It was just over one month ago that I began intensifying what had been a couple months of casually looking out for the potential next vehicle. After four years of driving the vehicle from purgatory, a 2001 Chrysler Sebring purchased from Tom Roush Mazda/Lincoln/Mercury’s used lot in Westfield, Indiana, it had become abundantly clear that the car simply wasn’t going to live long past the early 2014 date in which I’d have it paid off.
I am now a couple months past having paid off the the Sebring, and while I’d love to stall for a few more months of freedom I far more value stability and after obtaining a pre-approval from my credit union began searching earnestly for potential vehicles.
I quickly learned a couple things – 1) The current car market is not friendly to drivers with disabilities and 2) With all the new techno gadgets on vehicles, much of the space I’d previously used for loading my wheelchair is now taken up by bells and whistles. In other words, I’ve had a heck of a time finding an appropriate vehicle.
Those of you who remember my search four years ago for an appropriate vehicle, a search that went much more quickly, likely already remember that I have a serious disdain for car sales and the high pressure game playing that seems to frequently accompany the experience. While I am typically not quick to anger or frustration, the car buying experience seems to bring out my edgiest and most frustrated side.
The good news is that I’ve had some fantastic experiences throughout this 1+ month long search even from dealers where I didn’t end up buying.
The best experiences? By far, they’ve included Enterprise Car Sales in Indianapolis, O’Brien Toyota-Scion on Shadeland Avenue in Indianapolis, Ed Martin Honda in Indianapolis, Andy Mohr Toyota in Avon, Indiana and Ray Skillman Kia-Mitsubishi on Shadeland in Indianapolis.
The worst experiences? Hare Chevrolet in Noblesville, Butler Kia on Keystone Avenue in Indianapolis, and Andy Mohr Ford in Plainfield to name a few.
There were other experiences that were sort of a mixed bag including Bob Rohrman’s Hyundai dealership on East Washington Street, Butler Hyundai, Champion Chrysler-Jeep-Plymouth, and others.
There were two dealerships that I swore off this time around – Tom Roush and Blossom Chevrolet. I’ve already acknowledged my frustrations with Roush over my last vehicle, but Blossom remains one of my least favorite auto dealers in Indianapolis based upon an interaction that was so incredibly negative I’ve steadfastly refused to return and, yes, I’m still telling everyone about it.
Let’s talk about some of the more challenging experiences. These include both pure and simple examples of poor customer service and, admittedly, some things that I just consider downright irritating.
For example, let’s talk about Hare Chevrolet. The last time I wrote about my car search, Hare Chevrolet was one of the first dealers to respond to my article. They regretted that I hadn’t given them a chance, so when it came time for this search they became one of my highest priorities to actually give a chance.
Hare Chevrolet may have been my most frustrating experience, though they were certainly not the most negative experience. Hare is a female-owned car dealership largely recognized in Central Indiana for its customer service and flexible attitudes. They have a strong community presence and a strong web-based presence. As someone who prefers to do a lot of my initial contacts by e-mail, I place a high value on a company’s web presence. In fact, a good majority of the negotiating on my last car was done by internet.
My initial contacting of Hare came after locating a car on their website that I found interesting. I filled out their little internet “contact me” form, a form I found irritating because it demanded a phone number, but I also requested e-mail contact. I specifically asked a couple of questions about the car including, quite basically, simply wanting to know if it was still available.
By mid-morning the next day, the first phone call arrived. Because I work in a busy cubicle, I could not answer it. The person on the line was polite and encouraged me to call back at my earliest convince. They didn’t answer any of my questions. THAT is irritating.
Not long after receiving the telephone call and voice mail, I received another e-mail follow-up confirming that they had, in fact, called me and I had, in fact, not answered the call. (Gee whiz. Thanks for that insight). I responded to the e-mail politely and thanked them for their contact and, again, I requested contact primarily by e-mail. I again asked the same questions.
By mid-afternoon, I received ANOTHER telephone call. This message was a little less polite. It again reminded me that she’d been trying to get in touch with me, but also again did not answer any of my questions.
While Noblesville isn’t exactly a long drive from my home in Indianapolis, it’s far enough that I’m not about to simply drive up to the car dealership on the offbeat chance the car may be available. So, I really needed my questions answered.
I didn’t respond to the late afternoon and, of course, had another one the next morning. This one was even a bit “shorter” in tone and was again followed by another e-mail.
So, I sent an abrupt e-mail myself explaining that I understood she had been trying to reach me and that I’d been very clear I’d prefer to do my initial contacts by e-mail. I also stressed that in all the back-and-forth messages, she’d yet to answer any of my questions. This message happened on a Friday and it wasn’t until Tuesday that I received a response.
