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Monday, July 8, 2013

Shopping local: Crown Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

After reading this, please see my follow up post - I spoke to the General Manager of the dealership: http://www.gsofamilies.com/2013/07/follow-up-new-car-drama.html

I recently made the decision to trade in my much loved Honda Fit for a minivan. I purchased the Fit a few years ago when it was just me and my two daughters (perfect car for us!) and have loved driving it every day. It gets great gas mileage, is surprisingly large inside, and very versatile for transporting odd sized loads. However, I needed to have additional seating for extra children and made the decision to look into a minivan, provided I could match the payment on my Fit. 

The Dodge Caravan is the most affordable minivan on the market at about $10,000 less than other comparable models from other brands/dealers, and provides some great features on the AVP model, including the stow-n-go seating (which provides extra storage beneath the floor of the two captain's chairs).

However, Crown Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, at 3710 West Wendover Avenue in Greensboro, NC, has given me nothing but issue after issue since the day I went in to make the purchase. Prior to making my purchase, I did my research online, I visited the dealership twice and spoke to the same salesman, and I knew what I was getting into. On Saturday, June 15, I went into Crown Dodge for the third time, with the intent to purchase a minivan that day. It took approximately 7 hours (yes, SEVEN), with lots of waiting. This isn't the first car I've purchased; I've had six vehicles since I got my license at 16: two purchased from friends and family, three new vehicles purchased from dealerships (Ford, Honda, and now Dodge), and a used vehicle purchased from a dealership (Kia). I've dealt with my fair share of dealerships, and always had a relatively smooth purchase transition. Crown Dodge, however, was a complete disaster.

I spent the first 6 hours either with the salesman or waiting on paperwork, agreeing to a trade in value for my Fit, payment terms, sales price, etc. He gave me a monthly payment, with the sales price of the minivan and the trade-in value of my Fit. I agreed. I finally was moved into the office of the guy that does the finance paperwork around 3pm on June 15. He flat out told me when I walked into his office that he was already mentally at the beach on vacation, as he was preparing for his fishing vacation the following week. He was also listening to (and watching?) a fishing tournament on his computer, and kept apologizing for his obvious distraction; apparently, he was missing the tournament this year, after being in attendance for the past several years, and one of his buddies was participating.

There is a LOT of paperwork involved with purchasing a new vehicle, financing it, and trading in the old vehicle. It took us maybe 20-30 minutes to go through it all. That's not too bad! However, the reason it took so little time was the push from the finance manager. He was rushing through paperwork, verbally explaining what the paperwork said, and answering my questions as thoroughly as possible (or so I thought). Since I'm currently in school, my father volunteered to cosign the paperwork with me, which means everything had to be overnighted to Florida, where my parents live, for his signature. It also means I didn't get copies of any of the paperwork to take with me. In hindsight, I should have walked out of the office when I realized I wasn't being given the chance to read the paperwork; it was being covered up and pulled away as soon as my signature was on it to be put in a pile to mail to my dad. However, I was verbally discussing the paperwork with the finance manager, asking questions, receiving what I thought were appropriate answers, and it didn't seem out of place.

I was told I received six years of maintenance, a six year warranty, and the first five oil changes for free. All this for no extra cost! Awesome! The finance manager also told me that because I had a LoJack on my Fit, they would transfer it to my minivan for free too - I just needed to bring the minivan in the following week for about 30-60 minutes so they could transfer it. You know what they say about too good to be true...

I got home, and tried to figure the financing myself. I didn't have copies of the paperwork, and the numbers were't adding up when I sat down to calculate it all. The only figures I knew were the trade-in value for my Fit, the price of the minivan, the interest rate, and my monthly payment. However, I couldn't make the numbers work - I was not able to calculate it to the payment I was supposed to be making each month given those numbers. I called my dad, and told him that when he got the paperwork, I needed him to read it because I was panicking over not knowing why it wasn't working out, and not having copies to read myself.

The Crown Dodge dealership is closed on Sundays, so first thing Monday morning I called, trying to reassure myself and see if I could stop by and get copies, even just photocopies since the originals still needed to be mailed to Florida for my dad. I left a message with the same finance manager at 9:15 am on Monday, June 17. The next day, Tuesday, I called back in mid-afternoon since I never heard from him. He didn't call back Tuesday, either. My father received the paperwork on Tuesday evening, and called me to discuss, since apparently there were charges of nearly $7000 for extended service contract, prepaid maintenance, and a LoJack fee. Additionally, the trade-in value for my Fit was lower than what I had been told. WHAT?!

