Vroom wanted to revolutionize automotive retailing, but in the process have racked up a truly harrowing number of customer complaints.
The steady move to a digital model in automotive retailing got a shot in the arm courtesy of the pandemic. As shopping online for every necessity became the norm, many white collar workers found themselves with plummeting expenses. It was only natural these two pressures would result in what we’re now seeing: an increased comfortability with purchasing a car online, to a degree that even five years ago would have been unthinkable. Online-only dealership Vroom has been reaping the benefits.
But all is not as rosy as it first appears. The traditional objection to a completely online business model has been that a car is the most expensive consumer good most people will ever buy, so they want to make sure they know what they’re getting. They want to inspect it in person, kick the tires, take a test drive and so on. The only way to make these concerns a thing of the past is a sterling reputation based on earned trust and a spotless record.
According to the extraordinary number of complaints to the Better Business Bureau, Vroom has gone another way. Journalist Susan Tompor gathered a sampling of the horror stories for Asia Daily News. Essentially, the cars that Vroom promises are not always in the condition Vroom promised. The kinds of damage reported range from simple dents, to weird smells in the cabin, to a car delivered with both front axles on the verge of failure.
To conceal such damage, Vroom has even allegedly taken the quite literally shady tactic of delivering the cars at night. Harder to see damage then, and more unlikely that a customer will take it for a spin after bedtime. The complaints are egregious to a historic degree. Dan Parsons, president of the Better Business Bureau, as said it’s one of the worst cases of a pattern of bad customer service he has seen in nearly four decades with the BBB.
It isn’t just that customers aren’t getting the vehicles that Vroom’s site led them to believe they were. The process of returning them and of getting some restitution is painful as well. A refund has been known to take months. One customer, after receiving a surprise $4000 bill (that wasn’t mentioned on the original agreement), pulled the plug on a deal, and spent over 40 hours on the phone with Vroom’s unhelpful customer service. They did finally get their money, though at the cost of a huge amount of time and stress.
Dan Parsons, president of the Better Business Bureau, as said it’s one of the worst cases of a pattern of bad customer service he has seen in nearly four decades with the BBB.
One of the strangest aspects of Vroom’s evidently terrible customer service is that often vehicles arrive to customers missing vital paperwork, meaning they can’t be registered and therefore legally driven. Some of the complaints to the BBB revolve around a lack of help with registration and being unable to obtain a license plate.
Vroom had its eye on making mom and pop dealerships obsolete. In the process, it’s apparently forgotten what makes those stores so attractive to loyal clientele. The BBB complaints point to a business that’s cutting corners and producing a string of unhappy customers and that’s a recipe for disaster.
The true irony is that the business model Vroom is attempting to create has already been one-upped. DealerOn clients have all the benefits that come with an online showroom, but also have a physical store to serve customers in the way they would like. These days, that tends to be a combination of both, with a customer browsing vehicles online before coming into the dealership for a final inspection and purchase.
We wish Vroom the best, but the future lies with multiple approaches.
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