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      03-22-2008, 03:47 PM   #1
theslik1
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Thumbs down BMW of Columbia (SC) - Steer Clear

Well, I went to test drive a 135i demo at BMW of Columbia in Columbia, SC. The car in question was being pulled in from a test drive as we drove onto the lot. A salesman (note that I refuse to call these particular clowns Client Advisors...no offense to BMW CA's in general) followed us around as we looked at the car, sat in it, played with controls, etc. He knew virtually nothing about the 135i but that didn't worry me a lot. I asked if I could test drive the car and was told yes we could take it out after they took my license info. We went inside the dealership and after waiting a couple of minutes the salesman came back and said the manager wanted to keep the miles down on the demo, therefore I wouldn't be able to drive the car unless I demonstrated I was "a serious customer". I'm not sure what could have indicated that we weren't serious, and the salesman wasn't clear on what we needed to do to demonstrate "seriousness". I politely informed the salesman that I wasn't going to be buying today but in no case would I buy a car without driving it first. His response was "well, we just need to know that you're serious...", again without indicating what would be required to demonstrate this. At that point I simply said "congrats, you just lost a potential customer". I then found the sales manager and told him the same thing before leaving in a huff. Sorry, I'm a sensitive guy.

Some answers to potential questions about this situation:
  • I was with my wife and 23 year old son, who drove his own BMW onto the lot. Needless to say, we looked like people that could afford a 1-series.
  • The demo had just returned from a test drive with "serious customers" who subsequently left without buying a car.
  • Neither the salesman or sales manager indicated what their metric for customer "seriousness" was, and I was in no mood to attempt mind-reading. If they'd simply ran our credit score they would have been showing us most anything on the lot...
  • I've contacted the dealership and BMWNA about the incident. I don't expect anything to come of it but if anyone knows how to get their attention please let me know.
  • I do have other satisfactory options for where to buy to the car, but I will not excuse the sleazy behavior of this particular outfit.
Note that I'd already been warned by an enthusiast acquaintance of mine that BMW of Columbia is a low-class leasing mill. My experience seems to bear that out, as we probably didn't look like we were going lease anything. However, Century BMW in Greenville gets good word-of-mouth so I'm going to try them next.
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      03-22-2008, 03:52 PM   #2
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i overheard a CA telling someone that the other day. i found it hard to believe i was hearing him correctly. although in that guy's case he was by himself, dressed poorly, and said he was a freshman in college. your situation though ... that's ridiculous (and obviously different) pretty bad attitude as far as i can tell.
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      03-22-2008, 03:52 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theslik1 View Post
Note that I'd already been warned by an enthusiast acquaintance of mine that BMW of Columbia is a low-class leasing mill.
Ah, they cater to $35,000 Millionaires. ; -)
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      03-22-2008, 04:05 PM   #4
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Ah, they cater to $35,000 Millionaires. ; -)
Maybe. I really don't care but should I expect to be looked down upon because I'm a "buyer"? Maybe my perspective is too old school... :iono:
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      03-22-2008, 04:07 PM   #5
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Nope - I'da walked too
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      03-22-2008, 05:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theslik1 View Post

I'm not sure what could have indicated that we weren't serious

I politely informed the salesman that I wasn't going to be buying today
  • I was with my wife and 23 year old son
Were I a car salesman (oh my), no offense, but I would have taken you for a vacationing family. Even if you were sold on the car by the test ride, from his perspective, what's the likelihood you will make the trip to SC again just to buy the car?

I would second trying Greenville, it seems to have some rather vocal supporters. Avoid Charlotte and Wilmington (from personal experience).

Good luck with your purchasing. Having driven the car this week, I'm gravitating towards another 911. If you think BMW dealerships are filled with snobs, try shopping a used German import shop.
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      03-22-2008, 06:45 PM   #7
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Were I a car salesman (oh my), no offense, but I would have taken you for a vacationing family. Even if you were sold on the car by the test ride, from his perspective, what's the likelihood you will make the trip to SC again just to buy the car?

I would second trying Greenville, it seems to have some rather vocal supporters. Avoid Charlotte and Wilmington (from personal experience).

