Bamboozled: Misleading car ad

Harriet Buono was excited to buy a new car.BB branding

She decided to turn in her 2004 Chevrolet Impala for a 2009 model of the same car. In late August, the 85-year-old woman took her trade-in to Ayers Chevrolet in Dover.

The trade, plus $16,500 cash, got her a new set of wheels with 200 miles on it.

Within a few days, she was unhappy.

“The seat won’t go up and down, only front to back,” she said. “I have to put a cushion under me so I’m comfortable seeing over the steering wheel.”

She had other complaints, but she figured she had to live with it.

But on Sept. 13, she opened The Star-Ledger and saw a full-page Chevy ad that read, “Buy any new Chevy and if you don’t absolutely love it, return it. We’ll take it back. It’s our 60-Day Satisfaction Guarantee.”

She immediately took the car, which now had 400 miles on it, along with the ad she found in the newspaper, back to the dealership.

122209She was told no, she couldn’t return the car. It was purchased before the start of the 60-day return program, which kicked off Sept. 10.

“But the ad didn’t have a start date,’’ Buono said.

She wrote a complaint letter to Fritz Henderson, at the time the CEO of General Motors, Chevy’s parent company. By the end of October, she didn’t hear back so, frustrated, she contacted Bamboozled.

We went back to review the ad, and Buono is absolutely right. There is no start date. It does say delivery of the car must be by Nov. 30, 2009, and it says other restrictions may apply.

Buono did purchase her car before the program started, but what about the ad, which misled at least one reader?

“When GM launches a campaign of this nature our public communications, including advertising, begin on the day of the launch — in this case Sept. 10 — or in the days that follow,” said GM spokesman Tom Henderson. “That is why a ‘start’ date is not included in the ad.”

That makes sense, but still, Buono has a point. If there’s no start date in the ad, it’s reasonable for consumers to misunderstand the program.

We can’t make Chevy take the car back, but we can ask it to be more specific in future ads so misunderstandings like this one can be avoided. And Mr. Henderson — CEO Henderson — we’re sure you get lots of mail. You may want to ask your staff to beef up its response time.

Keeping loyal customers

When a company makes an error, it’s irritating. When you call that company over and over and no one responds, it’s downright insulting.

Peggy and Ed Connelly of Seaside Park are big fans of Hyundai. They’re on their third Hyundai lease in seven years, and each time they’re ready for a new car, they return to Brad Benson Hyundai in South Brunswick.

The dealership has an incentive to bring in business. It offers a $200 referral fee to any customer who recommends the dealership to a friend who later buys a vehicle.

Pretty good deal.

The Connellys told a friend about the dealership and, in June, that friend bought a Hyundai. But months later, the Connellys were still waiting for their check.

“After five calls to the dealership — the sales managers were always busy — I left messages relating my referral but never got a return call or any money,” said Ed Connelly. “I spoke with four different Hyundai consumer affairs people, and none of them were able to help.”

So Bamboozled called.

Sales manager Jason Ostrowsky checked the paperwork and found that, indeed, the Connellys were due a referral fee. He said it seems the salesman forgot to put in the referral slip.

“It’s an honest mistake and I’m taking care of it,” Ostrowsky said.

We were told it would take 10 to 14 business days for the Connellys to get their check. That deadline came and went. It took 18 days and a few more phone calls, but they finally got their $200.

The couple was happy to get their check, but they’re still soured by the experience.

‘‘I will mention this unfortunate circumstance to as many people as will listen,’’ said Ed Connelly.

Going up?

Robert Latzer, 82, and his wife, Julia, 80, frequent New York City for Broadway shows and Lincoln Center performances. But lately, when their travels bring them to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, it hasn’t been easy.

Robert has emphysema and five stents in his heart. Julia has two repaired femurs. They say the escalator to Track 222 has not been working for weeks, forcing the Chatham couple to climb 48 steps to the platform, a feat that leaves them so winded, they can barely speak, he said.

“It’s not just that we’d prefer an escalator. It’s really that the lack of one poses a moderate health risk to both of us,” Robert Latzer said. “After all, we are both in our 80s and although pretty healthy, not as young as spring chickens.”

Latzer couldn’t get answers, so he contacted Bamboozled.

Port Authority spokeswoman Jen Friedberg investigated and said there’s nothing wrong with that escalator.

‘‘It does occasionally go off for maintenance and routine cleanings — they all do — and in other cases it could happen that a passenger hit the emergency button by mistake,’’ she said.

In that case, the escalator will stay shut until it’s restarted by an employee. Friedberg said there’s a house phone near the escalator, so problem-finders can call the operations center and they’d send someone to check.

We hope it’s working next time, Mr. and Mrs. Latzer. Please let us know what happens on your next visit, and paint the town red!

Chimney company does right

We reported last week Joan Muller’s dissatisfaction with work done on her chimney by AAA Reliable of Fair Lawn. The company was going to send Muller a refund check for $4,100.

But instead, owner Lee Lita rang Muller’s doorbell to hand-deliver the $4,100 check and offer an apology. He asked that Muller allow Lita to come back personally to try the repair, at no cost to Muller. She agreed.

Thanks again to Lita and AAA for doing the right thing by Muller, and we’ll let you know how the repair goes.