Lawsuit Won Over Dealer Blocking Exits Until Customer Buys Car

Be careful out there. You don’t want to get held at a car dealer until you sign on the dotted line. That’s what is being reported today as a law firm in Maryland, just won an award for its client after just such a thing happened. Most car dealerships don’t use pressure tactics to sell you a car but there are still those outliers that can’t help but go low to sell high. Here are some examples. 

A Maryland consumer protection attorney first told Jalopnik that dealerships are using “false imprisonment” to keep buyers on lots until they take a “deal” they don’t want. Attorney Daniel Whitney Jr. said his client signed a new car contract then decided the price was more than originally stated. But the dealership manager tried to force her to sign off on the related paperwork. 

The dealer manager threatened her to sign but she refused

Shady-looking car salesman in black and white image
Shady-looking car salesman in 1975 | Getty

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He says that signing the other paperwork was not necessary since the sale had been completed. The manager threatened her to sign but she refused. She left the office and went to her car to leave but another employee blocked her car from taking off. When she called the police the dealer moved the car blocking her allowing her to leave. 

The buyer then contacted Mr. Whitney. The firm was able to reach a settlement of $100,000 from the dealer. But he has another case similar to this one.

This “hide the keys” ploy is fairly common among certain car dealers

mirror reflection of woman being sold car by salesman
The mirror reflection of a woman being sold the car by salesman | Getty

A woman took her car in to a dealership to have it repaired. While there she started looking over a new car in the showroom. The dealer hid the keys to what would be her trade in which the dealer said it couldn’t find. When she called the police the dealer “found” her keys. This “hide the keys” ploy is fairly common among certain dealerships. 

So what should you do if you find yourself held hostage in a dealership? It is recommended to always bring your phone with you. If the dealer starts fooling around, call the police. Dealership salesmen will normally change their method for selling cars if the police get involved. 

Another suggestion is to start recording the incident. Just make sure that the dealership is aware that you are recording the proceeds. After you leave you should contact the dealer and demand that they “preserve all interior and exterior audio and video recordings on the date the incident happened in anticipation of litigation.” 

Getting a written quote from a car dealer is a great way to shop around

Nash illustration of salesman handing keys over to new owner
Vintage illustration of a 1940s family receiving the keys to their brand new 1947 Nash car | Getty

Getting a written quote from a dealer is a great way to shop around. Deals that are only good for that day or aren’t honored once the customer leaves the dealership are red flags. Do your research online to see what the best-advertised deals are. Also, look at ratings for dealers and comments from past customers. 

And don’t feel like a bad dealer means they are all bad. Most dealers have gotten with the program for making sales in the 21st century. Those that rely on old methods of squeezing people are getting to be fewer and fewer.