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True Story: Buying Blindfolded

Man that is blindfolded
Article Highlights:

  • When online shopping goes wrong.
  • “It felt like I went through the entire purchase experience blindfolded."

Every day, millions of consumers buy products online. Whether it’s Amazon, your local grocery store, or a nation-wide chain, each time you buy online you’re risking not getting what you really paid for. There is a small chance the wrong item is sent or the listing didn’t set proper expectations – has either one of these ever happened to you?

But online shopping has transformed the way we live, and purchasing items sight unseen has become the norm.

Online shopping has made its way to automotive retailing too. Buyers have been doing their research online for years, but now they are starting the buying process online, and some are going as far as purchasing their new ride without test driving it, even without seeing it in person first. With low inventory and high prices in 2021, buyers were trying to get their hands on anything they could. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always go as planned. Here’s what one buyer had to say about his blind purchase:

“I was in the market for a new vehicle, so I started doing my research by browsing local dealership websites. I test drove a few different models to see what I liked best.

Once I was able to nail down a model, I found the exact vehicle I wanted through the vehicle listing online. It was a limited edition with extra features, according to the dealership’s website. I figured I had already test driven this model so I knew what to expect moving forward. If anything, I would just be getting a few extra bells and whistles.

I went to the dealership to purchase the limited edition model. The vehicle had just been turned in and wasn’t on the lot yet. Even though I didn’t get to see it in person, I signed the deal. In all honesty, I trusted the dealership and the listing. I didn’t think anything of it.

When it came time to pick up my vehicle, I was so excited, I simply got in and drove off. Not five minutes down the road, I realized this was not the vehicle I paid for. It was the standard model and missing special features – like heated seats – that I paid extra money for!

I drove back to the dealership, assuming it was just a mistake and it’d be corrected in no time. Well, the mistake was bigger than anyone anticipated. This was the vehicle I signed for – the VINs matched – but this was not the vehicle according to the listing I saw and talked over with the salesperson. The listing was supposed to be limited edition featuring heated seats, custom trim work, and a leather interior.

It felt like I went through the entire purchase experience blindfolded.

According to the dealership, there wasn’t a way to revert the deal. My options were to either stick with this older model or trade it in for something else. It was a lose-lose: be unhappy with the car or do business with this dealership all over again.

I ended up purchasing a different vehicle entirely and spent more money the second time around. At the end of the day, I was extremely dissatisfied by this experience. I will not be going back to that dealership.”

This buyer is blaming himself for getting the short end of the stick, but there’s an argument to be made the dealership and their lack of due diligence are also at fault.

If more and more buyers are moving to an online car buying experience, dealerships must do everything in their power to make sure they deliver on consumer expectations – not just from an experience perspective, making it timely and easy, but also from a product perspective, making sure the consumer drives away with what they intended to purchase. A lot of this falls back to tracked communications in the CRM, effective follow-up, and a seamless flow into the desking process. Had this dealership done even just one of these steps, the right vehicle would have made its way into the deal, avoiding all the negative backlash that eventually unfolded.

It’s unfortunate this buyer was put through the ringer with this dealership. Thinking he’s getting a great vehicle, but overpays and then spends even more the second go around. At first glance, the dealership did well. They made more money after all.

But, the long-term consequences far outweigh the short-term benefits. They lost a customer for life… and potentially many more to come.

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Director, Brand Marketing, Reynolds and Reynolds

Ashley is Director of Marketing Communications for Reynolds and Reynolds. In her 10 years with Reynolds, she has managed the marketing strategy for several key Reynolds solutions and branding initiatives. Today, she leads the U.S. and Canadian marketing teams to drive brand awareness, product penetration, and content strategy for Reynolds and other key brands within the Reynolds Retail Management System.

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