Monday, November 7, 2016

Halloween wasn't too scary - fine print is scary.

There's an old adage that if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. And so it is with an offer that flopped through my letterbox this week from Enterprise used car sales. In big, bold print, the postcard announced that they would pay me Kelley Blue Book value + $500 for my used car 1.
There was a bunch of other stuff about how they would be pleased to have my business, and how they had literally thousands of people lined up to buy my exact vehicle. But that little '1' after the bold print is where you need to look on offers like this, so I flipped the postcard and took a look at the fine print dissertation on the other side.
What it essentially boiled down to was this : They would pay me the KBB 'trade value' on a car assessed to be in 'fair' condition. Rather than using the KBB mileage guide, Enterprise would determine for themselves if the mileage was 'inappropriate for a vehicle of this age' and would adjust their offer downwards accordingly (no mention of raising the value for a low mileage vehicle). They would also use the zip code of the Enterprise dealership to determine the overall starting value, rather than the zip code of my address (which will always depress the price because car dealerships aren't built in nice upscale neighbourhoods). Then they would, "at their discretion", adjust the price further for the colour of the car if it was deemed to be hard to sell (ie. if it wasn't black, white, silver or grey).
The tacked-on $500 came in the form of cashback on the loan of another used car bought from the same dealership. In other words $500 on a 48 month loan with a rate of 6%.
It's scary how companies are allowed to distribute this sort of utterly misleading promotional guff through the mail. In England we have the advertising standards authority that keeps a check on things like this but in America it's a total free-for-all. You can literally print "We will give you $100,000 in FREE CASH1" on one side of a promotional flyer and on the other side put "Payout will be paid at the rate of $1 a year for 100,000 years", without fear of reprisal from any regulatory body.
Car dealerships are the ultimate bait-and-switch. They ARE the trick or treat, except there's never a treat.

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