As a recent college graduate with my MBA I made my first major purchase as an adult…a car! I was extremely excited to make this purchase but as everyone knows buying a car can be tricky, scary, exciting, exhilarating and many other words.
It was also sad because it meant that I was getting rid of my college car, my 2008 Ford Fusion. During the last four years Pearl (my car’s name) has gotten me through my college experience, has taken me over 30,000 miles, gone on a East Coast road trip with my best friend and gotten a few bumps along the way. The car had been my high school graduation present from my mom though I had paid a portion of it because my mom wanted me to feel responsible for it. Looking back on it, I think that was a great way for a parent to teach their child responsibility for such a big purchase.
So I did my research about the types of car I wanted to get, I had had a few months to think about it but knew in the end I wanted a Ford Fusion again but this time I wanted a Hybrid. I had reached out to a few dealerships online because I wanted to test the waters and I wasn’t sure if I wanted a 2013 used or 2014 new. Cortese Auto returned my email though I had to delay going into the dealership a few times because of finals, graduation and vacation. I stated in my initial email that I wanted to be able to look at 2013 and 2014 cars. Cortese received a 2013 with less than 9000 miles on it in early May. I will say the person who handled all my initial emails, Jill, was great.
Anyway, I went in Monday, June 9th to test drive, look at and ask questions. I went alone because I felt that it was my decision and no one else’s. Sadly I should have taken my mom with me as she has much more experience buying cars. When I sat in the chair the salesperson who will remain nameless was very nice but threw a lot of options at me very quickly. I am a fast learner; however, when my questions were redirected with another question and told “let me look that up for you in a second” and then would conveniently forget and I would ask again and he would do the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, he was extremely pleasant but is it all an act?
One of the extras I did end up buying was a package that would provide lifetime rust protection and paint protection. Living in Upstate New York and relocating to Western New York in the next month we get a lot of snow and there is a lot of salt on the road. These things will cause rust and did on my old car. With this being my first major investment, I wanted to make sure that I could protect it – this was something I think was money well spent. We will see when I go to trade the car in if it is still worth it. When I left the shop I felt good and was told that it would be ready by Wednesday.
Tuesday came and just as I got back from the gym I had a message on my phone that said I could come by and finalize everything and pick up the car at 3pm. I was excited a little anxious but mostly looking forward to the new car. When I arrived at Cortese Ford I thought everything would be all set and done which was what I had been led to believe the day before. That included the Ziebart package I was about to purchase But to my surprise when I arrived they said I would have to return to the shop later that week to get the work done which would take about half a day. RED FLAG….I was not happy. Then I asked if they had figured out if I could have the yearly work done in Buffalo at a Ziebart location, he hadn’t been able reach them he said but would try again. I also wanted to know if my car qualified for lifetime warranty or just 10 years….sadly he never answered that question and had to send a follow-up email. The response was that the lifetime warranty was my “I’m sorry” present for what happened the next day.
When I went into the financial person’s room…I should have done more preparation about this part and the questions they were going to ask me. I had no preparation about what to say with extended warranties and what it meant with my already existing warranty. In my head I didn’t understand when everything on my car was under warranty why I would need an extended warranty already? But being a first time car buyer….who for the first time in my life didn’t do their research in this area, wasn’t sure. So I asked the guy what was different than my current warranty, why would I need an extended warranty when I had one already and could I purchase this at a later date. The guy scooted around all of those questions and I was over-whelmed and didn’t realize that he didn’t really answer the questions. So stupidly, I bought the extended warranty which bumped my month payments up quite a few dollars considering I could have waited the year and ten months that is still on my warranty. Thank you jerk….I really appreciate being taken advantage of.
When I brought the car back the next day, I took it in around 12. I was told that it was between a 5-6 hour job so my car would be ready by 6 at the latest. Cortese provided a shuttle to and from the shop but the shuttle would stop at 5. My sales rep guaranteed that he would find me a way to get me car if it was after the shuttle hours. So the hours ticked by I cleaned up my apartment sorted through some things and did some odd chores. By the time 6pm rolled around I was getting antsy. I knew that Ziebart closed at 6 so my car should have been done by that point. I tried calling my rep’s desk and cell phone to no answer, Ziebart didn’t pick up (why would they, they were closed for the day) and then I tried the dealership and was transferred to my sales rep’s desk phone where I had to leave a voicemail. By that time it was almost 620 and I had no clue where my car was and could not get an answer out of anyone. Then Ziebart called me to let me know my car would be ready in 10 minutes and I could come pick it up…well that would be nice if I had a car. I told the woman on the phone that she had my only ride on their property and she was really nice about it but let me know that their shuttle driver had just left for the day but she was going to contact my Cortese and see what they could do. She called back less than five minutes later and told me she had spoken to my sales rep (funny he hadn’t called me back) and that they were going to try and figure out a way to get me my car.
