I’m FINALLY at the end of a very stressful and triggering ordeal concerning a used car I bought in November from a used car dealership for £3000. I had to get the car in a rush when my 17 year old car broke and so ended up getting it from somewhere I’ve since discovered has a terrible reputation among consumers and garages locally, has shocking reviews online (apart from on their own website where negative reviews conveniently disappear on a regular basis), and are renowned for selling dangerous cars and then doing all they can to wriggle out of their legal obligations.
The car had already been back for faults three times since I bought it, including a water leak which left the inside of the car saturated and had been ‘fixed’ twice already, and then 2 weeks ago I discovered the floor saturated again. As well as this, despite being ‘fixed’ twice the central locking is intermittent so I often found the passenger door unlocked in the morning or couldn’t get the car open, there has been an issue with the brakes which my breakdown service said made the car unsafe to drive meaning it had to be recovered to the dealership, the window switches have broken so one day on my way to work the window was jammed open, and the car is so damp inside because of the leak that the windscreen won’t clear properly and the car is unsafe to drive. It has just been a nightmare and has left me without a car to get Nina to school or myself to therapy several times. The stress it caused me each time the car broke was huge and it got to the point where every time I drove it I was scared something else would break.
The used car dealership provide a three month warranty, which I guess must work to distract most customers from finding out that under the law in England and Wales there is a legal obligation for the dealership to repair or replace any defects for six months after purchase, and for a further twelve months if the customer can prove the defect was there at the time of purchase. If the repair attempt is unsuccessful the customer is entitled to a full refund. Luckily for me I know the law in this area very well, so I have been able to fight to get a full refund but it has been so fucking stressful to get to this point.
For the past two weeks, since I found the floor saturated again, I have been incredibly triggered because it is a huge amount of money so I couldn’t just let it go and cut my losses, and yet any conflict makes me want to die and also feels like I am being annihilated so I avoid it at all costs. However, this was just too much money and the used car dealership have behaved so appallingly that I had to fight it. Last week after being bullshitted by one of the salesmen multiple times, I rang and asked to speak to the person who could process a refund for a faulty car I was rejecting. The man I spoke to pleaded ignorance over the issues even though other people I had spoken to said they had spoken to him already. I told him my legal rights and he offered me less money than I had paid because the faults were ‘cosmetic’. At this point I lost my shit with him, informed him these were not cosmetic faults and that I worked with solicitors and did I need to put it in writing. I eventually agreed I would consider swapping it for another car from there, which I knew would be a mistake really, but part of me just wanted the whole thing to be smoothed over and go away. I was going to look at a different car, but K’s partner looked at the MOT history of it for me and said it wasn’t good and I should just get a refund as the dealership was clearly dodgy. My sleep and anxiety levels were awful at the end of the week and over the weekend and I was snapping at Nina for no reason and totally on edge, but I did put it all in writing, with some help from people I work with, and sent it off this week, stating I was entitled to a full refund and they couldn’t legally take a ‘fair use’ deduction because the use had been interrupted by the defects. I also listed the damages I am entitled to and said I wasn’t claiming them provided I got a refund in full within 14 days. I thought my heart would burst out of my chest it was hammering so hard when I clicked send on the email on Tuesday, but I did feel relieved once it was done and I knew 100% that I was legally entitled to the full refund so whilst I might have a battle to get it, I would win eventually.
The manager didn’t try calling until 5.15 the following day and I was in meetings till 6pm so decided to wait and call in the morning so I wouldn’t get triggered in the evening. Yesterday morning I was so wound up because I knew I had to make the call that I threw up several times before leaving for work. A colleague had said just to let him talk and then say ‘you know this is bollocks and I’m legally entitled to a refund’. I took a deep breath and called him. He asked if we could ‘compromise’ and I said ‘not really, no, because I’m legally entitled to a full refund’. He tried to claim I’d had use of the car and I again pointed out the legal position on this, and I reminded him I wasn’t claiming damages but that I was quite happy to take this to the small claims court and that the damages were increasing every day e.g. I had just paid £70 to get me and my Dad on my friend’s car insurance as I don’t have a car. He begrudgingly agreed to the full refund. Then he asked me when I would take it to them and I said they would need to collect it because I am not legally allowed to drive the vehicle once I’ve informed the dealer I am rejecting it. At this point he was really rude to me and I said (in my finest ‘mummy talking to pre-teen girl’ voice) ‘don’t speak to me like that please’. He continued being rude so I said ‘First, I am not legally allowed to drive the car now, and secondly, you don’t speak to me like that.’ He apologised. Hah! And then he sorted out my card details and when he would collect the car. We ended the conversation amicably.
This was yesterday morning and I was elated. I felt so empowered! It was incredible to have fought for what I was legally entitled to and to have won. Today he text me to say he had done the refund and would be there at 6pm to do the paperwork and get the keys. All afternoon I was really apprehensive and with 30 minutes to go I had a full blown anxiety attack and had to take diazepam (and eat a cake!). He came. It was friendly enough and now it is all over and I am so incredibly proud of myself. Given my trauma history and how difficult I find asserting myself, or even thinking about conflict, I am amazed that I fought this to the end. It would have been so much easier to accept the £2500 refund last week, the £2750 refund yesterday, or swapped for another car instead of asserting myself. There was no way I wanted another car from the same place but I probably would have done if K’s partner hadn’t told me not to! I was texting my acupuncturist earlier and he said to call up my various professional personas and I would be terrifying (hah!) and I said “I think that’s the problem – I hate being disliked so much I’d rather be nice than scary!” He reminded me I am in the right and I didn’t need the man to like me. He was right, of course, but it was interesting to make that link. I would rather be liked than seen as a bad person, even to people who are totally irrelevant to me and who I will never have to see again.
This isn’t a very interesting post but it has helped me to document this journey because in terms of healing from complex trauma and a narcissistic mother who taught me that what people think of me is more important than anything else in the world it is HUGE. It was a horrific experience, genuinely – it has been 3 months of such huge stress over money and confrontation and it has seriously affected my daily life which is full enough at the best of times – but now I’m through the other side I know it will continue to empower me for years to come; I found my voice, I stood up for myself, and in the process I learnt that even though I feel I am being annihilated when I am in conflict with someone, it doesn’t actually kill me. I feel stronger inside and incredibly proud of myself. Onwards and upwards!