Good luck with your purchasing. Having driven the car this week, I'm gravitating towards another 911. If you think BMW dealerships are filled with snobs, try shopping a used German import shop.
I'm not sure what they were thinking but I suspect it had more to do with our appearance as potential buyers vs. leasers. Simply put, they wouldn't be able to squeeze as many dollars out of the deal on a straight-up purchase with no financing. What makes this situation truly laughable is that BMW of Columbia is quite clearly a second or third-tier operation, which might explain the over-compensatory nutswinging on their part. Thank you for the heads-up on Wilmington (Schaeffer BMW?). They've been sending a lot of emails my way. I'm definitely going to try Greenville.

+1 on the 911 by the way...I would love to try my hand at a 996 turbo but that just isn't in the cards at this time.
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      03-22-2008, 11:12 PM   #8
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They may have been playing a sales tactic called "getting buy-in".

The game is to force a potential customer to demand that they really want to buy your product. It's supposed to make the customer into be the one proving that they really want to buy the car, instead of the salesman trying to be the one to prove to the customer that the customer should really want to buy the car. This puts the salesperson in a position of control. Now you are the one who is supposed to feel like you need something from him, not the other way around.

The response they expected was for you to be offended and then offer/ask how to prove that you were a serious customer.

But it backfired. You got offended, but you walked out instead of playing out the rest of the game the way they wanted.

It's a classic grinder sales tactic, about at the level of "losing the keys on the roof" of your trade-in. That's where they are grinding you on the numbers and you say no, and want to leave. They say they can't find your keys for your trade-in they took for an evaluation drive. So they let you stew for a little bit while they establish that THEY control the situation, not you. Then they send in their top closer to apologize profusely and try to take one more run at you with the numbers.
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      03-23-2008, 11:38 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nixon View Post
They may have been playing a sales tactic called "getting buy-in".

The game is to force a potential customer to demand that they really want to buy your product. It's supposed to make the customer into be the one proving that they really want to buy the car, instead of the salesman trying to be the one to prove to the customer that the customer should really want to buy the car. This puts the salesperson in a position of control. Now you are the one who is supposed to feel like you need something from him, not the other way around.

The response they expected was for you to be offended and then offer/ask how to prove that you were a serious customer.

But it backfired. You got offended, but you walked out instead of playing out the rest of the game the way they wanted.

It's a classic grinder sales tactic, about at the level of "losing the keys on the roof" of your trade-in. That's where they are grinding you on the numbers and you say no, and want to leave. They say they can't find your keys for your trade-in they took for an evaluation drive. So they let you stew for a little bit while they establish that THEY control the situation, not you. Then they send in their top closer to apologize profusely and try to take one more run at you with the numbers.
You're probably correct. My question would be why any BMW dealer would stoop to these tactics, but in this case I think I know the answer.
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      03-23-2008, 04:59 PM   #10
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I use "google news search" to send me any news links that refer to 'BMW 135i'. (That's how I was able to report to this forum and to my CA, when the official 1 series price list first became available!) I got this 'google news search' alert today, which links to a report about this same complaint on "The Consumerist" website.
http://consumerist.com/371090/bmw-de...rious-customer
No new info in this report; just the same story, but interesting seeing it here anyway.
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      03-23-2008, 06:29 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by mergen View Post
I use "google news search" to send me any news links that refer to 'BMW 135i'. (That's how I was able to report to this forum and to my CA, when the official 1 series price list first became available!) I got this 'google news search' alert today, which links to a report about this same complaint on "The Consumerist" website.
http://consumerist.com/371090/bmw-de...rious-customer
No new info in this report; just the same story, but interesting seeing it here anyway.
Guilty. :biggrin:

I submitted it to Consumerist with a faint hope that they would post it. Anyway, there it is.

The comments are quite interesting. Most are sympathetic to some degree, with a few judging me as a smug rich douchebag because I'm in the market for a premium vehicle. I must say it's a great character building experience...
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      03-23-2008, 06:37 PM   #12
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Wow that is pretty bad. I showed up to my dealership with my girlfriend and my CA let me test drive it no questions. He just copied my license and we were off. I'll be the first to admit I don't look the part of a BMW owner (or potential buyer for that matter). I was treated as an equal though, which was nice.

