Worst car shopping experience ever …

2004_mini_cooper_s.jpgEver felt like the car salesman was taking you for a test-drive before you even got to touch the car?

I need a new car fairly quickly, and a Mini Cooper S is at the top of my list. Unfortunately, yesterday I had the worst car-shopping experience of my life at Affinity Auto in Vancouver.

[ update Jan 10 2008 ] See comments at the bottom of this page – there have since been some changes at Affinity which bode well for customer service. BTW, here’s the Mini I did buy …

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Affinity Auto is obviously a niche car lot … not a dealership, but focusing pretty intently on higher-end vehicles. There were a few BMWs, some Audis, 3-4 Porsches, and a couple of other higher-end vehicles on the lot. And, of course, the Mini – an ’04 S model with 25K klicks, leather, and a sunroof.

So obviously I was not looking at the higher-end merchandise, and boy was I made aware of that fact. (Which is interesting, considering that I can afford any vehicle on their lot – if I choose to spend that much on a vehicle. I don’t, of course!) It’s amazing what impression you can give with selective attention, delays before answering questions, and so on …

Then the salesman, Cornelis Bobeldijk, wanted to start negotiating price with me before I actually took the car for a test drive! Quite clearly he was wondering if I was his kind of customer.

Eventually I managed to satisfy him – I had driven half an hour to check out this vehicle, and it’s the closest one to what I want available right now in the Vancouver area, so I really wanted to check out the car.

The irony of the matter is that by the time I had finished the test drive I was in no mood at all to do business with this salesperson and this car lot … so that even though the car is just about exactly what I want, I don’t think I’ll even make an offer.

Life is too short to spend with people like that … and there are too many other businesses out there that are courteous and enjoyable to work with to reward one like this for nasty behavior.


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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  • As a specialty dealership which focuses on luxury and performance vehicles, many of which are unique on the market at any given time, I am sure you can appreciate that we receive many requests for test drives on a daily basis.

    It is an ongoing challenge for us to distinguish between people who possess a genuine desire and ability to purchase one of our cars from people who do not. Making this distinction without offending some people is not always easy. With this in mind, we have consciously instituted certain test drive policies. Among them, we choose not to conduct test drives with anyone before there has been a conversation and basic agreement about price. As a small company, we choose not to expose our cars to the risks associated with test drives unless the customer has agreed, in general terms at least, that they intend to make an offer. To put it simply, if we are miles apart on price, we don’t see any point in allowing a test drive.

    I can assure you that your experience was not a result of Cornelis “wondering if you were his kind of customer,” as you speculated, but rather a result of a desire to qualify the opportunity before allowing our car to be driven. We acknowledge that many, perhaps most, large franchise dealerships have very liberal test drive policies and we appreciate the fact that this has caused many people to believe that it is their right to test drive any car of their choice the moment they step foot into a dealership. Our stance on the matter differs from this and, though unconventional, it works well for us.

    We sincerely regret that you were offended by your experience at Affinity Auto and we would welcome an opportunity to directly address any future concerns that you might have. We also hope to have an chance to earn your business at some point in the future.

    For your possible interest, Cornelis is not just a salesman but a partner at Affinity Auto. The MINI you were looking at sold this morning, without a test drive.


    Trevor Kramer
    President & Principal, Business Development
    Affinity Auto

  • I agree, there are total assholes out there posing as salespeople / customer service peopIe when their true jobs should be fIipping burgers or cIeaning toiIets.

  • John, give Rob de Silva a call over at Autoway.ca (http://www.autoway.ca/) I’ve had great service from him and he has access to all sorts of ex lease vehicles (no Mini’s llisted on the site but I’m pretty sure he could find one for you). They also have very fair pricing.
    Derek H

  • Lame rant. Would you let a complete stranger drive your car? I don’t blame the dealer for not letting a whining geek like you drive his car without asking some questions.

  • Thanks Derek …

    In response to Trevor
    Thanks for paying attention and posting – ‘preciate it. I can understand that you want to know roughly whether or not someone is interesting in buying the car at or near your asking price before spending time on a test drive. However, you can do that in a polite way, or you can do that in an obviously dismissive, disrespectful, and frankly rude way. That’s the way Cornelis treated me … and that’s why I posted on it.

    To Fred
    Umm … have you ever test-driven a car before buying it? Nuff said … except that last month at a Mission dealership a part-owner let me test-drive a G35 sedan without even getting my license! (I was at that time trying to decide between a G35 and a Mini.)

  • i suppose i was being a IittIe to sharp with my comments without understanding the fuII scope of this issue, my point has been that when someone wants to make a purchase somewhere, they are spending their own hard earned money and they wouId Iike it to be a perfect smooth buy, to do this you need professionaIIy trained saIes peopIe, have you noticed how in stores such as nordstrom there is so much passion to be a decent saIes person, perhaps because high cIass peopIe are used to the idea of being totaIIy respectfuI and sensitive as weII at the same time.

  • it should also be noted that sales people are human beings just like us, they have a family , feelings, moms, dads, and a goal in life, they also have bills to pay and so on, the combained stress from all this issues can have an effect on their day just as it has on our day and on everyday peoples lives, one day a sales person might not be in such a good mood for various reasons, perhaps it was something he had for dinner last night that made him somewhat sick as a result he/she did not get enough sleep and his day is sort of dizzy , lack of sleep can impact the way one behaves all day long in very strong ways.

  • That’s not shocking, Ryan. I’m sure they’re fine, maybe even really good most of the time. The time I was there, the service sucked.

