“Just let me take care of it,” the man at the next table told his dining companion. “It will be free.”
He then called the waiter over and started berating him because the steaks were cold, adding that the service was lousy and they were in a rush to make it to a play.
The manager arrived on the scene and, after a short conversation, agreed to comp the dinner with profuse apologies. As the couple left, I swear I detected them smirking. They looked as happy then as they did earlier chewing away on their steaks.
We finished our meal, discussing the gall of some people. Then we headed to our play. To our surprise, the couple was at the same theater.
To recap: They smiled while eating, then complained about the food. They smirked while leaving the restaurant in a supposed rush to make it to a play that didn’t start for another hour.
Moral of the story: Some customers lie.
I spend time helping defend dealers who get involved in litigation, often involving customers who allege the dealer has wronged them in some way.
In case after case, we are able to make a logical argument that the customer was not completely upfront with the dealership during the transaction, and had the truth been known, the dealer likely would not have gone through with the transaction. And if the dealer would not have gone through with the transaction, there would be no basis for a lawsuit. Many attorneys refer to this as the Dirty Hands Doctrine.
So, how do you protect yourself against less-than-honest consumers? Not an easy question to answer, but here goes.
Most of my cases as an expert witness involve subprime consumers. There are a couple of theories as to why they are more likely to be dishonest with dealership personnel.
One theory is that they are desperate to obtain financing and will provide or manufacture whatever stipulation or documentation is needed to get the car loan.
Another theory is that they are subprime because they usually look for shortcuts in life and often fail.
The misinformation we’ve cited in past cases to demonstrate the Dirty Hands Doctrine includes falsified credit applications and manufactured proof of income.
To offset this risk, dealership managers must take the time to vet the documentation provided.
If the decimals do not line up on the pay stub, it might be tampered with. If time at address is listed as five years, yet the driver’s license was issued six months ago and has a different address, it might not be accurate on the credit application.
Other cases involve prime customers who, as a review of the evidence shows, make false claims to try to get the dealer equivalent of a free meal.
A prevailing theory about these plaintiffs is that some people in this world try to get something for nothing. Or perhaps they are filing nuisance lawsuits hoping to get paid something to go away. Or, heaven forbid, they are represented by an attorney looking for work.
The best defense is to have the facts on your side. My Law 101 professor drove home the point that if the facts are on your side, argue the facts. We’ve seen the flip side of that in court: If the facts are lined up against you, become a bully.
Your attorney can defend you best if the paper in your deal jacket is properly executed and shows you negotiated and consummated the transaction in a transparent and compliant fashion.
We need to slow down, make sure we have the documentation correct and ultimately protect ourselves against the consumers who will say and do anything to get a freebie.
Gil Van Over is the president of gvo3 & Associates (www.gvo3.com), a national consulting firm that specializes in F&I, Sales, Safeguards and Red Flags compliance.