Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dann's Discount Autosales - REVIEW

So, yesterday I accompanied my brother (for the second time) to Dann's Discount Autosales in Visalia, CA to try to get a car he wanted. We came home (again) empty-handed.

Let me give you some background: my brother is a giant -- 6'8" and over 600 lbs. Like all the men on my dad's side of the family, he is all torso -- his inseam is much shorter than mine (and I am 5'8".) That means that he must try on cars as routinely as the rest of us try on pants before he knows he fits them. The world is not built for people of giant stature or build, and that includes cars. (I personally have to wrestle with seat belts, and I'm nowhere near off the charts -- and am of totally average height.)

His car (a beautiful Chrysler 300), although he fits in it, is a little low for him to get into. After he sprained a knee, he has found getting in and out to be exceedingly painful and knows it is doing further damage (imagine doing a combo deep knee bend/600 lb. leg press a few times a day). This deepening injury impacts his ability to get out and exercise, so it is a serious quality of life issue. Additionally, because of his size, he must sit in the car with his left shoulder raised and canted forward at an angle. This, too, is taking a toll. The car is simply beating the hell out of him every day.

He knows a Ford Expedition of a certain year was the roomiest auto built in recent years. He knows that one of the engines used in the car that year was dramatically faulty, so he requires the OTHER engine. He KNOWS what car he wants. So when one showed up used, with few miles and reportedly in good condition, he decided to buy it.

Small problem: it required a road trip of 3 1/2 hours each way.

I went with him two weeks ago, after the dealership had had the car for about 2 months. The engine had just been replaced in the shop because it was hosed. They (salesman Steve and owner Dann) told him it was ready to test drive and purchase, and had approved his trade-in on the phone. We drove 3 1/2 hours in an unholy rainstorm.

When we arrived, the car was still IN THE SHOP. Steve explained that it needed new brakes because the ones on it were unsafe. He assured us that it could be done within the hour, and that the car would further need to be smog checked -- which would take 20 minutes. We went to lunch (at a Cajun restaurant where the waitstaff recommends against actually eating anything Cajun because it had been mildened to the point of unappetizingness for the complainant public -- I won't trash it, but go to Brewbaker's, instead.) When we came back, the car had still not been touched. We gave Steve a lift to the shop, 3 blocks away. The car had also never been detailed, and smelled of wet dog. There was dog hair everywhere inside, and the interior was downright grimy.

We told Steve that we were going home, and I scolded him (I felt I could be the bad cop) for having told us we should go ahead and drive out. He assured me he hadn't taken the call. Robert quietly told me that it had been Dann, the owner, who took it, and promised him that the car had been on the lot.

Dann came barreling out and tried to prevent us from leaving. He told us it could be done in an hour or two. We pointed out that it was 3:30 p.m., and we had a hell of a drive ahead of us in the storm. He backed and filled. I told him that we had been told to drive out, as I was feeling really irritated and Robert is such a teddy bear of a customer that I felt obliged to be a little mean. Dann hemmed and hawed, chewed out Steve, and when Steve protested, went looking for "whoever had answered the call"... (um, your DAMN self?)

And told us that he could not guarantee that the car would stay on the lot, as 4 other families had been looking at the car just that day!

I laughed. "The car has NEVER BEEN ON THE LOT," I pointed out. It had been warehoused and then in the shop -- and was filthy. Suuuuuure it had been shown.

Dann replied. Ohh, THAT car? He thought I meant the OTHER car.

Yeah. Not warm and fuzzy.

I asked if he understood that we had to drive 6 1/2 - 7 hours to come out, and that Robert had to take a day off work unpaid, and that we had to pay for gas -- and he promised to make it good when we returned.

Hmm, okay. But I wasn't tingly about the dealership -- it just had "Old Gil" desperation written all over it.

Also, not one of the sales staff could have been bothered to put on clean or appropriate clothing -- we are talking filthy tour t-shirts, too much Aqua Velva, and jeans that would have been more at home in a mechanic's shop. And the hourly-rental hotel pink neon sign of the dealership sent me into giggles every few minutes for the rest of the day. (To the good, their detailer breaks off his somewhat shoddy work every few minutes to do the Robot.)

