How A Dealership Sold A Mother's Birthday Gift Out From Under Her

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This is the story of a good son who wanted to buy his mom a car for her birthday. This son won the vehicle of her dreams on eBay, but then things turned south when the dealership hemmed and hawed and sold the car to a local buyer as if the eBay auction were just another circular they could drop their ad in.

Jalopnik and eBay see it differently. Let's see what we can do to fix this.

At first the dealership, Major Motor Cars in Santa Monica CA, sellers of "fine luxury automobiles," delayed and wouldn't take Nishboo — the son's — deposit on the BMW X6 he'd won in a no-reserve auction for $42,300. Then they decided to sell it to a local buyer instead for $49k, thus depriving Nishboo of the gift he'd hoped to give to his mom on her birthday.



After Nishboo won the auction and contacted the dealership the next day several times to try to make a deposit, Peter from Major Motor reportedly told him that a local buyer was trying to get financing on the car and had left a deposit two days prior.

"He said he will let me know on Friday if I can have the car based on eBay pricing," Nishboo wrote in a forum post. "I made it clear that this is not the way eBay works."

The dealer pledged to try sell him the car if they could. When Nishboo called back the next day, Peter picked up the phone. "The car has been sold, brother," he said, according to Nishboo.


Via email, Nishboo told me:

They claimed they had a deposit for the vehicle a few days before the auction ended. I explained the auction should have been closed in that case. They said that their eBay auctions are done by someone outside, and used to bring interest in on a vehicle they are looking to sell. They said they are not the best at eBay and that they are a car dealership with walk-ins first. I said that didn't excuse them from closing the auction or updating saying they have a deposit. All he did was apologize and tell me the car was sold.


Nishboo said he then tried calling the dealership back and they dodged his phone calls. That's when he posted asking for advice on the e46fanatic forum. After getting recommendations to send it to Jalopnik, he forwarded his story to me. The other members of the forum began posting updates on how they were calling up the dealership and leaving remarks on their Facebook wall and in their Google Reviews.


After checking his story out, I picked up my trusty reporter phone and called up eBay. I showed them the listing and explained the situation. eBay said unequivocally that Major Motor needed to have sold Nishboo the car.If they don't sell the car to Nishboo, eBay said, Major Motor could get banned from the auction site. eBay didn't return a request for policy clarification I sent their PR office.


But, according to eBay's policies posted online, all bids made in the eBay Motors vehicles categories are considered non-binding, which means that it "shows a buyer's interest in purchasing an item, but it doesn't create a formal contract between the buyer and the seller." Because, while, "in most cases, a bid on eBay is a legally binding contract between the buyer and the seller," the policy states, "due to state laws and the complexities of real estate and vehicle transactions, bids in those categories are non-binding."

That said, eBay's same policy page states that "backing out of the transaction due to buyer or seller remorse" is not allowed. Neither is "backing out of the transaction because buyers didn't place a high enough bid and the seller didn't add a reserve price."


After this article published, an eBay PR rep called to confirm the policy posted online and cited above was their policy for cases like these.


On top of what eBay said, according to California Universal Commercial Code,

2328 (4) If the auctioneer knowingly receives a bid on the seller's behalf or the seller makes or procures such a bid, and notice has not been given that liberty for such bidding is reserved, the buyer may at his option avoid the sale or take the goods at the price of the last good faith bid prior to the completion of the sale.


In other words, if a buyer wins an auction, they get to take what they won and pay the price they won it at. Sounds like a pretty good system.



I asked Nishboo what would make him happy, now that the original car has been sold to another buyer. He said that all he wants Major Motor to sell him the same make and model BMW, at the same price, with a comparable condition and history. He would prefer for it to be blue, but he would also take white. He also wants the dealership to pay for the pre-purchase inspection, as compensation for the hassle he's been through, and to ship it to him with their same 5-day return policy. He will still pay for shipping.


It took several phone calls over several days to get Major Motor to talk to me. Finally Peter referred me to their lawyer Brian Ward for all comments. Ward said the the dealership was investigating legal action and as such wouldn't comment on any aspect of the case. Part of the issue is that it seems their nose was a bit put out of shape by a blog post made by another member on the e46fanatics forum about the story that contained some inflammatory language. Ward also gave a little laugh when I told him what eBay had said about their transactions being binding contracts.


"We'll let the justice system sort out the facts," he said, "without interference from the press."

After getting stonewalled on the actual story itself, I told the lawyer something that surprised him: Nishboo still wants to buy a car from Major Motors.


"I think Major Motors would still do business with him," said Ward. "They're in the business of putting people into cars. So if he wants to give a car and a price and see if they can track it down for him I know they'd be happy to do that... No business owner wants this kind of attention, deserved or undeserved."

He added, "Putting the deal back together is always the best medicine. Certainly makes my job easier if we can get along and put a transaction in place."



I called Nishboo and told him that the dealership was considering legal action, but was willing to work with him to make the deal happen. "You put a smile on my face after many days of being stressed out," Nishboo said.


"I don't think they had any malice, it's just a bad situation but they weren't working with me. I'm sure it's a mistake. But working with me would have solved it sooner. But when you don't pick up my phone call, I can't tell you what I'm thinking," said Nishboo. "I'm not trying to put anyone out of business. I just want to buy the car I told my mother I was going to purchase for her."

I gave Nishboo Major Motor's lawyer's info and he said he would call them with his attorney to try to hash out a deal.


If they're able to get the car, Nishboo pledged to send in "a picture of me giving the keys to my mom." He'll also get a sticker to put on the car that says, "as seen on Jalopnik."

We'll keep you updated.

UPDATE: We've heard from an attorney for the dealership and this appears to have been resolved amicalbly. Here's what they said:

Mr. Popken:

I am writing in regards to the following article:….

 It is my understanding that you have been provided a letter with updated information from the potential buyer regarding the resolution of this dispute.  To that end, I would like to take you up on your offer at the end of the article where you write: "We'll keep you updated."  If, for some reason, you have not received the letter I am referring to, I will be happy to provide you with a copy.

At the end of the day, these two parties were able to amicably resolve their differences to each of their satisfaction.  As a result, the tone and tenor of your article is no longer accurate.  Since your attention to this issue did, in some way, contribute to the resolution, I would hope that you would be eager to share this information.

If you require any other information from me, please do not hesitate to ask.