Now, I'm upset because the dealership won't return my call. I was verbally told "no fee", "no extra cost", "no additional expense", etc. over and over for all the maintenance and service contracts and the LoJack.

Wednesday, June 19, I received a call from a different finance manager at Crown Dodge, asking where the paperwork was since they didn't receive it back from my dad. I asked him my questions, and he said he'd look into it and call me back. I never heard from him on Wednesday or Thursday. On Friday, June 21, the general sales manager called asking where the paperwork was since it hadn't been returned. I told him my questions, and was told he'd call right back after he looked into it. Friday passed, nobody returned my call. Saturday I called the dealership again, and again, nobody returned my call.

Monday morning, June 24, I called the dealership again. I was told, very specifically, that the general sales manager would return my call immediately from his office. Two hours later, I still hadn't received a call, so I went into the dealership to speak to someone in person, since apparently nobody wanted to return my phone calls. I waited quite a while in the lobby for the general sales manager. When I was finally called back to his office, I explained the situation, my questions about the fees for the LoJack, that I was told weren't costing me anything, the difference in the trade-in value between what I was told and what was on the paperwork, and the extreme cost of prepaid service and extended service that I was repeatedly told were included at no cost to me.

The finance manager who had originally helped me was still out on vacation. The general sales manager was incredibly rude and condescending towards me. He tried to bully me into leaving it alone. He tried to intimidate me and make me feel inferior and like I was being difficult. I ultimately told him I was prepared to leave the keys to the minivan with him and walk out the door. Then he changed his tune and said he'd remove the nearly $5000 in extended service contract and prepaid maintenance fees, but he couldn't change the trade-in value of the Fit. I told him that was unacceptable; he called the salesman into his office to prove his point and asked him what the trade-in value of the Fit was that he provided me. The salesman immediately responded with the amount I was stating, not the reduced amount shown on the paperwork. The general sales manager sighed, made a big show of being upset, but said he'd change the trade-in value, and remove the extra service and maintenance fees. I asked about the LoJack, and he said he'd take the fee off, but LoJack is apparently locked into a vehicle VIN number, and they don't "transfer" them and didn't know what the finance employee was talking about when he said they'd "transfer" it for free to my new car. That fee was ultimately removed as well. The manager basically told me to get out of his office, and sign the new paperwork with the salesman.
I signed all new paperwork on June 24 in the office, and it was overnighted to my father in Florida. He received it, signed it, and the dealership confirmed receipt on June 27. We realized that the term for financing was decreased by several months, which was not pointed out to me by the dealership, but I chose not to make an issue of it because I'm okay with the payment and shorter loan term. However,  it should have been acknowledged since I didn't have the original paperwork to compare when signing the new paperwork.

On Friday, June 28, I received a phone call from the salesman stating that they had the incorrect payoff amount for my Fit and I owed the dealership money; he wanted me to bring in a check that day. I was traveling to a family reunion, and told him I'd be back in town the following week, and asked him how it was possible that it was wrong. I heard him get the exact payoff amount on the phone, and asked why I was responsible for the difference. He couldn't give me an answer, and just said that [the finance employee] should have explained it all when I signed the paperwork the first time. Obviously, that hadn't happened since apparently nothing was explained to me by the finance employee the first time around. He rushed me off the phone and just left it with him calling me back the following week after I returned home from the family reunion.

On Tuesday, July 2, I received another call from someone at the dealership, stating that some of the proper paperwork was never signed or mailed and they needed both me and my father to sign it immediately. I explained that I was traveling, my father was traveling, and we had no access to computers, fax machines, or printers. July 3 I received another call about the paperwork from a different person; I explained again that my father was traveling and wouldn't be able to take care of it until the following weekend when he returned home. On Friday, July 5, yet another phone call came through my phone, again asking about the paperwork and how my father and I intended to sign it. I explained, again, that my father was still traveling and I was unable to get to the dealership until either Saturday or Monday. He then informed me that they were waiving the fee for the difference in the payoff amount for the Fit, and asked me to come in to sign the paperwork as soon as possible. I suggested having my father sign it first, then I could come sign it and take the copy with me.

