My Entry: - Steven Eagell Toyota Birmingham.
I have already revealed parts of this narrative in a couple of previous posts on this forum but, as it has now (hopefully) reached a conclusion, this is it in complete form.
The following has turned out to be something of an epic and reads in places like a staggeringly preposterous work of badly-written fiction!
So much so I wonder if this dealership really is trying to win some kind of ‘worst dealer in the country’ award!
The Purpose of this Post
I’m posting this as a form of closure for me but also as a kind of eye-opener of just how really dreadful an organisation can become in the way it treats its customers.
Perhaps it might also provide some optimism to those who may have similar experiences, either now or in the future, that such corporations, whose working practices are so irresponsible, lackadaisical, incompetent and arrogant (insert as many other execrable descriptors as you like!) can be successfully challenged to a favourable conclusion.
Birmingham Toyota is part of a large conglomerate of car dealerships under the banner (and ownership) of Steven Eagell. This automotive group is privately owned, and apparently has 22 branches across the South East, East of England and the West Midlands. They specialise in Toyota and Lexus cars.
Being such a large conglomerate, one could be forgiven for the assumption that they would, through years of experience and expertise (some 17 years apparently), practise the ultimate in customer service and professionalism.
Indeed their letterhead states that they: - “Strive for Complete Customer Satisfaction”.
No doubt this account will convince many that in fact customer satisfaction is positioned very low down on their list of endeavours.
15th June 2021.
I was involved in a car smash with a dim-sighted white van man back in June. This wrote off my 7 yr old Mk3 Yaris Excel Hybrid and left me quite seriously ‘hors de combat’ with multiple rib fractures. My dashcam proved I was not at fault and my insurance company paid up promptly (and generously I have to say - Direct Line). I needed/wanted a replacement vehicle ASAP but could not get about or test drive anything for some weeks.
20th June 2021.
So I tried car search engines such as CarWow, AutoTrader and Discount New Cars. These proved pretty easy to use and gave quick results but did not prevent traders from trying out scams such as claiming to have mythical vehicles in stock and then attempting to switch your choice to a car they did have - even a different make entirely in some cases!
I wanted a Mk4 Yaris Excel, Panoramic Roof - same as the one I had - but new version - and I was picky on specific colours. I would even consider buying new - at a push. But to no avail.
22nd June 2021
…until I AutoTrader pointed me to Toyota Birmingham selling a Sept 2020 Decuma Grey Yaris Excel ex-demonstrator with 8600 miles. Not exactly my first choice of colour but I thought - what the heck!
Negotiation over the telephone went through OK. I dismissed the usual extras for GAP insurance and ceramic coatings etc. They would deliver the car to my home address in Northumberland and throw in a space-saving spare wheel plus tool-kit. Bingo!
The rest of the communications for the sale were by e-mail - which turned out quite fortuitous as I had written evidence of who said what - when.
Car Delivered- Things not quite as they should be.
30th June 2021
The car arrived on time, driven by the actual sales-person who negotiated the deal. He did not stop for a polite chat or refreshment but handed me the keys and a plastic wallet stuffed with papers and hastily climbed into his mate’s car for the return journey. I was somewhat puzzled by that but didn’t dwell on it.
It was a while later that I started to realise that certain things were not quite as they should have been: -
1. No pre-delivery check-list / information - even though I had specifically asked for such.
2. The service book was not filled in or stamped - just a blank unused book. No record of a pre-delivery service.
3. Emailing the salesperson, I was given given assurances that the car really had been serviced. Told to log on to Toyota UK and look up my car online. No apologies though. Toyota UK online recorded that a major/maintenance service was noted as carried out on 30/06/2021 but no details (see ‘2.’ above). Later, (10th Sept 2021) my own local Toyota Dealer ‘Stoneacre Toyota Newcastle’ confirmed details of the service on record from Toyota’s Database. But my dealership stated that the recorded ‘Major’ service was incorrect and was in fact an ‘Intermediate’ one (which is what it should be on the car’s first service or after one year).