    (And btw, I’ve since bought a Mini … for more than the asking price of the one I was looking at at Affinity.)

  • Every company has empIoyees that are not perfect, since this is not a perfect worId it shouId not be expected for everything to be perfect in the first pIace, infact if everything was perfect then the meaning for “imperfection” wouId compIeteIy be diminished, in order for there to be competition something eIse that is considered an option or a “perfect option” or “perfection in action ” has to be exposed to competition in this case the competition wouId have to be “more perfect than the perfection in action” this is a reason why there are many companies seIIing cars to begin with, after aII if one company made aII the perfect cars for the perfect price with the perfect saIes techniques then there wouId be no reaosn what so ever for someone to go to another deaIer, peopIe make their decisions based on Iogic and feeIings and feeIings are backed by their own Iogic which is backed by their own perception, if a car Iooks good but the saIesperson does not , it irrattates them in some cases peopIe say “i do not want to remember this horribIe experience everytime i drive this car” which is more of a mentaI issue however it is an existing mentaI issue in today’s worId.

  • Cool, but how are you better off having paid more? This whole situation seems like a bit of a pointless exercise, no?

  • I like all the people who think that Everyone in Auto sales is a lieing thieving fatherless child. The truth be told, most customers come with a chip on thier shoulders right from the get go. Our policy here on test drives, is a little complex, But not everone is allowed to drive our cars. I will always need a copy of your Drivers liscence, and a valid telephone number, don’t want to give thoose, my car stays here. Basicaly a Demo drive is a privledge and not a right. You do not own the vehicle, we do. and John Koetsier I doubt you are dumb enough to pay more elsewhere.

  • According to the APA(Automotive Protection Association), the worst place to try and buy a car is right here in good ‘ol Vancouver, where deceitful behaviour among dealers runs rampant. So David, if most customers come in with a “chip on their shoulders”, it is for good reason.

    If you want an extreme example of what the APA is talking about, take a spin back to yesteryear, when flim-flammers and con-artists were commonplace. Go visit Eagle Ridge Pontiac Buick GMC in Coquitlam. They operate in a manner that would astonish even the most jaded among us.

    John, its funny how people pass judgment on others without knowing anything about them. My dad, who is quite well off, went into a dealership with the intent to purchase an expensive vehicle. He was dressed in shorts, and golf shirt, because, well, he’s retired and can dress any way he wants. The salesman he encountered was obviously not impressed by Dad’s appearance. The salesman consequently was flippant and dismissive. My dad, visibly annoyed, turned to leave. On his way out, he took a thick roll of bills out his pocket, waved it in the salesman’s face, smiled and said, “I guess some other dealership is going to get this.”

    Snobby salespeople beware. Unless you sell Bentleys, you better find some other occupation.

  • I have dealt with Affinity Auto on a few occations and I have had nothing but positive experiences..with the other staff that is. I went to Affinity a few weeks ago and had a terrible experience with Cornelis.

    I called in to talk to someone about it yesterday, and I am pleased to know that he is no longer with the company. I see they have finally rid themselves of the one who was making them look bad.

    After my call I was invited back to the store and they took great care of me. I ended up buying my new Land Rover and I can’t be happier. Their new showroom looks fantastic too! Highly reccommended. Maybe you should give them another try John? Nice site by the way. 🙂

  • Interesting that I came across this blog today as I couldn’t believe that the internet wasn’t rife with complaints about Affinity Auto.

    Its nice of “Ted T” to tell us that the offending salesman is persona non grata now, how convenient that he dropped by.

    As for myself I popped into Affinity Auto earlier this month and was sold at, sorry dealt with, by Trevor Kramer whom I believe is the owner. Shocking hard sales and aggressive antics coupled with a supercilious manner didnt exactly make me warm to the man. I entered wanting a Porsche Cayenne and I left 20 minutes later after being patronized and talked down to.

    The worst automobile experience of my 42 year old life.

  • Funny reading this. I guess you can’t please everyone all the time. I’ve had nothing but wonderful service from Cornelis for over 18yrs. From my first car (VW) to my last (Porsche).

    He’s consistently offered the best advice, trade options, and the most laid back attitude. I never have to worry about anything, he’s got me covered.

    Respect is a two way street. You offer it, you get it. Cornelis was abiding by the policies they had at Affinity for test driving.

    If you want to test drive a mini? go to the showroom in Yaletown. They’ll let Joker get in their cars. If you want some jerk blowing smoke up yours, then go to Affinity. But if you want honesty, great service and attention and special arrangements, then go to Cornelis. He`s hard to read because he`s not an expressive person, but he`s a good listener, got good knowledge, and great customer service.

    It’s Affinity’s loss that he’s no longer there, but he loyal customers such as myself will follow him wherever he goes.

  • Interesting that almost 2 years after the last post, I just received the same treatment by both Trevor Kramer and Martin Spencer at Affinity Auto. I’ve never been so poorly treated in my life. Not even when I purchased my first car at the age of 16. They were rude, condescending, and utterly awful.

    How is it that over three years later these guys are still in business? I can’t imagine they will be for much longer. Do yourself a favour and shop somewhere, anywhere, ELSE!

  • Also had a horrible experience dealing with Trevor Kramer. Lack of respect above all else.

  • Wow, can’t believe this post is still alive and being found. Speaks to the need to have great customer service … you never know when you’re speaking to a blogger!

  • Do not get me started. Let’s just say,even in 2014, Trevor, Martin, & Stuart are still as unprofessional and classless as ever. The only reason they’re still in business is because they’re conning their silent business partner.