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I am writing this post to describe the awful experience I had shopping at McGrath Audi in Glenview, IL (“McGrath”).
After several in person, electronic and telephonic communications I finally agreed on the terms to lease my very first Audi A5. Despite being told that my A5 is expected to arrive sometime with the next month or two, I was excited to get the car that I had wanted.
I arrived at McGrath late on a weeknight to sign an initial agreement and appraise my trade-in. Throughout this whole ordeal my salesperson shuttled back and forth between his cube and his manager’s office. With each point of contention, the salesperson would walk over to the manager’s office (located more than 30 yards away) and engage in a very loud conversation so that I could hear the dialogue. It was some kind of a good cop/bad cop routine. Although the salesperson “wanted” to sell me the car, the manager could be heard very loudly contending that he is not making any money on this sale, and that the terms I am proposing are obscene.
Eventually everything became finalized, “obscene” terms and all, and I signed the tentative agreement containing the terms of the lease late in the evening. After I went home I began to suspect that the lease terms that I had agreed to via my interactions with the salesperson were not the same as the terms on the document that I had signed. I became very concerned and reached out to McGrath that night and the following day to get an explanation. Although I sent numerous e-mails and made phone calls to both the salesperson and his manager, Ed Collins, no one replied to me for about 48 hours. Upon finally getting in contact with the salesperson (again on my own initiative) he walked me through the agreement and agreed that I was overcharged $2/month. Although, this was not a huge deal, it set the stage for what was to happen later.
A week went by since the signing of the tentative lease agreement when the salesperson contacted me, asking if I was willing to take delivery of the car earlier than expected since McGrath wanted to include it in its current month’s sales numbers. Of course I had no issue with this. Upon my consent to the sped up timeline, my salesperson forwarded me the credit application which I promptly filled out and returned. Much to my shock, the salesperson who acknowledged that I had an “out of the park” credit score, asked me for a co-signer. I am 27, I have been working for more than 5 years, have always paid my credit cards on time with average balances of $1-2k per month, and I bring in more than $80k a year, and yet I was still required a cosigner for a payment of $454/month! I did not understand this, there was no talk of a possible need for a co-signer during the entire negotiation, and suddenly I was thrown another obstacle. I suspected that the reason for requiring a cosigner is that it somehow benefits the dealer financially, but saw no purpose in arguing with McGrath on this point and luckily my parents agreed to cosign with me.
Finally, the day I long awaited arrived and my A5 was at the dealership awaiting pick-up. I arrived shortly before 7pm to fill out all the necessary paperwork and turn in my trade-in. The entire process should have taken about an hour. After, a tour of the vehicle, inspection of my trade-in, and so on, I began the paper work.
I had signed all the agreements and finally arrived at the last document, the actual lease terms. Upon reviewing the terms very rapidly, I found that the $2/month error noted above was not fixed. After a brief discussion, the business manager corrected this issue and presented me with a fresh copy of the lease agreement to sign.
This time everything seemed correct, but I could not spot the amount of security deposit in the agreement. Previously during out negotiations, the salesperson indicated to me that of the $2,500 due at signing, $475 would be a returnable security deposit. When I asked about the security deposit, the business manager said that it has been waived, yet I still needed to pay $2,500 at signing and my monthly rate remained unchanged. Effectively, McGrath was trying to charge me $475 more than I had agreed to pay. I was not ok with this. I asked the salesperson for an explanation and he went into his manager’s office to once again engage in an overly loud conversation so that I could hear. The manager, Ed Collins, began a profanity laden tirade to his salesperson about how the “A5 terms never include a security deposit”, and that he had already spent $500 to expedite the shipment of the car (something that McGrath did for its own purposes, I was fine with taking the delivery at a later date). Over and over again Ed claimed that he was losing money on this car and that he could not sell it at the terms that I had been presented. Finally, Ed came into the office and I met the person that I had heard so loudly before.
First step of business for Ed was to intimidate me, act as if I am trying to cheat him and assuring me that this deal will fall through because of this $475. Ed was rude, loud, and abrupt during his conversation with me. He asked me to tell him where I got the crazy idea that the amount due at signing included a security deposit, and I quickly produced a thread of e-mails between myself and the salesperson, clearly stating that $475 was included as a returnable security deposit. As I started reading off the thread, about three e-mails into it, Ed mysteriously produced a printed out copy of the entire transcript from his folder. After some deliberating, Ed offered to split the $475 with me, which I of course rejected. Once again acting incensed by my rejection of his “generous” offer, Ed made the appearance that the deal was not going to happen. When I tried to interject and explain my view, I only had the chance to utter the words “I’m sure you understand” when Ed interrupted and rudely responded “No, I don’t understand!” At this point I probably should have gotten up and left the dealership. I did not leave, as I had already spent two hours of my time on this process, and I knew that I was right. If McGrath was not willing to honor the agreement as it was, I would not pay a single penny more. Finally, Ed said that he has to go home, waved his hand at me as if a Roman Emperor pardoning a defeated gladiator, and conceded the terms as had been previously outlined in my communications by reducing the amount due at signing by $475. Yet when I reviewed the newest version of the lease agreement somehow he added back the $2/month that were calculated incorrectly at the beginning of the story. When I pointed that out, Ed again acted incensed, and I had to rely on another e-mail thread to get the monthly amount down to the expected rate, at which point Ed said “fine” and stormed out of the room.
My experience at McGrath has been somewhat surreal. I still cannot believe that all of this happened. I have a hard time imagining a similar type of treatment or experience at BMW or Mercedes dealership, both of which I visited. Although clearly Audi has caught up to both BMW and Mercedes in terms of the reputation and popularity of its vehicles, it just as clearly lags in customer service experience. I understand that negotiating is not easy and there is a lot of back and forth, but when I feel like I am being purposefully mislead as I am about to sign the lease agreement, I believe this goes beyond the bounds of normal negotiations. One of the most important lessons I learned out of all of this, is the absolute necessity of to getting all of the terms (even the most detailed) in an e-mail. Without the e-mail threads I am sure I would have been more susceptible to getting ripped off, and I am sure the entire process would have been even more stressful. I felt that the dealer tried to nickel and dime me every turn, while acting as if I am trying to rip him off by insisting on the agreed upon terms. I have never been treated this rudely in any business environment in this country, and I know that this negative experience will be hard to top. Although I enjoy my A5, as a result of this experience I will not renew my lease or purchase another Audi vehicle, as I would rather avoid this scenario and headache in the future.