3 On Your Side

Auto sales business finally returns down payment to customer

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A hand-written receipt documented the transaction. (Source: 3TV) A hand-written receipt documented the transaction. (Source: 3TV)

3 On Your Side found itself in a tiny, discreet business called Arizona Wholesale Motor Group, where employees clearly weren't interested in talking to me.

"Hello? I'm Gary Harper with Channel 3.  You guys know why I'm here, right? I'm here for Roderick Howell, a customer who bought a car from you guys and never got it.”

Howell said he was in that same office back in June when he handed over $4,200 in cash as a down payment for an SUV, a vehicle he never got. He now says he just wants his money back.  

"Give me my money back because I’m holding nothing and you're holding my money," Howell said, referring to Arizona Wholesale Motor Group.

Howell said he came across the SUV on Craigslist, and when he saw it, he thought it would be perfect to haul his family around.

"I still have three kids at home, and I have two grand kids that actually live here with me, so trying to go somewhere in a Tahoe would fit us all,” he said.

Howell said he made an appointment to look at the SUV and wound up dealing with a guy named Rob Salmo.  

"I took a look at it, took pictures of it, drove it; everything was good, and the price was OK," he said.

Howell agreed to buy the SUV for around $8,200 and even handed over $4,200 in cash as a down payment. The money was meant to hold the vehicle for a few weeks while minor repairs were completed. The plan was to return in with the balance - in cash - and pick up the vehicle.

According to Howell, the salesman then drafted a handwritten invoice, documenting the entire transaction.

Howell returned with the balance a few weeks later as agreed, but when he did, things did not go as he anticipated.  

"'Look, I need to be honest with you, someone sold your car,'" he said he was told. "I said 'Oh.' He goes, 'But I’m gonna get you another car.' I said, 'No, forget that; I'll take my refund now.'"

Howell says Arizona Wholesale Motor Group finally agreed to return his money and issued him a refund check.  

When he went to the bank to deposit that check, however, Howell discovered a stop payment had been placed on it, meaning the check was worthless. 

Howell said he has been fighting nearly a month to get his $4,200 back. 

"I'm a little angry, to be quite honest, and very disappointed," he said.

That brings us back to our visit to that nondescript office where Salmo agreed to talk to 3 On Your Side off-camera.

He didn't have much to say about why he put a stop payment on that first refund check to Howell but claims he always intended to return the money.

On this day, at 3 On Your Side's urging, Arizona Wholesale Motor Group finally handed over a cashier’s check for $4,500 and paid Howell back in full. The amount is a few hundred dollars higher than what Howell handed over because the business agreed to compensate him for a rental car he was forced to get in the meantime. 

"Finally I received a cashier's check for $4,500 and went straight to the bank," he said.  "Hopefully it will cash out with no problems; they won't stop payment on it as they've promised, again, and I'll have my cash in hand. And once I do that, everything will be resolved and I'll be happy and I can go on with my life," he said.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is involved in dealer licensing and says it's referring Arizona Wholesale Motor Group over to state investigators.  According to the agency, wholesale dealers can only "sell used motor vehicles to licensed motor vehicle dealers,"  not to consumers like Roderick. 

They also recommend that consumers should keep three things in mind when buying a car.

  • All transactions should look professional and be printed on something with the company's letterhead.
  • Don't rely on any handwritten receipts or invoices.
  • Make sure the receipt contains the Vehicle Identification Number of the vehicle you are purchasing.    

Howell says he learned a valuable lesson.

"This never would have been resolved without 3 On Your Side, so I have to say thank you to the whole 3 On Your Side crew - thank you very much," he said. "No way would this have been resolved without you."

Copyright 2015 3TV (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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