This is the story of how Russell and Smith Honda, in Houston Texas, lived up to the stereotype of car dealerships.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Literally, the day before my meeting with the attorney, the General Manager called and said that he had spoken with all the necessary parties at his company, and in under 10 minutes we were talking about whether or not he would be able to find a Rio Yellow in Houston. Here are the details for those who are interested: R&S paid me retail blue book for my car, $25,000. I paid Russell and Smith $30,171.99 + tt&l for a new 2006, Honda S2000 in the same color as my previous car. If you are familiar with the car, you know that is a very decent price.
Yesterday, after work, I dropped the rental car off, got a ride from the rental company to Russell and Smith Honda, and picked up my new 2006 Honda S2000 in Rio Yellow Pearl. The whole process took maybe 45 minutes and thanks to Janet, their finance and insurance person, was quite painless. I intended to have pictures up sooner, but I left the camera on my desk at work, and the memory card on my desk at home so you got a late update. This afternoon, after work, I drove the new car to the roof of my parking garage and took the pictures you see above.
In exactly two and one half weeks, I am 99% done with the whole thing, and it couldn't have come soon enough. I say 99% because I still have to call the dealership tomorrow to make sure my insurance and bank all went according to plan, but I have no reason to think they wouldn't.
I would like to thank God first, of course, but in addition:
S2KCA - the members of this and site of this car club were a wealth of information before this whole deal, and were a major factor in all the attention and support during.
A Jeep Thing - The guy who runs this site, whom I have never met, took time from his day to help me out, without once being asked.
I would also like to think, all of my friends, family and coworkers who have also gone out of their way to help as well. Sorry you guys had to deal with me. Further, I would like to thank the online auto enthusiast community. I have seen notes of support from owners and clubs of every kind of car you can shake a stick at from Ferraris to Fords.
Last but not least, I would also like to thank Mark Rehkoph, the general Mgr of Russell and Smith Honda. Although it took longer than I would have liked, which is probably unavoidable, Mr. Rehkoph's actions did show that he was as interested as I was in resolving this.
The Bad I am tired. Dog tired. I am going into my third week of this crap, and I am just beaten down. Wah wah wah. I say "I" when I should say "we". I appreciate the support everyone has given. The Problem I think I have been patient. Russell and Smith Honda took possession of my car, drove it in a manner that was not appropriate and wrecked it. Their initial response was so underwhelming it hardly bears mentioning, and they continue to be unclear about what they plan to do about it.
Here is what I do know:
Their insurance is involved, my car has been moved to a more reputable shop for repairs, and the insurance company has provided me with a rental car.
I now own a car that will NEVER be worth what it was when I entrusted it to Russell and Smith for repairs.
The General Manager has continually told me that he would like to do the right thing. However, he has not yet made any indication on what that may be, only saying that he doesn't have the information he needs yet.
If something isn't done, and the situation is left as it stands:
I will have a car that is worth much less than it was when I purchased it 4 months ago (or Monday before last even), probably less than I owe.
I will have to go through the effort and cost of selling the car, at a most inconvenient time (upcoming wedding etc... ), again, probably at a loss.
I will, when I have the time and money, have to commit the time and effort (and cost) to find another car (last time took me three months).
In a nutshell, I will be left to clean up the mess Russell and Smith made.
The Solution (hopefully) Unfortunately, I think it is time I turned this over to a professional.
I have found an attorney that I think is appropriate. He practices the right type of law, has relevant experience and will take the case on contingency. What's more, and I seriously take this as a blessing, he is located downtown. I can't explain to you how tight for time I am right now, and it is a saving grace that I can walk to speak with him at my lunch hour. I meet with him mid week, I will try to post more after that.
It is truly disappointing that it has come to this. I sincerely hoped that I would find out this was all a big miscommunication, that Russell and Smith had been working diligently to make things right and I could write a happy ending to this blog or even remove it altogether so as not to give the wrong impression to anyone who might have stumbled across it.
I suppose reality was the alarm clock in the middle of that dream.
Well, if this is going to be a nightmare rather than a dream, at least I can spread the word so others don't... Ok, that's as far as I can carry that metaphor.
Either who, look at what we have done:
Number two ranking in MSN.
Number three in Google (although apparently it is number two in some data centers, so you may see it there soon).
Number five in Yahoo!
And for good measure, we are first page on google when you Search for Russell and Smith Ford and Russell and Smith Mazda.
