Monday, March 12, 2012

Are Car Buyers as Culpable as Decepetive Car Dealers?

Almost all of my columns and radio shows are aimed at car dealers who take advantage of their customers through unfair and deceptive advertising and sales practices. In my columns and my radio show I offer advice to car owners and car buyers on how to avoid being taken advantage of. I’m very far from being unique in that respect. There are many others who do the same thing and there’s a “mountain” of consumer information available online as well as in books and magazines. Furthermore, there are lots of government and private agencies who are there for the consumers’ protection including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the State Attorney General, the County Office of Consumer Affairs, the Better Business Bureau, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Department of Financial Services. But these sources of information and regulators cannot help the car buyers if they don’t avail themselves of them.
If a person leaves his car running with the keys in it, isn’t he just as responsible for having it stolen as the thief? Most women know better than to leave their purse out on the front seat when they park their car at the mall. How about those people who forget to lock their doors when they leave home? Or how about those that go on vacation and don’t stop their newspaper delivery, don’t leave on some lights, and don’t ask the local police and/or neighbor to keep an eye on their house? It’s not uncommon to see women and men wearing very expensive jewelry in public places.

How many professional animal handlers have been mauled and even killed because they didn’t take the proper precautions with wild animals. I hate to say this, but there has always been, and there will probably always be, an element of society that will take advantage of others. It’s just the “nature of the beast”…like the tiger mauling his trainer or the scorpion stinging the frog that carrying him across the river on his back in the parable.  We live in a very imperfect world and there are animals and humans whose nature it is to harm us or take advantage of us.
When I say that buyers are as culpable and deceptive as car dealers, I don’t mean all buyers who are taken advantage of. Just as there will always be those in our society whose nature it is to harm others, there will always be those in our society who will be victimized. These include the very young, the very old, the uneducated, the mentally challenged, and the language impaired.  Society must protect those who cannot fend for themselves. We must do a lot better job than we are now doing on this element of our society, but that’s for another column. This column is directed at those who do have all of the faculties needed to make an intelligent and safe decision to buy or service their car, but choose not to for expediency sake or maybe because their emotions overcame their rationality.

No car buyer who isn’t part of the “chronic victims group” that I’ve described is likely to be taken advantage of by any car dealer if he does his homework before he buys or services a car. Readers of this column and listeners to my radio show have read and heard it all before. Don’t go car shopping alone, always get three price quotes, never buy a car on the first day you begin shopping, your Internet price is the lowest, etc.
Those who are taken advantage of because they didn’t avail themselves of all of the protective sources and advice often complain loudly, to me and to their friends. But they don’t complain to the regulators very often. You’ve probably heard me rail at the regulators for not doing their job. The Attorney General and other agencies claim to be understaffed and spread too thin. Their excuse is true to some extent, but “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”. When I was asked to address the state senate commerce committee in Tallahassee about the evils of the dealer fee, the Attorney General testified with me and said they didn’t receive that many complaints about the dealer fee! If a person is taken advantage of, there is an “embarrassment factor’ involved in not notifying the regulatory agencies.  But that’s a feeble excuse. If more people would complain about unscrupulous car dealers to the regulators, the wheel would squeak loudly and action would be taken to fix it. You might not be made whole for the loss you just incurred, but you would lessen your chance of this happening to someone else, or you again, in the future.

Those of us who are able must exercise our free will and take accountability and responsibility for all of our actions including educating ourselves in the car buying and servicing procedures and reporting to the regulators those car dealers who don’t play by the rules.

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