December 17, 2004

Darkest just before the dawn...

Wow. Talk about a mood swing.

I sent a complaint letter to my dealership today, listing out my major points of contention: unexplained delays, no notification, misinformation. Apparently, that did the trick. Within a few hours I got a response that practically brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Bottom line is that the Prius is probably en route as we speak, and I'll finally know something concrete on Monday.

Now, this doesn't mean I take back what I said. Everything I said in that letter was true. But I have to hand it to them for addressing everything so quickly. Now let's just see if the car shows up.

Read on to see the full corresponence.

Here was my original email

Good afternoon,

I'm writing to express my dissatisfaction with the way my Prius order has been handled thus far by your dealership. I have been on the wait list there since January 31st of this year, and judging from my last conversation with a salesman, I'm still several months away from receiving the car. Now, I understand that this car is in very high demand, and delays are inevitable. However, I have talked to other Toyota dealerships in the area, who have told me that the wait should not have been this long. I'd like to know what is causing this discrepancy between my order and the orders of others in the area.

In addition to the extended wait, I'm disappointed with the lack of communication that I've had. I was originally quoted an August delivery, but August came and went with no contact. When I called in September, I was told I could hope for delivery by the end of the year. Why wasn't I contacted when this delay first arose? Earlier this week, I called again for a status, and was told that the salesman I was working with had left your organization. Why was I not contacted about this, either? Also in this call, I was told I was still a "long way off" from having my order filled. So you knew you'd miss the end-of-year estimate I was given at the end of the summer, but again did not contact me. This make me feel unvalued as a customer, and I feel this is unacceptable.

As a final insult, it was suggested during this last call that I consider paying a "premium" of $5000 to you to find my model through another channel. I understand that this process is unfortunately all-too-common, but it is insulting that you would suggest that after already waiting over ten months, I should possibly have to pay more.

I also suspect that several things I've been told in conversations with various people at your organization have been untrue. For instance, the reason I chose Toyota North in the first place was because the salesman told me that you receive more Priuses than most dealerships, since you receive "bonus" cars as reward for high sales. However, in my last phone conversation, I was told that you only receive "one or two" Priuses per month. In talking with other dealerships, I've been told this is not only not above average, but is actually below average. In addition, in conversations I had with my salesman in early summer, he stated that dealerships don't keep waiting lists, but that Toyota handles this. From what I'm told, this is at best a half-truth, and that while Toyota does keep a list of order, they have asked the dealers to handle the task of deciding of who gets what car.

So you've missed two delivery estimates (each by several months), have not kept me in the loop about my status, and I suspect I've been lied to. I would like to hear what, if anything, can be done to rectify this situation. Hopefully, we can work toward improving what has so far been a very dissatisfactory buying experience. I don't relish the idea of starting the Prius wait all over again at another dealer.

I feel I should let you know that actions I am undertaking in response to this experience. I am currently:

- In contact with Toyota corporate on the correct process for filing a complaint against the dealership,
- Planning on sending my list of complaints with the Better Business Bureau.
- Posting my experiences thus far with the online Prius community at priuschat.com, and on my personal website. I wouldn't mention this, except that my site is (to even my surprise) starting to show up in Google search results for keywords that other customers in the area might use when deciding on a dealer, so I thought it would only be fair to notify you:
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Prius+Westchester (Link #3)
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Toyota+North+Mt+Kisco (Link #13, on page 2)

In conclusion, please know that despite the negative tone of this letter, I really do hope we can work to a resolution that is mutually beneficial. I was offered a refund on my deposit in my last discussion with a salesman, but turned it down, because (in addition to not wanting to start over with another dealer), I don't think this situation is beyond repair.

Thank you for your time,
Kevin Cooney

P.S. I would prefer email or postal mail in lieu of phone calls for any further communications. I realize auto sales is a typically a phone-reliant industry, but I would like a record of anything said from this point forward.

And god bless 'em, here's the response I got back shortly afterward:

We're sorry that you have had a series of unpleasant events with us regarding your Prius order. I cannot determine exactly why you were not kept up to date on the status of your order, I can only tell you that there is a mechanism in place to help ensure that people are kept in the loop. From what I can determine, the unexpected departure of your original salesperson caused the problem within our contact management system. That does not solve your problem or excuse it, I am simply searching for an answer to prevent it from happening again. Now that I am aware of your situation, I can't erase the past, I can only get involved and work to ensure that you have a positive experience moving forward.

To clarify what you have been told about how many Prius we get, how we get them and why... We are the #2 volume Prius dealer in the NY region (the NY region comprises about 120 dealers in NY, NJ and CT). As such, we do get a much larger allocation of Prius than most other dealers. The "one or two" Prius a month that was referred to relates to those vehicles that are allocated to us which don't already have a customer assigned to them. We get far more than one or two per month but in almost every case, the vehicle is already spoken for. So, we do just get one or two that are available for sale, not just one or two in total.

Regarding "paying a premium" for a vehicle... We actively work to purchase Prius from other dealers across the country to meet our local demand. As such, we pay a premium to purchase the vehicle and can also incur expenses to transport the vehicle from their location to our location. We offer these purchased vehicles to those customers who do not wish to endure the normally long wait times.