4. Toyota UK online also stated that a repair to my car, particularly the replacement of the N/S/F tyre, was undertaken on 26/02/2021 and 15/04/2021 (why two different dates? And the recorded mileage shows that the car was not in use between those dates - more than two months!) - No further details available and this was not mentioned in the sale (also refer to ‘1’ above).
At this point, any one of these findings (annoying as they were) could just be put down to haste or other forms of human error and life moves on. Which is what I had in mind when first finding the unstamped service book, and the lack of a PDC/PDI.
Further disconcerting ‘discoveries’ made on the car.
8th August 2021.
5. Grubby marks on the car seats and door panels (not pronounced but noticeable) - these I managed to remove with two or three applications of car interior shampoo - but this frustrating necessity should not have been required on a newly delivered car. (no signature in the valeting box on a brief and belated checklist, a rough photocopy of which was e-mailed to me after my complaint - so valet was not checked properly before delivery).
6. Car jack missing - empty space in the boot wall where the jack should be. The space-saving spare wheel and tools had been agreed in the sale. Changing a wheel by the roadside is rather difficult without a jack!
7. The original tyre repair-kit that came with the car (with a pneumatic pump) was missing. No instructions had been given to replace the original tyre repair kit with the space-saving spare wheel. The car should still have its tyre-repair kit.
8. I needed to top-up the air pressure in the N/S/F passenger tyre. Ascertained this tyre has a slow puncture (the same tyre that needed a two month repair!). Borrowed a pneumatic pump. Discovered that the 12v Lighter socket did not work - no power from the socket.
9. Checked Lighter Socket fuse in case the pump had blown the fuse. Fuse-box lid was loose, tied to the footwell wiring with a plastic cable-tie. Not fitted where it should be.
10. The 12v 15A Lighter Socket fuse was entirely missing! Concluded (with the help of folks on this forum) that the car been fitted with a dash-cam at the dealership. Someone had carelessly removed the dash-cam without replacing the fuse (or the fuse-box lid)?
11. When such errors, omissions and mistakes begin to accumulate, it starts to point to a worrying lack of essential methods of working that definitely do not appear to be appropriate in the customer-care department of the dealership concerned!
12. So, I e-mailed the Salesperson and the General Manager of Birmingham Toyota outlining my acute dissatisfaction with the way my car purchase had been handled and pointing out the above vexations.
Never received a reply from the General Manager.
9th August 2021.
13. Received a reply e-mail from the sales-person that sold me (and delivered) the car.
a) No need for a PDC/PDI as the car had all the checks needed before delivery (really?).
b) The NSF Tyre was repaired due to a puncture and did not need to be declared in the sale (did not address the apparent two months delay in the repair).
c) He denied there were ever any stains - the car was immaculate he said, but the dealership would re-valet the car if it was brought back to Birmingham! (I declined that offer!)
d) The deal was a spare wheel OR the repair-kit, not both (His word against mine - unfortunately no e-mail record of this agreement).
e) Apologised for the missing fuse, said it would be replaced under Toyota warranty by my local dealer. My local dealer said that careless vandalism by another dealer was not part of the Toyota warranty scheme!
f) Sent me a crude photocopy of a pre-delivery check and service list.
g) Promised to reimburse me for the missing car jack if I sent proof of purchase.
h) Apologised for the inconvenience (but the seriousness of this complaint (and the sheer number of errors found) should have warranted an explanation / apology from the GM - not just the Sales Person).
But I accepted the offer of reimbursement for the car jack (just to end the whole infuriating process TBH) and waited, and waited, and waited…
The days passed. No further communication. No money was reimbursed.
22nd August 2021.
14. I wrote to the sales-person again asking if the money was ever going to be forthcoming or whether Toyota Birmingham were going to renege on their promise. The salesperson replied saying he no longer worked for Toyota Birmingham and would hand my dispute over to someone else!
…and the money would be forthcoming in a few days!
