Avoid the Heavies at Honda of El Cerrito My wife and I already knew the exact new car we wanted: a red manual transmission Honda Fit Sport, with no “extras.” We already had cash in hand to pay for it, and didn’t want to waste any time with a dealer. We naively thought it would be easy to buy it through Costco’s “hassle-free” Auto Program, which directed us to Honda of El Cerrito. Instead of "hassle-free," it was a nightmare. We ended up spending three long visits at Honda of El Cerrito, being misled each time into thinking they had the car we wanted there and ready for us. The first time, after the salesperson Elsa had emailed “we found a red one for you – when can you come in?” there was no manual Fit there at all, so we left and came back later, by which time they had found a white version. Naturally, Elsa tried to convince us to buy the white one, along with $800 of “extras” we definitely didn’t want. We said we wanted a red one, which she said they could get for us right away, and we settled on the Costco price, which is invoice on this vehicle. We returned a few days later to make a deposit. Not only was there no red Fit there, but they also refused to honor a $500 gas coupon we had received from Honda of El Cerrito by email that morning. We decided to buy the Fit anyway and paid our deposit. Elsa assured us the red one would be there by the next day, but since we were going out of town for a few days, we agreed to return the next week. Once again we found no red Fit, although it did arrive half an hour later from another dealership. Finally, after the red Fit had arrived and we had given them a check paying the balance, we naively thought all that was left was to sign a few documents and drive off. Not so fast! The worst was yet to come. After waiting an hour while they discovered the other dealer sent a wrong key and then decided they had to clean the car and fill it with gas, it was finally time for us to sign "the contract." We were led into an office with the fearsome Paulina, where we spent a good half hour dutifully signing forms she pushed at us that we had no chance to read. And then naturally, in the middle of the torrent, Paulina starting putting the screws in for us to buy $5,000 worth of extended warranty, then stain-repellent interior coating, then an anti-theft device, etc., having all the documents already conveniently made out with the higher totals. But no, we said, we didn't want the extended warranty or other add-ons. In fact, they had already accepted our check made out for the correct amount. We only wanted to get out of there. We'd spent 5 hours in the dealership, including 2 that night, they already had our check, let us out of here! But Paulina was pretending not to hear, so we had to be loud: NO EXTENDED WARRANTY or ANY OTHER [violative content deleted] ADD-ONS! Eventually, she relented and we got through the signing and were ready to roll. Or so we thought! While we were waiting for the keys to be turned over to us, Elsa gave us a “satisfaction questionnaire" to fill out. We said we'd take it home and fill it out and mail it in. She insisted we had to fill it out now and have the sales manager sign it. We started scribbling out our honest review of our miserable experience. At this point, the sales manager had obviously been told by Paulina that she had not been able to wear us down to sign up for any of the “extras,” and that we had been vociferous in our dissatisfaction with the whole sales experience. The sales manager casually approached me in the showroom and asked about my "buying experience at Honda of El Cerrito.” I fell straight into his trap. I said our experience had in fact been unpleasant and they had wasted our time. "Well then," he said, "why don't you just take back your check, because we're not going to sell you the car." He accused me of being "profane" in my rejections of Paulina's lame extended warranty and other worthless extras. Given my boorish behavior, there was no way they could sell me the car I'd already paid for and was ready to drive away. To emphasize the point, all his salesmen heavies who'd been previously lurking in the back of their locked office waddled out to back him up. The message was clear, no car for you. Go home now, or go home later with broken bones! Well, to be honest, the "heavies" were actually more fat than fearsome (I’m 61 and not in great shape, but I think I could have outrun them), but the point was nonetheless clear. Clearly, since we were paying the Costco price, not using their financing, and not buying any of their high margin add-ons, their mark-up was just too little to risk getting another well-deserved bad review. They were ready with an excellent ruse to get rid of us and avoid our negative review. Great work, guys! If you're thinking of going to this dealer, go with a group of hefty friends, and don't think they'll let you drive a car away at the Costco price.
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