Park Place LTD: caveat emptor
It turned out to be a $158,000 gamble. I lost.As a business owner, car aficionado, and track maven, I’ve known Park Place LTD exotic car dealer co-owner David Bingham for a number of years. I thought him to be an upstanding person who really enjoys fine cars and the people who are infatuated with them. So, when I decided to realize a long-standing dream by purchasing a Lamborghini Gallardo, Park Place LTD (13710 Northup Way, Bellevue WA 98005 +1.425.562.1000) seemed like the right place to go. The 5% commission they demanded seems acceptable in return for obtaining a pre-purchase inspection, managing the acquisition, and shipping the car to Seattle. I even went so far as to put a $10,000 down payment on the car.Eventually Mr. Mills of Park Place called me about a Gallardo that he described as, “…owned by a Florida doctor and it has only 5000 miles. Tim, the wraps have just been taken off this car.” He assured me that it is a “great car.” “Butch (Ralph Bockmier, co-owner) knows the dealer.” I had visions of something beyond a cream puff — a car that had barely been broken in and was as good as new. I took Mr. Mills representations as true and therefore told him to proceed.I thought the 5% commission was reasonable for the peace of mind of knowing that I was in the hands of professionals and would be protected against a bad deal. It was the desire for such protection that stopped me from trying to find a car on the Internet, a milieu in which I would be on my own with no protection against misrepresentaions on unscrupulous sellers.A few days later I had a status meeting with Mr. Bockmier and Mr. Mills . Mr. Mills again stated “…the wraps have just been taken off this car.” Mr. Bockmier even went so far as to call his business partner Mr. Bingham in Florida. Mr. Bingham said he’d personally check the car… “I’ll do it for Tim.” I did not hear from Mr. Bingham so I assumed everything was OK. On the strength of all of this I completed the transaction the next day writing a check for $148,167.22 for a total of $158,167.22 as full payment for the car, including their commission and taxes. As I was to discover, I couldn’t have been hammered any worse if I had gone to E-Bay on my own.Two days later the “happy day” arrived. Mr. Mills called to tell me that the car had arrived from Florida and that the Lamborghini dealer in Bellevue was “checking things out.” Excited that a dream was about to come true, I went to see the car.It is hard to describe my surprise at what I found. The Lamborghini service manager (Mr. James Maddux at (425) 455-9601), the Lamborghini factory trained technician (Mr. Josh Orr), and I went over the car and discovered a number of things that were shockingly inconsistent with the description of the car that had induced me to buy it. First, the windows were tinted so dark you couldn’t see inside the car (Is this legal?). The oil level was low and the oil was dirty. Many of the factory recalls had not been done (6). The clutch was failing and was not upgraded as allowed under the factory warranty. There were surface scratches in the paint and a number of small body dents. The driver’s door had been damaged and repaired, the quality of which was laughable (the Bondo looked like peanut butter spread on bread). Two of the wheels had been curbed. One of the tires had been slashed. The upholstery on the driver’s seat was torn. We discovered a broken mirror, a broken glovebox, and a broken seat adjustment switch. The horn was inoperable as were the windshield wipers. Neither the ABS system nor the electronic stabilization system worked. The factory exhaust system had been entirely removed. There were no mufflers, only straight exhaust pipes (LOUD!). The car had not had its 3,000 mile service (a 2,000 mile overage). And lest you think such shortfalls as a failed horn or faulty windshield wipers are trivial you should know that the windshield wiper repair was $1,800. You get the picture.Mr. Maddux and Mr. Orr estimated that putting the car right would cost $20,000+. All of these faults were discovered in our initial inspection. I could only imagine what more in depth going-over might reveal. I was shocked and depressed. This was not the realization of a dream, it was a nightmare. I could not believe that any pre-purchase inspection had been performed in Florida. No one who knew anything about cars could have overlooked what our initial inspection had determined.Anxious, I went to see Mr. Bockmier. I went over the list generated by the Lamborghini dealer. Imagine my surprise when he described me as “a grinder” and said that I “was the worst customer” he ever had. (Now really Mr. Bockmier, even coming from you that was a patently fatuous statement.) My ears were burning. Clearly he believed that having no credible defense, a silly offense would have to do. I wanted to counter that this was the worst retail experience I had ever had, but I held my tongue. This was going nowhere. I thought letting Mr. Bockmier cool off was a good idea so I left.A couple of days later I thought I’d give it another try. I reviewed the short-fall list again with Mr. Bockmier. He became angry. Red-faced and with his voice rising, Mr. Bockmier said, “As far as I am concerned you own the car. End of discussion.” I was stunned, but the most amazing part was yet to come. Mr. Bockmier then said, “The best I can do is have you consign the car.” And then, “I want $5,000 to sell the car.” Park Place LTD had already received a $5,000 commission for obtaining the car in the first place.Quite obviously Park Place LTD had done nothing to earn that commission, had not delivered what they represented they were selling me, and now wanted me to pay an additional equivalent commission to resolve the problem that their negligence or ineptitude had created. At no time did Mr. Bockmier recognize the problems with the car or offer to contribute in any way to rectifying them. (At one point Mr. Bockmier said, “You know those guys try to find everything wrong they can.”) At a minimum he should have said, “I’m disappointed by the condition of the car. I can understand why you don’t want it. I will be glad to sell it for you at my cost.” Not even close.I regret to say that I “caved” on this deal. I had considerable work obligations that caused me to think that I didn’t want to make a long drawn out fight of this matter with attorneys. A few days later I signed the consignment. One offer cam through at $5k loss. I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and keep the car. Mr. Maddux and Mr. Orr are now in the process of putting things right at my expense.I can’t see what I did that was wrong in this deal. I believe, rather, that I was the victim of terribly shoddy conduct on the part of Park Place LTD. I can’t imagine that Park Place LTD can treat customers the way it treated me and have much of a future in business.
Tim Firnstahl email@example.com 1 206 236 5650
PS. If you’d like to know how I think customers should be treated, read the attached article I wrote for the Harvard Business Review: My Employees Are My Service Guarantee, by Timothy Firnstahl for the Harvard Business Review