Morgan and the Bad Review Recall Snafu

Here’s a story, and it’s true. For the purposes of this story, let’s name our protagonist “Morgan.”

Morgan had a car she purchased from a dealership in Cleveland. She took the vehicle to her dealership for a repair job, and was asked to leave a review for her visit. Morgan wasn’t satisfied with certain aspects of the repair experience, so she left what she felt was an honest review. After all, it took them a week to get her vehicle fixed. That’s not typically something a person enjoys, being without a car for a week.

Later Morgan received a recall notice from the manufacturer of her vehicle. She took the vehicle to the dealership, expecting them to perform the recall repair without issue. Her expectations didn’t live up to reality. The manager of the dealership telephoned Morgan and asked her to take her business elsewhere. According to the dealership’s manager, the negative review from Morgan’s former visit cost one of his mechanics approximately $1,200 as the surveys factor into employee compensation.

Morgan got the recall finished at another dealership able to work on her car. The manager of the dealership from which she purchased the vehicle refused to do so because of a bad review. Whether this practice is legal is questionable at best. Federal law allows Morgan to have issues with her vehicle fixed when based on a recall notice at no cost to her.  This is because we value consumer safety with regards to the products sold in the United States. As long as she gets the repair fixed by an agent authorized to perform the recall, Morgan received that to which she was entitled by law.

Whether Morgan’s dealership had to perform the recall is another matter entirely. While the dealership is bound by law to fix issues stemming from a recall notice with the car’s manufacturer, one could easily argue they did not have to perform the recall repair on Morgan’s specific car. This is arguably a contract of specific performance, and courts have previously held enforcing parties to perform on contracts of specific performance is sketchy at best, if not completely unenforceable. Given the nature of the manager’s call to Morgan, it’s arguable her best recourse would be taking her vehicle to another authorized agent!

As an example, let’s say Morgan pushed hard enough and convinced the dealership to perform the recall repair. Morgan is not an automotive expert. The mechanics in the dealership’s service department would know about her negative review, and how that review cost one of their own a substantial chunk of change. Morgan is essentially putting her life at this point into the hands of people who really don’t like her very much. The repair might be performed, but there’s nothing stopping a mechanic or other ill-willed party from “slipping” and causing damage to another component of the vehicle, resulting in another, more costly repair for Morgan.

That said, the idea of refusing service to customers based on negative reviews, solicited by the dealership is a bad business move. It looks petty, and gives the dealership a bad reputation as one that punishes honest criticism rather than extending a hand in good faith to make a bad customer experience better. It’s enough to question whether anyone should purchase a vehicle at the dealership in question, or attempt to get a repair job on a previously purchased vehicle at that dealership. If the mechanic’s pay is based on the customer’s review, and negative reviews adversely impact the mechanic, then unless the dealership is transparent about this policy more customers will have Morgan’s experience.

Businesses routinely ask customers for reviews of their work and products. When a customer isn’t satisfied, asking for a review will probably result in a less than positive review. If the business can’t take criticism, or punishes the customer for their honest feedback, then that business is one not worth patronizing.