I thought some might find it interesting/humorous/sad to see a picture I just came across. It is one of the reasons I took my car in on that day. Basically, on a previous service visit the tech scratched up my door jam. At the time, I tried to be good natured about it, chalking it up to lack of attention to detail. I SO wish I would have read the writing on the wall and taken it more seriously. (edit: I have been taking alot of crap from friends about, and apologize for, my gramatical errors. I have been tired, take pity.)
The main story
I spoke with the General Manager of Russell and Smith today, at around 4:30 according to my trusty notepad. It should be noted before I go on, that he was profusely apologetic on the phone in a previous conversation. Of course, this was literally the day that the site hit the front page of Google and Yahoo so I will judge his sincerity by his actions rather than his words, but back to today's conversation.
Skipping all the detail that you guys could care less about (small talk etc...), he asked me what it would take to make me happy (paraphrasing of course). Now, keep in mind, since R&S wrecked my car, I have spent days trying my best to be patient while I was bounced from the Sales Manager to the General Manager, to whatever functionary happened to pick up the phone. I have lost sleep, I have lost a great deal of time from having to go to the dealership to see what they did to my car and being late cause I had to pick up a loaner. Not to mention the mental toll it has taken.And all of this simply because I took my car to Russell and Smith to have some warranty work done. Now, what would it take to make me happy? Probably better not to ask. What would I accept? After all this crap I am still looking for pretty much the same thing. However, as this drags on, I am feeling that I should look more for what's right, not what's acceptable.
My first two solutions, ( 1. make me an offer on a new car vs keeping my car and 2. buy my car outright) basically revolve around the value of my car when I drove into the dealership.
When I drove onto the lot at Russell and Smith Honda, my car was worth AT LEAST $25,000. What makes me so sure? I went to autotrader.com last night and did a little research.
There were exactly two 2004 Honda s2000's in Houston one for $24.5k the other for $27.9k. That puts the average price in the market at: $26.2k and I didn't like the color on either.
There were NO 2005's
There were 7 2003 (which is the older body style, older motor etc...) and the cheapest one there was up for like $19.9k.
If you have been reading the previous sections, you would know that the $19.9k is STILL MORE than Russell and Smith offered me for my car the first time they called me. The General Manager has claimed that the Sales Manager wasn't supposed to call me with that number.
However, in conversations with the General manager (previous to a search for his dealership leading to a link to this site) he said the spread between a New S2000 and mine would START at $10k (which if you do the math puts my car at around 20) and probably go up from there, so I have my doubts on that one. Actions will tell the tale.
The only difference between the first and second option is that in one, I go find my own car, and in the other, R&S does. Well, seeing as how he has already made me an open offer to sell me a new S2000 at no profit in a conversation yesterday( $30,206 according to Consumer reports), that shouldn't be an issue.
My original third option is heavily based on the price of my car, but with way more complexity and is rapidly loosing it's appeal. Basically it was this:Russell and Smith fixes my car, and makes me whole on diminished value of it in some form. For this to work, we have to know what the diminished value is. The insurance company has a formula, but on the brief look I have had, it is ridiculous.To my mind, diminished value is this:
diminished Val = (Value of my car before Russell and Smith joyrode it into a curb) - (Value of my car after)
So to my mind, for Russell and Smith to make me whole via the third route would require:
Russell and Smith to Agree in writing to the value of my car before they wrecked it (and I can tell you that number wouldn't be 19k)
Wait for the shop to finish fixing the car (time)
Sell the car (time and hassle)
Subtract the sales price from the agreed upon price and hope/wait for Russell and Smith to make good on their obligation. On top of that, I would have to go through the effort of proving my sales price etc...
The more I think about it the more I don' t like the idea, especially since I have already been through close to two weeks of anguish dealing with this crap. The last thing I want is to add quite a bit more on top of that.However, at the end of the conversation between the General Manager and I, I told him I would have an idea of a number for Diminished value, and so I shall.
Now, I am a bit tired, but thinking about it from the dealer's perspective, why wouldn't he be jumping all over this? From the get go, he could have given me a new car (cost: $30k to him) fixed the car at his shop (cost: cheaper than fixing it elsewhere), sold the car (I mean he is a car dealer, he has car selling skills, knows where auctions are etc...). His total out of pocket is less than 10k I refuse to believe otherwise. What would he have got out of doing that? Well, I know for sure of one person that skipped buying from him because of it and I have heard of a few others. Plus he is getting gigantic bad publicity out of this, if you google for him you will see the title of this blog staring you in the face, you gotta think that will cost him a few sells a month. I mean, I guess it could get better depending on his actions, but then again, it could just as easy get worse!
