Hurricane Irene tossed trees onto cars, swept cars away in floodwaters and otherwise damaged all kinds of vehicles up and down the East Coast.
“Water got in and destroyed the wiring,” said Ken Light, 32. “The extent wasn’t diagnosed, but we pretty much gave up after it was more than $1,200 just to take the first step toward repair.”
The Hillsborough newlyweds, who have only been married for four months, hadn’t budgeted for that kind of repair bill, or the additional repairs that would probably be needed. Still, they needed something to drive and they needed it fast.
Given the repair cost, they figured a low-priced new car was a better long-term bet. The couple visited Fullerton Ford in Somerville, hoping they could strike a deal.
They were wrong.
Ken Light said they were very explicit about their needs when they first talked to the salesman.
“We immediately made (the salesman) aware of our situation: both of us working, very far from each other and on very different schedules so that carpooling is impossible, and only one car because of our flood loss,” Ken Light said.
The salesman said he did some looking around, Light said, finding a base model Ford Fiesta at another dealership, violet grey in color, that fit the couple’s budget. The salesman, having been told several times by the couple about the need for a fast delivery, promised the car in three days, the Lights said.
With a fast delivery and the right price, the Lights left a $500 deposit for the car and signed the contract on Sept. 5.
The car would be ready on Thursday, Sept. 8.
But it wasn’t.
The three days passed and the Lights hadn’t heard from the dealer, so they finally called the salesman on Sept. 9.
“He informed me that he was not able to get the car. He said he would call the next day with more information,” Ken Light said. “The next day he told us it would be at least the first week of October before we could get ‘a’ car, not even the same car.”
The car that would be delivered in October would be a different color — not what was specified in the contract.
In the meantime, the Lights were down one car plus their $500 deposit, which Ken Light said made it hard to shop for a different car with a different dealer.
Unable to wait until October, the Lights visited Fullerton on Saturday, Sept. 10 to see what was going on.
Light said the salesman, in a conversation about why the car couldn’t be delivered on time, shared an interesting bit of information. “He admitted that he did not call the other dealership to make sure he could get the car before writing up our agreement,” Light said. At that point, the couple said they weren’t feeling very confident in the salesman. They asked for their deposit back.
“They took my wife’s credit card, went into the back with it, and came back saying the refund was made but it won’t be official until (Sept. 12),” Light said. “We told the salesperson we wanted that in writing and signed.”
The Lights requested a notarized promise, but the salesman said no.
Instead, the salesman gave the Lights his business card. Scrawled on the back, the salesman wrote: “Fullerton Ford is going to refund Emily Light $500 deposit for Ford Fiesta.” And he signed the note.
The same day, the Lights bought a 2010 Toyota Corolla.
And on Monday, Sept. 12, Emily Light checked her credit card statement to make sure the refund had posted. It hadn’t.
She checked again on the 13th. And the 14th. No refund was made.
GETTING A REFUND
Bamboozled called Fullerton Ford on Sept. 15 to ask about the hold-up.
Fullerton Auto Group’s general sales manager, Dean Tuccillo, said he hears about refund delays quite often, but he said it’s not the dealership’s fault.
“When you do a refund on a credit card, there are some credit card companies that take up to 30 days to show the refund,” he said.
We thought that sounded odd. A refund will often show immediately, even if it’s just shown as “processing” when the account holder checks a statement online or calls the 800-number — something Emily Light had been doing daily
Tuccillo said most people don’t seem to check that way; they wait for a new monthly credit card statement to arrive.
He said because of refund delay complaints, he started a new policy in which the dealership mails refund receipts to a customer once a refund is made so the customer knows the dealership did its job.
But Emily Light hadn’t received a receipt, we explained.
Tuccillo put us on hold to investigate. He returned to the phone a few minutes later.
“I have to be honest, I’m confused now. I have Emily’s paperwork here and there’s a little note from (the salesperson) to hold the refund,” Tuccillo said.
Perhaps the salesman was looking for another car for her, he suggested.
Nope. We explained the deal was dead, and according to the couple, the salesman knew it, and that the customer has already purchased another car.
“It’s not done,” he said of the refund. “The refund will be issued today, and I will send them a copy of the receipt. You have my word it will be done today. It would have been done Saturday if I had been here.”
He asked Bamboozled to give the Lights his apologies.
We did. And the next day, the refund appeared on Emily Light’s credit card statement, and the receipt was received in the mail a few days later.
The Lights, who donated their damaged Jetta to Kars for Kids, say they’re happy to have the refund, but the whole deal left them feeling bitter about Fullerton.
“I’m a person who does not like to be taken advantage of, and even more does not like to see people taken advantage of,” Ken Light said.