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EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Car dealer problems are peoples biggest consumer gripe according to the Consumer Federation of America.  More than landlords, contractors and even telemarketers. So I get far more auto complaints than I can handle. But here’s one that raises an important red flag: when you buy something from a car dealer, make sure you get everything you’re paying for.

I got an email from Mike Ciranni of Seaford, Long Island. He and his wife have a business called Vanessa’s Pet Sitting.  They bought two Kia Sorentos from Autoworld Kia in East Meadow.  They paid for so-called gap insurance.  If you finance a car and it gets smashed, gap insurance covers the difference between how much you have left to pay off and how much your car is actually worth.  Mike and Vanessa discovered that Autoworld Kia never actually purchased the gap insurance for which they paid.

“The issue is at first they didn’t want to pay us back the full amount with tax and interest on our loan,” Mike told me.

After getting nowhere with a refund, Mike left a message saying he was going to the Nassau County DA.  That got him a phone call from Autoworld Kia’s General Sales Manager Mark Cavalcante.  He said he’d fix the problem and the dealership eventually agreed to their refund of about $467 with one catch:  the dealership wanted them to sign a release.

The Ciranni’s refused.  After all, they never got what they were promised.  Why shouldn’t they just get a simple refund and make that the end of it?

“We feel the money was taken from us wrongfully. And we really deserve the money back and an apology. We shouldn’t have to sign anything.”

So, Mike emailed us.  And we agreed with him.  He and Vanessa were due a refund. Period.

We paid a visit to Autoworld Kia and we got an unusual reception. Not only wasn’t Mark around to talk to us.  But everyone got up and took off out the back end of the place.
We came back another time and again found no one talking.

But the important thing is that they must have gotten the point. Because a few days later the dealership’s attorney sent a letter to the New York Attorney General’s office containing the refund checks for each car.

The Ciranni’s are happy.

And remember the bigger lesson: check to make sure you get what you pay for.

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