I dunno, maybe I am missing a piece, but from a purely financial perspective (not even a "overwhelm them with service", or "do everything I can to make things right" perspective) it seems like they were/are picking up pennies in front of a bulldozer.
I just can't wrap my brain around it... the saga continues.
The car is at one of the better shops in Houston. The insurance agent came out to day to do the estimate, but the results aren't in yet on the damage. It will more than likely be much greater than Russell and Smith's original estimate, due to the fact that they missed the nose clip damage and damage to the front wheel and tire.
The bigger news, however is that this site is now on the front page of results when search for "Russell and Smith Honda" on Google or Yahoo. It should also be noted that Google feeds Aol's, Netscape's and Exite's search results, and Yahoo feeds Altavista and both of them feeds tons of other search engines.
Think of how many people are going to google the name of the dealership they are considering doing business with, and will see this:
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I really appreciate the community spirit. All I can say is thanks to God first and everyone who helped sound the alarm (all 9000 and counting of you).
The other news is that the General Manager called me today, but we didn't get a chance to go into to much detail, so I will save that for when I have something to write about. At least it leaves something for posting tomorrow.
I just spoke to the Service Mgr, who for the record, I think has been as stand up a guy as he can be given his situation. I found out a little more about the "incident".
From what ...
I was just typing those words when I got a call frome the company that will be doing work on the car. Apparently the service dept didn't want to help the tow truck get the car out of the situation. So I called the Service Mgr (who I just said seemed to be a stand up guy). According to him the tow truck was going to do damage to the car when he loaded it on the flat bed. So I called the Shop that would be doing the work back and asked them about it, they obviously weren't on the scene, but said that they had reasonable confidence in the ability of the company that they sent.
I called the Service Mgr back, asked to speak to the truck driver, and asked him if he could do it without damaging it. He assured me that he could, so I went ahead and asked the Service Mgr to let him go.
Nothing really wrong with the situation I guess, just more drama when there has been more than enough already. I appreciate that the Service Mgr is trying to be extra careful, again from what I can tell he seems like he is trying to do the right thing.
Either way, back to the original story. I got more info on thw accident. Apparently the tech (I know his name now) was comming around the underpass at Buffalo Spdwy too fast (a point the Svc Mgr made clear that he expressed to his tech), lost control and over corrected. I assume that is what spun the car arround and smacked the curb on the driver's side. He said that it occured at 10AM in the morning.
He also indicated that the top was UP when the accident occured. He said that the group lead (I think I remember him saying that was the gentleman's title) was a big guy so he put the top down to manuever it into the service bay. However, I do have a hard time believing this, as I attempted to operate the top while I was at the dealership. The only possible difference I can think of is that they were more willing to yank on the parking break than I was (and I pulled on it pretty hard).
I have to say, I will be taking a vacay when this is over for sure. It has been one big pile of teh unhappy. I still think they owe though.
The worst part about the process is how slow it goes man, seriously. 1-3 days for American Honda to call me back. I was felt fairly safe at first, it being a honda, but when I called them the service guy kept telling me how dealership's were individually owned and whatnot, so that was a red flag (sounded alot like "we aren't responsible" to me.
The BBB will take up to 30 days etc... and THEN all I can do is file a complaint with the attorney general, go full out on my own attorney for the situation etc. I just don't know if it is worth it, which is what they are probably betting on.
I just picked up the rental car, and that has done a little to brighten the week. I gots me a pathfinder, it is actually pretty nice.
I also removed the contact info from the original post, judging by some of the things I have seen about this site, it just wouldn't be right to leave it up, and it probably wouldn't' do any good anyways. (edit: although really, none of the information I posted wasn't readily available for the public anyways)
On another note, I actually read some forums that ended up with posts linking to here, and I gotta say, it is weird seeing someone you don't know link to your site. I have also been accused of over-reacting once for about ever 5 times I have been accused of under-reacting.
