And here's the whole story ...
At the beginning of November, I went to my local Mercedes Benz dealership in Eastbourne, East Sussex, to start the process of getting a new car for Christmas. I thought nearly two months would be plenty of time to get it all sorted out and so with high hopes to get a good deal during the credit crunch, I set off with my 20 year old son.
The salesman was quite friendly, took down some ideas of the new car I wanted, did an assessment of the value of my old one for trade in and assured me he would contact us as soon as he'd found something that matched my description in the dealer network.
We waited for a call that never came ...
As December was nearing, I was getting nervous and started to phone the dealership.
The salesman was "out to lunch" or "with a customer" or "on his day off" or "I'm not sure where he is at the moment ..." on every occasion. So we went once again in person, and another salesman kindly said he would look into it for us and get back to us.
Of course, he didn't.
Now being the middle December, with Christmas approaching rapidly and my health not being all that it could be, I gave up and decided to re-start the campaign to get my new car in January, as soon as I'd recovered from a major operation.
In the meantime, and as the year turned from 2009 into 2010, the service light on my old Mercedes started to flash.
Not a problem I thought, I'll get my new car soon ...
So we went again to the dealership.
This time, upon asking for the salesman, we are told that he's been fired. Here, have another salesman. He started only today, so he knows nothing about anything, but it'll be ok ...
New salesman was very nice and did try to please although he was clearly perplexed by the forms.
As was I ...
But foolishly I thought, it's a Mercedes Benz dealership. It'll be ok. They'll take care of things ... .... ...
As no paperwork from the previous attempt could be found, all new paperwork was done. And then it was done again, on another visit some days later, because some parts of the new paperwork couldn't be located.
Finally and finally, now in February, a car matching my desires was produced and I agreed to buy it for £16,500 plus the old car for trade in.
Signed the documents, handed over deposit cash, and thought all was finally well with the world.
But it wasn't.
Unlike the times I've done this before, this time they wouldn't take my old car and said someone else would come to pick it up from my house, "a new arrangement we have".
Only, no-one came.
I had two black Mercs on my drive for a fortnight and getting nervous, as the old one was no longer insured and for all I knew, didn't even belong to me any longer.
So I phoned up again and finally some guy did turn up with a clipboard and took the car away. He was not a nice person and treated me as though I was the owner of a scrap yard or something, a very unsettling and unhappy experience.
Still, at the least the old Merc was off my drive and we could relax for another three years ...
Until a letter arrived from Mercedes Benz, stating that the car I had handed in in part exchange wasn't worth what it had been assessed to be in the first place, because it had 3 months missing from its service history.
Attached to that was a bill for over £1,200.00
I couldn't believe my eyes and phoned up immediately, telling the people on the other end that it really wasn't my fault that it had taken four months to hand over the car, that I had tried my best to get this done sooner, but the dealership hadn't let me.
At this point I was informed that I wasn't dealing with Mercedes Benz, or with the dealership, but with some random finance company instead "who has nothing to do with Mercedes Benz".
I nearly had a fit.
I went to a Mercedes Benz showroom. I handed it a part exchange car in good faith. And now I'm being hounded by some finance company for £1,200,00?
And they have "nothing to do with Mercedes Benz"?
What had happened? Where did this come from?
I managed to persuade the lady on the other end of the phone, in the finance company "that had nothing to do with Mercedes Benz" to put a hold on that bill so I could try and sort something out with Mercedes Benz or the dealership as I felt the charge was completely unfair and frankly, didn't know any longer what on Earth was going on.
She said she would put the fee on hold pending an investigation, and gave me a number to call where you can complain or set a complaints procedure in motion.
I phoned them, got a bored young guy who clearly didn't give a toss about anything I said, and he said "he would look into it" and get back to me.
Did he get back to me?
Have a guess ...
Of course he didn't.
What did get back to me was a lawyers letter on behalf of the finance company that "has nothing to do with Mercedes Benz" threatening me with court action.
This is happening in March 2010.
I am trying to console myself with the fact that at least the car is ok.
Until I get into it and it flashes "Service due".
I only paid £16,500 plus the trade in for this thing a month ago - how can it want servicing already? Surely, you're joking?
That's when I found out that it also only had one month tax left on it, and no MOT.
So, to recap.
I'm being taken to court for £1,200 because the trade in wasn't worth what they said it was in the first place because of depreciation which occurred because they didn't do anything for 4 months.
I have paid £16,500 plus the trade in for a car that has no service, no road tax, and no MOT on it.
I couldn't believe it.
I've bought cars from little old ladies through the Friday ad in my time. I've bought cars from backstreet garages run by men with names such as Riley. Hell, I've even bought a car from a gypsy on a street corner once for £200 cash - and they all had a year's MOT and a few months tax on them ...
But Mercedes Benz can't manage that.
As the complaints guy never phoned back, I got my older son, who is the CEO of The StarFields Network and calm, rational, and level headed to phone the complaints number again, try again to get some kind of SOME THING here. I was by this time so angry and upset, I would have just started to scream incoherently, which isn't a good way to go when you want something done, I'm told.
So Mr Alex Kent phoned them and explained the situation yet again.
He was told that they would look into it and get back to him.
Two weeks go by ...
The service light is now getting hysterical and I just can't drive around any longer without tax or MOT.
Alex phones them again.
This time, upon hearing our tale of woe, the newest bored and uninterested "customer services" guy tells Alex that "it is a lottery if any car you buy from Mercedes Benz has any service, tax or MOT on it because it depends how long it has been sitting at the dealership in between sales" and "I guess you were just unlucky".
Alright, so I can't drive an illegal car; and also, it's not the car's fault, it deserves a service.
I paid for the MOT and service. £288 although there was nothing wrong with the car whatsoever.
I paid for 6 months tax. £126
I paid £1,200.00 to the finance company "that has nothing to do whatsoever with Mercedes Benz" as I assessed this to be cheaper than to launch into a court case against these jokers and their corporate lawyer budget.
And now, the final joke of the whole story.
My new tax disc arrives in the mail.
I take it outside to put it in my car.
I take the old one out.
And I see with some interest and by now, twilight zone amusement, that the tax disc I've had in my car has AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT NUMBER PLATE NUMBER than the vehicle it was on.
To be sure, not a personalised number.
Just a totally different number, not one digit or letter match to the plate of my car.
Imagine I'd been stopped by the police at any time in those two months I was driving around with it.
Luckily I wasn't.
So, that's the story of Mercedes Benz Eastbourne, a mysterious finance company "that has nothing whatsoever to do with Mercedes Benz UK" and the "customer services" department of Mercedes Benz UK Ltd.
Next time you are thinking of buying a Mercedes Benz through a dealership in the UK, STOP.
Instead, find a gypsy on a street corner to buy your car from.
He'll be friendly.
He'll sell you a car for an agreed price with a handshake and won't go back on that, or come round later with a bunch of solicitors demanding more.
The car will have an MOT, a bit of tax.
You know what you let yourself in for and you take your time and check the car, see if it's ok.
Then you drive away and that's that.
Which is an experience one million times better than you would have if you were to buy a Mercedes Benz from an official Mercedes Benz dealership in the United Kingdom today.
And there truly, is nothing more that I can say.
Dr Silvia Hartmann