On Jan 15th my friend John went to Maroone Dodge of Pembroke Pines, looking at trading in his old 2003 white Hyundai Elantra which he had purchased from Car Plaza in Ft. Lauderdale (a second chance credit repair car sales company) The original financier on that car was “Flamingo Financing” a notoriously unethical company that takes advantage of people with poor credit and harasses, lies and rips people off in general. I have been trying to help him refinance or otherwise get away from that company. On Jan 16th, my friend and I were approved to take home a 2008 white Dodge Caliber after I co-signed with him to help him out. I would first like to point out he was shown a different, black version of this car with more options on it. When he realized that the black car was not going to work for him, John tried to leave the dealership however the salesman Tom Lateste convinced him he would get him into a “nearly identical” Caliber (the white one I mention above). The next day (Jan 16th) we both went into the office and signed the papers and drove off leaving our old car with them. Only when we got into the car to drive away did we realize this “identical car” had NO cruise control, power locks, power windows, or mats! We let it go, just happy to be out of our old predicament.
Two weeks past and on the 29th of January we received a call that we needed to go back in to resign some papers to “make the bank happy”. The next day (30th) we went in, were greeted rather coldly by Tom, who brought us to meet a Finance Manager. This manager proceeded to tell us that the banks had not approved the loan, or rather that one had, but was charging an additional $5,000.00 (they called it a security fee) that the dealership could not legally pass along to us. Due to this, the dealership wanted us to come up with the $5,000.00 or an additional co-signer. We told them that they knew from the beginning what our situation was and that we had told them in advance neither of these were an option for us. We are both disabled, John does work and I am still a student working for my Bachelor's degree, however while collecting SSD benefits you cannot make over a certain amount without being penalized. So I asked what other options we had and he continued to simply restate the same thing a different way. In the end we grew tired of his inability to come up with a real solution, so we told him we would have to return the car and have our old one back. We were upset that after two weeks, 2,000 miles, 9 credit runs through banks and getting someone's hopes up they would then lie to us to bring us in and tell us we had to give it back. I described it as giving a kid a Christmas gift and then returning it a couple weeks later because it cost too much.
We went outside to call for advice, I told my mother who knows some attorneys so we could get some advice. She was quite upset at what happened given the fact that 2 weeks had gone by. She spoke with the Finance Manager who basically unloaded the same crap on here and tried to beg for more money, once the man realized that the dealership was going to lose our business, he scrambled to tell his general manager Jose Hernandez. Mr Hernandez was initially apologetic and said they did indeed drag there feet. We were then however once again feed the same story about the bank wanting an extra $5,000.00 in security. I was dumbfounded as to why they would ask for more from us as he had told us they were restricted from passing that cost on to us anyways. We were told we would not be charged for mileage on the car we had been given, and that we would receive all our money back. However we were still being pressured into getting a CHEAPER USED car from them, at this point we wanted nothing more to do with them. We were then told the most astounding information I had ever heard! Halfway through this ordeal, after a week of being denied by banks, they had a sale and SOLD our trade in vehicle! They had no title, the old financing company account for it was still open, yet they SOLD the car to some other guy. They claimed that the people understood that they would have to give back the car in the event we were denied financing. At this point I decided we should leave and told them to give us a couple days to decide what to do. I told them we were VERY unhappy with there business practices. I finally heard back from my mom who by now had talked to an attorney. She told us that the Dodge dealership in Sarasota claimed the Maroone dealership was pulling a scam known in the business as a “Bump”. I also identified “Bait and Switch” as one of there practices. We spent the day researching what was going on and had mom call Mr. Hernandez (GM) back to let him explain what was going on. We had to have Hernandez fax documents to her because he had never given them to us. When mom asked him why they sold our old car, he flat out denied that it had even left the lot, he alluded to us having more money than we told him, he was very rude personally to her and eventually got flustered and hung up on her.
At this point John was very upset, as his brother had committed suicide a few days before, and they were very close, this whole ordeal took a heavy emotional toll on us both. To keep the peace I took over negotiations, I called Mr. Hernandez back the next day and told him I was extremely upset with his lies and the way he spoke to my mother. I told him we had been called in on a lie to tell us we were being denied, that it was wrong for them to sell our car, that we demanded our full amount of money back in CASH as we would not wait for a check to clear and this was how we gave it to them. (We also did not want to give them an opportunity to stop payment for any reason). I further demanded that our old car needed to be in original condition with all accessories including the car bra, Tom Tom mount, and that I would verify the mileage. He agreed to my conditions over the phone at this point but did not say much. He wanted to know when we would bring it in. I told him we would have to do it early on Saturday or on Monday.
