Friday, May 21, 2010

The thing with Toyota.

It's been a stressful week at the Baer house. I'm not going to go into every detail, mainly because I think if I start talking about it again my stomach is going to tear apart and I'm going to rip my hair out. So I think I'll just hit the necessary info (I do love bullet points):

1. Our car salesman made a mistake on our contract for the Rav4 we leased a month ago.

2.This salesman's mistake could have created MAJOR LEGAL TROUBLE for Toyota, beyond their already staggering legal's what I mean: they forgot to include some 'bank fee' on the contract. If anyone who signed a contract with them after us, and were charged a bank fee, found out WE hadn't been charged one, they could have filed a class action lawsuit against Toyota.

2. Said salesman lied about this to us and tried to scare us into signing a new, 'fixed' contract, by saying the "bank would bill us" if we didn't. (Even though he said "Don't worry, Toyota will take care of the fee.") Not true. The bank would have billed Toyota, not us.

3. After we, very reasonably, said "Well, if you are worried about us being billed, simply send us the receipt for the fee that you said you'll be covering, and we will attach it to our original contract and call it a day;" he refused.

4. He called, threatened me AT WORK with stealing our car back (I swear I would have called the police) and lied by saying our credit was unapproved. "We are coming for your car." Click. I'm not joking.

5. We filed a customer claim with Toyota Corporate. We called their national Credit Organization and reported it. We spoke to a lawyer with whom my lovely mother works. We filed a claim with the Better Business Bureau.

And then, I, your humble blogger, placed a little phone call to this Toyota dealership's General Manager.

He was "so busy" when I first got through to him...yet after I told him that if I were him I'd want to know that my salesman were falsely threatening customers to steal their cars back, but ok, I'll talk to you later...he suddenly became available! Imagine! (He even called me at work and I put him on hold for 10 minutes before talking to him. Nice.)

I told him how we had been lied to and threatened; and that at this point, I understood that HE needed US to do something for THEM in order for them to avoid major legal issues. I recognized that this put us in an interesting position. And I calmly asked him why, after all of that, he imagined I should do this favor for him? Why would I not return the car that we had driven freely for a month, taken his money for the trade-in we had provided, continue a claim with the Better Business Bureau, buy a car somewhere ELSE, and play his salesman's threatening voicemails for our friends, the police. Why should I not do this?

He said - well, I don't know. And he couldn't blame me, and blah blah this isn't how he does business. And Aaron told him, well, here's what you can do:

1. "You will need to cover two month's worth of payments for the car.
2. You will need to extend our warranty by a year.
3. You will need to give us free maintenance and oil changes for the duration of the lease.
4. You will need to write a letter, saying that if we do this for you, our original contract does not change. You will need to have this letter notarized.
5. You will need to personally sign our contract - not your salesman - and you will need to have that notarized as well. Today.
6.You will need to FAX me these documents, so that if I do not find them appropriate, I do not have to waste my time coming into the dealership.
7.You will need to stay at work past 5:00 so that if we wish to sign the new contract, we can do it when our schedule allows.

And we will THINK about it."

He said "Ok."

We thought about it. And we did it. Because we're not going to find a deal like that somewhere else. Their mistake ended up being a HUGE advantage to us.

But we will still be pursuing a claim with the better business bureau. You do not treat us like that. We may be young, and I may be a female, but you do not lie, threaten, or try to scare me into fixing your mistake or doing something stupid. This is a lesson Toyota has learned the hard way. And this is something I refuse to allow to happen to another customer.

But let me tell you something with a grand sigh, friends. This whole situation, while providing a great learning experience for Aaron and I, has also caused me to take a hard look at myself. At times during the whole thing I was so angry and so anxious that I thought I might pass out. I SCREAMED at the Director of Finance on the phone at one point. Then I hung up on him. That can't be a positive thing in me.

And watching Aaron's calm, level-headed and patient way of dealing with it has made me look twice at myself, too. It's not that Aaron didn't understand how truly unfair and WRONG they were. It's just that he is somehow able to say "it is what it is; let's move forward." Why can't I do that?

I've read so many commentaries and heard so many sermons on anger; when it is 'justified,' when it isn't, etc. In almost every one, the story of Jesus throwing the tables in the temple is referenced. And the conclusion drawn is almost always "See? Jesus got mad, too. It's ok when it's righteous anger." (Meaning, I believe, that a true injustice is taking place, or God is truly being profaned.)

But something doesn't sit right with me about that conclusion, and that something is the gaping difference between Jesus and I: Jesus was perfect. If anyone had the right to say "I am perfectly wronged, and in the absence of my own sin, I have the right to be angry about it" - it was surely Jesus and not I. When Toyota treats me unfairly, could I not look at my own actions in other areas of my life and find myself treating someone else unfairly? Do you see what I mean?

BUT, I have a couple other thoughts on that as well. First, this doesn't mean we shouldn't ensure we are treated fairly or that we aren't 'taken.' It doesn't mean we shouldn't stand up for injustice, which will surely create controversy at times. Second, I don't think I can necessarily help how I feel. If my gut response is anger, I may not be able to control that. Surely I can control what I let it do to me and how I act on it, but can I blame myself for a feeling? (honest question - if you have a thought on that, I'd love to hear from you.)

I guess what I am going to try to learn is that anger is God's. God will be angry on our behalf. God will fight for justice on our behalf. And vengeance is God's as well.

If Toyota or anyone else ever tried to do something like that again, I think we would do pretty much the same thing - stand up for our rights as consumers and people, and make sure we were treated fairly. But I wouldn't scream on the phone and I wouldn't let my ferocity rule my body (can't tell you badly my stomach hurt during all this.) I hope.

As Aaron and I were talking about all of this, we started thinking of times in history that pure injustice has taken place - and we started thinking about what the right response would have been. We inevitably turned to the Jewish people during the Holocaust - could we ever even dream of blaming them for being angry? The atrocious things done to them were purely unfair; there is no possibly argument for it. Aaron said yes, they can be angry; in a sense that they mourn for the injustice and they despair over it; and we recognize the pure evil that inspired it.

But here was God's message for the Jews through Moses in Exodus:
"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." (Ch. 14:14). They could and should and, I imagine, are, angry about it. But we can rest in knowing that even when we are powerless to stop injustice, He will step in.

I am glad He loves justice. I think we should do what we can to fight for it here - in righteousness - but we should know that when we can't get it in a morally upright way, He will.

I'll work on my anger, I promise. And finding the balance between curbing it and making sure I'm not walked on. Advice welcome.

So, anyone need a ride? We have a free Rav4. Roomy.

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