Dealer Reneged on Deal Saying eBay Auction Was a "Mistake": Does Complaining on the Net Work?

For me, buying a car is about as enjoyable as a root canal. And a story like this one just reinforces the low opinion I have of dealerships in general.

In a nut shell, a guy bid on eBay auction for a brand new BMW. The auction had no reserve and a minimum bid for $60k. The guy bid at that price, and the auction closed with a single winning bid: his at $60k. Later, the dealer called him and reneged on the deal, saying that the auction was "a mistake". The guy countered that they had entered into a legal contract through eBay, that the dealership had adjusted their Buy It Now price twice (meaning they were watching the auction), that this wasn't their first auction (they're not novices), and that they've reneged before (a different car in a prior auction).

The guy, obviously, felt cheated. He posted on in a car forum, and his thread got picked up by autoblog (with 300+ diggs, but no front page yet ... hmmm ...) and reddit (and I suppose, now on Neatorama).

While I'm not big on Net vendettas, I can't help but wonder at the new megaphone consumers now have. Big blogs like The Consumerist are filled with irate consumers with damning stories. Even the little guys can have their say (see the story of and

Obviously, there are two sides to the story and we haven't (and probably won't) hear from the dealership. So I'll let you guys decide on who's at fault and so on.

But what I'd like to ask you is this: what's the thinking of big corporations on PR disasters like this one? Do they even care about Net protests? Or do they think Net protests will blow over in a matter of days and then it's back to business as usual? If you work in a large company, I'd love to hear what you think.

Links: the original thread at M3Post (long)

Update 3/25/08: Apparently complaining on the Net worked this time around. Here's the update of the dealership agreeing to sell the car at the bid price: Link

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Apparently, the dealership has agreed to sell him the car:
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I stopped using eBay when my credit card number was stolen on paypal. I wouldn't go near it now.

Thank goodness for the Amex fraud department - I was never charged a cent for the fraudulent charges, and they replaced my card before I even knew it had happened.

I only use Amex online these days. And never, ever paypal.
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So the company just canceled the offer... the guy didn't lost any money.

Sure it's frustrating but beside the time he lost ( I'm guessing he didn't invested much time in this if he ended up buying a car on ebay ) nothing of importance was lost.
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Net protests can have an effect on large corporations but maybe not as an isolated method.

A couple of years back a large credit union in Quebec made the news several times. Their "customer service" was nothing short of horrible. Thousands of customers had legitimate gripes about the practices of this credit union. Someone started a blog to complain about this and invited other customers to write about their stories. Within a couple of months there were thousands of posts.
Eventually the blog got the attention of traditional media. The blog creator (or readers I'm not sure) also organized protests in various locations around the province and advertised the blog with stickers near the credit union branches.
Within a year the credit union experienced 15%(if my memory serves me correctly) more account closures than it usually did as well as a significant increase in complaints. The credit union attributed a large part of that increase in account closures to the web protests. Since it did impact their bottom line they took action.

Hence imho web protest can be a useful tool to support consumer activism but the latter is still what will make large corporations notice.

It would just be too easy otherwise ;).
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So let me get this straight.

You are bemoaning a Car Dealer's lack of Control over the car he is selling AND this guy is a two time offender?

You are giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who hasn't earned it and i question if you would have done so if this person had a profession that didn't wear a suit and tie.

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