6th September 2021.
Over two weeks passed and still nothing, so I e-mailed the GM of Toyota Birmingham again.
The Management Conundrum
15. At this point it really gets quite surreal (if it wasn’t already!). On that same day (6th Sept) someone identifying himself as the ‘Sales’ Manager of Birmingham Toyota (not the ‘General’ Manager) eventually contacted me by mobile. He stated that my e-mails to the ‘General’ Manager had been to the wrong person! That person was/is really the GM of Wolverhampton Toyota and he had passed my last e-mail to Birmingham Toyota after realising I wasn’t one of his customers!
Since I was sitting in front of my PC at the time I took the call, I immediately checked to make sure I had obtained the information about the GM correctly, and there he was, on the Toyota Birmingham website listed as such - with his photograph and details. The sales manager had no explanation as to why the photograph and information of the GM were wrong on his own company’s website! No apology for that of course - and a few days later, the web-page was changed to show a different set of people (not before I took a screen-shot however!). No account of what happened to my first e-mail to the GM of Birmingham Toyota.
16. Strangely, (as if it could get any more strange) the Wolverhampton Toyota Website showed a picture of someone that looked like the same person that was originally listed as ‘General Manager’ of Birmingham Toyota, but with a different name and he was/is listed as ‘Sales’ Manager (not ‘General’ Manager). If this person wasn’t / isn’t the same person as the one in the Birmingham Toyota photograph then it might as well be his long lost twin-brother!
Confused! Hopefully the link (at the bottom of this article) to the screen-shots of the Toyota Management teams will elucidate things a bit more - even though I have blurred the images and changed the actual names to fictitious ones.
I can’t even begin to grasp what was/is happening there - apart from further evidence of gross-incompetence perhaps!
The sales manager also stated that the money for the car-jack would take several ‘weeks’ (not days) to come through as it had to be paid out as a cheque via London head-office! Really!!!
Just be patient and it will come through he said - Yeah OK!
Oil Service Warning.
9th September 2021
17. Anyway, all this was circumvented by another disturbing event. The ‘Oil Service Warning’ message suddenly appeared on my car dash. Since the car had supposedly been given a major service prior to delivery on the 30th June by Steven Eagell Toyota Birmingham - this warning message should certainly not have appeared.- yet another totally unacceptable grievance to add to the growing list.
18. Now, given the long catalogue of incidents / omissions that had already occurred with this car sale, my initial questions / concerns about the oil warning message were not limited to but certainly exacerbated by these thoughts: -
1. Had Toyota Birmingham really serviced the car?
2. Had the dealership serviced it and ‘forgotten’ to reset the oil warning message?
3. If the dealership had carelessly ‘forgotten’ to reset the oil warning message, had they also ‘forgotten’ to carry out some other more important servicing requirements?
3. Would it damage the car if I continued to drive it?
10th September 2021
In an attempt to resolve these imperative questions I urgently needed to take my car to my own local Toyota dealership (Stoneacre Newcastle) to find out if the car really did require an oil maintenance service and how to remove the message.
Stoneacre interrogated their more detailed Toyota service database for my car and confirmed that Toyota records indicated that the car had been serviced on 30/06/2021. They gave me a copy of their printout which included a list of the parts that had been used in the service (including and confirming a new key-fob battery and a number plate!). Upon checking the colour of my engine oil, it appeared quite clean - so perhaps corroborating it had been changed recently.
Now 30/06/2021 happened to be the same day as the car was delivered to me. It arrived early afternoon, so not a lot of time to carry out a service and drive 214 miles (three and a half hours) to my home address in Northumberland. Might account for the apparent ‘rushed’ job of the service.
My dealership also pointed out that the service performed was an ‘Intermediate’ one and not ‘Major’ (as claimed by Birmingham Toyota). They also said they could not remove the warning message as they had not carried out the service themselves. I would just have to live with this message until the car needed servicing again in a year’s time!