So we drove 3 1/2 hours back through the sheeting rain, and Robert got a thunderous sinus infection with two very severe ear infections, as a result of our incidental stops to pee (see previous post -- I have to pee approximately every 2 minutes. Sorry, Rob!)

Rob let them simmer for 2 weeks while he healed from his ear infections. Feeling as he did, he was not eager to drive the two ear-popping grades between us and Visalia.

So yesterday, we finally returned. Guess what? The car hadn't sold. Quelle surprise!

When we arrived (after 3 1/2 hours' drive during a BEAUTIFUL day of wildflowers and gorgeousness), we were cheerful. And the car was on the lot.

But ... something was wrong. None of the doors would lock. Even I know that this is something electrical, but Steve assured us that it could be fixed, probably in ten minutes! It's probably a fuse! (Yes, sounds logical.)

So we agreed to go to lunch whilst they took the car to the shop again and got it fixed up. And they detained us for OVER AN HOUR trying to get Robert to sign all the paperwork, including the contract, before it was fixed.

And they tried to have us pay a $250 restocking fee ($200 would have been the legal limit IF WE WERE RETURNING THE CAR) for the vehicle as a part of the right to return (for which we had to pay extra.)

Uh, NO.

(Also, the car was filthy -- still covered in dog hair, but now also spooged with cheap canned carpet cleaner which Steve tried to pass off as "steam cleaner stuff." The doors and handles had been Armor-Alled right over the ACTUALLY TEXTURAL black grunge. The floor mats were lying in a pile in the rear just as they had been in the shop -- with dog hair unshampooed underneath, and with the top mat ONLY having been sprayed with carpet cleaner. The yellow paint splooge on the rear light hadn't even been swiped at, but might have been married into the plastic. At least the doggy snoutles had been washed off the windows. Yeaaaaah. To the good, it was probably thoroughly Robot-ed.)

We went to a leisurely lunch and came back at 3:30. (Next post-- recommendation of the place we went for lunch, yowza.) We sat in the car for a while joking around, because Robert was hurting too much to jump right out. We marveled that nobody was coming over to us.

Steve started fluttering around the back of the car on his cell phone. He avoided Robert's gaze. We jumped out and Robert said, "so I guess it was more than a fuse?"

Steve stammered. "Naw, no, Dann's going over to check it out."

Dann hopped in a car, drove off, and returned in the Expedition. Then he told us that it turned out not to be the fuses -- no, it was the after-market fob! I scoffed because the doors would not lock even from the interior controls. He responded, no, not the fob, the after-market alarm system. Ohhhhhh. But we should consider taking the car unfixed. I mean, after all, he just didn't know how long us folks would want to wait around...

(Meanwhile, Steve was at the other desk, selling another car. The customer was asking, "now, where'd the other thousand dollars come from?")

Something smelled like bullshit, and it wasn't just the feedlots surrounding Visalia.

I said, "God, no. Dann, I'm pretty sure we're done. Totally done with your dealership."

Then I realized that I wasn't really the customer. Robert was. I sneaked a glance at him to see if he was pissed at me. He wasn't -- but his sweet face was frozen in anger. Sweet relief, and proof that we are indeed relatives. "Yes, we are done. What I would like to do is to get my key back, and all the papers I signed either given to me or shredded -- and then to drive the three hours home, and never deal with any of you again."

Dann said, "wait, where's your key?"

Robert wagged his key. "But I had two and left one with you--"

And Dann exploded. "I was TALKing to my sales PERSON!" he yelled. And then he slammed the door to the little prefab sales trailer. And he slammed the door to his car. And he PEELED OUT with a great screeching of tires as he drove away to wherever big little boys have their tantrums, I guess.

Steve was very unhappy and could not meet our eyes as he (allegedly -- in another room) shredded most of the paperwork, strangely insisting on retaining the DMV transfer of ownership (on which Rob scribbled through his own signatures, since, um, no.)

Also, 3 pens blew up on Robert while he scribbled through his signatures, leaving him covered in ink.

It's the little things.

So, in review: FUCK Dann's Discount Autosales. If you're ever in Visalia, avoid it at all costs.

On the other hand, if you really want a lawn ornament of a car, in a few weeks maybe, a real fixer-upper, that comes with free DIY "chiengora,"** go right ahead. I won't stop ya. But I won't ride with ya, either.

**Go ahead. Google it. You know you wanna.

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