Car dealer sued Oak Creek man for online critiques
Tom Murray reports.Photo: Video by tmj4.com
CREATED Jul. 12, 2013 - UPDATED: Jul. 12, 2013
OAK CREEK - The Chicago Motor Cars showroom in West Chicago, Illinois would make any car lover's mouth water. Porsche. Ferrari. Range Rover. The owners say they have sold thousands of luxury models.
"Customer satisfaction is our number one goal," a dealership employee said in dealership YouTube video.
David Bates is not one of those satisfied customers. His battle is so legally charged that David wanted his lawyer at his side during an interview with TODAY'S TMJ4.
"I think they definitely mislead people," David told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray. "That was a jaw dropping day when I got served of two stacks of legal documents at home."
It started when David saw an ad for a Mercedes Benz SL 600.
"It was to buy a car for the summer with a girlfriend and use it for that fun part of the summer," David said.
The used car needed some work and David says Chicago Motor Cars agreed to make repairs. Still, David agreed to buy the car.
David put down a down payment. The dealership made repairs and delivered the car to his Oak Creek home. But David says the repairs fell short of his expectations.
"Issues with the body that the car had been in an accident," David explained. "Issues that some of the functions on the car didn't work."
When the two sides deadlocked on how to resolve the dispute, David took his story to Facebook, then YouTube.
"This car has more body work than Michael Jackson's face," David said in a YouTube testimonial.
David took his campaign beyond his own experience and posted dozens of additional YouTube videos. In the videos, he talks about what he considers over-pricing and reads what he claims to be other customers' complaints.
David also has a website. When TODAY'S TMJ4 did a Google search for the dealership, their site came up first in the search result and David's appeared second.
David became such a pest for Chicago Motor Cars, the dealership attempted to force him to take the videos down by taking him to federal court. The dealership lost and David is allowed to keep almost all of his videos up.
"Freedom of speech wasn't free," Bates said. "It cost a lot of money to stand my ground."
Chicago Motor Cars now spends a lot of time and money online countering David's attacks.
"We look to build a relationship to sell you multiple vehicles in the future and to keep you happy," an employee said in a YouTube video posted by the dealership.
The owners did not want to record an interview with TODAY'S TMJ4, but they did talk extensively with the microphone off.
Chicago Motor Cars' owners say they have hundreds of repeat customers. They point to an 'A' Better Business Bureau rating and a near perfect 4.9 out of 5 score on dealerrater.com.
The owners say they spend hours each day countering David's claims to potential customers.
"Legally, he has not crossed the line. You could argue that he has ethically crossed a line," said Marquette University law and media expert Erik Ugland. "There's a fine line between a public service crusade and an unhealthy obsession."
As for the Benz that started this all, the car was returned to the dealer and David says he has his money back. But, he is still slamming the dealership online.
"I think it's time well spent if one person doesn't have to walk the walk that we did," Bates said.
Bates had posted more than 100 YouTube videos on his channel as of Friday, including one the day of this report.