From automakers favoring their own dealers with buybacks to not reporting lease returns and creating loads of fake fees, dealership behaviors are pushing some boundaries. And dealers are still managing to find ways to surprise us. The latest incident involves a dealer stealing a customer’s lease payment before refusing to return it unless the customer signed a non-disclosure agreement. I spoke to him about what happened.
The man, who we’ll call SC for the sake of anonymity, was a customer of Bob King Hyundai Genesis located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In late 2020, he and his wife leased a Genesis G70 from the dealership. Everything was fine. He continued making payments on the car. That is, until he found out that his first lease payment had been stolen by an employee of the dealership. When I spoke to SC, I asked him how he found out about it. The dealer’s CFO called him personally:
We believe it was a finance guy that took it, the CFO called and told me they were going through some records and believe that an employee had taken an extra payment. I needed to provide proof that I made the 1st-months payment, so I sent them a copy of my bank statement showing that one-time payment.
He provided me with the bank statements he sent over to the dealer, and sure enough, there’s a payment for $549.88 on Sept. 19, 2020. How could a dealer employee have gotten his or her hand on a nearly $600 lease payment? SC’s wife recalls someone coming to collect their card for payment which is when the employee could’ve taken the payment:
My personal thought......my wife remembers someone coming to the car after all the paper work was done and getting a payment. We gave him the card and he went back and processed it.
However it happened, SC was never told who the employee was or their position, but the dealer had enough details to involve local law enforcement about it. In a stroke of good faith, the dealer said they would handle getting him his money.
SC says he thought that this was a pretty great move by the dealer. He was told the dealership would be sending a document his way that he needed to sign. Once that was out of the way, he would get his money back. SC says he thought it was odd, but he wanted to get everything squared away so he could get his money back and “absolve them of future responsibility.”
Turns out SC’s gut feeling was right. In a WTF moment, the dealer sent over an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). He could get his money back with the catch was that he couldn’t speak to anyone about what happened.
While it’s not unusual for a business to ask a customer to sign an NDA to get a refund, it’s still not a good look. I asked my family’s personal lawyer how this would play out and he stated that it could go both ways. He mentioned that customers could use a business presenting them with an NDA to their advantage. “Get more money out of them,” he said. “ You want me to sign an NDA? Ok give me $5,000, $10,000. It’s all to their benefit at the end of the day, so why not get paid?”
At the end of the day though, he says that something like this should always be approached with caution. “You have to think long-term. You signing the NDA doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll abide by it. They could claim you said something and still sue you. It’s best to either negotiate for money, parts of the NDA to be changed, or just to not sign it at all.”
SC decided that he wasn’t going to sign it. But as its extremely odd for a dealership to hand out NDAs, I presented a theory to him: Was this NDA drawn up by the dealer’s lawyers specifically for him and his situation — or did the existence of this NDA mean that this kind of thing happened all the time? What if they didn’t actually contact law enforcement? They could have used that claim as a way to get him to sign the NDA. Considering this, I contacted local Winston-Salem police to see if they were aware of the situation. While they haven’t responded. I’ll update this post when they do.
After a few months of back and forth contact with the dealer, SC says that their legal department wouldn’t budge saying their “legal required it when I asked for its removal. I assume everyone had to sign it.”
SC never signed the NDA. Had he signed it, he never would have been able to approach Genesis USA to tell them what happened, and the automaker refunded him within a week.
As for the big picture here, this situation is really troubling. Who knows how many customers Bob King has forced into signing NDAs to keep them quiet about their behavior? Stealing a customer’s money and then holding it hostage behind an NDA is a whole other level of sleaze. And like anyone reading this should do, SC washed his hands of the dealer.
“Screw Bob King”, he says.