Uneasy rider: Watch your loan papers

If you see a truck with "If you want a bum deal, go to the Auto Superstore" written on the back, that's Tim Goolsby at the wheel. He bought the truck– a Chevy 1500 LS 4 x 4– this past March, and, as you've probably surmised, he's not a happy customer.

His beef with Dennis Enterprises' Auto Superstore has to do with the financing, not the truck. Except for some dents he didn't notice until the day after he'd bought it (which Dennis has agreed to have repaired), the truck is fine.

The asking price was $19,997. Goolsby was trading in his 2000 Ford Ranger XLT, on which he still owed $12,300. According to Goolsby, when Dennis finance manager Mike Phillips ran the numbers, he came up with a monthly payment of roughly $425. Goolsby says he told Phillips he didn't want to pay more than $350 a month, and that Phillips then said they could extend the loan to 72 months and "put $700 more toward the trade," which would put the payment in an acceptable range.

Assuming that he was financing the asking price of $19,997, Goolsby signed the loan papers without, he admits, actually reading them. The next day, he discovered to his chagrin that he had agreed to finance $22,997.

By Goolsby's account, Phillips wouldn't budge on the deal. Relations turned rancorous fast, and in the end Goolsby emblazoned his new ride with the anti-ad.

At one point, he returned to the Superstore to redeem a certificate for a free oil change he received as part of the purchase, but says the owner kicked him out and hinted at legal action.

When I called Phillips to ask about the dispute, he refused to comment. "You cannot overcome ignorance," he declared.

Looks like Goolsby's learned an expensive lesson. So now we know: One should never sign papers, no matter how small the type or arcane the language, without understanding exactly what they say.

We also know that if we post signs on our cars badmouthing a business, the business in question is unlikely to greet us warmly when we arrive to claim freebies.


Good news for dogs

 Two weeks ago I wrote about Tammy White's experience with a Staunton veterinarian ["Dog days," June 17], in which White believed her Dalmatian, Max, had received substandard care. A reader named Charlie Price emailed, "I was sorry to hear of [White's] difficulties in getting Max fast treatment for his condition. Seems to me that things could have been handled better."

Price suggests the Virginia Board of Health website, dhp.virginia.gov, which has links to the Licensing Board for Veterinary Medicine– and an online complaint form.

"If they deem it worthy of investigation," Price writes, "they will assign it a case number and an investigator. This person does the research and issues a finding."

If White decides to request an investigation, I'll let you know.


No more skating rink on Stewart Street

 If you were looking forward to frolicking in the parking lot at Virginia Arts Recording next winter, you're out of luck. Lyn Brier, who owns the company with her husband Paul, called to say that the excess water is gone.

Last fall, after expanding their business building, the Briers hired B. York Paving to repave the parking lot– but were unhappy with the results. Most seriously, they claimed that water collected in a large depression in the lot, which became, in freezing weather, an ice hazard. They also claimed that the paving company owner, Benny York, had been unresponsive to their repeated requests to fix it.

He's now come through for them. According to Lyn, York employees came by "right after the column ran" to survey the situation. Six weeks later, when asphalt was again available, they "completely repaved the lot."

"We're very, very pleased," Lyn reports.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at Box 4553, Charlottesville 22905.