Customer Service? I Think They Discontinued That Model

I have a stone in my shoe and you know what that means…

Vent the stone.

For the last couple of months I’ve been searching for a new car to lease. Pretty simple demand: small car and not too expensive. In the past this meant a MINI or a Smart car but this year it’s a little bit different. Fiat came into the mix, the Honda Fit is in the same class, as is Kia [I forgot which model], the Mazda 2, VW GTI, and even a few others… lots of small cars out in the market. While the Fiat is neat looking, the fact that you need a special side mirror to see over your shoulder is something that turned me off of the model. The rest are pretty OK, but there’s only a couple of models that have the amenities that I’m looking for:

The Prius C and the MINI Cooper.

The Prius C is a newcomer that just hit the market this year… it’s a little longer than the MINI but smaller than the regular Prius by about a foot. It’s a Hybrid and it’s well appointed. The top of the line Prius C Four has HD/SAT radio, touch screen GPS, all sorts of Hybrid computer screens, integration with the iPhone – even leather seats. It is very well appointed.

The MINI has all of those options as well – and more – and is way more fun to drive. Hell, it’s more fun to drive than most other cars on the road… something about that Go-Kart feeling that is just… fun. But the challenge with the MINI is that if you trick it out to match the Prius C, it’s more expensive. By like several thousands more expensive. To combat the price difference, you take out the MINI Connected [iPhone integration] system, the GPS, the backup-camera thing, and the leather seats.

Classic example: amenities/normal/cheaper versus fun/neat/pricier.

As of this writing, I’m planning to lease a new MINI.

Why?

Not taking anything away from MINI – who for some reason tried to charge me over retail at first ask (even though I’m a 3rd time MINI lease) and has kept me waiting for over 48 hours for a final lease quote – but Toyota has completely pissed me off.

After seeing the Prius C, I decided that I wanted to take a test drive. I reached out to the local dealer through the Internet Sales department: do you have a Prius C Four to test drive? It took four emails to find out that they did not but I could test drive a Two. Why four emails? Because there was constant pressure to schedule an appointment.

OK, here’s the deal: you guys are a dealership. I don’t schedule when I’m coming down for a test drive. You work around my schedule and if I opt to be flexible… then you deal with it. I don’t care that you aren’t there. You are a salesperson and you are a dime a dozen. If your commission process works that you only get credit for all the work, don’t push that on me. I’m the damned customer.

On a whim, Jolene and I pop down to the dealership a couple of days later. We’re greeted by one of the three salespeople standing by the front door. All happy and smiling and friendly. Until I say ‘Oh, we requested a test drive with the Internet sales department.’ Smiles disappear and we get a grunt in response. “That salesperson isn’t here today.” ‘That’s OK – we just want a test drive.’ “Oh… well, that salesperson isn’t here today.” [insert the sound of my patience expiring] ‘Yes, I understand. Do I get to drive the car anyway?’

After waiting for a bit, we get the Prius C Two and salesperson in tow, we go for a drive. Nice car but basic inside. Had a key – the MINI has a FOB – and the traditionally untraditional dash of a Prius. No more annoying jerking at a stop sign. OK power up hills. Wouldn’t have even known it was a Hybrid, to be honest. Very nice. When we get back to the dealership, there’s a full court press. “What color are you looking for? How long is in your lease? How about we get you out of that early?” After explaining that I have 10 weeks on the lease left and still have 15K miles to go before I’m over, the salesperson wanders off. The sales manager returns with the salesperson with the classic “How can we get you to buy the car today” look. He says “What do you think?” I reply with, ‘It’s nice… really nice. But I’m not buying a car today – I still have too much time and miles left on my lease to get out of it early, thanks.’ Jolene and I leave shortly after that.

After coming home and doing some research, I learned that the Four does have a FOB, the touch screen and all that gunk. Even a feature where if you have the FOB on you, you just touch the door handle to lock/unlock the door.

Since the first local Toyota dealership didn’t have a Four, I called another one. This guy tells me that they are selling out of them faster than any car they’ve had before. That always cracks me up. Reminds me of when I worked on stock trading software… no glitch in the software ever caused a $5 mistake – it was always a $5 billion mistake. OK, fine, so it’s a hot car, but the really funny part is when he tells me: “Ya know… if you really want to see one, you really should put a deposit down on one.” I have no words to this. “Because a lot of people are buying them sight unseen.” ‘Ah… well, that’s not going to happen.’ “Oh. What else are you looking at?” ‘I’m really considering a MINI Cooper.’ “Oh, well can the MINI get you fifty four miles per-” ‘I don’t care about the hybrid.’ “Oh.” ‘The only reason why you’re in the running is because you’re a small car.’ “Oh.” ‘I just wanted see it before I bought it.’ “Oh… uh… well.”

