Please let me recount my nearly unfathomable experience at Toyota of Poway resulting in the worst customer service I have experienced in my 40 years on this planet, which included threats of physical violence.
Saturday August 1, 2009
At approximately 11:00 AM - I drop off my 2000 Chevy Prism for an oil change and then to be appraised for trade-in value. I was prepared to purchase a new Corolla or Camry this weekend. The service person is very professional and when I alerted him that I want to buy a car and get the appraisal, he excitedly walked me over to Nene Velasco to work with me on the sales side. I had an advertisement from the day’s paper that showed 5 Corollas priced at approx $14,800 after rebates and incentives. Had she had one and offered me a reasonable trade-in, I would have bought the car on the spot in cash. She let me know that none of the cars were in stock. I told her that’s fine, but I still wanted to get the trade-in number so I can use that for any negotiation of a car I might buy in the near term. She explained the store was very busy but would get to it. I told her there was no rush and that I could pick up the car the next day if necessary.
At approximately 12:30 PM, I got a call from Josh in service telling me that I had oil leaks and that the cost to repair would be at least $1500. I told him that I didn’t want to do the repairs but I would like him to still pass the car over for appraisal since (now more than ever), I was interested in a new car. He said he would.
That was the last conversation I had with Toyota for the day.
Sunday August 2, 2009
I arrived on the lot at approximately 10:15 AM. I am the first non Toyota employee on the lot. I immediately found Nene. She tells me that the store was very busy, that she was there until 11:00 the night before. She doesn’t apologize but she says she can have someone this morning do the trade-in appraisal. At that point, I show her a competitor’s ad for a Camry (Toyota San Diego) for $15,888 which was available the prior afternoon but was sold before I could get to pick it up. In any case, she told me immediately, she couldn't’t meet that price. I said that was fine, but I wanted to get on with my day and asked her to get my car. She told me she did not have the key but an assistant manager can help.
I was then given to Mike Kempsey. He told me rather immediately, with little to no apology, that my key was in the service department and that I would have to pick it up the next morning. I immediately voiced my displeasure and explained that was “unacceptable.” My tone was surely agitated as I tried to explain how nobody alerted me that I couldn’t get my car, that I had left it specifically for the purpose of trade-in appraisal, and that it didn’t make any sense to me that there wasn’t anybody that could help retrieve my keys/car. He immediately, told me I wasn’t listening to him and that my protesting was in vain and that it was my own fault for not picking up the car the day prior.
We then went back and forth repeating ourselves to no satisfaction. I then asked for a manager and then came Roberto Bartolo. Roberto did nothing more than agree with Mike. They both explained “there was nothing that could be done.” He explained they had no access to the key or the car. I told them that my wife had dropped me off and that I was now stranded. I explained that not having the second car would have a very negative impact on my day and an even worse effect on my morning since both my wife and I work, and that I thought it defied logic that they couldn’t get my car for me. I then stated that if they couldn’t accommodate me that I would spend time on the lot voicing my lack of satisfaction to prospective customers. At that point, Roberto explained that he wanted me off the lot and if I wouldn’t leave on my own he would have to physically do so. At that point, Rick Gallagher (General Manager, which I didn’t know at the time) joined the conversation. He threatened to call the police if I didn’t leave. I tried to explain my position and his reply is that I was unable to take any responsibility for not having picked up the car. He then made some sort of global comment expressing that I am the kind of person that doesn’t know how to take responsibility (which was an unnecessary and ironic comment considering that was exactly what he was doing). In any case, I left the main part of the store and called my wife to pick me up. While I was waiting for her, I was able to encourage an Asian family to shop at another Toyota dealership after I heard their salesperson tell them that they wouldn’t give them the newspaper ad price along with the cash for clunkers rebate. Clearly, I was angry and had nothing better to do while waiting for my wife than to begin to follow up on my earlier threat. I was seen doing this and Roberto grabbed my arm (gently) and walked me off the lot. Somewhere during (or right before), Tim Hack, one of the gang of salespeople began joining in the scene. I don’t recall the whole conversation (it was less than a minute) but he asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a Marketing Director, and he snidely told me I must be a horrible one. I responded with “was that really necessary?”
10:45 (approximately) my wife arrived about five minutes after Mike escorts be off the lot.
3:15 (approximately) – I am at a show and noticed that I missed a call on my mobile phone. No message was left.
4:38 (exactly) – The show ended and I called back the number. It is Toyota of Poway. I called back, got the receptionist and I ask for Nene (since I figured she might know what the call was in regards to). I go straight to voice mail. I called back and asked for a sales manager. I am give to Ruben. He had no idea what was going on but said it was probably an outside telemarketing company that does follow up. I complained to Ruben and he at least had the courtesy to hear me out.
6:28 (exactly) – I got a call from someone (I didn’t note the name) telling me that my key and car was waiting for me and that the oil change was not being charged. He also let me know that the general manager doesn’t want to ever do business with me again. I am relieved that I don’t have to change my entire schedule the next morning and almost appreciative of the gesture. But what is bothering me is that indeed IT WAS POSSIBLE TO GET ME MY CAR AND KEY THAT DAY. So why couldn’t this happen in the morning. And I was curious about why now?
7:15 (approximately) – My wife dropped me off and stayed outside in the lot in our 2008 Camry Hybrid (purchased new at Mossy Toyota) while I entered the main sales room. Immediately I saw Rick Gallagher. Before I was able to get a question out, he told me that he never wanted to see me (or any family) again at his store or even on the street as he clearly suggested he would act violently in that case. I told him I would never want to see him. But I was stunned by his aggressiveness and threats. He explained during his brief but threatening rant, that I had insulted him personally. And I stated I didn’t think I had and asked what I said and he said “I was going to” or something to that effect. Yes, I was angry from the start of the fiasco but unlike Rick and Tim, I never resorted to any personal attack. I have a Ph.D. in Communication and know better than to use ad-hominem fallacious reasoning in argumentation.
He then directed me to the next building to get my key. I walked the 3 minutes to the other building and asked for Tim (as instructed by Rick) and he explained he didn't have my key and that I needed to go back to the main showroom. He seemed to be smirking. At this point, I felt this back and forth was intentionally being done to provoke me, which I didn’t let it. Very awkwardly, I went back and asked Rick where I should go and he then he directed me back to Tim when someone else intervened (some decent salesperson) and he took me to the receptionist. She then gave me the paperwork and my key. At that point, I was relieved to finally be exiting when I realized my car wasn’t pulled up front after looking for it on the lot. So, again awkwardly, I returned to Rick to ask how I could get my car out the locked lot and at that point James (a decent salesperson) quickly offered to get my car for me. Three minutes later, I was out at 7:33 (give or take a minute). The last 15 minutes was just another amazing example of the worst customer service imaginable.
I went in to get an oil change and a car appraisal since I was interested in purchasing a new car from Toyota . I never got the appraisal even after giving the dealer nearly 24 hours. I never got a call back telling me I had to pick up the car on Saturday or not get it until Monday. When I went to pick up the car, not only was the “customer not always right” but instead, I was insulted, threatened physically by the general manager, and treated rudely by at least three different employees. I was also told that it was impossible to get my car/key only to find out later the same day it was possible.
In short, avoid Poway Toyota at all costs. Feel free to contact me if you need more information.