The piece ran page one, above the fold. The TV talking heads also got the story. Funny how that tends to happen when you have a bunch of friends in the business. The resulting coverage was a PR disaster for the dealership. Similar switcheroos began surfacing.
The ‘can’t help ya, pal’ F&I guy was suddenly nowhere to be found. And the corporate suits were now clamoring to settle. Money-back? You got it. Tear up the loan papers? Done. And you can keep the van. Consider it a gift. The attorney general’s office provided the nail in the coffin. And the perp walk. The place is now a bowling alley. Or something.
This kind of overt fraud is, of course, rare. It’s a far more subtle, and far less messy, form of fraud. And, of course, it comes with a seemingly endless supply of suckers.”
Don Was A Shady Guy Alright
“I picked out the car I wanted at the dealership and they told me the price. I returned the next day with a check from my bank for the amount they told me. They said now that the car was an extra $500 now. Okay? When did this happen? When I explained this was the price we agreed to the day before, they said their salesman should have never given me that price. They said, ‘For that price, you can buy this car over here (used rental type car).’
Of course, I declined. Then they said, ‘We’ll let you speak to Don. He’s the guy that can play with the price a little.’
I went to speak to Don who was a very intimidating man. I was 19 at the time and I looked it apparently. Don told me he was sorry about the salesman’s bad estimate, but I was $1,000 short with my check. Somehow I went from $500 short to $1,000 now. When I told them it was all I could afford, they asked me if I could borrow any money from family members. When I said no, they told me they couldn’t sell me the car.
As I was walking away through the lot, Don drove up in his car and told me to get in. Like a dummy I did, and Don drove me around while we talked. He asked again if there was anyone I could borrow money from and again I said no. Then, out of the kindness of his heart, Don said, ‘What if I just front you the money, and you pay me back when you can?’ I may have been 19, but when he said the word ‘front’ bells started ringing in my head and I suddenly wanted to get out of that car as fast as possible.
I didn’t buy that car and had later heard that the dealership was known to do that to younger buyers. Some young men had been arrested for burglary and other crimes saying they had done it to pay back a car loan from that dealership under fear of violence. Some had actually been put in the hospital for not paying back the loan with the ‘appropriate’ interest. I’m glad I didn’t do any business with them.”
It’s A Great Car… Just Don’t Look At It The Right Side Of It!
“When my uncle retired, he decided to treat himself to a brand-new Corvette. He shopped for weeks, finally choosing a loaded model in a bright racing yellow.
He was so excited on delivery day. I drove him to the dealership and when we arrived, his new car was out front, facing the street but parked very close to the wall of the showroom. He didn’t care because he’d be driving his new car and I would be driving my car. The salesman rushed him through the paperwork, gave him the keys, and said he had another appointment to get to. This annoyed my uncle considering the amount of money he had just spent. But he was still excited, so he hopped in and fired up the 427 horsepower engine. I told him I’d follow him to the gas station; this happened in the days when a dealership provided just enough fuel to get you to your first fill-up.
He pulled out and turned right down the boulevard. A few blocks later, he pulled into a station, then swung the Corvette around so the tank fill would be on the right side for the pump. My mouth fell open in horror as I watched him swing around. The entire passenger side of the car, the side that was against the wall at the dealership, was totally smashed. Dents, paint ripped down to the fiberglass, trim completely missing. The car was destroyed on the passenger side. I pulled over and tried to warn my uncle before he saw it but I was too late. He had gotten out with a big smile on his face, ready for his first fill-up with his brand new Corvette, only to see this total mess. We both stood there dumbfounded for a moment, but soon anger took over.
We immediately returned to the dealership and found the salesman, who was on the phone. I had to restrain my uncle from hitting this guy, he was screaming at him at calling him every name in the book. We went outside and showed the salesman the car, and he had the balls to accuse my uncle of being the one who damaged the car! By this time a small crowd had gathered around the scene, and finally, the owner of the dealership came out.