I did eventually get my responses and, as one might expect, by the time I got my answers the car I’d been asking about was gone. Needless to say, my frustration level was high and I merely stated I would continue watching their website and contact them should another car of interest show up.
If you’re going to have an internet department, Hare Chevrolet, then you should be comfortable doing business by e-mail and/or text interactions. This shouldn’t be a question or a maybe or a doubt. It should be a given. Yes, in all likelihood you will lose more business but you will also have access to even greater business. Unfortunately, by practically forcing the issue and never answering my questions your sales people began sounding like scripted Stepford sales people. I wasn’t impressed and it didn’t make me want to give you my business. So, I didn’t.
The issue at Butler Kia occurred while I was actually on the lot. First off, I got the “motion.” I despise the “motion.” It’s lazy. It’s presumptuous. It’s condescending. The motion is basically a “come here motion with the hand” as I was driving around the lot checking out cars. First off, if you’re a sales person you need to show some energy and initiative. The messages you’re sending when you send “the motion” is “I’m not going to meet you half-way” and “I’m not going to go the extra mile for you.” Is that really the message you want to send?
Because I did, in fact, have a question I decided to actually drive up to the sales person and ask them a simple question about the Kia brand. The salesperson answered this question, “Do you have any two-door Kias?,” with a vague “Yes,” but then acknowledged unconvincingly he couldn’t remember what they were. He invited me to come on in with him and he’d get the information.
“I’m really in a hurry right now.” After a few moments back and forth with him trying to convince me to come inside, he gave me a snarky “Well, if you’d have already come in you’d have had your answer already.”
Do you really think I’m going to spend thousands of dollars and be treated like shit? Nope, I informed him that he’d just blown a sale and I left. For the record, I ended up buying a Kia but I didn’t buy it from Butler Kia because your sales person sucked.
The issue at Andy Mohr Ford in Plainfield was much simpler and again involved internet contact. This contact was, for me, probably the least frustrating of what I would call the negative experiences. While the sales person essentially dropped the ball here, it felt like there was a genuine misunderstanding and, quite honestly, there remained the possibility that I’d give these folks a second chance. I contacted them through the instant messaging feature that I found on their website with questions regarding the Ford brand. After assuring me that there were a couple Ford models that would meet my needs, she also informed me that her office had been moved and her computer was being hooked up. This being Tuesday night, she said that I would have information on these models by Friday. I left open the possibility of coming in either Friday after work or on Saturday.
By Friday afternoon, I’d not yet received any information. I did, however, receive an e-mail requesting to confirm an appointment for the following day. I e-mailed back and explained that I’d not received any information and I wasn’t going to simply come in as it was a long drive for me and I wanted to make sure it would be worth it. I was concerned, because while she’d assured me that Ford had a two-door Fiesta I’d not seen a single one on their website.
The next day, Saturday, she again e-mailed me (I’d gotten away this time with not giving a phone number). I e-mailed her and again reminded her that I’d not received the information she was to send and I didn’t want to simply drive all the way to Plainfield.
“What information? I didn’t know you were waiting on information,” she replied.
Um, here’s a tip. If you have conversations with people, write them down. I’d already been made to wait from Tuesday night to Friday for what was a flimsy excuse. Since I know these instant messaging programs that are used, I know that conversations can be saved. There’s no legitimate reason for someone to “forget” that they promised to send me information. I simply informed her that I would be going elsewhere.
The mixed experiences?
At Bob Rohrman’s Hyundai dealership on Indy’s Eastside, I had a sales person take my name and telephone number along with my car preferences. He texted me the next day, which was promising since I’d requested that over calling, but then I never heard from him again. Did he assume I wasn’t really interested? Did he look at me and assume bad credit?I don’t know, but he blew a sale by never getting back with me. I call this a mixed review, because just a week before I ended up buying a car I returned to this location to check out the Hyundai Elantra 2-door couple and was treated well and had my questions answered. Ultimately, the car didn’t work but the sales person was helpful.
Butler Hyundai, yes I was exploring the Hyundai universe for a bit, was also a mixed bag. At the time, I was particularly interested in the Elantra and another vehicle I’d seen on their website. In posting this on social media, I discovered a friend who had a particularly positive interaction with one of their sales people while acknowledging the rest of the staff can be a bit high pressure. As it was very early morning when I made this contact, I tried to send an e-mail but the Butler website could use some upkeep. So, I sent a message their their “contact me” option and stated I’d like to specifically talk to this one sales person. I received the usual automated response, but responded anyway and stated I’d like to have the one sales person contact me. Fortunately, my friend happens to know that I prefer e-mail and rather despise phones. She’d already called him and requested he contact me by e-mail.