At this point I don't feel that we'll be far off from our end of year delivery time frame. Prius production is at or near an all time high so Prius allocations have never been better. We are currently in the process of assigning recently allocated Prius to our unfilled orders. This process should conclude on 12/20/04. I will make sure that you are contacted either way by the end of the day on Monday the 20th... a silver '05 Prius with the navigation package with your name on it is not far away.

Thank you for the opportunity to keep you as a satisfied customer. Please let me know if you have any questions or unaddressed concerns at this time.

<Name Removed>
Toyota North
SCION North
Endurance BMW
Mount Kisco, NY 10549

And here's my response to that. You can pretty much hear me smiling:

Wow, that was like reading a dream come true. Thank you for addressing all of my concerns, and addressing them so quickly to boot. I'm sorry I misunderstood the allocation statistics, as I only had what the salesman said to go on, which apparently was not the "big picture." Hopefully you can understand why I was getting distressed. This is my first experience at buying a new car, and I was already nervous about the whole thing, so once it wasn't going to plan, I got even more concerned.

My opinion of your dealership has just turned 180 degrees. I look forward to working with you on this purchase.

Thanks so much,
Kevin

Posted by Kevin at December 17, 2004 04:09 PM
Comments

wow! the keyboard is mightier than the sword. i hope they are not jerking you around. remember they are professional liars.posted by my MPx220.

Posted by: jboz at December 17, 2004 06:38 PM

The keyboard is mightier than the sword when you take it to the Prius dealer and beat
Joe "Isuzu".

Posted by: bizz at December 17, 2004 09:47 PM

I really hope you get your car before the end of the year, and I don't want to rain on your parade, but I notice that this guy is giving you more double-talk and thought you might be amused by a translation.


>At this point I don't feel that we'll be far off from our end of year delivery time frame.

Key phrases here are "at this point", meaning, 'the exact point in time I began speaking this sentence', and "far off", meaning, less than 8 million years in the future. So, to rephrase, "At this brief moment in time I feel that you'll get your vehicle 'soon', that is, before you retire."

>Prius production is at or near an all time high so Prius allocations have never been better.

"Never been better" sounds really encouraging, but it's not a hard number. You've been waiting 10 months, so a 9.5 month wait would also qualify as being "never been better."

>We are currently in the process of assigning recently allocated Prius to our unfilled orders.

Oh, really? Is this a new turn of events? What were you doing with your previous recently allocated Priuses? Just driving them into the ocean for laughs?

By the way, I like how the plural of "Prius" is "Prius". I never really thought about what the plural would be... no "Prii"?

>This process should conclude on 12/20/04.

Still hasn't mentioned any hard numbers regarding this "process".

>I will make sure that you are contacted either way by the end of the day on Monday the 20th...

This is the first concrete thing he's said, which is encouraging. Be sure to set your alarm. =)

>a silver '05 Prius with the navigation package with your name on it is not far away.

This sounds like a commercial. Do you think he'd say the same thing to me if I gave him a call?


Anyway, you are being a mighty squeaky wheel, so hopefully you've just jumped to the front of the line. =)

Posted by: Ben at December 18, 2004 12:13 AM

First off, thanks for the optimism. Second, I might have to institute a length limit on these post from now on. :)

And yes, while there was a lot of "double talk" I liked that fact that he got back to me so quickly and didn't give me the generic "there's nothing we can do" that I've gotten from everyone else so far.

Finally, I got another email a few minutes later that was even more specific, but I decided not to post it.

Posted by: Kevin at December 18, 2004 12:46 PM

Glad to see your letter got a favorable response, though it always sucks then it takes something like that to get an answer from somebody. Anyways, best of luck in finally getting the car!

Posted by: Brian Kelly at December 19, 2004 12:16 AM

Maybe I'm stupid but he tells you that they have 1 or 2 a month that aren't spoken for. Why haven't you gotten one of them?

Sounds like they're still jerkin you around little brother.

Posted by: lboz at December 19, 2004 08:57 AM

I think this one would be good for an Ask Asa episode

http://www.wnbc.com/askasa/2015419/detail.html

Posted by: lboz at December 19, 2004 09:14 AM

Yeah, I'm not sure what happens to their "extra" one or two a month. I'd imagine that either they give them to people on the list (which would mean that they had a HUGE list if they still hadn't gotten to me), or they've been selling them to other dealers. Or most likely, they're selling them to people who are willing to pay more than MSRP to bypass the wait, which is shady, in my opinion, but understandable.

If the car doesn't come soon, maybe I'll give Asa a call. :)

Posted by: Kevin at December 20, 2004 10:34 AM

I agree with Ben. I think they just moved you ahead of the line. Something tells me that list is written in pencil and your threatening letter pushed you up. I think it was your website that sealed the deal. Intimidated by kevincooney.com. Oh, the power of the internet. I'll be checking this later as today is 12/20!!!

Posted by: B at December 20, 2004 10:41 AM

Yes, I totally think I got bumped to the top. I think I'm getting one of those "extra" Priuses. But I'm not sure if it was my warning that I'm sending complaints to the BBB and Toyota that got me to the top, or simply because my order had been somehow placed in the wrong pile (or no pile) and they forgot about me until I spoke up. Perhaps it's both.

Anyway, it's 11:00am and no call so far.

Posted by: Kevin at December 20, 2004 10:53 AM

So, did they call? Don't keep us in suspense like this?

Posted by: lboz at December 20, 2004 08:42 PM
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