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Dealer delivered best car possible

My daughter bought a new Tercel from Performance Toyota of Clearwater last September. Because of her budget, she decided the only options on which she would not compromise were a radio-tape deck and a five-speed stick on the floor.

She was a novice at driving a stick so she practiced for two days before her departure for college. A week later she called me from South Carolina to say she had learned that the car was not a five-speed, even though it has a five-speed knob on the gearshift.

I called Performance. The response I received from the customer relations department was an assurance that the car was probably not damaged by being driven in third gear 600 miles to Spartanburg, S.C.

When my daughter got home at Christmas I called Mr. Winchester, the sales manager. I expected to either have a five speed transmission put in the car or trade even up for a '91 Tercel with a five-speed transmission. Mr. Winchester was to call back. He didn't. On Dec. 30, I called again and was told he had forgotten to write down my name.

That afternoon the dealership manager Mr. Haven called to assure me that:

I bought a really good car at a terrific price.

He could not be responsible for the error because gearshifts are routinely pulled off new cars. (There is a problem with theft and someone had simply put the wrong gearshift on this particular model, which, he pointed out, never comes with five speeds.)

It would be cost-prohibitive for him to replace the transmission with a five speed.

He could make me a good deal on a trade up to a '92 Tercel Deluxe for a few thousand more.

I tried calling Toyota's customer assistance center. They said sales problems rest solely with the dealership because it is a franchise.

We thought we bought a five- speed. I remember the salesman (who is no longer with the company) telling the sales manager the car had a five-speed stick.

I patiently have followed all the proper channels and do not feel the company is being fair or reasonable. I want what we thought we bought!

Patricia Edenfield

Response: Performance Toyota Vice President Steven P. Havens said he is sorry for the misunderstanding and would be glad to offer you a special price to trade for a five-speed model. The cost difference between the base model you bought and the deluxe model, which has five speeds and also comes equipped with power steering and other upgrade features, is approximately $1,800.

Because you said your daughter could not afford to pay more, Havens said he thinks his sales people "delivered the best product available."

Subscriber wants

Pasco edition

My son gave me a subscription to the St. Petersburg Times to be sent to me here in Pennsylvania. The problem is that I receive the Tampa Bay regional section when I would rather get news about Pasco. I own a home there.

Is it possible for me to get the Pasco edition?

Louella Williams

Response: The Times circulation department tells us that when mail-away accounts are set up, they automatically get the city edition of the Times unless otherwise specified. The city edition covers news in St. Petersburg and other communities in southern Pinellas County.

Your account has been changed so you will be getting the Pasco edition.

Prodigy promises

to send refund

My problem began when I bought Prodigy software for my husband at Christmas in 1990. He decided it did not meet his needs, and because it had a 30-day money back guarantee I tried to return it for a refund.

I bought the software at Workplace but they said it must be returned to the manufacturer. I wrote two letters to Prodigy and two letters to Sears because I understand they are part of this company. No replies.

Meanwhile, Prodigy is advertising with the same money-back guarantee.

Can you take a stab at this problem?

Nancy Fitzpatrick

Response: Prodigy responded to our November 1991 letter in January 1992 (from the same address you used a year ago) to say that a refund check will be sent to you. No explanation was given for the delay.

ACTION answers questions, opens government doors and fights consumer battles for residents of and visitors to the Suncoast. Given sufficient information, we process or refer every serious inquiry, but we cannot guarantee response. Requests will be accepted only by mail. We cannot be responsible for returning personal documents so please send photocopies. If the complaint concerns a mail order, we will need copies of both sides of your canceled check. Upon request, names will be omitted from items used in the weekly column. Address your letter to Action, The Times, P.O. Box 1698, Clearwater 33517.

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