• Report:  #3361

Complaint Review: Towbin Dodge - Las Vegas Nevada

Reported By:
Sun, September 17, 2000

Towbin Dodge
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.
Auto Dealers
Tell us has your experience with this business or person been good? What's this?
The following is a self explanatory letter about the shady practices of Towbin Dodge. We sent it to the Nevada Department Of Consumer Protection, who said they could do nothing.

April 22, 1999

Consumer Affairs Division

Dept. of Professional Regulation

1850 E. Sahara Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89104

Dear friends;

I wish to advise you of my experience attempting to purchase a car at the Towbin Dodge outlet in Henderson that was, at best, a very bad way to do business and possibly a series of unfair and deceptive trade practices.

On Monday, March 29th, I accompanied my daughter to Towbin's chop sale to find her an inexpensive first car. We came to agreement with the sales staff on a price of $3,000

for a Ford escort. The sticker on the windshield stated 91,000 miles. We began the negotiations with this mileage in mind.

Shortly thereafter we discovered that the sticker was incorrect and the odometer really read 109,100 miles. We pointed this out to the salesman.

We concluded a deal with salesman Bill Ross. The agreement was that we would pay $1,500 cash down and finance approximately $2,100 ($1,500 balance plus approximately $500-$600 in costs) for one year at an interest rate of approximately 10-11%. We agreed to this.

We then sat with the finance staff person, Craig Alexander, who prepared the disclosure statement. When I reviewed the statement it appeared that we were financing a sum in

excess of $2,500. I examined the document and found a $500 charge for PROTEX which we were not informed of.

Mr. Alexander explained that this was a fee to be paid to the finance company to persuade them to accept assignment of such a small loan. I responded that we had not agreed to pay a commission equal to 25% of the principal .

Mr. Alexander insisted that it must be paid. We did not accept his insistance. He persisted and made a serious attempt to

convince us that the fee was mandatory. He went so far as to say that he would take it off the form if we wished, but it would not reduce the amount we would have to pay. We disagreed and suggested that he confer with his supervisor about this. He then left the room for a short while. When he returned, he advised us that this fee was not necessary. He prepared a new document reflecting that we were financing the sum of $2,044 for one

year at 10.5%. We signed. He withdrew $1,500 for the downpayment from my bank account using my ATM card. The funds were, in fact, removed from my account.

However, before we met with Mr. Alexander, my daughter had pointed out to Mr. Ross that the check engine light had lit up during the car's operation. Mr. Ross had agreed that whatever had caused it would be fixed and adue bill had been prepared. Mr. Ross had instructed her to make an appointment with the service department to have the work done.

We drove away. Within two minutes we noticed two other problems with the car: the rear lights did not all work and there was a very audible clunking sound emanating from the engine. My daughter returned immediately and spoke with Mr. Ross, who in turn consulted with Don Heckathorn, a sales manager. Mr. Heckathorn joined the conversation and assured my daughter that these two problems would also be taken care of. In herpresence, he added these two matters to the already prepared due bill. She understood clearly from his response that the two problems would be fixed. Accordingly, the three

problems listed on the due bill were as follows:

1. the check engine light intermittantly lit up,

2. the lights in the rear of the car did not all work, and

3. a clunking sound emanated from the side of the engine.

Shortly thereafter, I called and made an appointment with the service department. A short time before the date of the service appointment, however, Mr. Alexander called me and informed me that he was having a problem finding a finance company to accept assignment of the note. He advised me that in order for us to maintain the transaction, it was necessary to execute a new credit agreement to supercede the first agreement and if

we did not do this, the deal was cancelled. I objected, insisting that an agreement was an agreement. He informed me that it was Towbin's right to rescind the contract if it could

not assign the note. I was completely surprised. There had been no disclosure of this. He stated that the new agreement had to be at 18% interest. I didn't like it but I agreed under


Mr. Alexander said that he would have the new agreement waiting for me at the service desk so that I could sign it when I brought the car in for service.

On Monday, April 5th, I brought the car in for service and was told by Fidel Navarro that the work indicated on the due bill would be carried out. I asked Mr. Navarro if Mr. Alexander had given him a new agreement for me to sign. He stated that he knew nothing about that. However, during that day while the car was being serviced, Mr. Ross called me and brought the new agreement to my office to be signed. I signed it. My daughter was to sign it when she picked up the car in the afternoon.

