[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
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:
- Honda Village misrepresented the coverage of your “Paint Dent Repair Agreement” policy to my wife and me when we bought our Odyssey in June.
- When I discovered this, I wrote to Bobby Levenson on August 21 and asked for a refund on that policy because of the misrepresentation.
- Mr. Levenson didn’t respond, so on September 30, I wrote to Christine Caron.
- 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:
- He never mailed the check, or at least I never received it, and somehow I doubt it was lost in the mail.
- 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:
- lying to us about the coverage of the policy when we purchased it;
- ignoring my letters of complaint; and
- 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.