Saturday morning we drove over to the dealership in John's roommate's truck to check that they had our car and money before bringing in the Caliber. We walked in at 9am and were sent to see the original salesman who by now wanted to avoid seeing us at all costs. As soon as we saw him he got rude, defensive and threatening. We asked to see our car to verify it's condition, but instead Tom cussed us out and told us to leave! He told us “you can't keep our car hostage!” to which we replied “that is what you are doing to ours! We have your car but we want to see ours too we are not going to be screwed anymore!” We naturally called him an ### since he called us ###, and I asked him why he suddenly didn't want to deal with us anymore (he was so eager before). I was not even about to be cussed at by this conman so I went to the reception desk and asked for a senior manager and complained about Tom's abusive behavior. The lady was nice and apologized and said “Wellington will be down in a couple minutes”. Well a few minutes passed with no sign, but she sent me chasing down another “New Car Sales Manager” Gabriel. Gabriel was nice to me and listened, intent on helping. Tom suddenly came up and interrupted saying I had cussed at him, to which I replied “No I never cussed at anyone, you cussed at us and lied to us so get out of my face and shut up”. His manager told him to drop it and go away. Gabriel spent some time on the phone, probably with Mr. Hernandez, and then gave me his card, telling me the car is not ready yet but just give us an hour and it will all be ready. We left and waited around for a couple hours , I kept calling Gabriel but he would not call me back to tell me what was happening.
I got feed up and called Mr. Jose Hernandez back to ask what's going on? He abruptly cut me off right away trying to tell us we needed to be respectful and calm, I replied; We were calm and never cussed, your salesman did the cussing and we are sick of being lied to over and over! We are not going to be bullied by you or threatened by you, we are not afraid to take you to court for what you have done, this was never about our credit by your own admission you sold our car and waited 2 weeks to tell us! He continued to threaten us, saying if we did not arrive within 30mins he would have the car repossessed, and then hung up on us. So we got back in the car, and after asking the lawyer once again what we should do, we were advised to have police there to mediate and ensure nothing more was done to us. We were met at the dealership by two Pembroke Pines PD officers. It was apparent that even though we had called them, Mr. Hernandez had already tried to smear us saying untrue things about our behavior and the situation about the car. We were at first told that our car was still not there and that it would not be until late in the day that we'd get it. After we spoke to the police for a while, they began to understand what was really going on, we explained that we had been there since 9am, had been yelled at, threatened, lied to, called degrading names like ###, ###, white trash, and otherwise abused and conned by these salesmen.
Mr. Hernandez came out and said the car would be there in 15mins at this point, he inspected the car and to his dismay could not find anything to charge us for. We asked for and with the insistence of the police officer Mr. Hernandez reluctantly went to retrieve the document showing the original number of miles on our old car. Well 15mins came and went, we chatted with the officer who at this point was having a friendly conversation with us. He finally asked his partner if it had been 15mins.... yeah it had been, so he went in to find out what was going on. Meanwhile we are standing out in the heat in the parking lot, this goes on till 1pm. Finally another very unhappy customer pulls up in our old car and starts to unload it, (and I really mean unhappy!) I took pictures of the car as they were unloading it, no wonder the poor guy was pissed he had just got the windows tinted! Clearly they told this other customer absolutely nothing! He had also been called to come in based on a lie and exploded at the dealership on the spot as they told him he would have to give up our car! As you may remember I demanded CASH and specifically not a check, but we got stuck with one anyways. This was unfair because once again they reneged on an agreement. As John went inside to enter his pin number to receive $100 back on his debit card a group of salesmen including Tom Lateste stood in the corner snickering and calling him names.
Our car now had 500 miles more than when we dropped it off. The worst part of this whole experience was the threats, constant lies, defamatory comments, and blatant disrespect they had for us. Had they been honest, forthcoming, apologetic, professional or kept there word, I would not feel compelled to expose this business for the unethical, bigoted, lying, unprofessional bunch of con men they are. I am pursuing the possibility of legal action against them at this time. Since bringing this story to others, I have received numerous other complaints about Maroone car dealerships. It is apparent that Maroone does not care about customers, they only care about themselves and there money, to the harm of there reputation. My complaint is focused on the actions of Jose Hernandez, the GM of this dealership who threatened, degraded, lied and tried to scam us while allowing his employees such as Tom Lateste to abuse us and call us names. Tom Lateste should be barred from selling cars due to his aggressive, deceitful sales tactics and his bigoted comments. We are STILL stuck with Flamingo Financing (bottom feeders of the bottom feeders according to every car dealership I've spoken to) right now, but thanks to my generous family, within a couple weeks we will hopefully be rid of them too!