Wantagh Ford Violated My Rights!!
Why I Will Never Buy a Ford Again, and What You Can Learn About Customer Service...

Disclaimer: You may or may not find my story entertaining. I don't really care. The primary purpose of writing this is to inform the public about a business that does not seem to care about its customers. My 1990 Ford Probe LX is a great car, and it not been for Ford's horrible customer service, I would have bought another Ford in a second. But their lack of concern for their customers outweighs the quality of their cars.

I fought with Wantagh Ford for my rights until I no longer had the time or energy to fight anymore, and there is nothing else I can do other than spread the word about how much they suck. If you are thinking of buying a car from Wantagh Ford or any other dealership, or you have ever been screwed over by a car dealer, you may want to read about why I will never buy a Ford again and what I learned from my ordeal. If not, well as long as I make at least one person think twice before dealing with these people I will be happy. This story is worth reading if you have a few minutes, it'll save you the 4 years it took me to learn what I will now share with you.

skip to the moral of the story
vent, commiserate, curse, complain, etc.

It started with my first experience buying a car from a dealership. Knowing that we women are generally not treated the same in the automotive world, I brought along a male friend for show. There it was: my beautiful little black 1990 Ford Probe LX with leather seats , power everything, trip computer. I was in love but of course I played it cool. Along came Tony, an obnoxious older man with a fake smile that I saw right through. I opened the hood to check out the 3.0-liter V-6 engine; he asked my male friend why he was letting me do that and encouraged me to check out the vanity mirrors. I asked to test-drive the car; he handed the keys to the guy. I said, "Here's a thought, since I will be paying for the car maybe I should be the one to drive it"; suddenly he had to come along for "insurance purposes." Despite my annoyance at the blatant chauvinist behavior of the guy, I did love the car and it was a great value for the price he was asking. Following my rule of never buying on the spot, I told him I would think about it and began the waiting game.

Two weeks later he called me to ask if I was still interested and I knew I had him right where I wanted him. The price came down, I managed to get some cash for my old barely-running piece of crap, and the Probe was mine at last. The only problem I had seen when looking at the car was that the air conditioning wasn't working. Tony promised that if I did buy the car, the air conditioning would be fully functioning. That was when I made my first dumb mistake: breaking the cardinal rule of ALWAYS GETTING IT IN WRITING.

When I picked up the car, it needed a new muffler, windshield-washer pump, and the a/c still wasn't working. Still under a 2000-mile full-coverage warranty, I brought the car in and made my second mistake: I explained that I needed this all done now because in two weeks I would be up at school and I would not be back until after the full-coverage warranty had expired. I don't know why I told them that because I set myself up to be screwed over. They told me that everything had been fixed.

Two weeks later both the a/c and washer pump stopped working (I eventually gave up and had the pump fixed at Pep Boys). I suspected that the freon had been filled up to make it blow cold air temporarily, but there was a leak that had not been fixed. I guess they figured by the time I realized there was still a problem, I would be too far away to bother them. I called Wantagh Ford and said that I wanted to have the work done in Syracuse (where I went to school) and be reimbursed. They told me they do not have any kind of warranty on any work they do (I later found out this was a lie, there is a one-year warranty on work performed at any Ford dealership) and gave me the run-around for a few weeks. By then, I was wrapped up in school, the lack of a/c wasn't a pressing problem as the Syracuse winter kicked in, and I made my next mistake of waiting until I returned to L.I. to go there in person.

When I did bring the car in to Wantagh Ford the next summer, I was told I would have to pay for the repairs. I had an extended warranty with a $100 deductible, so I gave in and paid the $100 to have the a/c fixed.

Remarkably, two weeks later I found myself in Syracuse with no a/c AGAIN. This time I was not going to give in. I called both Wantagh Ford and Ford Customer Service for about two weeks until I finally got Elliot Green, the "Service Manager," at Wantagh Ford to agree to reimburse me for any repairs I made in Syracuse. "Send me a copy of your bill and I will reimburse you," he told me in September of 1996. By November I had not heard from him or received a check so I began calling again. Over a period of about a month, Mr. Green continually "lost" the bill I sent him, had me fax it 3 times and mail it twice. In January, I called and was told that Mr. Green did not work there anymore and no one even knew what I was talking about. Finally, I kept calling Ford Customer Service until I was given the name of Mike DeSanti, Service Manager. I learned that Elliot Green was not the Service Manager as I had been told, he was the owner's son. Mr. DeSanti told me he didn't know why Mr. Green had told me I could be reimbursed as that was against their policy. After about 3 more weeks of calling and another 4 calls to Ford Customer Service, I was reimbursed for $100, not the $116 I had been promised at one time to cover the faxes and long-distance phone calls. I guess customer satisfaction wasn't worth $16 to them.

