I’ve just had my first truly unpleasant experience with BMW. I never thought I would have one. I live in a relatively small Vermont town. There is one very large BMW dealership here that pretty much “monopolizes” the Northern Vermont market. They also handle Honda, Porsche, Mercedes, Land Rover and Infinity. The next closest BMW dealership is 116 miles away.

I have been bringing in various cars (BMWs, Porsches) to their service department over the last 20 years and have spent tens of thousands of dollars there. I just spent about $2500 two weeks ago on a brake job and new ball joints for my 540I. Although service is pricey, the customer service is excellent. The staff is knowledgeable, keep their promises and take pride in what they do. I know them all on a first name basis. They also clean all cars after a service call. As a business owner with a customer service record that borders on the fanatic, I’ve always touted this dealership as a model of customer service and attention. While their service is amazing, this dealership is very aware that it is the only gig in town and is notorious for high prices on new and used cars. I did attempt the purchase of my 2000 BMW 540I, 5 years ago. They did not have what I wanted in stock (in fact they had no 540I’s) and were not able to come close to a price I received from an out of state dealer.

I was in the dealership 8 weeks ago looking at an MB E500 when I was not sure what type of car I was eventually going to buy. I told the representative that I was also considering an M5 and/or 645 (they have never had these in stock as far as I know). I had never met this particular gentleman before and was not in the dealership more than about 20 minutes.

The representative called me yesterday (this was the first time I heard from him in 8 weeks) and asked me if I had bought a car. I told him yes I had just purchased a 645 ci from an out of state dealer. The representative was immediately upset and demanded to know why I had not contacted him. I told him that I had never made such a promise and that this was not my responsibility. I kindly told him (my patience was eroding) that I had located the only 2005 black on black 6 speed in the northeast, was able to get $4300 off of the MSRP and that I had jumped on a plane and picked it up immediately.

The representative then told me that I would “no longer be welcome at the dealership for anything, including service.” In disbelief, I asked him to repeat this and he did. I told him I was “in shock”. He then said “be shocked” and then shortly after, quietly hung up on me.

I drove down the following day to speak with the owner of the dealership. He listened to my story and then gave me a mini lecture as to why I should buy locally even if it was more expensive. He also pointed out that I had never bought a car there. He gave me no indication he was concerned with the way I had been treated or any real improvement in the new policy previously laid out to me by the representative. He told me that they would do the warranty work but that I would “not receive the same level of service as other clients.”

I left re-shocked and more than angry knowing this was a policy right from the top. Is this the way they treat 20 years of accolades? 20 years of business? Why was I being held captive to an expensive sales department that had no real competition for over 116 miles? Do we not have a right to negotiate the best deal and buy a BMW anywhere we wish ? Is a purchase requisite to excellent service? Any service? Is this the intent of BMW USA? I tried putting myself in the owner’s shoes and came away telling myself neither I nor any of my sales people would ever treat a customer this way. I came away knowing that there would always be a small % of aggressive shoppers and that it would not be worth the potential liability of even one upset customer in a small town like ours. I've talked to another sales manager at a local GM dealership and he told me he was not surprised as he had heard similar stories from others; that there was a thin veneer to the real deal. He stated this was not a policy at any other dealership in town and suggested I pursue this issue. I’ve talked to a few other local BMW owners and they can't believe it. I’m tempted to write BMW/others – possibly all local BMW owners (I can get a list) to restore my faith in an otherwise exceptional experience with BMW. I never engage in a lose/lose but I’m just plain angry. How would you feel? What would you suggest I do?