Americore/ECUDrect / Failure To Keep Promises, Earn Trust
On January 5, 2009, I authorized Americore to charge my employer's credit card for $299.95, Americore's advertised price for rebuilding the ECU from my company's 2000 Dodge Ram 3500 V-8 van. Americore advertised the average turnaround time for this service to be 48 hours.
Although Americore's site also advertised free UPS ground shipping, I was told when I placed the order that by this promise Americore meant return shipping only, and that my company would be required to pay the cost of shipping our Dodge ECU to its facility in Florida. Because time for us was of the essence, we shipped the ECU to AmeriCore via UPS second-day-AM shipping, and UPS delivered the part to Americore's facility on the morning of January 7.
On January 15, more than a week having by then passed without report of the progress of its efforts to rebuild the ECU, I telephoned Americore to ascertain the status of my order. Only then did its representative tell me that AmeriCore had examined the ECU and learned that they could not repair it. Reluctantly I authorized Americore to ship us, from its own inventory, a replacement ECU, at a cost to my company of an additional $100.
On Friday, January 23, another eight days having passed without delivery to my company of either the replacement ECU or even an email confirming, with a UPS tracking number, that the ECU had shipped, I telephoned Americore to ask what could possibly delay a shipment ostensibly to be made from its own inventory. In response Americore's representative told me that he would immediately relay the substance of my complaint to the appropriate employee in the relevant Americore department, from whom I should await an imminent return telephone call; this call never came.
On Monday, January 26, having telephoned Americore's customer service number but been answered only by a machine, I left a message, re-iterated the same day by email, directing Americore to cancel my company's order and credit back its Mastercard for the full amount of the charges already made. Circumstances had finally prompted me to investigate enough to learn that others have experienced difficulties of the precise kind that I am here describing, and that Americore had earned an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau of Northern Florida. I therefore thought it prudent to immediately file a report notifying MasterCard that the $299.95 charge made by Americore on the preceding January 5 was disputed and should not be honored.
Necessity also prompted my company to immediately try to obtain the required part from another source. A salvage dealer told us that the ECU we needed was still in national short supply, but that if we could ship our broken part to his business, he would forward it to another enterprise that might be able to effect repair. We also asked a local Dodge dealer, who several weeks before had informed us that the ECU was on backorder from the Chrysler Corporation, to keep a lookout for a change in availability, and order the part on our behalf if a change occurred; his quoted price was over $700, but could be reduced by the $106 core deposit that it included if we traded our broken unit for its replacement.
For reasons like these my oral and written communications with Americore on January 26 included a demand that Americore return the Dodge ECU to my company from its Florida facility (at its own expense: since by its own advertising Americore had already committed itself to free one-way UPS shipping of one ECU in at least one direction to or from that facility, I did not think it unfair under the circumstances to expect it to bear this expense in returning our property— the allegedly non-repairable ECU— to us). But at 4:55 PM on that same day an Americore employee sent me an email asserting that by disputing the charges already made to my company's MasterCard I had effectively taken the matter "out of their hands."
I did not understand this assertion, and indeed, when I finally succeeded in reaching an Americore representative for clarification, it developed that this assertion did not encapsulate Americore's considered, final position, but was quickly abandoned in favor of other, successively evolving positions, the first of these being a claim that under the paperwork I had signed at the outset of the contract my company was contractually bound to pay Americore a "diagnosis charge" of nearly $100.
To this claim my rejoinder was not the obvious one that the only diagnosis of our Dodge ECU that was communicated to us by Americore—i.e., that the ECU was broken, and that Amerricore couldn't or wouldn't repair it— utterly lacked value to my company, telling us as it did nothing that we did not already know. I replied rather that under Americore's form contract the diagnosis fee is a penalty imposed upon an Americore customer who, learning that Americore cannot repair its ECU, declines to give it the opportunity to ship a more expensive replacement. This of course was not the case in this instance.
After I had pointed this out Americore responded, on or about February 6, with the news that it was now able to quickly ship a replacement ECU: a failure of its credit-card processing equipment, its representative explained, had simply prevented processing of our earlier order of January 15. Americore's credit-card processing equipment, I was then told, was still out-of-service, but Americore would ship the required Dodge ECU immediately upon consummation of a direct electronic debit, which my company was asked to authorize, to its business checking account. The amount of the requested non-recourse debit was $395.95; Americore sent a follow-up email promising not to contest the cancellation of its earlier $299.95 charge to my company's MasterCard.
Acceptance of this proposal called for a leap of faith that my company, despite its pressing need for the ECU and lack of immediate alternatives, was not prepared to make. While my company was still internally debating the wisdom of increasing our exposure to losses from transactions with Americore by accepting its February 6 offer the local Dodge dealership that we had contacted earlier called to inform us that Chrysler might soon be able soon to ship us a replacement ECU, and on February 27 the purchase was made, at a price several hundred dollars more than the price offered to our company by Americore for the same part.
In an email to Americore on March 2 I explained that my company preferred paying this increased cost to accepting its latest offer simply because we did not trust Americore to keep its promises. In the faint hope of obtaining a refund the core deposit paid to the local dealership, I still asked Americore to return my company's allegedly non-repairable Dodge ECU, but expected Americore to keep it in settlement of its claim for a "diagnosis charge."
I was therefore pleasantly surprised when an Amercore representative called me several weeks later to enquire what measures my company deemed essential to a satisfactory resolution of its outstanding grievances. I replied that with a remedy of nearly complete rescission— cancellation of the $299.95 credit card charge, return of its Dodge ECU at Americore's expense— my company would be happy to forgive and forget. This gentleman promised to quickly bring about a return shipment of the part.
The $299.95 MasterCard charge was eventually credited back to my company's . Its Dodge ECU remains at Americore's facility in Northern Florida, unless Americore has since sold it to another unsuspecting customer.