After all that, it turned out my a/c was still not working. I refused to pay another dime. I brought the car in to Wantagh Ford. "I'm taking my car to my own mechanic and you're going to reimburse me."

"We can't reimburse you. You can take the car to another Ford dealer and pay the $100 deductible or you can leave the car here and we can diagnose the problem at no charge, but we can't guarantee we can fix it for free."

"So if I leave the car here, you can diagnose it and you won't charge me?"


Now kids, who can tell me what mistake I made this time? That's right, I did not get this in writing. So when I returned to pick up the car I was told I owed them $90.

"Mike said 'no charge,'" I told the service guy, "$90 sounds a lot like the $100 I could have paid to take it somewhere else." Of course, Mike was not in at the time, and the guy said there was nothing he could do, he couldn't give me my car without me paying $90. He said I could charge it to my credit card and then dispute the charge with them. I chose to do that, but in the end, when contacted by my credit card company, Ford told them the dispute had been resolved (what kind of logic is that from the credit card company, but whatever; This later happened again when I filed a claim with the Better Business Bureau). So now I had paid another $90 and I STILL had no air conditioning. When I spoke to Mike he told me that the dye and extra freon they used to trace the problem is expensive and they couldn't just give it to me for free. "You told me you would diagnose the problem at 'no charge,'" I pointed out, "You didn't say 'no charge plus $90 for freon and dye.'" He had no answer for me.

I wrote to Ford Customer Service AGAIN wondering why no one had ever contacted me to follow up on why I had to call so many times and why my claim was still not resolved. I received a letter from Ford stating that because my car was out of warranty there was nothing they could do. Um, never mind the $800 EXTENDED WARRANTY I had purchased which was still in effect at the time, not to mention that when the whole thing started my car was under warranty, it was not my fault that they had dragged this out so long. I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau but when they contacted Wantagh Ford, Wantagh Ford told them the dispute had been settled, and, geniuses at BBB, they closed it at that. WTF?? So to sum it up, the salesman was a jerk, he and other employees of the dealership blatantly lied to me, I was forced to pay more than once for a service that was never performed, they wasted my time and gave me the run around, and instead of trying to find a compromise or even pretend they were trying to help me, Ford chose to ignore me and blow me off.

Maybe it's because I was only a teenager when I bought this car. Maybe it's because I was a female. I could look for plenty of reasons why I was treated so horribly by Ford. But none of those reasons justify such poor customer service. What Ford doesn't seem to understand is that no matter who I am, I spent over $10,000 at their dealership. And in a few months, I will be buying a new car. I have friends, family members, and an entire audience of web visitors and email contacts who have heard my story. And a good number of those people will think negative thoughts when they hear the name "Ford." Many strangers have emailed me over the years to say they decided not to buy a Ford after reading my story. My parents had a similar problem with their Ford Taurus. Like me, they were perfectly happy with the car itself, but extremely disappointed in the customer service or lack thereof. So they bought a Saturn, and the saleswoman gave them a picture of them with their new car, a bottle of nail polish to match the car, and frequent phone calls to make sure they were happy with their purchase.

So for the $116 I was seeking, or for whatever it would have cost Ford to have someone call me and say, "Wow, you have called us about 57 times. Is there a problem? Is there anything we can do to help you?" they could have saved thousands of dollars by keeping my business and giving me a positive story to spread with their name. Instead, they chose to blow me off and ignore me. Next time, I think I will buy a Saturn it's funny how cheap little things like customer appreciation can draw new business in this day and age!

Update: I sold the Ford and bought a brand-new Pontiac. Because they didn't dick me over, I bought ANOTHER one 4 years later. My complaint with the Better Business Bureau was never settled, though I did learn on their website that an unusually high number of claims were filed against Wantagh Ford for similar reasons, more than any other dealership on Long Island. All I want people to learn from this is that you should never give up when someone has violated your rights as a consumer. And above all, always GET IT IN WRITING.

Please let me know if this story influences you in any way or if you have had a similar experience!!