How to lose a potential customer in three easy steps

Short version:

  1. Falsely advertise your products on your website
  2. Insult your potential customer when they attempt to purchase said product
  3. Admit to false advertising and then accuse potential customer of fraud

For those who don’t recognise the person on the right, that’s Ling Valentine. Owner of www.lingscars.com and famous for her appearance on BBC2’s Dragons Den.

You built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?

Our story begins on the PistonHeads forum, where I spy a topic in General Gassing advertising a “great value DeLorean leasing deal.”

Well, that just immediately piques my interest because I’ve always been very interested in the DeLorean DMC-12, and despite it objectively being a pretty crap car, I’ve always hankered after one. The fact that they stopped production in 1982 (although in 2006, a Texas company started building “new” DeLoreans from 80% old parts and 20% refurbished ones) made me wonder if this lease deal was genuine, and if so whether I could finally get my hands on the DeLorean I’d lusted after since I saw Back to the Future as a child.

So, off I went to Ling’s website, where I saw this (opens in a new window):

£149.99 a month with three payments up-front as a deposit sounded like a great deal, so why not?

Now, Ling has many detractors based on the perceived quality of her website with it’s crazy layout and (some might say) setup. As a web developer, I’d agree that it’s not what you’d call a great design, but as a website I really like it – it’s clear and easy to read, everything is in your face and up-front, so there’s not much in the way of hidden small print like you’d typically get with car leasing sites.

So I put in a “proposal” for the DeLorean. I was still sceptical that it was genuine, but I couldn’t see any reason for her to falsely advertise, and in theory it is a possibility because the cars are still being built, albeit in very low numbers.

I posted in the topic on PistonHeads about this, to let them know I’d put a proposal in and that I’d post what happened. I’m sure there were a great many people on there wondering if it was a genuine deal too.

I wasn’t quite prepared for Ling’s response (sent via her “Lingo” messaging system on the website)

Well, ain’t that classy?

I’d heard Ling was unconventional in her business practices, but as far as “unconventional” goes, calling potential customers “f**kwits” is pretty high on the scale.

My response?

Within a few minutes (to be fair, she responds to messages very quickly so I’m sure her customer service is normally fantastic when she’s not insulting you) I received this response:

So, that’s that then.

False advertising, insulting me and then accusing me of trying to defraud her out of a DeLorean.

Ironic really, that in her initial response she accused me of wasting her time.

What Ling should have done

Well, this is pretty simple really. Ling knows nothing about me (well, other than the details I put into her proposal form, I suppose!) so shouldn’t assume that I’d not be in the market for leasing a car in the future. For example, very recently I was looking at leasing a BMW M135i to replace the M5 (which has now been sold – further information in a later post!) and had she had a good deal, I may very well have gone via her site.

After this episode, I won’t be touching her site with a ten-metre cattle prod.

As she admitted above, she knew full well that the DeLorean wasn’t actually available for lease. Had she responded with a simple “Sorry, this was just a little joke!” message (or something similar, that at least didn’t call me a “f**kwit”) then I could have laughed it off. I knew that it was highly unlikely that the deal was genuine, but as is often said: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

I’ve always wanted a DeLorean – so I asked.

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23 Comments

  1. Gareth, Gareth,

    The world seems to be divided into two types of people. Those who understand things, and those that do not.

    You actually seem to fall in the second camp, as you prove by posting “Just put a proposal through for one, let’s see what happens. I assume it’s just some method of getting more traffic to the site. Bit silly though!”

    So fundamentally, having read that, then getting the finance proposal, I understand that you understand the deal is not real. You were just fishing to get something to blog and post about on Pistonheads. You spoilt my wonderfully polite response by pre-empting it by posting on Pistonheads that you were going to apply, knowing it was unreal. A copy of the (deleted) thread is here if you’ll allow me to post a url to a PDF http://www.lingscars.com/images/pdf/Delorean-PistonHeads.pdf

    Now, you whip yourself up into a frenzy of mock-indignation on this blog post. Tch. I don’t believe that for a minute. I guess most people reading will decide who is the fool, and who is posturing.

    Good luck with the BMW, it’s amazing how many “offended” people are “just about” to order a car… I wonder how on earth I manage to do so well? Thanks, though, for the comments about my response times, I appreciate that. 🙂

    I still say you are a Nit. Perhaps f*ckwit was a bit strong.

    Ling

  2. GazChap

    Well, yes – of course I had an inkling it wasn’t genuine – they haven’t been made since 1982 after all.

    But, you know – better ways of handling this situation than the path you chose. Never mind, eh?

  3. Jon Adams

    God, Ling doesn’t exactly hides her style…what did you expect? The reason LingsCars prospers is because not everyone appreciates the level of insipid earnestness you clearly value in a website.
    Contrary to the title of this post, I’m willing to bet you’ve already won Ling more custom than she’s lost.
    And why did you delete the post on Pistonheads?

  4. GazChap

    I didn’t delete the post on PistonHeads, it wasn’t my post to delete. Don’t know why it’s gone, to be fair.

    And, you know, I’m all for joking about – but a simple “Actually, this was a joke – but why not check out or ” might not put me off leasing a car from her in the future.