The salesman admitted that he had smashed the car when he was bringing it out of the storage lot, and didn’t want to lose the sale, so he hid the damage by parking it so it wasn’t visible. The owner immediately fired the salesman, apologized to my uncle, gave him a loaner car for free while they ordered a new Corvette, then when he came to pick up the replacement car, the owner gave my uncle a check for $10,000 back from what he had paid for the car. Because of all of this, my uncle didn’t sue the dealership, but the story made the newspapers and dealership folded less than a year later. That salesman’s actions were the scummiest I’ve ever come across.”
“I Bet You’re That Kind Of Girl…”
“I was in the market for a new car. It was the only time I was about to make a trade with a relatively decent car for trade-in. I usually drive my cars until they just die.
So I was letting them check over my car for the trade-in value while I was deciding between two cars. The trade-in value would determine which new vehicle I could afford to purchase. They kept telling me that they could not give me the trade-in value until I decided on my new car. I got frustrated and told them just to give me back my old car. The guy told me I had already sold them my old car and I would now have to repurchase it from them at retail value. What? How on earth did I already sell them my car when I was still shopping around?!
I asked where my check was for the sale, and he said ‘Well that will be determined when you buy your new car.’ I told him that the ‘sale’ of the old car was not complete until I received my ‘something of value’ which would be paid for the car. He wouldn’t let it go. I told him to show me the contract where I supposedly ‘sold’ them my car. He said that wasn’t mine to see. He says that because I wasted his time, I am obligated to buy another car from him.
The only one wasting time was him, playing the shell game that every dealer plays. He kept getting more and more agitated that I was not buckling. I told him I wasn’t buying anything until I knew what the bottom line would be, and I could see he had no intention of telling me. He finally, without thinking it through, says ‘I bet you are the kind of girl that if a man takes you out for a nice dinner and buys you flowers, and spends his time with you, that you don’t put out.’ I was dumbfounded. He throws my keys at me, tells me I am not worth his time and to leave. Needless to say, I left as quickly as I could. After that statement, there was no telling what he would do next.
And yes, there were witnesses to his tirade. The guy was fired and the dealership is no longer in business.”
That’s Not A Dent That’s The Sun’s Reflection!
“There are a few scummy stories that come to mind! No wonder car dealerships have such a bad reputation, as soon as you think that they will try and work their reputation, they strike again. My first one: I went in with my AMC sedan (yes, years ago) and was looking at a Chevy, I asked the scamman (oops, salesman) ‘What will you give me for my car?’ he asked. I said ‘OK, and how much will you take off the sticker?’ he replied ‘$2,000?, I said ‘OK, so that’s $4,000 off the price?’ he said ‘No, just $2,000’, so I looked at him and said ‘so, basically you want my car for free?’ after a positive reply from him I left.
The next one, also a Chevy dealer (I don’t own any Chevys!!! or any other GM cars), I came to an agreement to buy a Cavalier. We came to a sweet deal. Then I saw an upgraded Cavalier with a sticker prices of about $2,000 more. So, I said to the scamman, ‘Hey, how about I pay $2K more, and get the other car?’ he said ‘Sure.’
The paperwork was done and I left two cars and and a deposit. After an hour or so, something didn’t feel right! I reran the numbers again and the scamman charged me $4,000 more without mentioning a single thing. Needless to say, I came back, dropped off the car and picked up my old used car.
Another one? Honda dealer; give them ‘credit’ they wore me out with their unceasing attempts to sell me everything from undercoating to Lojack, to extended warranty etc. At the end, the guy said, ‘Well, there is destination charge.’ In my weakness, I accepted it! It was a $900 lesson learned. What the heck is a destination charge anyways?
One more, (last one today): I saw a really lovely minivan on sale, for a really decent price. Walked into the dealership and looked at the van it looked good. Walked around and then I saw it; a dent on the side of the car. I asked the scamman, ‘What’s up with the dent?’ his reply, ‘Oh, it’s nothing! it is just the reflection of the sun…’
Sure, buddy! I wasn’t born yesterday. Reflection my a**. I walked away instantly.
