Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Do your poor palms sweat when you set foot into a car dealer's "showroom?" Maybe that's because you've heard the horror stories of salesmen who strong arm their hapless customers. Who cajole, threaten, cheat, and yes, lie to their customers. We've heard them too. But with so many people exchanging information about cars and dealers on the Internet, I thought perhaps things had changed--That I could go into a dealership and maybe even have a pleasant experience. But pigs don't fly out of rumps, and I guess good experiences at used car dealers don't happen either. At least it didn't for us that day in May, 2007.

Yesterday my wife and I were shopping for a used car for our college-aged daughter at Criswell Automotive, a dealer in Gaithersburg, MD. We were told by Corey Pardue, the sales manager that our chosen car came with a 30 day "bumper to bumper warranty. Great, we said. Can we see details in writing? What does that warranty cover exactly? (We learned from Consumer Reports that you should know these things.) Well, Corey said, you'll need to sign all these papers first, and then our "business manager" can give you those details. Right. Ok, we wanted to please our daughter so we tried something else. Well, Corey, can we add language to the contract that says we can take the car to our mechanic and return it within 48 hours if he finds problems. "SURE," Corey said, let's add that language (which he did).

In the meantime, his repair shop was fixing a steering problem with the car. This was taking hours (we really love our kid), which gave us plenty of time to read all the paperwork. Guess what we learned? The contract stated that the only warranty language that was legal was the language on the car's sticker (in our case the vague, unspecific, 30-day or 1,000 mile warranty). That means that any language to added to the contract was meaningless. When I asked Corey about this he told us to leave! Gosh!

So folks, it's true. Hell exists, and we entered it when we went though the doors at Criswell Automotive in Gaithersburg, MD. Do yourself a favor and shop elsewhere for a Honda, Chevy, Hummer, Lexus, or whatever else you may be in the market for.