Bamboozled: Vet driven to exasperation

BB brandingDonald Schwartz was in the market for a new car.

He returned to the dealership where he had previously purchased two cars and had good experiences: Hyundai Global Auto Mall in North Plainfield.

While Schwartz was looking at vehicles, his salesman told him about an added incentive: a $500 discount for current and former military personnel.

Schwartz, a retired colonel, was sold. He signed the paperwork for a 2013 Sonata on April 13.

“At the time of sale, I filled out the form for the military rebate,” said Schwartz, 78. “At that time I provided them with a copy of my official retired military identification card, which clearly identifies me as a U.S. Army retired officer.”

The discount was written into the contract price, and Schwartz drove away happy.

But two days later, the salesman called and spoke to Schwartz’s wife, saying the military rebate was rejected by the corporate offices.

That didn’t sound right to Schwartz.

6313He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Medical Service Corps on June 6, 1956. He served on active duty from 1958 to 1960, and then spent 27 years in the active Army Reserve, retiring with the rank of colonel in 1985.

Yet the salesman said the military rebate was rejected.

“He told (my wife) about the rejection and that we could not expect the dealership to pay the $500 and that we would be responsible,” he said.

After several calls back and forth with the dealership and with Hyundai corporate customer service, Schwartz said he received no further explanation for the rejection.

He presented his DD 214, a Department of Defense certificate of release or discharge from active duty.

That didn’t help.

He was told his case would be reviewed, and that would take two or three weeks, he said.

Because this was a corporate discount, not one offered by the dealership, Schwartz tried to bolster his case by communicating with corporate customer service.

On April 25, Schwartz e-mailed new copies of his military ID cards and his DD 214.

Hyundai replied to say it received the documents. But after that, no matter what Schwartz wrote in follow-up e-mails, which were reviewed by Bamboozled, he only received form letter replies.

On May 8, a frustrated Schwartz wrote: “Your form letter is an insult. Please get on the ball with this. I’ve been retired from the U.S. Army since 1985.”

He received a reply the next day, with Hyundai saying it was still reviewing the case.

Schwartz said while he waited, he never received a formal request from the dealership for the $500, but he expected to see one soon.

Another week passed, and on May 13 — 31 days after he purchased the car — he asked Bamboozled for help.


We reached out to Hyundai with Schwartz’s story and proof of service paperwork, figuring something was overlooked and it should be an easy fix.

Apparently, it was.

Schwartz received an e-mail from Hyundai the next day

“We would like to inform you that when you purchased your Sonata, the Military Incentive Discount was received, as it was applied to the purchase price of the Sonata,” the e-mail said. “Please be advised the claim has been paid to Global Hyundai to offset the money applied to the purchase price of the Sonata.”

In other words, the military discount was approved.

Great news.

We asked Hyundai why the discount was initially rejected. That’s when we joined Schwartz in the red tape brigade.

“It looks like the discount was there all along but just needed some explaining to Mr. Schwartz,” said spokesman Rob Lescaille in an e-mail. “Everything is good now and it appears everyone is happy.”

Not exactly. We agree that the discount was always listed on the purchase contract, and it was calculated in the price of the car. But then Schwartz was told the discount was rejected, so he’d owe $500 to the dealership.

This “needed some explaining to Mr. Schwartz?” It was explained to him that the discount was rejected.

We asked for clarification on what went wrong, but Hyundai doesn’t seem to think anything was wrong.

“The discount was already part of the final transaction at the time of purchase,” Lescaille said in another e-mail. “There was just a misunderstanding at the dealership on how it was communicated.”

Again, this is unclear. What kind of “misunderstanding?” That statement makes it sound like the dealership made an error, but the dealer was just the messenger: Schwartz was told it was rejected. There’s nothing to misunderstand.

To us, it sounded like corporate was throwing the dealership under the bus.

We tried for a clearer explanation, but the spokesman said that’s all he had.

We reached out to the dealership to see if it wanted to give its side of events. It said it resubmitted the paperwork for the discount several times, but it declined to comment on corporate’s explanation.

Schwartz is glad the discount was finally approved, but he’s not all that happy with his experience.

“I’m totally disgusted by the manner in which Hyundai handled this matter,” he said. “It’s certainly left a bad taste in my mouth, and destroyed what should have been a very good customer relationship.”

He’s right.

We’re human. We all make mistakes. It’s how we act after a mistake is brought to our attention that matters.

What’s the big deal about some clarity in explaining what went wrong?


Last month, Bamboozled brought you the story of Carolyn and Derek Mahoney.

The couple’s son died, and because they had co-signed more than $27,000 of college loans with Sallie Mae, the lender was holding the couple responsible.

We asked Sallie Mae to reconsider the decision because the lender had forgiven co-signed loans of deceased students in the past, and because it has a program for new loans with a clause that forgives such debt in the case of the primary borrower’s death.

Some kind of deal has been reached, but the family is prohibited from disclosing the details.

“We are pleased with — and thankful for — the decision that was made by Sallie Mae relative to those transferred loans,” said Derek Mahoney.

We thanked Sallie Mae for the decision we think it reached, and we asked it to share more details.

A spokeswoman said she couldn’t.

“We worked with Mr. and Mrs. Mahoney to come to a confidential resolution, which we sincerely hope will help them, in some small way, in the healing process after the loss of their son,” the spokeswoman said.


A few weeks back, we told the tale of a JCP&L customer who was unable to get the utility to cut down a dead tree that was in danger of falling on power lines.

JCP&L cut down the tree after our inquiries.

We also told you about new legislation to create a commission meant to look at better ways to protect the energy infrastructure from tree damage, including “best practices for vegetation management” — the heart of our featured consumer’s problem.

The bill passed the full Assembly late last month, and it’s now heading to the Senate for further consideration.

Bill sponsor Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer) said he’s hopeful the bill will be on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk before the July 1 recess.

“As New Jersey communities slowly see businesses and boardwalks reopening, we need to take a thoughtful, hard look at ways to prevent damage to our energy infrastructure in order to possibly mitigate some of the issues that thousands of New Jerseyans experienced,” he said. “The work of this commission will be incredibly important in working toward a better energy system for our communities.”

Let’s hope so.