I feel like I should make it clear, I sat on this for a week before blogging it. I waited for R&S to do something to make it right for me. I talked to the Customer service guy (the one who you deal with at the service dept.), I talked to the Service Mgr, I talked to the Sales Mgr and I talked to the General Mgr. I am not asking for the world, just to be treated fairly.
Beyond that, one of the reasons I went in there was to have a part fixed (the little metal plaque on the floorboard in the door panel, the name of which has for some reason escaped me thus far). The reason it needed to be fixed, is that they had scratched it up on a previous service visit. They had also scratched the surrounding interior panels a little, but I told the service guy not to worry about that part as it wasn't all that visible. I am usually pretty relaxed about stuff happening.
The other two things the car was in for were a valve tick at 3 -4 grand and noise coming from the rear end when turning with the steering wheel at full lock under (slight) power. For one the car doesn't need to be moving, and for the other, you only need to do circles in the parking lot.
I will be calling the body shop in a few, to see if they have picked up the car yet, and R&S to try to get a description (for what it's worth) of what happened.
Well, the response to this has been great, appreciate all the people who get behind the little guy.
Here is a quick update of goings on:
I called American Honda this morning and filed a complaint.
I talked to their insurance agent, who has actually been quite professional and realistic.
I emailed Marvin Zindler (as about every other person in the comments suggested)
I found out that Russell and Smith didn't file a police report to document what had been done. This brings a few questions to mind
Who was driving the car? Was it even a tech? Did they have a valid driver's license? Were they sober?
When did it happen? I don't know, other than what Russell and Smith says, and obviously they aren't without bias in this situation.
Where did it happen? For all I know this could have happened 30 miles from the dealership, again, all I have to go on is Russell and Smith (and not even that, since they haven't bothered to provide me with that detail) I will be calling tomorrow for it, we'll see what they say
Obviously these questions could go on but you get the drift (would like to say thanks to John for getting my brain working this direction)
I think it is worth mentioning that "tone" is a very difficult thing to discern. This is not a witch hunt. This is me documenting my situation. I have heard from people that have told me that I should just relax and take what is given to me, and that I am being over dramatic for putting it on a web site. My response would be: wouldn't you want to know that this happened to someone at a dealership before you bought from them?
Here's what I have upcoming:
Call Russell and Smith and Ask for a detailed description of the accident including location etc.. I think I at least deserve to know that.
Ask them for the extended warranty. I actually don't know that this ever was pursued other than in my initial "debriefing" with the service manager the morning after the collision. I want to make sure they are a "no" on that. I did inform them via a complaint registered with American Honda.
Wish me luck
(I also, just deleted the service mgr's email. In my mind, he is partially to blame because it was his guy out driving my car under questionable circumstances. However, there probably isn't a lot he can do about it, and he has behaved fairly honorably throughout this thing (accepting responsibility for his employee's actions, acknowledging that his employee was probably driving like he shouldn't, and that the whole situation probably shouldn't have happened etc... I feel bad for the guy)
The Story of How Russell and Smith Honda betrayed it's customer's trust.
Hi, and thanks for coming to my site. My name is Derrick, I am 29 years old, I live in Houston, Texas, and I have been completely, utterly, and totally (dramatic isn't it?) taken advantage of by Russell and Smith Honda (and for the search engines, Russell and Smith Ford, Russell and Smith Mazda).
Here is the quick run down.
I am the proud owner of a Rio Yellow Pearl Honda S2000. A Honda S2000 is a GREAT car, it is fast, it corners on rails (if you know how to drive). It has been called a sports bike on four wheels, and I think that is an accurate description. This is an important thing to keep in mind while reading the rest of the story.
Monday, 7/Aug/2006 at almost exactly 6:00 pm: I dropped my car off at Russell and Smith Honda. I gave only a quick summary of issues (as they were closing) and instructions that I would fill in the blanks for them the next day.
The next day, 8/Aug/2006, before I had spoken with anyone at Russell and Smith, I got a phone call stating that the technician had lost control of my car and wrecked it, while test driving it. Obviously, the first question was "WHAT WAS HE TEST DRIVING IT FOR!?!"
I was informed that the damage was on the "right rear suspension"
The Morning after that I took a half day of vacation to inspect the damage and speak with the representative of Russell and Smith.
Of course the damage was more extensive than they mentioned, including damage to the front nose body panel and the front left wheel and tire.