He did. Bravo. He was also quite helpful even if the end result was that Butler didn’t have what I needed right now. If this response was based solely upon him, it would be positive. Unfortunately, technology seems to get in the way of Butler, a rather large auto group with multiple dealerships, and I subsequently received automatic e-mails each day for five days. Each e-mail was more persistent and the final e-mail even said “We know we’re being persistent.” I e-mailed back and advised Butler that they should put down their technology toys and actually communicate with their employees and customers because I had, in fact, already talked to the sales person and I found their automatic responses rude. It made me feel like I wasn’t much more than a number to them, because they clearly weren’t communicating.
I also had a very mixed reaction to my encounter with Champion Chrysler-Jeep-Plymouth, where a sales person answered my response and did answer my questions about the vehicle. However, they also clearly contradicted an advertised employee discount for my particular employer. While the sales person stated it wasn’t good on used cars, our flyer very clearly says that it is good on used cars. While the employee discount programs do typically have a primary contact person, in a situation like this one it seems common sense that if you don’t actually know the answer you find out.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some of the truly impressive experiences -
I didn’t end up buying from Enterprise Car Sales, an organization that works with my credit union, but was treated with tremendous interest and respect by Justin. Unfortunately, this dealership is simply a tad too small and just never had the kind of vehicle I needed. However, Justin was persistent without being obnoxious and understanding about the disability. I truly wanted to buy from this organization, but the right car just never came along.
Zac at Ed Martin Honda was equally impressive. He, in fact, came incredibly close to selling me a car and was persistent in trying to work with me. Sadly, it would end up that he’d show me a 2013 Kia Forte Koup and I would end up buying a 2012 Kia Forte Koup and, yes, they are slightly different. Zac and the entire crew at Ed Martin did a terrific job of problem-solving. It was at Ed Martin where I tried several vehicles, all of which either didn’t work or were “close.” Overall, it was a good experience and I would definitely return.
On the same day that I bought my car, I visited Patrick at O’Brien Toyota-Scion. I was particularly interested in one vehicle and I was just a little irritated to arrive and learn the vehicle was on hold (but its presence had been confirmed just a little over an hour earlier by e-mail). That said, Patrick was helpful and we even test drove a 2008 Scion TC that would have been my second choice for vehicles. He even dealt nicely with the wheelchair and was clearly invested in the process. I also felt, perhaps, that Patrick was one of the more honest sales people that I encountered and that he was in tune with what I actually needed. Maybe I was wrong, but I sensed him steering me away from something that would not meet my needs. Ultimately, I was hesitant to buy a 2008 Scion with 70,000 miles and only a modest warranty. While a Toyota product is likely to last, I’d really hoped for a more recent vehicle this time around. I was also impressed that he completely owned when he’d made a mistake on the price of the vehicle. If they’d had a later model Scion or simply a car that would work better, I was completely comfortable with this experience.
Finally, I found myself ultimately buying from Cherie, the internet manager for Ray Skillman at his Kia-Mitsubishi location on Shadeland Avenue. Skillman is a long-standing Central Indiana presence with more dominance on the Southside. I’d also previously bought a car from him and, in fact, it was one of my better cars. That said, I’m not a Southsider and I’d just never made my way back down there when looking. As is true of most car dealers, feedback is mixed…I had a co-worker whose husband is a mechanic and refers to him as “Ray Screw ‘em.” He said I should go to Hubler next door. At the time I last bought from Skillman, I also had an offer from Hubler.
I will admit that my initial feeling from this Skillman dealership was mixed, but there was something I liked about them. I got the sense that Cherie was real and her assistants were quite friendly. I’d set up an appointment by e-mail for a specific vehicle, but we quickly learned it didn’t work with the wheelchair. She asked questions and looked around. She tried to figure things out. She got me a good price and seemed genuinely interested in making it work. Thus, I ended up with a fairly priced car that was still under warranty. She was direct, but not high pressure and she was friendly without that squirm-inducing tone that often accompanies when someone’s trying to sell something. While it may not have been the perfect deal, it seemed like the perfect deal for me.
There were, of course, other experiences and many other dealerships I contacted throughout the month. Heck, most days I’d sit at home checking out the car websites online and trying to figure out “What next?” I dealt with, at least briefly, other dealerships including Hubler, Skillman on the Southside, Andy Mohr Chevrolet, Tom Wood Toyota, Penske Chevrolet, Butler Fiat, and many others.
I am not sure I can even express how relieved I was to finally sign the paperwork and be able to say “Okay, it’s done.” While I love the challenge of being a customer, there’s just something about the car buying experience that is frustrating and anxiety-inducing. As was true the last time when I bought the Sebring, there were some great moments and some horrid moments. There were times when I wondered if I’d ever find the right one, and there were times when I thought that maybe I was being just plain too rough on folks.
The gimp loves going shopping, but I’m sure glad that shopping for my new car is done for now….