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.