Later, when my daughter went to pick up the car, she was told by Mr. Navarro that the first two problems had been fixed but that the third problem had not been fixed upon the instructions of the sales department. He pointed out to her that the due bill stated that the third problem was only to be diagnosed, not fixed. Needless to say she was surprised and shocked to hear this and she went to speak with Mr. Heckathorn. He told her that he had to speak with others but that it was 99% certain that the third problem would also be fixed. He told her to be patient and to call him back in a few days.. She drove her car home without signing the new agreement.

The next day, Tuesday, April 6th, I called Mr. Heckathorn. He advised me that a decision had been made. Towbin Dodge was not going to fix the clunking sound because it would cost in excess of $200 to fix. He reiterated that the due bill had stated diagnose, not fix, and denied that he had told my daughter that it would be fixed. He informed me that if I did not accept this, I could return the car. I replied that I would call him back after I consulted my lawyer.

The next day, Wednesday, April 7th, a young man who identified himself as J.B. called my daughter and instructed her to return the car to the dealership that evening. My daughter, clearly upset because we had not yet decided what we wished to do, gave me the phone.

After a brief conversation, I advised J.B. that I would return the car and I wanted the return of my down payment at the same time so that we could purchase another car immediately. He responded in a most discourteous way, stating that this isn't the way it works, and that he was entitled to 15 days in which to return our downpayment.

He is a rather rude young man and started his last sentence with look, buddy.... I did not agree to give him the car without a concurrent return of the downpayment. He said that he

would send out a repossessor to take the car thiat evening. I then went out for dinner and when I returned, there was a message from him to the effect that if we had paid by credit

card, he would be able to credit our account immediately. I called him back to explore this but he was not present. I left him a message. He did not call back.

Later that evening, I composed and faxed a letter addressed to Carolyn and Dan Towbin, whom I understood to be the owners of the dealership, advising them of this situation and requesting that someone with authority call me in order to resolve the matter. In my letter, I expressed my view that we already had a deal, the original one that we signed in Towbin was bound by Mr. Heckathorn's verbal promise to my daughter, made in Mr. Ross' presence, to fix the car.

I also stated that we were willing to resolve the matter in either of two ways: Towbin will fix the car and we will sign and be bound by the new financing agreement, or we will return the car and they will return my daughter's money at the same time.

The next day, a woman who identified herself as an assistant to Josh Towbin, whose name I cannot remember, called me. She did not relate to any of my concerns, she simply tried to persuade me to return the car and allow Towbin 15 days in which to return our down payment. Again I refused, pointing out that Towbin no longer enjoyed our trust, and moreover, we needed the money to purchase a different car. We hung up with the matter unresolved. Later, I cannot remember how much later, Mr. Heckathorn called me and stated that since I had paid with an ATM card, Towbin could use the same method to return the down payment. We agreed that I would return the car and he would credit my account, using my ATM card, at the same time so that we would have immediate access to the money.

We brought him the car on Friday, April 9th. He passed my ATM card through the terminal and gave me a receipt showing a credit of $1,500.

The next day my daughter and I went to purchase another car and were embarassed to find, when we attempted to place a down payment, that the funds had not been transferred into our account. Thinking that perhaps it was a bookeeping delay because of the weekend, I checked our account on Monday evening, the 12th, and the funds had still not appeared. I called Mr. Heckathorn. He said he would look into it. The funds were

transferred on the evening of Tuesday, April 13th.

That is the story. I believe the deceptive acts that took place within our transaction were as follows:

A misstated odometer reading; An undisclosed $500 fee, which Towbin insisted must be paid; A concluded and signed installment contract which was subsequently recinded without prior disclosure of Towbin's right to recind; verbal promise to fix the car which was deliberately misstated in writing and not

carried out; A threat of repossession in order to force us to do something we were not required to do; and Agreeing to return our down payment and thereafter either deliberately or negligently delaying its return.

I hope that you can take some action against this used car dealer as a result of our experience. Please be aware that of the people we told about this, a number stated that they had heard that Towbin had a bad reputation.

If you wish any further information or if we can be helpful to you, please feel free to call me. My daughter and I are willing to assist in any way possible.

Just as an aside, I bought another used car from Towbin one month earlier. Mr. Heckathorn tried to play the same trick on me: he verbally agreed to fix the air conditioning which did not work and he prepared a due bill. I had the presence of mind to

look it over before we concluded and I called to his attention that he had written diagnose instead of fix. He was a little sheepish when I interlineated the word fix.

This document may still be in the file. You might find it amusing. They fixed the air conditioning.

Very truly yours,

Nachman Rosenberg

cc: Towbin Dodge, Henderson.

Las Vegas Better Business Bureau


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