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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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Beware the advertising asterisk

November 20th, 2011 · 5 Comments

A glossy postcard from Honolulu Volkswagen was in the stack of mail waiting at the post office when we returned from our quick trip to Washington, D.C.

It announced, in large blue letters:

VEHICLE BUYBACK
110% of book value*

This text followed:

We want your car!
110% of Blue Book when you trade in your car toward any new or pre-owned vehicle.

We’re not really in the market for a new car, but our car is getting up there in mileage. So I wondered what that little asterisk in the headline meant.

It was buried down at the bottom in fine print.

Of course. Fine print. Better check it out.

*Blue Book wholesale value — less market adjustments and reconditioning.

What? Is that false advertising?

The headline promises that they intend to buy your car for a price above Blue Book, but the fine print makes clear that you will not actually be paid 110% of Blue Book.

Unspecified and apparently arbitrary “market adjustments” will first be subtracted, along with “reconditioning” costs, again unspecified.

So the headline is modified–no, contradicted–by that fine print.

Misleading at best. False at worst, in my view.

Who should aggrieved consumers complain to?

Honolulu Volkswagen is a trade name owned by Hawaii Automotive Retailing Group, Inc., according to state business registration records.

The records show Hawaii Automotive Retailing Group is incorporated in Delaware. Inder Dosanjh, president and director. Sandy Tucker, secretary. Lianne Shimomi, director.

The company does business under a long list of trade names.

BIG ISLAND CHEVROLET Trade Name NO CATEGORY SELECTED Jun 10, 2009 Active
BIG ISLAND VOLKSWAGEN
BUICK OF HONOLULU
CADILLAC GMC BUICK OF HAWAII
CADILLAC GMC BUICK OF HONOLULU
CADILLAC OF HAWAII
CADILLAC OF HONOLULU
GMC OF HONOLULU
HAWAII AUTO GROUP
HAWAII VOLKSWAGEN
HONOLULU BUICK GMC CADILLAC
HONOLULU VOLKSWAGEN
ISLAND VOLKSWAGEN
MAUI VOLKSWAGEN
SATURN OF HONOLULU
SATURN OF HONOLULU
SMART CENTER
SMART CENTER HAWAII
SMART CENTER MAUI
SMART CENTER SALES OF HONOLULU
VOLKSWAGEN OF HAWAII
VOLKSWAGEN OF HONOLULU

Tags: Consumer issues

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bill // Nov 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    It is kind of sad that we get so use to misleading advertising that we come to expect it. I just assume that anyone who is trying to sell me something is trying to cheat me. Makes life easy, if you are a salesperson, I refuse to talk to you. If you mail me something, it goes in the trash.

  • 2 Patty // Nov 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks for the list of businesses to boycott!

  • 3 Richard Gozinya // Nov 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I still get ads saying real estate is a great investment. Hah! It’s all just puffery.

  • 4 hugh clark // Nov 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I find most junk mail dishonest and/or misleading — a huge wasteland of deceit. Makes you wonder if there is a Better Business Bureau or any state consumer protection.

    Add to that firms dunning you for bills already paid (and checks already cashed} and you shake your head in bewilderment.

    I find writing “refused, return to sender” in red ink gives me some comfort.

  • 5 Nancy // Nov 21, 2011 at 6:53 am

    Kelly Blue Book prices already take into account “market adjustments.” That’s the whole point.

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