I won’t talk about the Ford dealership that tried to sell me a 2015 for a great price, while we were negotiating a new 2016… or the Mazda dealer who told me, ‘Our SUV is the best selling car in America, we don’t negotiate!’ I told him, ‘If you don’t negotiate, I don’t buy.’ There are more, but a promise is a promise.”
Scammy? How About Desperate!
“Several years ago, my husband was shopping for a used car for me (I refuse to shop with him..he’s so nitpicky he drives me up the wall). He’d gone to one dealership and after being approached a half dozen times and telling them, ‘No I’m just looking for now.’ Every time without a hitch, he would simply leave if anybody hassled or annoyed him. Simple man.
Well, this one car lot he went to was downright theatrical and desperate. So pretty much the same shtick happened where some scammy sap pushed my husband too far so he decided to leave. As my husband is pulling out with his car he hears hurried footsteps coming towards him.
Then, like some crazy lemming, this salesman LEAPS and THROWS himself in front of my husband’s car as he tried to pull forward and leave the lot!
‘Wait sir…wait! GIVE US A CHANCE! YOU CAN’T LEAVE!’ he shrieks. ‘We could really use this!’
This understandably freaked out my husband and he honked the horn a couple of times. The salesman went to the driver’s side window and started banging on it, begging my husband to just give them a chance like a maniac.
A little unnerved at this point, my hubby made a nervous grin, shook his head no, and slammed the gas never to return! The crazy salesman was left in a cloud of dust. So yeah, while some people are used to salesmen pulling skeezy stuff, this was certainly a first for us! Luckily, it never happened again. They’re freaks I tell ya.
It ended up with him buying a new Hyundai Sonata for himself with a bunch of bells and whistles and he passed on his aging Chrysler Sebring to me, which I hated driving. It was a big old man sedan that I just really never took to and when it finally kicked the bucket a few months ago, I was happy to see it go. We managed to find a very cute, low mileage Nissan Versa which I am MUCH happier with. It’s not my beloved Chrysler PT Cruiser (which is what the Sebring replaced) but it’s close.”
“I Backed The Salesman Against The Glass…”
“I don’t know if it was considered strange to this particular dealership, since it was sued several times, and eventually shut down due to their business practices.
I was in the market for a new truck, so I visited this particular dealership because it advertised several low-price guarantees. I normally take my time and pick out exactly what I am looking for or find a dealership that has it in stock. After walking the expansive dealership in-stock lot, I had found my desired choice.
A salesman approached me as I was headed into the showroom. I handed him the information posted on the truck’s windshield. He returned with the keys to the truck so I may ‘Take it for a spin.’ I handed him over my keys so they could determine trade-in value of my vehicle.
I returned to the sales floor and my salesman turned me over to a junior sales-manager for negotiations. The salesman returned to us with a price quote sheet that I was asked to sign. No worries, I had thought. Five hours after arriving at the dealership, I had negotiated what I considered a very good deal for a loaded truck, and was on my way home at approximately 8:30 pm.
The next day, on my way to work, surrounded by the new car smell, I noticed some features that were pointed out the day before were inexplicably absent. This bothered me immensely, as I gave the truck a thorough once-over when I arrived at work… making notes as I went along. The further along I progressed, the more irritated I became. There was a list full of things wrong with this vehicle! I telephoned the dealership and the salesman. I told him of the problems that I had discovered, and said that I was bringing the truck back for them to ‘Make it Right.’ I also instructed him not to leave the premises because I had numerous questions.
I returned to the dealership and found the sales manager and the salesman to explain the situation. The salesman said that this scenario was not possible. Well, the idiot had failed to return the bait vehicle to its original spot, as it was parked just outside of the showroom windows. I backed the salesman against the glass and called him every derogatory name that came to mind including THIEF. Thankfully, I chose not to lay hands on this crooked salesman that had tried the old BAIT and SWITCH sales scam.
