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Monday, 11 May 2015

Be careful with free offers

The BBC News website reported last week (before I became diverted by the election) that a dealer had found itself being taken advantage of: 'Free meal' garage customer's £700 bill at top London restaurant. A customer offered a meal out for two in apology for damage caused to her car on the premises managed to run up a bill of £714, including a surprising amount of alcohol ("four glasses of champagne, two bottles of wine costing £69 each, six cocktails totalling £86 and a sloe gin": is that humanly possible?). The dealer is offering to split it with the customer, which (knowing only what is in the BBC report) seems to me to be highly optimistic: even if there is no legal obligation (and this could be no more than a gift, with no consideration to make it a binding contract, as the actual damage was fixed and a courtesy car provided) it plays very badly in the media.

Of course, the solution is quite simple, and the dealer is no doubt kicking its corporate self for missing the obvious: put a cap on the amount you'll spend. And there is nothing to stop someone in the same position designating the restaurant too, providing an opportunity to give a customer a little business at the same time as making a disgruntled customer a little more gruntled.

On another point, as I have frequently observed the motor trade is in the odd position of manufacturers' goodwill being in the hands of its dealers, a matter which the manufacturers have in fact exacerbated over the past decade by increasing the prominence of their own identity over that of the actual dealer. The result is that the wronged party in this story, which now might be seen to be squirming to try to claw back a sum of money that the public will probably consider paltry by its standards, is not the dealer but Audi. (That makes it even more paltry, of course.) It is sad to see anyone trying to do the right thing being so badly taken advantage of, but it's worse perhaps when that person is wrongly identified.

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