Woman struggles to get money out of company selling truck

September 17, 2013 2:08:48 PM PDT
Selling your car on the open market can be difficult. One company offers help, but it didn't work out so well for a Bay Area woman.

This company says it has a unique business model. It looks for sellers in places, like Craigslist, then offers to match them with potential buyers for a fee. However, hundreds of sellers have complained about the company, including a San Francisco woman who lost hundreds of dollars in the deal.

Beth Abrams of San Francisco told us about a not-so-ordinary truck she wanted to sell. She said, "It was painted by local artists with murals on the side. It had the spirit and love of our volunteers."

It was a 1987 Ford with a lot of miles and even more character, covered with murals to hide graffiti. But its cause was noble.

"We picked up food from local grocery stores and delivered it to different shelters," said Abrams.

Abrams and other volunteers used the old Ford to collect surplus food from grocery stores and deliver it to needy families in the Mission District.

"Here was this truck that had been painted by artists, that had been used to feed thousands of people," said Abrams.

After 27 years, the volunteers ran out of funding. Beth put the truck up for sale on Craigslist. And soon she got a call -- not from a customer, but from another company.

"They would be successful in selling the truck," said Abrams.

Auto Marketing Systems of Virginia offered to find a buyer for that truck. Abrams would pay $249. If the truck didn't sell in 90 days, she'd get her money back minus a $29 fee.

"If it wasn't sold, we would contact them and say it's not sold and they would give us our money," said Abrams.

So she went for it, and after 90 days, still no buyer. So Abrams asked for the refund, but she did not get it.

"And this was October. By December, still nothing," said Abrams.

Auto Marketing kept saying she was entitled to a refund, but wouldn't actually send one.

"Then I said, 'If you don't refund the money I will contact 7 On Your Side," said Abrams.

Which she did -- and we found hundreds of similar complaints online. Auto Marketing Systems is part of Longwood Industries of Virginia which has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau. There are 632 complaints with most saying the company delayed refunds, and lured sellers off Craigslist, like Beth.

"You took immediate action and they responded immediately and said, 'We will give you your money,'" said Abrams.

After we contacted them, the company finally reimbursed Beth $220. Longwood's executive director Renee Fisher tells us, "We are keenly aware of the refund issues, not only in this case, but for the service as a whole. This is the very reason why we are moving away from the service and phasing in remedial measures to ensure that customers with valid refund requests are credited in a timely manner. While we did issue Ms. Abrams her refund, we failed to issue it in a timely manner. For that we sincerely apologize and are working to address any administrative shortcomings that may have contributed to the delay."

"I'm very, very glad you were able to help us. We can't thank you enough," said Abrams.

So what ever happened to that old truck? Someone plowed into it while it was parked at a curb. The truck and those murals were destroyed. However, the volunteers did get $4,000 for its salvage value and that was the asking price of the truck anyway. So all was not lost.

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