Drivetime AKA Ugly Duckling *They never mentioned GAP INSURANCE! Orlando Florida
Life is unfair series (The Adventures Of A Woman On Her Own)
Part I- The used car dealership (Ugly Duckling Used Car Dealership a.k.a. Drivetime)
I have been struggling with the phenomenon call life for more than twenty-three years, in which I have laughed, cried and learn for my experiences. The worst of my mistakes so far occurred when I was twenty-two years old. I had just moved to Florida to start my journey exploring the world.
When I moved was the first time I've ever visit Florida, with $100 in my pockets, my huge suitcase and a mind full of questions such as: What are you doing here? Are you insane? Do you know anybody here? I moved into a disgusting one bedroom apartment near the place I worked. A couple of weeks went by and I discovered how difficult it is to live in here without a car because in the city where I moved to there are places that don't even have a sidewalk and the grass reached my knees, so to go to certain places like the supermarket I had two options: Put on my gear to walk through the jungle or cross a six lane highway with no lights for pedestrians.
Well, I did them both. To work: I use to walk fifty minutes to go and fifty minutes to come back. I was in great shape. Where I live the buses passes by every hour, not to mention that they either brake down or are late often. I used to switch between walking and riding the bus until November came. From where I come from weather rarely goes below 70 degrees, in the coast most of the year the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. I didn't know much about Florida, but I knew it was call the Sunshine State, so I assumed it was going to be like back sunny the entire year. I've never being so wrong about something in my life.
One ordinary day I woke up and got dress to go to work, I noticed that it was a little cold in my apartment, when I opened the door and that cold breeze slapped my face I lost my mind. I tuned into a radio station in my walkmans and I heard the announcer saying it was going to be 44 degrees that night. I had to walk for 50 minutes and I didn't have a coat, boots, gloves or anything, nada remotely related to the protection from cold. So I just put my hands in my pockets and started walking towards my overnight job. Every step was excruciating, every part of my body cursed me for moving up here, I was shaking like a potential father opening the results of a paternity test. After that I decided that I needed a car. So I starved for a while to get some money to buy it. My budget consisted in Ramen Soups at 20 cents each, 99 cents bread and of course, a lottery ticket. The hope of the poor. That is all that I bought for weeks, my weekly budget was $4.00 and I had to make my supplies last.
The paycheck-to-paycheck life is not easy: I had rent, a credit card, phone and other expenses. So I got a second job in a shoe store. For seven dollars an hour I had to mess with feet, walk thirteen isles to make sure a shoe was facing its box and even put up with sexual harassment. Well, that's life! I thought to myself. So I worked overnight in the warehouse of a bookstore and during the day in the shoe store. Sleeping was a luxury I couldn't afford. I saved some money got my drivers license and started looking for a car. I called every dealer and their mothers and everybody and their mothers turned me down, because of my $600 down payment and no credit history. They wanted $3,000.00 down payments, co-signers, references, even the name of my unborn great-grandchildren.
I was so desperate I would take anything. So I called this place I heard in the radio; Ugly Duckling Used Car Dealership also known as Drivetime, they pre-approved me over the phone, so I went there with my savings and my hopes. They treated me like a queen. Offering drinks, complementing me, I felt like a superstar in a luxurious spa in Los Angeles. They accepted my down payment and I was thrilled. They started showing me cars, the first one the most beautiful and spacious, then they showed me the not so nice ones, that's how they get us! Of coarse I went for the first one, it had a sticker with the words low mileage on it. Huh! I know about low mileage, about the same that I know about open heart surgery, absolutely nothing.
They sold me a 1992 Pontiac Grand AM with 80,000 miles on it for $8,000 (.And yes, I mean U.S. dollars), and that's not all, with the low interest rate of 29% everything added up to more than $12,000. I was so ignorant, I'm sorry; I meant that I was so dumb, that I didn't even bother to check the value of the car in the blue book. The desperation blinded me, just the thought of getting out of that place behind the wheel after all of those months of agony and freezing temperatures.
I was trapped in the dealership for 6 endless hours, my hand was hurting from all the papers I had to sign: checks, insurance, an agreement of not to sue, papers that I didn't even understand and the contract, which I now believe that if I had signed a contract with Lucifer I could've got a better deal. Two days after the deal of a lifetime, the engine started having problems, they took the car and made repairs.
A month later the brakes were working like a fast food employee after five hours of overtime, so they took the car again and made repairs. I didn't care, as long as I had the car it was fine. They gave me the car back and everything went fine for the next couple of days, not so good were my personal finances. The shoe business was not going so well so the management laid off half of the employees, myself included. I prayed everyday to find a second job, so that I can afford the easy biweekly payments of $200. I did it all. I worked as customer service clerk, operator, I even went as low as I have ever been, I was a dreadful telemarketer. I had to disturb hard working people in the privacy and comfort of their own home to offer them long distance at a low cost. Everybody has their limits. This job didn't last more than a week. I was more tired than I was when I didn't have a car, but it didn't matter because at least I didn't have to suffer from cold anymore, or walking almost two hours everyday to go and come back from work.
One beautiful day at 7:45 AM I was driving towards work, listening to my favorite song The End by the Doors, the wind was blowing in my face, I was enjoying every breath. The independence that a vehicle gives you is priceless, just like in that Master Card commercial. I was thanking the angels for my fortune when a 70 year old, Charles Bronson looking man hit my car with his 1970's truck.
The poor man got out of the car nervous and apologizing. I told him: Hey, stuff happens, without knowing that it was the beginning of the end for me. I contacted the Charles Bronson looking guy's insurance company, within a couple of days after placing the claim I received the outrageous news that the car was totaled. WHAT? She replied: When the repairs of a car exceed its value the car is considered totaled. My brain was receiving information, but it wasn't processing it at all, it was freezing on me just like this computer is freezing as I write this lines.
I said to the nice lady of the insurance company that I couldn't understand, because my car didn't look that bad when the tow truck took it. Immediately after I had the most devastating encounter that I have ever had with reality, the nice lady with her angelical voice proceeded to tell me the value of the car. $2,936 she said, it sounded like Alex Trebeck in the game show Jeopardy when he announces the amount won by one of the contestants. My brain went back to preschool. I've never done acid in my life, but I could swear I saw hallucinations of little green monsters with sunflower hats and one tooth pointing and laughing at my disgrace, there were millions of thousands of them, laughing like if their lives depended on it.
When I came back to my senses I had to tell the nice insurance lady that I had to call her back I couldn't go forward with that conversation. I needed to sit down and relax. I sat down with my mouth open and after a half hour of hallucinations and criminal thoughts, I called back the nice lady of the insurance company and told her what I owed on the car, she was so surprised she said she couldn't believe how these companies get away with stuff like this. She got in contact with Ugly Duckling and explained the situation.
Ugly Duckling took the money from the insurance and wanted to charge me the difference, which was more that $5500. There I was sitting in the break room at work contemplating the never ending story, just like in elementary school when the big girls from sixth grade use to take my lunch. I was a little girl but I knew that it was not right. So what?? What was I supposed to do? They were bigger, stronger and their only purpose in life was to take advantage and abuse the small and defenseless girls. I never thought that sixteen years later as an adult, I would let someone use me and abuse me this way. I was financially rapped. For someone that lives paycheck to paycheck at $7.00 an hour $5500 means more that 785 hours of work, that's of coarse before tax, for a car that I don't have, that was totaled by someone else, whose insurance paid already the street value of.
That's what I get for trying to explore the damn world on my own, my credit is ruined so not even God would give me a lollipop on credit. I get nasty calls from the bill collectors, threats of taking my property, since I don't have anything I think they will come to my apartment and take my cat. Last thing they said is that they will sue me and garnish my behind. I consulted with an attorney who charged me $112, he asked me about gap insurance. What does the clothing store has to do with this? I asked. He then proceeded to explain how a gap insurance is essential when buying a car in one of these places: Of coarse they are not even going to mention that to you, their businesses are based on peoples ignorance. then he told me it was my fault for signing the contract and that I have to learn from this experience, he wasn't surprised, according to him he has cases like that every week.
It's not right, I told him. Yes, I signed the damn contract, but I only had the car for four months, the accident wasn't my fault, the dealership doesn't lose anything because the insurance pay them the value of the car, plus my down payment and the payments I gave them. I don't understand. Is all of this legal in this state? He responded: Hey kid, the law can't protect you from a bad deal, that's life in the big city!
I still see those green monsters laughing at me every night. I have insomnia and night terror possessing me. Debt is the worst disease; it's like a virus that never goes away. The worst is that the more I think about it I come to the conclusion that if I had starved for a couple of more months, I could have bought the damn car cash, If I would've bought it from a human being.
Advice for car buyers:
The blue book for used cars is a sacred bible. Use it.
Always judge by the name of the dealership. Ugly Duckling (Drivetime), I should've known better.
If you are going to buy a used car, save enough and buy it from the owner, preferably a first time owner, and have the car checked by a mechanic before buying it.
Sacrifice. Better cry first and enjoy later, than the other way around.
Remember that most dealers will take you as hostages for more than six hours, at that point you would sign a contract to sell your mom.
Knowledge is power, so if you can't buy a used car cash, know everything you need before you enter in a contract with a buy here pay here dealership, or any type of scam artists salesman.
Remember gap insurance, is not related to the clothing store.
There are some cool websites like www.ripoffreport.com in which you can search how many people a business has ripped off and you can even read their stories.
My only satisfaction is that someone will read this story and will learn from my experience without having to suffer from it. If I can save one person, from becoming a financial prisoner all of this would be worth it.
Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Drive Time, formally known as Ugly Duckling which is registered under the same ownership.