Smart Center Buffalo and good ol' Joe

I thought I'd use this opportunity to blog about my experience buying a car from Smart Center Buffalo.

I got my e-mail from the General Manager in April, saying I'd be contacted by a sales rep in the next day or two. A week and a half later, no phone call received, I drove from Rochester to Buffalo for a test drive. I met my sales rep, Joe. My car was due in May, I was told, and after reserving it in May of 2007 (and longing for a smart since 1998), I was eager.

So I set up financing with my credit union. They told me that they had to mail me the loan paperwork, since I was out of state, after they received the buyer's order. Knowing Joe already had my VIN number and the price sheet, I asked him to start this process early so I'd have plenty of time to get the smart when it came in, and I gave him the loan officer's contact info. He said sure. I told him that the credit union said buyer's often take possession with a pre-approval letter, and he said OK.

A few weeks pass, and Joe calls me to ask for my financing information. I had already given it to him, but I offer it again. I tell him again that the mailing process will take a while, so he should start right away, and often folks take possession with a pre-approval letter. He said OK.

On Saturday, Joe calls to tell me the car's in. I'm excited, but he said he hadn't moved on the financing at all. He asked for the information yet again, and I relayed my concern again, suggesting the pre-approval letter. He said OK and told me they'd fax the buyer's order on Monday. I had an appointment to pick the car up on Tuesday, but Joe was out of town, so another rep would cover for him.

On Monday, I'm getting fax calls to my cell phone. Despite having the information three times, he gave the other sales rep the wrong information. I talked to the finance person and told her about the pre-approval letter. She said OK. I talked to the credit union to make sure they'd send it over right away. I wanted to be sure I could get the car on Tuesday.

At 5 pm Monday, I called the dealer again and asked, straight out, if a pre-approval letter would suffice. I was taking a half day, as was my friend who would give me a ride to Buffalo. It would be awfully inconvenient to get there and find out I couldn't get the car. The finance rep went to ask and said no, I couldn't take it with a pre-approval letter. This was the first I heard this. I suggested financing through them, and she got me a great rate. At least I could get the car.

Tuesday, I show up and talk to a different sales rep. He shows me all the paperwork to sign, and I didn't see my $99 deposit. He said it was probably taken out of the total already, but I sent him back to check. Turns out, it wasn't taken out. And, they had my deposit on the sheet but didn't take it out of the total. Two more mistakes the day of possession, and if I didn't read especially closely, I'd be screwed significantly.

On Wednesday, the general manager called to apologize. Later, the finance rep called to say they made another mistake, and I'd have to sign the paperwork again and send it back to them. By this point, I wasn't surprised.

I did everything in my power to take care of everything for this car, but I was repeatedly stymied. Mistake after mistake. The guys who showed me the car were nice, and the finance rep apologized profusely. But that wasn't enough. An offer to have my car detailed for free wasn't really enough remediation. I'm warning all people going through Buffalo to stay away from Joe, who clearly wasn't well trained. And I highly recommend going over everything with a fine-tuned comb. Don't trust the folks.

All that being said, I love my car, and it's so much fun to drive. There is a positive to all this, then. I finally have my smart! :)

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Comment by Linda Lawyer on September 10, 2008 at 8:42pm
glad to hear your story -- we had thought about coming up there (back to my home town - OP) to get a Smart - even bring one in from Canada - then we found out that they were coming to our area - Delaware/Philadelphia/SE PA. so we lucked out - and had a great experience with the Devon Smart dealership -- after reading your story, i almost feel guilty that ours went so well!
Comment by Craig Woodward on July 8, 2008 at 4:00pm
I had a mixed bag when it came to getting mine from Buffalo. There were several small issues (like the deposit not being credited), and it was a day long ordeal. I had to follow up to get the insurance stuff submitted (cert of sale, etc), and to get the registration paperwork finished up. Other then that, it was ok. I had Chris as a rep, who was the last of the 3 they have there.