That's only because the same dealership turned away one of the Backstreet Boys (no joke) back when the group was popular. They didn't know who the guy was and mistook him for a non-buyer. Once that happened he went next door to the Benz dealership and bought 3 cars simply out of spite lol
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      03-23-2008, 06:46 PM   #13
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Who the hell are the 'Backstreet Boys'? (sorry - I had to put up with that crap with one of my daughters ; -)
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      03-23-2008, 06:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Who the hell are the 'Backstreet Boys'? (sorry - I had to put up with that crap with one of my daughters ; -)
Living in Orlando, you couldn't get away from boy bands back around 2000-2001. I think every boy band ever established has been from Orlando. Now they're all working at Wal Mart/McDonalds/DMV
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      03-23-2008, 07:10 PM   #15
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Guilty. :biggrin:

I submitted it to Consumerist with a faint hope that they would post it. Anyway, there it is.

The comments are quite interesting. Most are sympathetic to some degree, with a few judging me as a smug rich douchebag because I'm in the market for a premium vehicle. I must say it's a great character building experience...
Good grief! Was that site the 'Consumerist' or the 'Communist'?

What a bunch of class-warfare crybabies...

Like water off of a duck's back - don't worry about most of those comments. Or those who posted such tripe.
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      03-23-2008, 07:38 PM   #16
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Good grief! Was that site the 'Consumerist' or the 'Communist'?

What a bunch of class-warfare crybabies...

Like water off of a duck's back - don't worry about most of those comments. Or those who posted such tripe.
Trust me I expected those type of responses...I frequent that blog quite a bit to stay on top of consumer issues. I am pleasantly surprised that most of the comments are positive. The blog is serving my purpose which is exposure. :smile:

But yeah, there are a lot of class-warfare types and "negotiation experts" who are willing and able to help. No worries here...
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      03-23-2008, 08:14 PM   #17
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when it comes to test drive the 135i, i already know which dealer to go to first...
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      03-23-2008, 09:01 PM   #18
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Guilty. :biggrin:

The comments are quite interesting. Most are sympathetic to some degree, with a few judging me as a smug rich douchebag because I'm in the market for a premium vehicle. I must say it's a great character building experience...
I found them interesting too. Those blog comments usually run the full gamut of responses, some of them often being extremely rediculous. That's why I read them. It makes me wonder who is typing this stuff. I did find your story interesting though.
Glad you got to tell it. And glad it didn't happen to me.:wink:
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      03-24-2008, 09:00 AM   #19
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Thanks for the "avoid-dealership" tip. I live nearby Columbia and was going to swing by for a 135i test drive. Now I won't bother with BMW of Columbia - there are plenty of other BMW dealers (I get around a lot). I had e-mailed those guys about a month ago requesting that they contact me when the 135i show up. They replied first with a couple of stupid, generic responses worthy of a GM dealer. Then a day or two later someone actually must have read my e-mail and replied that they would notify me. I still haven't heard anything back. Those jerks need to realize that a recession is upon us, and those dealers whose business plan is based on aggravating customers are going to be sucking wind, even BMW dealers.
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      03-24-2008, 10:26 AM   #20
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SCMike:

One interesting thing about BMW of Columbia is that their recent advertising makes a lot of hay over "new management", which indicates they knew about their many problems as the former Hancock BMW. The actual changes are nonexistent: the dealership looks the same, has the same smarmy salesmen wandering around with coffee cups, and acts the same ("what will get you in this car today?"). There's a certain clientele that they play to, and it isn't you or me. I got the message...
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      03-27-2008, 04:48 PM   #21
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Wow. I go to the dealers on weekends. Being your basic ex-hippy I wear jeans, a denim shirt, a gimme hat, and sneakers. I was treated with total respect by both New Mexico dealers from the start and they have been nothing but forthcoming and professional.
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      03-27-2008, 05:01 PM   #22
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Wow. I go to the dealers on weekends. Being your basic ex-hippy I wear jeans, a denim shirt, a gimme hat, and sneakers. I was treated with total respect by both New Mexico dealers from the start and they have been nothing but forthcoming and professional.
It appears that BMW does not keep as tight of brand control over the dealerships as of other luxury car companies. I have now dealt with 5 dealership in CA. 2 sucked, one was ok , 1 was good and 1 was great.

The one thing I have found out about BMW is YOU have to find a dealer that you like. There is no consistence of experience. Lexus continues to beat BMW is the luxury segment with better branding and experience. Not with better cars.
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