Thursday, August 17, 2006

My talk with the General Manager.

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 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.


Anonymous Usal said...

"No profit" still means he gets to keep the hold-back, any marketing allowances and other incentives that Honda may be offering. And the $25K for your car is probably on the low side (sure you did not mean to type $26K ?). Quite frankly, I don't see R&S suffer very much. Squeeze harder, my friend! And make sure the deal gets wrapped up before the Lone Star Anniversary Drive! :-)

10:11 PM  
Blogger Duane said...

You'r eon the right track Derrick - skip option # 3. ...and have you though about speaking to the local newspaper? I'm sure one of their editorial wonks would find this an appealing story: Joe Average v. Car Dealership Trying To Screw Them

You certainly have enough info to date to provide them with a decent story to run. R&S wouldn't like that at all.

Heck, talk to one of the paper's automotive reporters and the story will run in the same section R&S probably has ads running in - never good for sales.

Failing that, what about contacting a national media source. james Healey writes some automotive columns for USA Today - wonder if he might be interested in a story like this? It'd take longer to come out in print, but the exposure would be massive.

I'm truly hoping for you that the dealer simply hands you the keys to a new S2000 and agrees to take yours back, fix it and sell it on their own.

No sense YOU having to wait because of their mistake.

I wonder if the mechanic is still working there?

5:24 AM  
Blogger Duane said...

Hey Derrick - done a search on "russell and smith honda" today in Google?

Looks like we've done something here...;)

Sems the dealer has nowhere to hide now - anyone going to their site after searchng Google will clearly see the # 2 & # 3 results...

6:37 PM  

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