Ford Motor Company doesn’t give two shits and a stick about customer service, a good experience, or a return customer. It pains me as I have long driven a 1967 Ford Mustang, having fallen for the car after watching “Bullitt.” I know, the cynics are not surprised, and honestly, neither am I, to a degree. That said, for twenty-two years of my life I have worked in the service industry and still I can be amazed at the level of apathy and disrespect a company gives its customers. What follows is a letter my wife wrote to Ford after our purchase of a new-used car and Ford’s reply back to her, which essentially, is a sales gimmick. The experience made her feel like shit. Bill Pierre Ford does not care. Ford Motor Company does not care. It completely sucks to look at your upset wife and feel helpless. Fuck you Ford Motor Company.
Ford Motor Company
Customer Relations Department
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to provide feedback about our recent experience at the Bill Pierre Ford Dealership in Seattle, Washington. In October 2010 we bought a 2009 certified pre-owned hybrid Escape, VIN: 1FMCU59309KC20134. I don’t think we received a Customer Voice Survey in the mail, but it was important to me to provide feedback. I was very unhappy with the sales experience and often find myself researching how to be smarter about future car purchases.
To give a quick background, my husband and I were in the market for a bigger, more reliable family car. I drove a ’98 Nissan Altima, and he drives a beloved ’67 Mustang. My Altima was the first car I owned (since age 22) and being a very frugal person, I planned to drive it until it died. However, after paying for frequent repairs, I agreed that a new car was a good idea. After much research, we decided that the Ford Escape and Honda CRV were the top choices for a new family car.
We went to test drive a Ford Escape at the closest dealership to us, noting that this was simply an opportunity to drive the car, not to make a purchase. We test drove the car and liked it. However, there were not sticker prices on the cars; the only way to find out the sale price was to sit down with a sales manager (not the same salesman who rode with us in the car), which we agreed to do as a starting point for our research. The sales manager explained the price they paid for the car and gave a sale price and monthly payment that was out of our price range. However, as we started to explain that it was not in our budget, the high-pressure sales techniques really began. In retrospect, not having sticker prices on the car was also one of the sales techniques, since it forced us to sit down with the sales manager in the first place.
I want to point out that I completely realize we could have walked away at any point. I mostly blame naiveté for letting myself get embroiled in the negotiation process. But I also must express that the sales techniques—having us “sign” agreements to a particular monthly payment to start negotiations, extended haggling over the trade-in price on our car, the sales manager’s constant exiting and returning after talking to his manager (which ultimately felt like a charade), the involvement of a third salesman to explain the mechanics of the car, the involvement of a fourth dealership employee to debate about various financing strategies—ended up having a frustrating yet effective hold on us. The process took hours; at one point the salespeople seemed downright frustrated we hadn’t made a purchase yet, and I wish so badly we had simply walked away. I’m still perplexed about why we didn’t. I think one element is that we had by that point invested so much time in the process, it was that much more difficult to simply leave. Another element is that we were interested in the car.
Ultimately we purchased the car, but I did not feel good about the purchase at all. I felt ashamed that as a professional, educated adult, I somehow succumbed to these high-pressure sales tactics. I didn’t even want to tell my friends, as I was afraid of having to listen to knowing advice about better car-buying strategies. When consumers make large purchases, we want to feel empowered, excited, savvy, and satisfied. I left the dealership feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, incredulous, and mad at myself. I remember thinking “there’s a sucker born every minute, and tonight I was one of them.” Part of the challenge is that because a car is a big purchase, most consumers don’t have frequent enough opportunities to become experienced in the buying process.
Why can’t a car sale can’t be handled in a more transparent manner—list the price and financing options up front, and let the consumer decide if it’s in the budget or not? Since the purchase, I’ve learned that different dealerships handle sales differently, and some do post prices up front. If only there were industry standards. And while the retailer should not necessarily be representative of the car company, as a consumer I can’t help but link the negative experience with the car, which does not inspire brand loyalty.
The other frustrating part of the experience was that several features the salespeople showcased have turned out to not be true. The initial salesperson who rode in the car with us said that the cd player held multiple cds and that music could be loaded into the car’s memory. My husband, an avid music fan, was excited by this; we took the salesman’s word for it, but both features were not actually in our model. Also, the advertised miles per gallon on the hybrid seem misleading. The commercials and the salespeople celebrated that the hybrid gets, in ideal driving conditions, 34 miles to the gallon. Our Escape is averaging about 21.8 mpg, a significantly lower number. Again, this added to my overall sense of dissatisfaction. I’ve read the manual for tips on optimum fuel efficiency, adjusted my driving habits, and have been unable to obtain anywhere near the advertised mpg. Ultimately I feel like I just paid extra for little gain. However, other than the disappointing mpg and music features, we are generally happy with the Escape. It drives very comfortably, we feel safe in it, and it has other nice features. We primarily wish the purchasing experience had not so severely tainted the excitement of having a new vehicle.
I hope this feedback will be constructive in some way. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Leana de la Torre
The following transcription is from Ford Motor Company following up on a complaint letter my wife wrote to them regarding the purchase of our new-used Ford Escape. An audio file of the call follows.
“Good Afternoon Leana, my name’s Chris calling from Ford Customer Service, Dearborn, Michigan. It’s just about 4pm and wanted to give a quick call as I just received and reviewed your letter you sent in to us regarding your experience at Bill Pierre Ford with your new vehicle purchase there. As I was looking through it I wanted to apologize for the way that things went and how you describe the things going on, however I wanted to give you their website: fordowner.com or the number 1-800-367-3377. That’s the Ford extended service plan sales and service center in case you were interested in getting additional protection. The reason being I noticed that there was about 35,000 miles on your vehicle now and you may be interested in additional protection on your vehicle. That’s not the department I’m in and I’m not trying to sell you anything, however knowing that you purchased this recently it should be an option you can make an educated decision about in the event it’s something that’s on your mind. So, just wanted to give a courtesy call to that end and thank you again for writing me and it was a pleasure getting to read this and I’m sorry for the circumstances that were described. Thank you so much again, and have a great afternoon. Bye Bye.”