Used car lot in Memphis hit by more than a dozen complaints

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Due to deficiencies in the public transportation system in Memphis, many people need access to a car to maintain employment. Executives often say they want to fix the problem, but that brings a lot to the used car industry.

Demario Kilpatrick is one such person; when he called problem solvers, he was driving three miles each way to work every day.

He is tired and the soles of his shoes are torn.

“Oh Lord, this is so hard. I’m about to cry,” he said as he stood on his mother’s porch in South Memphis.

When he received his tax return, he decided to buy a car. He checked Facebook and found a car he could pay the deposit for at Gaston Auto Sales. Kilpatrick deposited $1,000 and signed a contract for a used Nissan Sentra with 135,000 miles.

But shortly after buying it, he said it stopped working.

He called Gaston Auto Sales, who offered to help him fix it. But that’s the last time Kilpatrick saw his car, and he’s not the only one.

WREG found similar complaints filed with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and the Better Business Bureau.

In 14 unanswered complaints to the BBB, people said things like “the car broke down within a week” and their “car wouldn’t start” three days after buying it.

In many cases, people said the shop offered to fix it like they did with Kilpatrick, but they never got the cars back.

In fact, WREG even covered a story last year where the owner and two employees were arrested during a dispute.

“They pointed guns at us,” a witness said. “My son had just received his car two weeks ago. It was no time to pay, and they came and [repossessed] his car.”

WREG problem solvers could not find evidence that the case was subsequently pursued.

“If you read other people’s experiences, then read about the used car dealership not responding to complaints, then go deeper, read people’s reviews, you can learn a lot,” Daniel said. Irwin from the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South, which gives Gaston Auto Sales an “F” grade.

For the industry as a whole, he said the BBB had received more than 650 complaints about used car dealerships in the past 18 months. It ranks higher than industries including online shopping (503) and apartment rentals (30) over the same period.

Irwin stressed the importance of doing research upstream.

“Used car dealerships are consistently in the top 10 industries for BBB complaints. The most common complaints are cars sold as is and soon after purchase the car breaks down,” a- he declared.

Kilpatrick’s contract stated that he would take the car “as is”. He said it tired him out but not enough to stop his purchase.

“It’s true, but it’s not because I bought another car that was as is,” he said. “It was like that but it was never a problem for me.”

“Lemon laws vary from state to state. In Tennessee, the lemon law does not apply to used cars, only new cars,” Irwin said.

Troubleshooters drove to Gaston’s Airways location to try and ask them where Kilpatrick’s car was. The door was locked and no one wanted to come out.

Instead, Gaston Auto Sales asked his lawyer to contact the problem solvers. Laura Smittick emailed that her client had sent Kilpatrick’s vehicle to a third-party mechanic who diagnosed the problem, but the client refused to pay more than their deposit.

Additionally, the attorney said “at no time did Gaston Auto Sales do anything illegal, wrong, or unethical.”

When a former customer filed a lawsuit with the state, owner Timothy Gaston defended his product by putting the blame on the customer; “the vehicle had to be started just to [the customer] could drive the car out of the parking lot.

“If it’s not in the contract, we won’t deal with it. You want to make sure before you sign anything that everything you say will be in that contract,” Irwin said.

Kilpatrick learned his lesson in a frustrating way.

“I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m hurt,” he said. “Do your appraisals, look at car lots, do thorough background checks.”

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has not taken disciplinary action against Gaston Auto.

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