When the Internet Comes For You …
First State Chevrolet in Delaware sold John and Debbie Hooper a new 2o12 Camaro ZL1. After they had put 10k miles on the car, there was a paint issue that still had not been resolved. Tom dropped the car off at the dealership for a bit of a respray and, when he returned, the car looked like this:
Seems an employee of the dealership came in on a Sunday when it was closed and took the car out for a little joy ride. And wrapped it around a phone pole. Totaled.
Because the employee was not on the clock, the dealership initially didn’t want to do anything for the couple. Lefty and I will tell you that there are a lot of states where this is a difficult case to make. When an employee goes on a joy ride without being directed to do so by the dealer, it’s tough to make a negligence case.
The dealership tried offering them a car, same make and model, with 13,000 miles, an unwanted sunroof, and that needed new tires. Remember the totaled car had 10k on the clock. But instead of offering to give them the car, the dealership proposed to sell them the car and throw in 5 grand for pain and suffering and oil changes or whatever.
Debbie checked CarFax and found that the car was a 2 owner vehicle, not a single owner car as claimed by the dealership, and that it had been in an accident. Really?
Now I’d like to think, if put in this position, that I as the owner of the dealership would head over to the Hooper’s house with an order form, let them check any boxes they wanted, and arrange for the new car to serve as substitute collateral for the loan that the Hoopers are still paying. For a car they can’t use. I’d like to think I’d do that, and that I’d eat the rest myself.
But no. The dealership instead stood firm.
Now let me add – this isn’t just a car. Gearheads like me affix special significance to our dream cars. Taking delivery from new, making sure all the parts match, working on it, taking it to car shows, watching the car age, and driving it are all important aspects of ownership. And this isn’t your 25 grand secretary-spec special. This is a $60,000, 580 horsepower, 6 speed dream machine. You don’t just drive this car. You live it.
Enter the internet.
And then it started getting really bad for First State. They had to take their Facebook page down due to the vitriol. Their Google rating went south. A fake Facebook page popped up. Their salespeople were mocked on their YouTube channel.
What solution is there other than to, at the very least, make these people whole?