Leave a deposit for a purchase to test drive the fuckin’ car? Ha!

Anyway, since I was still torn on the choice, I waited a week or two and then I emailed the first Toyota dealership again. And again. And again. Finally I picked up the phone. “I replied to your emails!” was the response I got. Um, OK, that’s odd that their first emails got through but other ones didn’t. Right? I mean a spam filter could just suddenly change it’s mind… no, no, don’t call bullshit yet.

Turns out they had a Three on the lot. Back down to the dealership. This time I told them when I was coming and my internet salesperson was there. OK, fine. Out for another test drive. The upgraded amenities were nice. Really nice. OK, this has potential. We end the short test drive and go back to the dealership. “What color are you looking for? How long is in your lease? How about we get you out of that early?” After explaining that I have 10 weeks on the lease left and still have 15K miles to go before I’m over, this salesperson takes another approach: “How much equity do you have left in the car, because we can get you out early.” Now I know MINI has one of the highest residual values in the industry. I don’t know why. No one knows why. I just know that by the time I buy the car, trade the car in, and pay the sales tax on said transaction that I’ll be screwed 8 ways from Sunday. I say ‘It’s OK, I’m not interested.’ “Well how much equity do you have left in the car?”

Doesn’t a salesperson know that they are supposed to adjust their approach to fit the mark? Listen to the responses and respond? That’s what I would do… no one likes a quitter I guess because the equity pitch continues.

Ultimately, Jolene and I leave again with some more thoughts about the car. So I decide to get some specific lease numbers, while MINI continues to compete for the business by offering competitive quotes. I email the salesperson for more information… wait a couple of days – nothing. I try from another email address. Nothing. Finally I call and leave a voice mail… ‘I want a quote for a Prius C Four.’ The next day I get a returned call and more lamenting about emails not getting through.

Um, as an Internet sales department wouldn’t you want to make sure you can send and receive emails? You can call bullshit now.

OK, so now I got my quote. I then realize I forgot to ask about the options: the sunroof and 16″ tires. I then realize that the quote I was given doesn’t match what I see on the web site with the lease calculator. So I call back 5 minutes after the first call and leave another voice mail. Two days later I get an email: “the quote was for a Prius C Four.” Um, OK, that doesn’t answer my question. I reply ‘Yes, the Prius C Four but with the sunroof and the 16″ tires?’ I get back, “Yes.”

Those quotes above are all that are in the mail. No numbers. No new quotes. Just a handshake that the number that I got verbally and doesn’t match the web site is what I’m paying. What if I heard her wrong? What if I can’t remember the quote? Do I have to email again asking for another quote which might get lost again?

Why do I feel like I’m doing them a favor by leasing a car from them? Why don’t I feel like they’re earning my business? Why does it feel like I’m driving this deal instead of them doing the work for me?

Oh, right: because I am.

Well, lets just be a sadiest, I emailed them again: ‘Prius C Four + the sunroof and 16” wheels, $4K to the cap cost, 36 mo, 12K miles a year, and the payment was $220/mo including tax?’ It would seem their emailed worked because I got back:

“Randy,

I did not say $220.

I SAID $320 AND THAT IS INCLUDED THE TAX.”

ARE YOU FUCKIN’ KIDDING ME? YOU HAVE PUT NOTHING IN WRITING. YOU HAVEN’T BEEN RESPONSIVE IN EMAIL OR VIA PHONE. YOUR NUMBER DOESN’T MATCH THE WEB SITE. YOU ARE SHOUTING AT ME – and in imperfect English – ABOUT A MISUNDERSTANDING OVER PRICING WHICH IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO NOT FUCK UP AND YOU DON’T GIVE ME THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT OF A TYPO?

This just went from a blog post to a complaint to Dealership Management and Yelp.

And this is why I’m getting a MINI Cooper… not that I have any regrets with that. Sure I’m giving up some features but I know the car, I like the car, and the car remains fun to drive. I’m even going with the same color. Adding in things like SAT/HD radio and a reworked dash. I was tempted to try something new this go around… never had a Toyota or a Hybrid and this is the third MINI in a row…

Maybe I should thank the local Toyota dealerships for making the decision for me though: if they don’t feel like they need my business, I don’t feel like I’m going to give it to them.


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