Last week, an eBay bidder was the lucky winner of a brand new 2008 E90 M3 BMW. The winning bid was $60,000, which is considerably under the sticker price for such a car. It’s pretty — black with a red interior. Not my style, but probably a fairly unusual color combination.
Long story short, Husker BMW Mercedes of Nebraska is refusing to honor the deal and will not sell him the car for the winning bid. According to the buyer in his thread on M3post.com:
15 minutes after auction end, this guy Michael Barett (At BMW of Nebraska) calls and nervously tells me the auction was a mistake.
I reminded him of his contractual obligation to complete the transaction, to which he continues to reply it was a mistake, and refused to honor the deal.
He then offered to call his manager and confirm what they could do, but same response. When I pressed the issue and raised the possibility of legal action, this guy had the nerve to condescendingly laugh and say we are a multi-billion dollar company, ebay will definitely side with us.
If true, something tells me that Michael isn’t going to have his job for much longer, if he is even still working there as I type this. EBay auctions are legally binding contracts, and eBay has a history of siding with the person who is in the right according to their rules. The size of the company is immaterial to them (eBay is the 900 lb. gorilla here, anyway; a piss-ant BMW dealer in Nebraska is small potatoes to them).
The auction did not have a reserve, just a starting bid of $60,000. Winner states there was a Buy It Now price of $66,926, but he was the only bidder so he won it at the starting price. From my experience as a seller on eBay, and the specifics of eBay’s contractual rules, the buyer certainly seems to have a legitimate claim.
I’m wondering what BMW thinks of all this. It can’t be happy that a single dealership in Nebraska is damaging its reputation by being such assholes about this.
And there is the larger issue to consider of eBay Motors. It is not unusual for dealerships to “auction” cars on eBay. I would never, in a million years, buy a car sight-unseen on the internet. You have no way of really knowing that car’s history without examining it yourself, or even verifying the VIN in some cases. I can’t be the only person who feels this way, so there has to be a huge component of trust and reputation involved for dealers to still be doing car sales this way. It wouldn’t be profitable otherwise.
If a major new car dealer can screw a customer like this on eBay, it’s devastating for all the other, honest dealers. People are going to start avoiding internet car sales, and that carefully built-up trust is gone in a blink of an eye.
Now, a smart dealership in another area, like a BMW dealer in another town in Nebraska, or even in another state, should jump on this situation and offer the guy an identical car for the winning price. They get a sale, and honest dealers everywhere have their reputations restored.
So how about it, all you BMW dealers out there? If you have a 2008 E90 M3 with a Jerez black exterior and a Fox red interior, why not give this guy a call?
UPDATE 3/25/07: This incident made the eBay buyer’s (whose name is Ken Tanisaka) local newspaper. He reports that the dealership is currently negotiating with him, although the details are not public at this time. The dealer group’s sales manager, Ryan Mathis, indicated that they had posted the auction incorrectly:
“We didn’t have the reserve set properly,” Mathis explained. “We had a ‘buy it now’ at $67,800. It was an error by our eBay [sales] manager. $67,800 was supposed to be the reserve.”
Mathis has indicated that he intends to sell Tanisaka the car, although what the price will turn out to be is anyone’s guess at this point. Probably an honest error on the dealer’s part that blew up in their faces due to the internet exposure.
UPDATE 3/26/07: Apparently the dealership was just playing nice to try to get their internet exposure to go away. Ken, the buyer, posts on M3post.com:
The dealership wanted me to assist in defusing the situation, in letting the sites I contacted know that I was getting my deal. I didnt mind doing that,as long I was JUST that. I had no intention of becoming a pawn for this dealer, not after the way they treated me!
SO I went out and contacted Channel 8, Ebay, BBB and m3post to let everyone know things were moving in a positive direction. But in subsequent conversations, I got placed under the impression that the dealership really isnt sorry for anything they have done here. Their attitude, it seemed was that I am to blame for the firestorm that culminated, implying that I wasnt being proactive enough in getting the word out Hello? Did you not see the international outrage from this situation? Root cause, gentleman. Introspection.Why are hundred of thousands of people around the world so pissed? Until they get it, im under the impression that nothing will change.
We are not that easily distracted.
Husker BMW and Mercedes seems to be of the opinion that bloggers have too much time on their hands, because we’re making such a big deal out of nothing. If you ask me, it’s the dealer that has too much time on their hands, to be balking like this (and damaging their reputation as well as the reputation of BMW as a whole) over a paltry $7,800.
So, I reiterate my call for another dealership to step up and offer Ken a 2008 E90 M3 (black ext./red int.) for $60,000. Surely that media coverage would be worth the “loss” on the car’s price.