The driver's side rear suspension was destroyed, and who knows what other drive train components suffered from the shock of the impact
I also noticed that the top was down. I thought surely he wasn't driving my car around with the top down (which would make diagnosing my problems almost impossible). To check it out, I got in the car, turned it on and tried to operate the top and it wouldn't work. It seems to me: the service technician was hot rodding my car with the top down, lost control and hit a curb with enough speed to destroy the driver's side rear suspension. (update: and since they didn't file a police report, that would have substantiated any claims made by Russell and Smith, it is all supposition at this point)
Since there is little body damage (although there is body damage), the pictures aren't as dramatic as you might be used to. If you are a car person: note the broken half shaft, wish bone, brake rotor, knuckle etc...
The solutions I proposed.
Buy my car outright. I asked them to buy my car at the value I could get myself, before the wreck. I got a call from the sales manager who gave me a quote at trade in. He said he made the quote as if I had come in off the street on a Saturday to get another car (trade in is the cheapest value in the blue book). I didn't come in off the street, I didn't ask for this, I didn't want this, and I don't want the hassle of trying to find another car etc..
Make me an offer on the spread to a new car. Basically, "give me a number that will get me into a new car". Again they have treated me as an average customer (a number really), not as someone who's car I think they took out joy riding and wrecked.
Fix my car to my expectations, at a location I choose, and make me whole on the diminished value and my trouble. They didn't even have to pay me in cash on the diminished value. They could have given me extended warranties etc... But they chose to refer me to their insurance agent.
What did they offer?
Fix the car (and at first they wanted to do it at their shop, to their standards etc.. But they have acquiesced to my demand that it be at another location)
Update - I have found that their insurance company DOES have a mechanism to compensate me for diminished value. It looks like they use a formula based on the year of my car and the mileage, and from what I can tell, insufficient. The representative from their insurance company said they will also send out an investigator if I don't think the diminished value payment is fair (more on this later).
Why isn't this enough?
Because I didn't have a wrecked car when it came into the dealership. I will have to tell anyone I sell this car to that it has been involved in a wreck. Not only that, I don't know what other damage might have happened to the drive train (considering the particulars of the collision) that might surface down the road. Beyond that, they were driving my car in a way they shouldn't have been driving it, when they actually shouldn't have been driving it at all. They should at least try to be neighborly.
What am I doing about it? So far, I have been trying to work WITH Russell and Smith. Obviously that didn't pan, so on to plan B: Tell everyone what I experienced so they will be more informed in their dealings with R&S. Here's how.
Call American Honda - I will be making this call Monday, 14/Aug/2006.
Call the Better Business Beaurue - again, Monday (update: just filed complaint online, we'll see how it goes.)
Call local consumer advocacy groups - More on this later
Call my insurance company - I haven't decided on this one yet, people have told me it might count as a claim even if they don't pay for any thing, I feel comfortable that isn't the case, but I have enough going on right now that I will put it to the back burner
Grass roots - I am a member of several local web sites and car clubs (some Honda specific). I will be taking the issue to these groups as well as to friends and family to help spread the word. Also hopefully this website will get dugg (digg.com) or something, who knows?
Buy a billboard near their dealership - I have no idea how much this costs, but it is a potential course of action. It will probably be cost prohibitive given the amount of money involved, but it's an idea.
Take suggestions - you have a good, LEGAL idea? I am all ears, put it in the comments.
How Can Russell and Smith make amends?
Like I said before, the least they could do is try to act neighborly. Maybe none of the solutions I came up with are feasible to them. Offer something else, I have met someone with a somewhat similar experience who was immediately offered an extended warranty. Why couldn't Russell and Smith have done something similar, especially considering my factory warranty runs out very soon, and there will be little time to diagnose any issues that arise from this (much less the items I took in to get fixed when they wrecked it). I mean, Russell and Smith didn't even offer to buy me dinner for my trouble. :)
In addition to any of the above, I would like a letter of apology, not only for the incident, but for the un-neighborly manner in which they have treated me. Simply, say you're sorry.
All Russell and Smith has to do is what any of us should do when we wrong someone, accept responsibility, and not do only the bare minimum to get by.
In the end, I at least hope that people have a better idea of how Russell and Smith does business, and hopefully this will help them with future purchase decisions.
This site is not intended to libel American Honda, its affiliates, or dealers. All of the information contained herein is documented fact and/or description of personal experience. All brands, vehicle models, trademarks, and logos contained herein are property of their respective owners