I think part of the problem there is they have all young sales reps (all under 25), which makes them less reliable and somewhat inexperienced. Not a good blend when dealing w/ a new car that has other "special needs" things going on, like the reservation program and such.
Comment by Barb on June 17, 2008 at 6:45am
I am so sorry you had such a poor experience. I purchased through smart center bloomfield in the Detroit area and my experience was quite different. I faxed by information to them and the paper work was ready when I got there. They were most helpful and professional. All calls were returned promptly and I was really made to feel that I was important to them. I hope they will get their act together so that people will feel good about the transaction of purchasing their smart. I love my car and it was worth the wait. I am very satisfied and my salesperson, Tom, did a wonderful job of insuring that I knew all about my car and patiently answered all of my questions.
Comment by Broken Kid on June 16, 2008 at 6:28pm
I'm with you, Jennifer. I've heard that too... no loaners, nothing special, we're losing money. That's not our fault! They WANTED to be the smart dealership. I would have been happier with one in Rochester, but oh well. Some nice folks there, and when I had problems with the shifting mechanism, they fixed it in one day and were willing to send someone to get me and bring me back to Buffalo, which was quite nice. So they're not a total loss, but they don't try as hard as they could. Training is the big issue. They should be going out of their way to make us happy!
Comment by Jennifer W. on June 16, 2008 at 5:48pm
I purchased from Smart Center Buffalo, too, and it was a mixed bag. Brooke, the GM, is great, and went well out of her way for me. But my sales rep (one of the two mentioned above) lost paperwork, never returned calls, showed up 2 hours late to deliver my car, and was generally... well, lazy. Nice, but just not real with it. They did bring the car to me in Rochester, though, which was nice. Although it showed up with two scratches, so I had to take it back to Buffalo anyway. When I got there for my appointment, they told me they forgot to order the part, so I'd have to come back another day (this is a 100 mile drive for me). They seem to make a lot of mistakes like this. Also, I often felt that the Smart side of this Mercedes dealership is seen as a hassle for them... they are quick to point out the services you can't expect (like loaners) and tell you it's because they're losing money on these cars (is that our fault?). I think in general, Smart has had some financial challenges coming to the states, and they're trying to pass off some cost savings onto us to absorb as owners. They've lost sight of the fact that, as early adopters willing to take a chance on this car, we deserve the moon... even if they can't give us the stars. If you buy from this dealership, I would double check all your paperwork, and expect to put a concerted effort into the transaction yourself.... the sales people are all young and inexperienced (again, saving money) and you will have to do some of the work for them.

Love the car, though!
Comment by merelyn on June 16, 2008 at 5:46pm
.... I so agree karen it is just plain weird about how the selling is done and the secretiveness of everything. I made my reservation in June 2007 and was told about 3 months ago to expect it in Nov 2008. No one will/can tell me where I will pick my car up, I am not close to any dealership and it could be in Utah, Nevada or AZ. When I talked to the sales person at the dealership in Chandler, AZ she not only took three voice messages to finally call me back but was very rude to me. I thnk this little car will be perfect for me but am really concerned about the lack of customer service and the way these cars are being sold. i have been in the car business for many years and I know for a fact it just isn't that hard to "special" order a car and it does not take 16 months to build one.
Comment by devis on June 16, 2008 at 5:37pm
I noticed my $99 reservation fee was not on paperwork but was told it was included - does anyone know if that if true?
Comment by Karen on June 16, 2008 at 5:25pm
I'm really surprised they just don't ship them over here and just sell them off the lot! They'd go like hotcakes. I don't understand what the deal is with this way of selling them.
Comment by jay e. abramson on June 16, 2008 at 5:09pm
gosh, people stop me every where and ask questions and look...smart should hire us to sell these on the side..it's easy...
Comment by Tryntje on June 16, 2008 at 4:32pm
I purchased through the Buffalo SmartCenter and had nothing but a quick, easy and excellent experience. My sales rep was David. I didn't finance the car, so it could not have been easier. The only hassle was getting the license number before I left from Rochester so that I could add the car to my EZpass. I had to call three times before I could get that, but I do understand they don't put them on the car until the deal signed and sealed (although they had my deposit, my insurance info, a copy of my drivers' license and a dozen emails over the last few whining about when would my Smart finally get in?? so surely they knew it was a done deal before I ever got there).

LOVE my Smart. As I have told some friends, it does save gas, but it doesn't save TIME -- everywhere I go, I get stopped and asked a million questions by people who boldly walk right up to me or follow me until I stop. If I was selling them, I'd have sold about 30 by now easy!

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