  5. Gareth, because “Actually, this was a joke – but why not check out or ” is insulting your intelligence. You clearly already KNEW it was a joke. I’m not much interested in comforting people who are clearly finance-proposing a car as a “test” on a PH thread with sugary asinine comments.

    I do, in fact, understand you are no fool.

    Ling

  6. Roger

    Ling Valentine? Arthur Daley more like! What an unprofessional way to run a business! Isn’t it breaking the law to advertise false deals? Oh wait, yes it is!

  7. Oh, God, another one… YES, it is breaking the law to advertise a DeLorean. When do I go to jail?

    Ling

  8. dh

    Please Gaz, file a formal complaint with trading standards and wipe that smug grin off her face. It seems to be the only way to stop these bad practices…

  9. 750turbo

    “Jesus Christ!

    Get a life! It was a JOKE!!! FFS!!!

  10. Twg

    Crazy they took all your personal details, I assume addresses and bank details for something they can’t supply and then use your details to find your blog. Bad call.

  11. GazChap

    I’d be very surprised if they’d done that, TWG. I’ve posted a link to this page on twitter and it’s far more likely that this is how they’ve found my blog.

  12. DH, right… 🙂 Can I please have a copy of the “formal complaint” letter/email you send to Trading Standards, Gareth? Ta.

    That will be one for my wall, and it will go viral on Pistonheads. Here’s a template suggestion:

    “Dear sirs, I would like to say Ling is advertising a new 1981 DeLorean and I believed it was a real advert, not a spoof. I am not stupid, but I really thought she could supply these cars (despite what I wrote on Pistonheads before I applied)… Please take this complaint seriously and send her to jail, as jokes should be banned from the internet. Yours, Gaz”

    ====

    TWG “they” = me. But I didn’t “take” all Gaz’s details, he wrote them out and GAVE them to me. Knowing that it was a spoof advert. Which shows a little culpability, don’t you think.

    As Gaz says, I didn’t use his details to find him, his blog wasn’t on the details. It was bladdered all over Twitter like a rash.

    ====

    750Turbo: Exactly 🙂

    Ling

  13. TWG

    I can understand once you click submit it took you to a page saying you’re a “twonk” but to accept them is bad practice imo let alone the reply. I know when my lease is up in May where I won’t be looking!

  14. TWG… in that case you’ll miss out on a super new flashy silver Gull-Wing model I have coming into stock. So sorry 🙂

    Like I say in my very first post, below: {…it’s amazing how many “offended” people are “just about” to order a car…}

    Ling

  15. TheTurbonator

    Jesus I think the only person that takes things too seriously is you Ling. The Delorean was a joke and so was Gaz’s interest. If you advertise a car as a joke, should you not be able to take any banter you might receive in return? Your behaviour is somewhat like a spoilt rich-kid school bully. They can dish the insults and jokes out but they sure as hell can’t take them back.

    In some ways I always admired your ambition and style of your website and I remember you very well from Dragon’s Den this escapade, has lost you any previous respect I had for you.

  16. Theturbonator: Hmm, well, another anonymous troll rolls up to join in. Were you “just about” to order a car, too?

    I have never heard of you, but somehow, your anonymous carping has lost you any previous respect I had for you.

    Ling

  17. Tim

    The DeLorean did look very genuine, and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that someone somewhere is still making them. It’s obvious what is going on here, but I suspect it might backfire. Good luck with your advertising campaign though. I certainly woulden’t consider leasing a car from this outfit after reading these replies!

  18. Jonny

    Does this mean I can’t actually lease a Lada Riva…?

    Bugger. And to think I actually believed I could lease an archaic Soviet remake of an ancient Fiat here in 2013.

    Next thing some bugger’ll tell me there’s no Easter Bunny either.

  19. Jenson

    Damn, and I swear once I saw a Death Star listed on there. Are you telling me that Ling cannot actually provide one?! Wow this is a complete unexpected outrage! I’m going to have to make sure I contact Santa to get one off him instead.

  20. Not a Moron

    Well, I looked at that advert too – and then instantly saw in red that it said THIS IS A J-O-K-E LISTING. Therefore, not being a moron, I realised it was a joke and laughed. I did not then waste everyone’s time by applying for a lease for it and then complain to trading standards. I am a grown up.

  21. Well, I didn’t complain either – this blog post was the last I wrote on it, but I guess someone must have also taken offence to it to go that far.

    The page didn’t have the “joke listing” message on there at the time this was written, incidentally.

    But yes, I was an idiot for even entertaining the thought it might be genuine – no arguments there. Not sure it warranted the abuse though, is my point 😛

  22. James

    Another one here who won’t be using Ling’s cars. I don’t mind the joke but the attitude and insults are a pretty poor show. As for the obvious cronies I believe you can buy brand new vw campers and beetles produced in Mexico these days so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that someone had produced a limited run of the DeLorean. Before any sarcastic response comes in I am indeed looking to replace two cars at present but this situation has no impact on it as I have never found your prices competitive in any event.

  23. Marco

    Ling Valentine clearly has too much time on her hands, I too saw this “Deal” I too thought it was genuine though I wasn’t quite sure. She is obviously a narcissist and enjoys the attention. This business won’t last very long don’t be fooled by the Dragon’s Den publicity, she roped them in with spoofed figures and then turned them down for publicity. They did revisit her and went through the figures properly only to find that the business was not worth investing in.

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