Better to prevent disputes than make headlines

Over the holiday weekend, I spotted a consumer watchdog column in The New York Times that scrutinizes a dealership in Queens.

In “The Haggler” column, writer David Segal introduces what he describes as a downer of a story. A car buyer named George Karikulathileliyas wrote to complain about Star Nissan, which sold him a Nissan Murano last year.

The buyer said he was overcharged by almost $6,300 for various add-ons, including a service contract he didn't want and other products he didn't even realize he had purchased. He did acknowledge signing many documents when buying his car, partly because he felt pressured by the salesman.

Karikulathileliyas was able to cancel the service contract, provided by Easy Care, which told the newspaper it sent a refund check to the dealership. But he said he has been unable to get that refund or any others from the dealership.

Segal contacted Star Nissan. His account of what happened is detailed here:

Needless to say, the two parties disagree about whether any payback is owed, though the dealership is reportedly looking into what happened to the Easy Care refund. Segal ended the column saying he'll continue to track the story.

Whatever the outcome of this standoff, for dealers, the column underscores the importance of having strict compliance policies, proper staff training and sales documentation in place. Such measures can go a long way to heading off this type of dispute. When such a dispute goes public, it can't help but hurt the dealership's reputation.