Most companies understand that certain wars can't be won. Trying to bulldoze animal shelters, for example, or lobbying against playgrounds are losing propositions, because even if the company in question prevails, it comes off looking like Simon Legree. Unfortunately, Toyota forgot this lesson when it recently tried to take the car of a murdered woman from her grieving family.
The sad story unfolded in Denver, following last month's murder of Denise Fransua by her estranged boyfriend, Steven Romero. According to Fransua's son, Aaron Knudsen, investigators impounded the car after the incident. Knudsen contacted Toyota to say that he'd like to keep the car and that he would take care of any outstanding balances after his mother's estate had been settled.
Initially, Knudsen says that Toyota agreed to his request, but by the time he went to retrieve it from the pound, Toyota had already repossessed the car. When Knudsen called to clear up the situation, he was told that he'd need to pay off the outstanding loan as well as the impound fees, which totaled over $1,000. Worse: if he didn't do it by July 5, Toyota threatened to sell the car and keep the proceeds.
So Knudsen did what any young person in 2011 would do: he went online and complained on Toyota's Facebook page.
The public's response was swift and loud (in Knudsen's favor, of course). By yesterday afternoon, Toyota reps had contacted Knudsen to say that they'd waive the impound fees and work out a payment plan for the outstanding balance on the vehicle.
So, what have we learned?
It's bad enough that Knudsen had to deal with the untimely death of his mother, but to deal with unsympathetic loan agents, too? Toyota is just beginning to recover from bad PR surrounding its recent recall fiasco; the company should probably implement some new rounds of customer service training ASAP, lest it become the automotive equivalent of, say, Priceline or CVS.
If you'd like to see a news report from Denver on the story, we've embedded it here: