Newton’s Honda Village enters the Hall of Shame

By | December 11, 2007

[You can read the whole series of Honda Village postings here.]

My wife and I were pleased by the experience we had about six months ago buying a Honda Odyssey from Honda Village in Newton, MA. Certainly, Honda Village was a lot more pleasant than Herb Chambers Honda of Boston, the other dealership with which we dealt seriously. Herb Chambers tried to pull every single slimy car-dealer trick we’d never heard of, but Honda Village was slime-free.

Or so we thought. When we went to close the deal at Honda Village, out came the offers for the various extended warranties. Scott Adams has joked on his blog, not entirely in jest, that scientific studies prove that people’s resistance is low at this point in the car sales process, which is why it’s easy for the salesman to convince them to purchase all sorts of unnecessary warranties. That may be true, and for all I know the few add-ons we purchased are all worthless and stupid. However, the one in particular that I’m concerned about is the one about which the salesman outright lied to us.

The cover-up was worse than the crime. If they’d apologized for misleading us and responded to my complaint quickly, all (or at least most) would have been forgiven. However, as you’ll see from the letter I’ve reprinted below, that is not exactly what happened.

I received a check from Honda Village a week after I sent the letter below, over three months after I first complained to them. It took the threat of legal action (which I clearly would have won) to prompt concrete action. This is simply not acceptable.

On a related note, Village Collision, the collision repair arm of the Village Automotive Group of which Honda Village is a member, seems to be run by well-meaning people who are nevertheless not terribly good at their jobs. Two days after we bought our Odyssey, some idiot side-swiped my wife in Newton Corner by trying to go straight from a left-turn-only lane, thus ruining three body panels. We brought it to Village Collision for repair, and it took them three tries to get it right. We had to bring it back a second time because the bottoms of the replacement body panels were misaligned (and I mean obviously misaligned; this was simply shoddy workmanship) and then a third time because they forgot to plug back in one of the air bag sensors and left a fuse disabled. They were very nice about the whole thing, but is getting the job right the first time really too much to ask for?

I’m sorry to give a bad review to Honda Village or Village Collision, since they’ve been recommended to me by friends, and since for all I know they’re the best that’s out there. However, regardless of that, what happened to us is simply unacceptable.

And now, the final letter (which I sent via certified mail with a return receipt requested):

December 3, 2007

Ray Ciccolo
Village Automotive Group
75 North Beacon Street
Allston, MA  02134-1912

Dear Mr. Ciccolo,

I am sorry to have to write to you again, both because I really don’t wish to waste your time (even though your failure to deal with my complaint has wasted plenty of mine), and because the fact that I am writing to you again means that my problem still hasn’t been resolved.

To recap, here’s what happened before my October 30 letter to you:

  1. Honda Village misrepresented the coverage of your “Paint Dent Repair Agreement” policy to my wife and me when we bought our Odyssey in June.
  2. When I discovered this, I wrote to Bobby Levenson on August 21 and asked for a refund on that policy because of the misrepresentation.
  3. Mr. Levenson didn’t respond, so on September 30, I wrote to Christine Caron.
  4. Ms. Caron didn’t respond, so on October 30, I wrote to you.

Here’s what has happened since then:

Shortly after I wrote to you, I received a call from Mr. Levenson. He didn’t have my letter in front of him, was unware of the substance of my complaint, and wasted my time making me explain it again to him in detail. He failed to apologize or take responsibility for the fact that his salesman misled my wife and me. He failed to apologize or take responsibility for the fact that neither he nor Ms. Caron had responded to my previous letters. He said he couldn’t give me an answer immediately on the phone and would have to look into it and get back to me. He called me back later and said that although he couldn’t refund the entire price of the policy, since the dealership had paid for it, he would refund 75%. He said that a check would be mailed out that day.

What he was essentially telling me was that the dealership charges a 75% mark-up on this policy, which is simply outrageous. I imagine that the dealership charges a similar mark-up on the other add-on policies we bought, which means that even if he had charmingly offered to refund the entire price of the dent repair policy, the dealership still would have been left with a substantial net profit. Therefore, it was frankly astoundingly stupid for him to offer to refund only 75%, since by doing so he revealed to me your outrageous mark-up, something which I assume you are not in the habit of revealing to customers. This guy is your sales manager? Unbelievable.

Two additional important events have transpired (or not transpired, as the case me be) since my phone conversations with Mr. Levenson:

  1. He never mailed the check, or at least I never received it, and somehow I doubt it was lost in the mail.
  2. I spoke today with the company that issued the policy, IAS, and they informed me that the policy does not cover dents in our our vehicle’s bumpers.

Let me tell you why that latter point is extremely significant. When my wife and I were filling out the final paperwork for our van, and we were offered the option to purchase the dent repair policy, we had the following conversation with the salesman:

SALESMAN: The policy covers dents smaller than a softball in the vertical sheet metal components your vehicle.
ME: Does that include the bumpers?
SALESMAN: Yes, absolutely.
ME: Are you sure? I don’t think the bumpers are made out of sheet metal.
SALESMAN: No, they definitely are.

My wife and I both remember this conversation quite clearly, and we will testify to that effect in court, if it comes to that

In other words, not only did your salesman mislead us by failing to inform us that no dents with damaged paint would be repaired, he also overtly lied to us by telling us in response to a specific question that something was covered by the policy which in fact is not.

If Mr. Levenson had bothered to send the check which he promised me over a month ago, I never would have called IAS and found this out, and that would have been the end of it.

However, now that you’ve wasted more of my time by making me write to you again about this problem, and now that I’ve discovered that the manner in which we were deceived about this policy goes way beyond misleading by omission and into the realm of overt lying, you can be sure that I’m no longer going to let you off that easy.

I expect you to refund every penny that we paid for this policy, plus the cost of postage, stationery and printing for all the letters I’ve sent about this matter ($6.94), plus $[elided] compensation for the hours I’ve wasted writing letters and talking on the phone trying to get this issue resolved. I expect to receive your check by overnight delivery to my office address ([elided]) within five business days of your receipt of this letter.

This letter constitutes a demand letter under Chapter 93a of the Massachusetts General Laws. If you do not satisfy my demands, my next course of action will be to file suit against Honda Village for the full price we paid for the policy, plus legal fees, plus the cost of all my letters, all tripled because Honda Village has engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in this matter, to whit:

  1. lying to us about the coverage of the policy when we purchased it;
  2. ignoring my letters of complaint; and
  3. falsely claiming that a refund check would be issued.

If you do not believe that I have a rock-solid Chapter 93a case for triple damages, I suggest you speak with your lawyer immediately, because I assure you that if I sue, I will win, and I will win triple damages. The last company which ripped me off and ignored my attempts to settle the dispute ended up paying for it to the tune over $800 in punitive damages from a Chapter 93a decision in my favor. Don’t make the same mistake they did.

It’s such a shame that it has come to this. I had such high hopes that Honda Village would be different.

I look forward to the prompt resolution of this matter.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

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15 thoughts on “Newton’s Honda Village enters the Hall of Shame

  1. Pingback: On Ben Edelman and Sichuan Garden | Something better to do

  2. Pingback: Honda Village fires us as a customer « Something better to do

  3. Victor Fong

    I get the impression that the entire organization is corrupt
    down to the dealers. I’ve been screwed , too, and I didn’t
    get kissed first

    Reply
    1. John

      I have worked at that dealership and another VAG store and they pride themselves on how much they can rip off the customer. It starts at the management being pressured by the owner that is senile. Ray Ciccolo is more worried about what magazine or newspaper article he can appear in that taking care of his customers. He os more worried that Herb Chambers will amass more dealerships than he will. He doesnt care about the customers or employees that have gotten him where he is. There are always more customers. He tries to tell his customers abut this great program he has in all his dealerships. Its called “friends and family”. Its a gaff though. You can send all the people you want there but you will be hard pressed to get your referral check, they will make up every excuse not to send it to you. I have heard everything from its not written in the deal paperwork so we cant now verify it to that the sales person is no longer here and we cant find the paperwork. Last time I checked before I left there the stack of people waiting was over 6 months old. If a person called and was someone that wiuld not take no you would get the old one, the checks in the mail. I laughed once when a customer called me looking for their check and when I asked I was told they didnt have enough money in the bank to pay it. It was only $200 buck and then they said if they just keep putting people off they finally forget or dont bother.

      Just beware of something that sounds to good to be true usually is. They are going to pay you $200 bucks to send in a customer. Nope its a scam

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Another reason why we will never buy another car from Honda Village (Newton, MA) « Something better to do

  5. Anonymous

    I would also NEVER recommend doing business with Honda Village in Newton Corner. I sold my California registered car to them last summer and never received any paperwork showing proof of sale or release of liability, despite having asked for it repeatedly. I figured that since they were allowed to practice business, that perhaps they were up to date and aware of the processes necessary to re-register an out of state car in Massachusetts and would provide California’s DMV with the needed paperwork to do so. I did my part, I filed a release of liability form shortly after the sale, but then I received a request for registration payment in the mail, followed by a delinquent notice (after trying to reach someone at Honda Village several times of course). I finally received a collections notice last week and today, proceeded to tell Greg, the assistant sales manager at Honda Village, that he is an idiot and he and the dealership need to learn how to practice business. He attempted to speak over me most of the conversationa and cut me off repeatedly, but I continued to let him know that they are worthless and shouldn’t be in business if they can’t do the basics, such as providing paperwork to an individual who sold them a car, report the sale to the appropriate DMV agencies, return phone calls, faxes, and emails when a person makes inquiries and needs assistance, and not put the blame on the customer when they are a business who is dependent upon those of us who do business with them. I will never again however. They need to pull their heads out of their asses.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I agree, had a similar experience there. I brought an accord and they got me at the very end with those add-ons. I mean do they not realize the potential windfalls of a satisfied customer going back to them for their service needs for the next 10 years? This is what i learned:
    1. Until I have a contract with price in writing, i aint paying anything.
    2. If financing through Honda or otherwise, decline financing unless there are no attachments to it whatsoever.

    In other words, final price, should be negotiated separately from Add-Ons and if add-ons are mentioned at the end, they should in no way impact the final agreed to price at this point or your financing. The odds are lined against the consumer in a typical dealership car buying process, the above points should help us even those odds somewhat.

    Reply
  7. honda village grievances

    I first went to Honda Village at 4pm on Saturday 21st of March 2009 and met with Svet Tachev, the floor salesman. I test drove a royal blue Honda certified Civic LX with 55K miles and I instantly liked it. The car was priced around $13700. After coming back to the dealership, Svet and I discussed the price of the car at the end of which I made an offer of $12500 out of the door price which included the sales tax, documentation fees and registration fees.

    At this point Svet left to talk to the sales manager Michael Bosgrove. He came back and talked about my financing options. I told him that financing was not a problem for me as my credit score is excellent and I’m more interested in the final price of the car. He went back to Michael’s office and came back together with Michael. Michael asked me if you get the right price is anything stopping you from signing the paperwork today for buying the car. I mentioned although I’m ready with the payment, I would like to talk with my significant other and think it overnight before commiting. Michael asked me to talk to my her and call the next day if I’m still interested. Before I left, I asked Michael “Are you saying this deal can be made?”, to which he replied “Yes, this can be done”.

    The next day, I went back to the dealership, met with Svet, looked at the car again, and asked him to include floor mats and a auxiliary jack kit (NOT installed) in the price of the car. He then asked “If I include these items, can we have your business” and I replied “Yes”. Next, he asked me to initial on the offer sheet which listed the final out of the door price of $12500 which included the sales tax, fees, and registration, asked me to write a check for the down payment and I promptly wrote a check for $3500 as my 25% down payment. During this entire process, not once was I mentioned anything about a change in the final price. I was kept in the illusion that the deal which Michael had agreed to the day before was still on the table and it was that same deal I came in for.

    After grabbing my cheque, Svet went back to another sales Manager David Rodriguez explaing that he is “going to check the availability of the car”and came back with another price written on the offer sheet with my initials. This offer had been drastically changed to $13161 plus sales tax and documentation fees. In total, the offer went from an agreed upon price of $12500 to $13161 + $299 + $658 = $14118.

    At this point, I discovered what a classic and unethical bait and switch con tactic this sales team was trying to pull. They were banking on the buyer to be desperate for the car and decided to rescind the offer in the 11th hour hoping the buyer would have no choice but to agree to the new price.

    The conduct of this sales team was very unprofessional for going back on their word and keeping me in the dark until after they grabbed the cheque and made me inital on the offer sheet which they changed behind my back.

    I was very dissapointed with the service I received at Honda Village as I had not come to expect such business conduct from an accredited better business burea company.
    But my nightmare with this dealership did not end there. The next day, when Svet called to find out about “How my car search is going?”, I clearly stated that I was very dissapointed with the experience and am planning to write to Honda’s corporate office and the Better Business Bureau. He offered to have the general manager Bob Levenson give me a call and I thanked him for that.

    Bob called me and right from the start, he was obnoxious and unnecessarily aggressive. He adamantly kept repeating that “Michael never agreed to the price and all he said was we can work around that number”. He stated he was there during the conversation by first saying he was on the phone when svet called him to tell him the price then changing it to being just two feet away from the conversation. He clearly was in no mood to hear my half of the story and was defensive from the start to the end. I calmly told him “I don’t want to argue with him and all I want is to confirm the corporate address for Honda with him.” He said he didn’t know the corporate address which being a GM, I very much doubt his comment. He was utterly unprofessional for a person at that position.

    In the entire process I felt like a victim of a bait and switch tactic and had a horrible experience overall. I do hope that after reading this letter some action is taken so that other customers who are in a more dire situation than me to buy a car don’t get cheated out of their money at Honda Village. It really felt like this sales team was not interested in giving the customer a positive experience and was more interested in pushing the customer into a corner until they succumb to the pressure and agree to an unfair deal.

    Reply
  8. anonymous

    DO NOT PURCHUSE YOUR VEHICLE AT HONDA VILLAGE IN NEWTON MA………I THOUGHT IT WAS A GREAT DEAL UNTIL THEY TRICKED ME INTO THE WARRANTYS NEVER AGAIN WILL I PURCHASE A VEHICLE FROM HERE…………BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE AS WELL I HAVE BEEN LEAVIN MESSAGES FOR OVER WEEKS AND HAVE HERD NO RESPONSE I AM ALSO GOING TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION!!

    Reply
  9. What About Bob

    OK. So here’s the story. I am going to post on any site I can find anywhere out there to complain about Honda Village in Newton, MA. For anyone who is looking for any feedback whatsoever as to whether they should consider dealing with Honda Village in Newton, MA – DON’T. Don’t even contemplate driving there, calling there, emailing there, taking public transportation or even canoeing to the edge of the Charles River in Watertown Square and walking to the dealership.
    After numerous phones calls, emails, quotes and visits, the final day on which I went in to set up the paperwork, put down my downpayment and finalize the pick up date of my new 2009 CRV, my sales rep Alex disappears for about 20 minutes. When he does return, he tells me he doesn’t have any paperwork ready because we are waiting for “Bob”. Now I haven’t met Bob, but I understand he’s the sales manager who is going to “do” the numbers. “What numbers?” I ask. “Why the numbers that Bob will run to see if we can finalize the deal? Alex mumbles as he lowers his head. So I reply – “what about Bob – who is he and why do I need to wait for him when I have the numbers right here on the paper you gave me.” A grimacing Alex grasps his hands tightly knowing that if Bob doesn’t show his face within the next minute, Alex will have lost yet another sales op. I arise quickly. And I realize there is no deal until Bob increases the numbers with the same velocity as the overhead music blares beyond one’s ability to hear themself think. So I do what any smart consumer would do. I leave. And as I do, I look back and without remorse realize that “Bob” will single handedly be responsible for the demise of the dealership called Honda Village in Newton, MA.
    And so I begin my search for a honest dealership with integrity and a hunger to make a sale to stay alive in this economy. By By Bob, Alex and Honda Village.

    Reply
  10. jik Post author

    Wow, what an astoundingly stupid, ignorant, bigoted comment.

    I work in front of a computer all day. Email is more convenient and faster for me than the telephone. Furthermore, as I explained clearly, the situation about which I was contacting the dealership was complicated, and I wanted it in writing so that they would have the details in front of them when I spoke to them about it.

    I could have just as easily faxed them about it, but frankly I’ve found that all too often, even when I send someone a letter by fax or on paper, when I subsequently discuss it with them it’s clear that they haven’t bothered to read it. That’s simply poor, rude customer service regardless of whether it’s email, fax, or a paper letter that’s involved.

    In any case, to answer your specific question, if the dealership hadn’t advertised that they could be contacted by email, then obviously I would have called them on the telephone. My complaint, which is quite justified, is that they shouldn’t advertise an email address if they’re not going to read and respond to it. Duh.

    Reply
  11. Diva

    Are you people serious? What would have you done if people did not use email? What is the problem with calling instead of email? People all to often complain about talking to ‘live’ people instead of email and automated voices, now youre complaining. You must be white collared workers who have nothing better to do. Seriously, get your wives off the road!

    Reply
  12. jik Post author

    I almost forgot my other “favorite” Honda Village story.

    A couple of months after I bought the van from them, I needed to set up a service appointment to address some slightly complicated issues with it. I felt like it would be easier to discuss the issues with a service associate if I first put them in writing and gave them a chance to read and digest them before speaking with me. I therefore sent email about the issues to the service department’s email address that is advertised on their Web site, and asked them to call me when they’d read my email and were able to answer the questions posted in it.

    When a week went by without a phone call, I called and asked why. I spoke to several different people at the dealership, including the manager of the service department, and not a single one of them thought there was anything wrong with the fact that I’d sent email to their published email address a week before and no one had responded to it.

    The service department manager informed me that doing business with them by email was unreliable because there was only one person who knew how to access that mailbox. When I asked him if he could check to see if my message had been received, he said he couldn’t because that one person “is out today.” I tried, unsuccessfully, to make him understand that advertising an email address that isn’t read and responded to promptly is worse than advertising no email address at all. He basically told me that I shouldn’t use email if I actually wanted them to respond to me.

    Business rule of the day: Don’t ignore your customers.

    Clue-by-four: Advertising an email address for customers to use, and then not reading and responding to that email promptly, is the same as ignoring your customers.

    Clue-by-four #2: When a customer calls you all agitated because he feels like he’s been ignored, admit that you screwed up and apologize, even if you don’t mean it.

    Reply
  13. jont

    some idiot side-swiped my wife in Newton Corner by trying to go straight from a left-turn-only lane

    That’s got to be one of the most poorly designed intersections in the state! My wife was similarly side-swiped there. Worst of all, even though the damage to both cars was minimal, the other party submitted an insurance claim that said the collision was my wife’s fault, causing us to have to go to a hearing to get it cleared from her record. The officer presiding at the hearing dismissed it as soon as he heard where it happened, so the government is clearly aware of just how bad that intersection is.

    It’s actually one place where I feel safer going through on a bike than in a car, because I have better sight lines, and can more easily see when some idiot is about to go straight in the left-turn-only lane.

    Reply
  14. jik Post author

    I suppose I should mention that I didn’t bother to complain to the dealership about the other outright lie that the salesman pitched at us when he claimed that the reason why we needed to leave the car overnight if we wanted the “Simoniz 5” treatment was because “They need to heat the car up overnight to open up the pores in the factory paint job so that the Simoniz 5 treatment will work properly.” What a load of garbage!

    We did end up buying the Simoniz 5 treatment, but only because we wanted the interior treatment and warranty and they wouldn’t sell us that by itself. After having spent several fun afternoons trying to clean puke out of our old van’s interior, I’m happy to pay for a warranty that says they’ll clean it for me and replace the upholstery if they can’t get the smell out.

    Of course, it remains to be seen whether they’ll actually honor the claims they were made when that warranty was sold to us. Only time will tell.

    Reply

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