Unless I wanted to drive down to Toyota Birmingham to get it done! You can perhaps guess my answer to that!
12th September 2021
19. I wrote an extra e-mail to the Sales Manager of Toyota Birmingham, pointing out (politely!) that yet another fault caused by Steven Eagell Birmingham Toyota had aggregated the growing (and extremely annoying!) list of errors and omissions. I also informed him that (in the light of on-going events and since I had not received any of the promised remuneration at all), I was curtailing my goodwill gesture of accepting reimbursement for only the car-jack and was triggering section 75 of the 1974 consumer credit act to claw back payment for ALL the expenses I had incurred during this dispute.
14th September 2021
20. I Didn’t get an immediate reply from the Sales Manager but I did receive a brief e-mail from someone claiming to be the ‘After-Sales’ Manager. He stated that he would send me a ‘service stamp’ through the post. Be interesting to see in what form that takes! Presumably to ‘prove’ a real service had taken place? (14 days on and nothing received - and no apologies offered).
21. I had deliberately not mentioned that (with the help of this forum) I’d managed to turn off the oil warning message. So, as far as they are concerned, I am still faced with an obtrusive pop-up message until the car is serviced again in a year’s time! No offer or solution to switch off the message - another example of Birmingham Toyota customer care for you! (or Stoneacre Toyota for that matter!)
15th September 2021
22. The following day, I received a mobile call from the Sales Manager - which I refused to answer - allowing it to go to voice-mail.
I replied by e-mail stating that from then on, I would only communicate through text or e-mail as at this stage I had triggered Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 with my credit-card company and I wanted to have evidence in case of any dispute. Written text and/or e-mails provide little ambiguity as to who said what / when. And I had lots of photographic evidence too.
23. Happily, my credit card company agreed to reimburse my claim in full - pending any dispute.
24. I received a brief e-mail reply from the sales-manager saying that he was not going to dispute my claim. No apology offered. A cheque for the car-jack was in the post. Hmmmm!
25. Postscript: - I’ve now received a re-reimbursement cheque for the car-jack (back-dated to the end of last month for some reason!) and my bank-statement shows my expenses claim has been paid in full.
26. Still no contact, let alone apologies from the GM of Toyota Birmingham though (whoever that might be today!) I won’t be holding my breath!
27. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 has proved a very useful weapon in this dispute. Something I have never utilised before and a regulation that Toyota Birmingham couldn’t easily wriggle out of. Without it I doubt if I would have received any remuneration at all. And it was certainly a much easier process to use than I thought it would be.
Here is a link to a website explaining how it works: -
Section 75 refunds: credit card protection’ - MSE (moneysavingexpert.com)
All the more pertinent perhaps, since my original e-mail to the imaginary GM of Steven Eagell Toyota Birmingham merely asked for my complaints to be logged and that they take steps to ensure that such things did not happen to other customers in future. I did suggest a replacement (and stamped) log-book and perhaps reimbursement for the fuse and cleaning materials if they were feeling generous. Nonetheless, at that stage I would have accepted a decently-worded apology with perhaps even a gift-token of some kind.
However, they decided to act adversely. A reaction I suspect, they would automatically assume by default on the reception of any complaint.
I will repeat the warning I’ve posted elsewhere; if anyone on this forum is considering dealing with Steven Eagell Toyota Birmingham then all I can say is a loud CAVEAT EMPTOR!
I do have it in mind to post this account as far and wide as I possibly can and offer it (for free) to any publication that would care to run it. Maybe the likes of ‘What Car’, ‘Auto-Car’, ‘Auto-Express’, ‘Auto-Magazine’, or ‘Which’ might find the report interesting?
Certainly my next communication is very likely to be with Toyota UK.
Does anyone else have horrifying tales of dealership ineptness, incompetence, greed, negligence, unprofessionalism, etc?
Or - even some good stories about dealerships? (although I suspect they may be a lot rarer!)
Some of the Pictorial Support / Evidence.
The Management Conundrum: -
The Issues: -