WATCH: When deals go bad - customer smashes car window at dealership
Things got totally out of hand at an Umhlanga car dealership recently, when the relative of a woman who’d been told she couldn’t back out of a signed contract, smashed the back windscreen of car on the showroom floor - with his bare hand.
“He’d actually picked up one of those metal queue poles and looked as if he was going to use that to do the damage,” said the automotive brand’s operations manager in KZN, who asked not to be named.
The woman had signed an Offer to Purchase and paid R22,000 as a holding deposit on a new hatchback a few days earlier, after lengthy negotiations with the dealership’s finance and insurance (F&I) manager.
Such contacts are binding on both the customer and the dealership, but a few days later she said she wanted to take the car without insurance, as she couldn't afford it.
No can do, said the F&I manager - car financing banks are entitled to insist that cars are comprehensively insured for the duration of the contact.
“Then she said she wanted to cancel the deal, and was told this wasn’t possible, as the dealership had incurred costs in having accessories fitted and getting the car ready for collection,” the ops manager said.
Incensed, the woman arrived at the dealership on a Saturday morning three weeks ago, with her relatives in tow, demanding the refund of her deposit.
The dealer principle was out, but spoke to the customer on the phone, saying it was impossible for her to collect the deposit that day.
“At that point the relative, an enormous man, became very agitated, and went on a bit of a rampage, damaging company property,” the ops manager said, “including putting his fist through the rear glass of a car on the floor.”
Other customers fled and the police were called to remove the group.
The dealership did refund the woman her deposit in the end.
“Sometimes it’s better to part ways with a customer instead of having such incidents happen on your showroom floor," the ops manager said. “And if a person is capable of behaving like that, you really don't want them as a customer.”
NEED TO KNOW
Signing an Offer to Purchase agreement is not the same thing as signing a quote - it’s a binding agreement.
Some dealerships let customers off the hook if they change their mind, but others take legal action to force the consumer to honour the deal.
And they can, according to Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA) Johan van Vreden. “We get complaints about this virtually on a daily basis,” he told me.
The time to shop around for the best deal, or to make sure you can afford the car instalment and the insurance premium is before you sign an Offer to Purchase agreement, not after.