Shortly thereafter, I drove out with the fully loaded truck, which included some very nice aluminum wheels and an alarm. The sales price was the same as the stripped down model I was originally tricked into driving off of the lot.
That particular dealership was shut down within six months, thankfully. Sorry for the rambling storytelling.”
He Called The Salesman On His Bluff Alright
“Oh, dear sweet baby Jesus who art in heaven! I have so many dealership nightmare stories! Here’s a couple of my favorites.
One time a friend of mine took his Honda Ridgeline in for an oil change. Simple job right? Well, the dealership must be run by lazy amateurs because they accidentally drained the rear diff and didn’t bother to refill it. He called them on the way home saying it did not sound or drive right. ‘No problem, just drive it home and bring it back tomorrow.’
Brings it back the next day, rear diff is completely ruined, and they tried to blame the owner for draining it. Took many phone calls and angry letters to Honda North America to get sorted, but eventually was covered.
I bought a Subaru WRX new, about a week after picking it up I noticed that the seat could rock back and forth about an inch. Brought it back to the dealer I purchased it from, and the service manager insisted it was normal. ‘OK’ I said, ‘Have the general manager grab the keys to another new one, if it’s normal I want to see another one do it.’ He then tried to back pedal like a coward, but I wouldn’t hear it. I went into the sales area and got the general manager myself. So yeah that is definitely not normal, proceeded to tear the service manager a new one in front of the GM and a few customers. I have no sense of humor about safety issues. Idiots.
Another friend had a catalytic converter fail after about 10,000 miles on a Chevy pickup truck. Dealer insisted it was not covered under warranty and the repair would be about $800, until my friend whipped out the owners manual which clearly states that FEDERAL LAW requires that emissions equipment be covered for 8 years / 80,000 miles on cars and light trucks. Car salesmen are sharks alright but you always gotta stick to your dukes if you want results.”
Good Cop, Spray-Tanned Cop
“When I was 20, I drove to a large chain car superstore in Indianapolis to check out an ’11 GTI. After going on a test drive and discussing financing options (my credit was pretty decent, and I had saved up for a car by working), even after assuring the salesman many times that I wasn’t ready to buy that day and was only comparing rates and trade-in values on my Corolla, I was whisked away into the financing office where all the necessary paperwork was already filled out for me, with the exception of my signature. Sitting across a desk from a terrifying looking but soft-spoken financing officer, with my living Ken-Doll-of-a-salesman standing cross-armed in the doorway, I felt like I was being interrogated, subjected to a game of ‘Good Cop, Spray-Tanned Cop.’
After I put my foot down and insisted I wasn’t ready to commit, the phony smiles quickly turned to looks of disgust, as if I just personally insulted their tacky hairpieces, followed by rude comments about how I shouldn’t have “lead them on”, how they wasted time and money filling up the gas tank in the GTI and washing it “just for me”, and implied I wasn’t able to afford the car anyway. I walked out of the dealership feeling like a piece of trash, just because I declined to purchase the car that day; a feeling that turned to anger as I drove away, realizing what had happened, and how I let them push me around.
The worst part was that the salesman proceeded to text me (he must have gotten my phone number from when I called initially asking about the car) for a few days after that encounter, asking when we could meet again to discuss sealing the deal, if I was still interested, and telling me I needed to hurry because he was showing it to other customers. This marked the first time I ever got to use the block feature on my phone.
The folks at Ed Martin Chevrolet Cadillac in Indianapolis may have lost a customer that day, but I learned several valuable lessons: never casually browse around for a car near the end of the month, when salespeople are scrambling to meet quotas, know when to politely decline a credit check, and always remember that until I sign the papers, I’m free to leave at any time, and won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
But at least the complimentary cappuccino was good.”