Roger L. Simon

Life in the "Boiler Room" with Chase Auto Finance

I don’t normally write about consumer issues, but I would like to inform my readers about a problem I am currently undergoing, because it may be helpful to others who have a car under lease or are considering leasing one.

My wife and I have leased several cars over the years, most recently a Subaru Tribeca. The lease on that car, through Chase Auto Finance Corp., expired March 2010. Unlike with previous leases, we were asked not to return the vehicle to the dealer, but to another dealer, the nearby Casa de Cadillac, as it happened. We did so on March 31, 2010.

Almost a month later (April 29, 2010), we received a closing bill of $704.12, including tax. Of that sum, $300.00 was for the bank’s conventional “Disposition Fee.” $341.57 was for “Body Repair.” I was rather surprised at that second amount, since we had just a few scratches and we had a deductible of $1000.00. So I read the details of their “Vehicle Appraisal Report”.

We were being billed $481.57 for “REAR – GLASS – BROKEN”. What was that? The car had no rear broken glass when we returned it. It had no broken glass at all, windows or otherwise!

I also noticed on their “Report” that the Subaru had only been inspected on April 27, 2010, again nearly a month after it had been returned by us. The car had apparently been sitting on their lot without inspection for quite some time.

Assuming there was a mistake or even that there had been vandalism, I tried to reach both Chase and the dealer. This did not prove to be simple, but, after several protracted phone calls to the wrong people, spending hours of my time on different days, I got a hold of someone at Chase and told them my story. I asked if they had a photograph of the putative broken glass or window. They told me they would get back to me.

Then, as they say, came “radio silence.” I heard nothing. Over a month later I received a form letter from Chase asking for my payment of $704.12. At least this time, it included a phone number.

I made more calls to Chase over several days, attempting to explain my situation and asking for photographic evidence of the nearly $500.00 worth of broken glass that had mysteriously eluded my attention. These calls were being recorded by Chase. When I asked if I might record them myself as well, I was told this was “illegal”, something that seemed dubious to me, considering they were already recording on their end. (As you will see below, they changed their story on that one.) Again, the responses were vague. They didn’t know if there were any photographs of the alleged broken glass.

Finally, at 7:41AM PDT on June 8, I reached another Chase representative who identified himself also as “Roger” – we had the same first names – and was very cordial to me. He even (correctly) advised me next time to take photos myself of the car before returning it. I assured him I would. Then he acknowledged that there was vandalism where the Subaru was stored and my wife and I would not have to pay for the broken glass.

Huzzah!

I asked him to send a bill for the balance and I would pay forthwith. That bill never came.

Wisely, I had initiated that previous call on Skype, which automatically records the entire conversation with Call Recorder, because…

TODAY (June 23, 2010), I received an early morning call on my landline from Chase… I think it may even have been from the same person…. asking where my closing payment was. I said I was waiting for the bill they promised me. Totally contradicting the previous call, I was told I was responsible for the full amount. I was informed that the people doing the inspection had not agreed to pay for the glass. (I hadn’t known until that point they were even asked to do it.) I again demanded photographic evidence of the breakage. I was told none would be forthcoming. I said I wanted to record the call myself, since he was. He said “The bank does not allow it.” ( So now it was the bank, not the law!) He threatened to hang up if I started recording. I started to scream. He hung up.

It was like a scene out of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” with Chase operating the “boiler room.”

I calmed down and tried to figure out what to do. It’s absurd to call a lawyer over 341 bucks and nobody wants to risk his or her credit rating over a similar amount. Nor do they want to waste precious time in small claims court for this. If this is so obvious to me – someone who deals with things like this, thank God, only on rare occasions – the guys at Chase Auto Finance must know it well. They deal with it all the time.

What they don’t know, however, is that I have this blog and that it reaches thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of people. Perhaps I can add may voice to the many others I just discovered who have had problems with Chase Auto (scroll down here – it goes on for quite a while). Chase will undoubtedly find my report soon enough via Google Alerts.

Meanwhile, I will print out this entry, enclose it with my check to Chase Auto Finance for $326.70 (the $300.00 “Disposition Fee” plus tax) and send it to the finance company “return receipt requested.” I will let you know how, and if, they respond.