As of today, July 8, I have yet to hear anything. My father has been unable to reach someone regarding it. All this to say, if you're looking to purchase a vehicle from a dealership, please take this ridiculous saga into consideration. This was the absolute worst experience I've ever had buying a vehicle (or buying anything, for that matter). The Crown Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in Greensboro, NC is disorganized, the staff is disorganized, the finance manager outright lied to me more than once when asked pointed and direct questions, the value of my trade in was altered from an agreed upon value to a lower amount on paperwork, the general sales manager was incredibly rude and condescending to me as a customer, and I should not still be dealing with these issues nearly a month after driving off the lot in my new minivan. The whole situation is underhanded, and I feel lucky it was resolved to this point. I also feel like if the dealership felt they were "in the right" with all the added costs for maintenance, warranty, and LoJack, they wouldn't have conceded to removing extra fees so quickly. It seems clear to me that this is how they do business, and it is shady. I should have walked out of the finance manager's office when he was being so quick to pull the paperwork away from me (to add it to a pile to mail to my father) before I finished reading it. I should not have taken him at his word for what I was signing! Hopefully the remaining paperwork will be completed this week, and then I can put all of this in the past.

For what it is worth, I've dealt with Green Ford, Crown Honda and Battleground Kia in Greensboro with no problems. I've rented a vehicle from Crown Nissan with no problems. These issues seem to be exclusive to Crown Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Greensboro.

If you've had good or bad experiences with local car dealerships, please leave the info in a comment to this post!

See my follow up post, after speaking to the General Manager of the dealership here: http://www.gsofamilies.com/2013/07/follow-up-new-car-drama.html


  1. Feel free to leave comments here :) I'm truly interested in hearing experiences with this dealership and other local dealerships. Thanks!

  2. I've had the same problems with this dealership years ago (exact same, TO A T!), as has my father. Crown DEFINITELY gives all dealerships in this area a bad name.

  3. March 2014 I bought a 2nd jeep from Crown. I was promised an employer discount. During the sales process I called my colleague and asked if we had a discount with Jeep and she said there was nothing on my intranet. I told the finance mgr, and he assured me I qualified. I asked what happens if we find out later I don't qualify? He said "we'll work it out with you". Well, I didn't qualify, and it turns out that "we'll work it out for you" means we will add it to the purchase price! I informed the finance mgr, Brian Palm, that I was charged for a warranty that I verbally declined. I was in the office for 6 hours during the sales process and unfortunately I didn't recognize they put the warranty on the contract.. Brian acknowledged his mistake and promised to cancel the warranty and return my money. 2 months, nothing happened. I called Brian and he said it would take a while for the credit to appear on my loan. A month later, nothing. I called and was told I needed to fill out a cancellation authorization. The finance mgr obviously didn't know his own procedures. There was a delay for the billing representative, Amy Oakley to send the authorization. I immediately returned it asking for confirmation of receipt; again, nothing. She finally answered saying that due to vacations, she was overwhelmed. After, 4 months from my purchase the credit appeared on my loan. But there was still about $300 of taxes not refunded. I sent 4 follow up emails to Amy over the next 2 months, without an acknowledgement of receipt. I visited Crown and handed Brian a copy of the emails. He promised a quick response. Again, nothing. I filled out an online "contact us" form with my problem details and nothing happened. I left a message for the GM to call me. I received an unclear voicemail "I have tried to call you 3-4 times, heck everyone in here is trying to call you". I wrote down the name of the GM, as I understood it Derek Peason. I called and asked for Derek. He said "there's nobody named Derek here I then asked "is Mr. Peason here". "there's nobody with that name here either. He then told me "if I was trying to contact him telepathically I was doing a lousy job". He obviously knew who I was trying to reach, but decided that angry sarcasm was the right approach. He said he didn't appreciate people calling him names. I was quite shocked with his tone but apologized that I got his name wrong. He had a very thick accent and when I played the voicemail to friends, they got the name wrong also. It turns out his name is Darian Pearson, and he transferred here from a dealership in Alabama. He said that since I signed the contract he can't refund the taxes. I asked why it took almost 8 months to get this answer. He said he had several recorded conversations where I was told this. I said this was clearly not true as I would remember this. He advised me to call my phone provider, as there must be a problem on my side. His tone was belligerent and aggressive. I said of course, it's possible that I dropped a voicemail, but I certainly didn't do it on purpose. Why wouldn't he give me the benefit of the doubt, since I was a repeat customer of Crown and purchased a $50k car? I was just looking for a response. He continued to argue they had all told me there would be no refund. I explained my 4 unanswered emails to Amy and face to face discussion with Brian where no such statement was made. I realized that I was getting nowhere with this person. I would expect a GM to have basic people skills, but he was crass and rude. I said that I would never buy another car from Crown. His response was essentially "oh well". You do not want to buy a car from this dealer, trust me. There is a culture of mistreatment of customers at Crown Jeep with Darian Pearson leading by example.


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