ORANGE PARK, Fla. – A local grandfather said he is disgusted by the way he has been treated by an Orange Park car dealership. Eddie Richardson said he was promised repairs to a Jeep he bought for his grandson’s 16th birthday would take just a few days to complete. More than a year later he is still waiting.
“It needed a wiring harness,” Richardson recalled about when he brought the Jeep Grand Cherokee to the DarCars Orange Park Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership on Blanding Boulevard in January 2019. “It had been sputtering."
He did not buy the Jeep at the dealership, but said he took it there to be repaired because, as he put it, “I trust the dealership before I trust Joe Blow down the street.”
Richardson said the service manager told him he would need to put down a $1,000 deposit since the part would cost $4,000. While he wrestled with the high cost of the repair since the car was used, he said he felt like he had no choice. He lives on a fixed income and spent all of his money buying the car for his grandson, Travis Beck.
“I thought the car was such a terrific car and by the time I put new tires on I had $4,000 in it anyway, so I said what do I do, take $4,000 and throw it away? Or do I invest the $4,000 and make sure that Travis has a safe car,” Richardson explained.
He said the service representative told him there was a part in Orlando and that it would take just a few days to make the repairs. When he did not hear from the dealer, he went to the dealership to follow up.
“They did not have the part in Orlando, which I thought they should have called me and told me,” said Richardson. “But they told me they had located the part and the part was on the way and it would probably be three to four days. I said, ‘OK, I will wait to hear from you.’”
That time came and went, and Richardson said he kept getting excuses as to why his Jeep was not repaired.
“'Oh, that part is not there, we have to get the part from Minneapolis,'" he remembered the dealership’s employees saying. “'Oh, we have to get the part from here.'”
Richardson said he went to the dealership every two weeks trying to get some answers when his Jeep was still not ready. “Every time they told me it would take three or four more days. Never once did they give me anything more than three or four days,” he said.
Richardson said he was shocked by what happened next. He received a ticket in the mail for a toll booth citation in Miami. It was dated June 6, 2019 -- which was nearly six months after Richardson had taken the Jeep to the dealership to be repaired. The ticket included a picture of the license plate registered to his grandson’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, except the SUV in the picture was not his grandson’s Jeep.
“It’s a Chevy Caravan,” he said.
Richardson said someone had taken the license plate from his Jeep while it was in the dealership’s lot and put it on the back of a different car and driven it to Miami. He said he went to the DMV to dispute the ticket but was told he would need to contact police.
At first, Richardson thought the license plate from his Jeep had been stolen while it was on the DarCars lot. After speaking with police, he went to the dealership for answers.
He said they couldn’t find the key to the car, and said they did not even know where the car was parked on the lot.
Richardson has trouble walking, so he said his brother-in-law started searching the lot on foot. About an hour later he found the Jeep. Richardson said the license plate was on the back of it but said one of the screws that holds the plate in place was missing.
“So, there was one screw in and one screw off. The tag was lopsided,” he described.
Richardson said it was definitely not like that when he took the Jeep to the dealership. He said he thinks an employee at the dealership must have taken the license plate off the Jeep, used it to drive to Miami in a different car, and then returned it to the Jeep to avoid getting caught.
While inspecting the rest of the Jeep, Richardson he said he found it unlocked. And, the first-aid kit, jumper cables and jack he bought for his grandson a month earlier for Christmas were missing. In addition, he said it looked like someone had been partying in the Jeep.
“There were Miller High Life beer tabs where you unscrew the lid sitting in the floorboard of the front seat and there was a Papa John’s pizza box in the backseat,” he said.
Richardson said he was furious and demanded to speak to the general manager.
“He was not there, and I asked that he would call me back. I have yet to hear from him and I’ve left probably no less than a dozen messages for him to contact me,” Richardson said.
The I-TEAM went to the dealership to find out what was going on and to get some answers. Jennifer Waugh and her photographer drove through the perimeter security gates during regular business hours because they were open.
They passed the service area and drove without anyone stopping them for several minutes -- weaving and stopping at times at individual SUVs. No one approached them or asked us why they were there. They returned to the service department and asked to speak with the manager.
Chris Booker agreed to sit down with Jennifer and talk, but he would not do so on camera. He said that the service manager who had handled Mr. Richardson’s repair order had been fired. He said the dealership is working to make things right with Richardson.
Richardson has filed a lawsuit against DarCar’s Orange Park dealership. We spoke with the attorney representing the dealership, Fred Tromberg, on the phone. Regarding any security questions, he said “…The lot is secure. The gate is locked at night. Security is a very important issue for the dealership and so is customer satisfaction, which is why we have tried to resolve this matter early on and continue to do so.”
Tromberg went on to say, “…There are two sides to the story, and these are not issues that need to be litigated on TV, but resolved in a courtroom.”
DarCars denies all allegations in the lawsuit.
In general, the I-TEAM receives many different types of texts, emails and phone calls regarding auto-related repair problems.
If you are having a part replaced on your car:
- Ask if a used or new part will be put on your vehicle during the repair.
- Ask to be given the old, damaged part. This will help keep them honest so you can inspect the part for yourself.
Before you select a repair shop:
- Ask for written estimates.
- Ask if the repairs will be guaranteed.