That was the last I heard from anyone about my car until after 8pm. My sales rep finally called me and said “it was out of his control” and he was very angry with Ziebart but he was responsible and was talking to his manager how to make it up to me. First rule of customer service always outright take responsibility don’t point the finger. My sales rep also told me he was still looking for a ride to get me. Typically I would walk since it was only 1.7 miles but it was pouring rain and by that point it was after 8pm. The guy finally called me back after 845 to let me know that he had found me a ride and that I would have to drive my ride back to the dealership after he dropped my car off…..wait what?
Now I could not take it out on Chris who dropped my car off. He was great and said that my sales rep was steaming mad about the situation back at the office but at that point I was pissed at the whole process. What bothered me even more was that he told me that he had clients who get the Ziebart full package and it is done in the time it takes for them to go across the street and see a movie at the dollar theatre. That just made me even more ticked and annoyed. So after over 9 hours of not having my car….I finally had my car back, that does not even seem possible about why they would need the car so long!
Follow-up the terrible buying experience with the terrible paperwork experience that followed with my loan. Cortese’s workers mis-placed my loan paperwork or did not file it properly with the bank so for about a month, the bank had no record of loan and I could not make a payment and I was worried that it would get processed without my knowledge. When I tried to email Cortese, my emails went unanswered.
Finally when I did get the paperwork processed with the bank, I was ready to refinance my loan at a lower rate with M&T Bank but it was about 2 months later and I still had not received my title. Now, I understand that the title is not the dealership’s fault and is the DMVs task; however, Cortese told me that the title was going to come to their dealership and then they could send it to my new address because I was moving before it would come. Thankfully I received a package at my old address because my title arrived at my old apartment and it is a document that cannot be forwarded – this was without word from Cortese.
Another problem: the title had no lien on it. When I showed M&T the title as I was apply for the loan, they were extremely confused and said that I had a right to consult the dealership about not owing them money. I was not ready to not make payments on a vehicle I had signed a contract for, I was not willing to commit auto fraud. I am also not one for confrontation so I just called Cortese to tell them how much time I had spent correcting their mistakes hoping they would try to make me happy. The manager blamed other people for the mistakes that happened, said my emails were never received and offered me no way to make it up to me. I was in shock that they offered me nothing. That sealed the deal – this post was going to go live!
I wish companies realized the Lifetime Value of a Customer. My sales rep tried to explain that they believe in the lifetime customer and want customers to return for future car purchases and encourage their friends and family to come to them for their car purchases. I mean if Cortese was smart they would have realized that if you give customers the absolute best deal, lay everything out up front you are going to have more people talking about their business around town, sharing online about them, building up their search engine traffic which will lead to more new business and more repeat business.
If customers value the service that they receive and the time the sales reps take – they will return – it is a simple fact of life. However, I really liked the service team who had done work on my previous car and sadly learned that the sales people can’t back it up. The lifetime value of an auto customer who buys their first car at 22 when you think about it could be limitless because if they talk about the great service, care and people at the dealership their friends and family are more likely to check it out. And a 22 year old will most likely own anywhere from 7-12 cars in their lifetime plus their future family member’s cars and as they become more established buy more and more expensive cars. Their value to that dealership just increased especially when you add in body shop repairs or regular service appoints. There are so many trusting people out there, I don’t like to barter, I am not a big gambler and I like what I like and am willing to pay the price to get it….which made me an easy target for the dealership…congratulations, you won one car off me and lost my lifetime business in both service and sales (after I get my 2 free oil changes and tire rotations).
In the end, I will not be buying another car from Cortese Auto in Rochester again. They took advantage of me being a first time car buyer who was alone and was female…they lived up to the stereotypes of car salesmen and sadly I lived up to being the stereotypical female auto buyer. I really do like the service team at Cortese, they have been awesome with my car troubles in the past and I have no complaints about them. But the sales team I found ruined the dealership for me. I hope Ford knows you are a poor reflection on their company.
So Here Are My Tips for Buying a Car…Ladies:
- Bring someone with you that is not invested in the purchase or who has been through the car buying process before.
- Don’t be afraid to walk, dealerships are looking out for #1 first. They want to make as much money off of you as possible.
- You do not need to buy an extended warranty up front. Save yourself the initial payments until the warranty on the car is about to expire.
- Understand what questions they are going to ask you because they try to throw a lot at you at once to try and confuse you, frazzle you and make you make impulsive decisions.
- Know what you want going in. Know the options that are available to you if you are buying a new car.
- Look around the dealership lot in the evening with out a dealer. This helps you get a feel of what you want and like without someone breathing down your neck.
- Don’t fall in love with a car until you have been dealing with the dealership for a couple of days, I was too anxious.
I hope that others can learn from my experiences. I am typically not one to rant about a bad business but this was my experience with a “dirty” dealership who continued the stereotype for car salesmen.
***Update: After the printing of this post, the GM for Cortese Ford reached out to me to try and apologize for the situation. He was very kind and explained that this was not how they do typical business and how the average consumers experience with Cortese goes. Unfortunately I had to see the poor end of the process with things seemingly going wrong at every phase. It was nice to see that my blog had an impact and that they did notice that there was a very disgruntled customer out there. I appreciated his apology as he did not try to make excuses for his team but tried to make it up to me, at least a little, in whatever ways he could.