On Saturday, November 8, 2008 I went to the Champion Toyota Dealership located at 11711 Gulf Freeway in Houston, Texas. I was assisted by a salesman by the name of Ryan Harrison. After showing me a couple of cars, we sat down to discuss the numbers. I decided on the Toyota Camry LE and we went back and forth on the numbers. When we could not reach an agreeable number, he brought in his manager, Larry Johnson. The three of us continued to go back and forth until we reached a number ($21,900, including TTL). I told him that I would be back in on the following Thursday to purchase the car.
When I returned on Thursday, November 13th my friend noticed that the car did not meet the description of the one that I had described to him. The sticker was missing out of the window of the car and I had not written down the VIN number of the original car. Mr. Harrison continued to assure me that it was the same car. As the interior of the car was tan and I had already told Mr. Harrison that I did not want a car with tan interior, we looked at the same car with gray interior. He later admitted that the first car was in fact NOT the original car that I had looked at and test driven.
The car with the gray interior was actually $1000 less than the original car. I asked Mr. Harrison to check with his manager to see if he could come down on the price a little further. He came back with a price that was $1000 ($22,900) higher than the first price when the sticker price on the car was $1000 less. That was more than I could pay so I thanked him for his time and my friend and I exited the showroom.
Then, Larry Johnson came hurrying after me out in the parking lot to try once again. He told me to tell him where they had to be to put me in that car. He asked me if I would purchase the car that night if he could put me in it for $20,900 drive out. Though I did not think it was possible, Mr. Johnson went inside and returned, extending his hand to seal the deal. They had dropped the price of the car by $2000.
We returned to Mr. Harrison's desk where he presented me with a piece of paper. On it was written: $20,900, 60 months, 2.9% interest and an x' with a line next to it for my signature. Nowhere on the paper was there anything about purchasing the extended warranty. I signed and we completed the initial paperwork. Then, he took me over to the financing desk where I met with Zeke Torres. I signed the papers for tile and insurance and we confirmed the financing rate. Then, the problem started.
Mr. Torres pulled out a piece of paper with the extended warranty information on it. He explained that I could purchase the extended coverage for only $1995. I told him that I did not want to make that purchase. He continued to insist. He pointed out that, with the amount of driving I do, the original warranty would be gone in less than two years. He focused on the fact that cars today have a lot of electrical parts which often break. He pulled out invoices for warranty work done on his own personal car and that of another customer to demonstrate how much I could save.
Each time, I told him that I understood the points that he was making but I did not want to purchase the warranty. I explained that one of the reasons that I selected Toyota was for the reliability. I also pointed out that I could also purchase the warranty at a later date since it was more than what I wanted to pay at this point in time. He was shocked that I was informed of this option and asked me who had told me that. I explained that Mr. Johnson shared that information with me when I was looking at the car. He seemed extremely put out and continued to persist. He explained that, yes, I could purchase it later but it would cost me about $3000 whereas I could just add it to the price of the car now and it would only bump up my monthly payment about $35. He continued to break it down comparing it to the cost of eating out fast food once per week.
My cell phone rang and it was my friend who had been waiting for me in the car since they said the whole process would only take 30-35 minutes. I told him that I was almost finished and ended the call. I returned to the conversation with Mr. Torres and explained to him that my friend was waiting in the car and, though I appreciate the time he took to explain the extended warranty, I would not be purchasing it that day. He finally seemed to understand and told me that he would just go and get the final contract.
He quickly returned with his manager, Jay Joslin, introduced him and disappeared. Mr. Joslin sat down behind the desk and pulled the paper containing the warranty information in front of him. He looked at me and commented that he understood that I was looking at the extended warranty. I told him that, though Mr. Torres was kind enough to go over it with me, I was not looking at the options as I would not be purchasing it at this time. I told him that Mr. Torres just went to get the contract since my friend was waiting on me.
Suddenly, he looked at me and loudly started going off on me about how I did not have to speak with him like that and how rude I was being. He said that he had just sat down and did not deserve that kind of treatment. The verbal assault did not stop there. He proceeded to get up, walk around the desk and out into the center of the showroom where he began violently shaking his finger at me while yelling that I was the rudest woman he has ever met and that my behavior was uncalled for. Aside from being frightened since I was sitting there alone, I was floored by his behavior.
He finished his rant by telling me that I could just go buy my car somewhere else. When I did not move (confusion and shock), he yelled again that I could go buy my car somewhere else. I did not understand what had just happened or why he was doing that until, out of fear, I got up to walk through the showroom to the exit. I was never rude or nasty to Mr. Joslin or anyone else at the dealership.
As I stepped into the showroom to head for the door, I saw Mr. Johnson sitting calmly on the sofa in the showroom. His calm and indifferent behavior told me that something was amiss. By the time I hit the exit door, I knew I had been set up. They had under priced the car to sell it to me because they were sure that they could goad me into purchasing the extended warranty, which would keep them from losing on the sale. When things did not go as planned, they needed an out and called in their finisher, Mr. Joslin.
I ran into Mr. Harrison outside and tried to explain to him how sorry I was that I could not purchase the car that night but that the credit manager told me to go somewhere else. I wish I could say that he looked surprised. All in all, it was a real team effort: Ryan Harrison, Larry Johnson, Zeke Torres and Jay Joslin.
I contacted another Toyota dealership. The salesman and manager there were very helpful and gave me information necessary to file a complaint. The gentleman there said that, unfortunately, this happens often, especially to single women like me. The salesman deliberately under quotes the car while banking on the customer purchasing the extended warranty. Since it is illegal for them to refuse to sell the car because the customer will not purchase the extended warranty, they have to create a way out.
The point of this complaint is to bring attention to this scam which apparently is not uncommon practice, particularly at Champion Toyota. I also hope that, by spreading the word about this fraudulent practice, I might help others like me to avoid becoming their next victim.
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