Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Column: Advice for eBay users after a car dealership is accused of backing out of an eBay auction for a new 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8. UPDATE2

Disclosure: If you have read this article before, you will have noticed that I have not only updated the article, but rewrote it. This is a first for me, however I wanted to make sure that my readers understood both parts of this article. Part 1 is advice for eBay users if you have a problem with the legally binding contract that both the seller and the buyer have entered it. Part 2 is the widely talked about story of a man who won an eBay auction and dealer is backing out of the deal. There is more to this story then people know.

Over the last several years, some eBay users may have found themselves in a particular spot where the buyer or seller wouldn’t honor the contract because of a number of reasons, but mainly due to the fact of human error or they didn’t get the price they wanted.

There has been several cases and yes some have included buying a new or used car on eBay Motors that an eBay user bids on a car and wins the vehicle with a lowball or lower offer than the seller wanted. Now the seller has decided not to honor the deal and the problems and maybe a lawsuit begins.

Over the last couple of days, I have read three cases including the one I will talk about in particular. First would be a BMW dealer in Lincoln (end result is eBay customer gets car for auction price). The second was a Hyundai dealership in Lexington, KY that backed out of a deal on a Hyundai Genesis Coupe (Heard Hyundai might be getting involved now). I haven’t heard a ruling. Now we have the third case and the real reason for this article.

I first noticed this article on AutoBlog.com that told the story from a posting by the eBay user on ChallengerTalk forum. Over the last few days I have been following this story and I have to say that it has so many twists and turns.

Basically from the way I understand it, a California resident in or around Long beach has been looking to buy a Dodge Challenger SRT8 in plum crazy purple for some time now by working with the dealership, but they couldn’t come to a deal partly because he couldn’t get the color he wanted. However last Friday he noticed a 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 on eBay from that dealer that was blue (pictured above) and decided to put a bid of $29,100 in. He didn’t expect to get it, however he was told by eBay he won it and that’s where the trouble began over 5 days ago.

This story has taken some twists and turns and some in which I still have questions on. However over the past few days, Jalopnik.com has been covering this story from all three sides, the eBay and dealership customer, the dealership themselves and of course eBay.com. They have done a great job, so I have linked to them below including the original article.

- The first article is called “Car Dealer Trying To Screw Enthusiast Out Of Challenger SRT8 Auction?”

- The second article is called “Did Challenger SRT8 Auction Expose eBay Reserve Pricing Error?” By the way, I looked at the auction page on ebay and under the 15 bids, it says Reserve met.

- The third article is called “Challengerwatch: eBay Says "No Problem," Dealer Says Otherwise” which was published today (3/18/2010). More to come.

By the way, I still have questions:

1. Hitman (the user name on the forum that the eBay user uses) said he used PayPal to send the $500 deposit, however the article says dealer refused money. So where is the $500, does the dealer have it, PayPal or Hitman?

2. According to the article, the dealership has responded, but why did it take them 4 or 5 days to response? According to Hitman, they have been giving him the run around in saying they wouldn’t honor the eBay auction price. He has gone down to the dealership with the money ready, but has left with no car.

Now the dealership is talking about their side of the story and is kind of making themselves into the victim here, but they’re not. They have said that they are talking to the Hitman in trying to work a deal with him to buy the car at a discount, but not the auction price. But where were they on day 1? Yeah telling him get lost, but now there trying to fix it after the negative media exposure, please.

3. Where is Dodge in all of this? This dealership is a 5 star dealer, Dodge this is your problem too and now you need to step in period. This dealership represent you and this bad press, doesn’t look good for you neither.

From what I have read, good luck to Hitman.

Anyway, in reading this article, it got me thinking, and saying “when will people learn?” and offering some advice to anybody who finds themselves in this position and every eBay user, buyer and/or seller should take note.

Here’s what I’m thinking…as an eBay.com user myself who has both bought and sold on eBay. As a seller, you allows want to get the best price and there has been times where I should’ve gotten more money, but once the auction is over and a winner has been notified, that’s it. You are legally binding to honor the contract and that’s the way it works. And as a buyer, you want to get deal each time, but once you place the bid, you have to honor it period, that’s it.

In any case whether it’s a car dealership or not, the buyer and/or seller are legal binding to this contract and must sell or buy this item no matter the price. I don’t understand the problem, especially when it comes to this dealership in particular, they set a reserve price (which is their problem, not the buyers), bids were placed, the auction went completely to the end with reserve met, and a winner was declared, the buyer should get the car period.

I will say one thing, if a person finds themselves in this spot, you have options.

- Get a copy of the auction page and all of the documents involved, you will need them. A .pdf would work.

- Contact eBay themselves and tell them what is going on, of course they might not be able to do anything on it, but they are a start. Then contact the Better Business Bureau on BBB.org and file a complaint against the dealership. Include everything. I have used the BBB before and got results. No business wants to have a complaint filed against them especially with the BBB and they will contact on it to resolve or at least try. One good point here, the customer or eBay buyer is also from California that helps.

- Contact you state’s attorney general’s office, they might be able to help as well or at least the state.

- And contact a lawyer. Have the lawyer call them that might do it or even better, go to the dealership with the lawyer and ask to speak with the manager and the salesmen involved. The dealership can call the police, but puts them into a whole new problem.

- This idea was taken right from the forum and is NOT mine: In some cases, you could even talk about the story online on a site, blog or forum like this guy did. Of course there could be legal problems later with doing this one.

At the end of day, the business/seller and in this case, the car dealership could loss there eBay account, get a complaint filed against them with BBB and the state of California, California themselves could investigate and the car dealership themselves could loss big including in business (future customers) and in bad press. No business wants to go through this especially in this economy.

The best thing for any eBay user especially this dealership and the others to do is to honor the deal with the buyer and sell the car for $29,100 plus the out the door costs and learn from the experience to not do this again. Good luck to eBay buyer and owner of the car, you’re going to need it.
[Source: Autoblog, Jalopnik.com via Challengertalk]

UPDATE2 on 3/21/2010: Yesteday was the big day as Alex "Hitman" sat down with the dealership to work out a deal. Early this morning, Hitmas posted this message on the Challengertalk forum: "First of all, "Thank You" to everyone for cheering me on and helping me move forward in a positive way. A lot of message boards picked up this thread and have to thank everyone for passing the word around too.

There you have it. Visual of the keys in my possession of the SRT8 deal that Glenn E. Thomas Dodge honored for $29.1K plus tax and license fees of course.

Both parties had plenty to talk about that day but in the end of it all, things worked out for everyone. So there is praise to be made to both sides, especially the dealer who did honor the auction. Would encourage everyone to send them praise and not attack anyone in that establishment as this was not the point of this thread. I'm sure there will be question on how things went down."

A few hours later, Hitman posted this: "I'll be out driving around town and taking it easy on the SRT8, want to make sure I read the owner's manual and get familiar with all the options/features. Burnouts, pics, and more to come a bit later. I am too excited about actually owning right now!"

This is all great news, finally the dealership know that they were wrong and decided after 5 days to do the right thing and honor the eBay sale price of $29.1K for the 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8. Congratulations Hitman, you held your ground and in the end won what was rightfully yours.

I would have hoped that the dealership would have come to this conclusion on Day 1 and saved themselves the trouble and pain and kept there reputation. Now I wonder what they have left? I will talk more about this topic in general (wthout names) in a few days (after this update) over on my lifestream at BrianVermette.com. Hitman, enjoy the car, drive it, and please post pictures, just one tip...leave the license plate and a photo of your home out of the photos.