The Auto-Transport Industry: An Investigative Report on Auto-Transport Brokers, Highlighting Showtime Transport
Finding an ethical auto-transport company is like looking for Mother Theresa in a community of mobsters. The odds are stacked against you. In fact, you've got about as much chance as winning the California State Lottery. It's a slippery, shady and unregulated industry filled with employees behaving like primitive cave-men fighting over scraps of meat on a bone.
Many of these auto-transport companies open shop for a couple of months, steal people's deposits, close shop and open up under a different name.
Below are the norms of customer service from one auto-transport company in particular: Showtime Transport
1) Hanging up the phone on the customer - you'll never get to express
a complete thought
2) Not returning the customer's phone calls after payment has been made
3) Lots of yelling - these guys have great vocal chords and would give any
American Idol contestant a run for their money
4) Overpromise and underdeliver - they'd fit in real well with Hollywood
5) Insults - You will learn new ways of verbally delivering your anger
6) A few threats just to keep it spicy - You'll feel like you're in a bad episode
of Jersey Shore and wish that Tony Soprano was your friend
7) Lies - these guys would pass a lie detector test
8) Bribes - Cash is always King, remember that folks - they strongly
Now, I wasn't expecting the five star service that I get from fine establishments in Beverly Hills. No. There would be no champagne delivered to me if these guys made a mistake. There would no polite verbiage, empathy and compassion for my feelings. This industry has its own standards of manners and etiquette: One that required me to pull out my pink boxing gloves from my already packed box and not only defend myself but fight on behalf of the hundreds of customers who got swindled and didn't have the time, energy or strength left to defend themselves against Showtime Transport.
Needing my car shipped from Cali to the Midwest, I discovered and landed on a minefield of scams, in particular, a company named Showtime Transport, causing collateral damage.
There are hundreds of auto-transport companies out there that call themselves: Family owned (they give a new definition to the word, 'family' and it ain't no Beaver Cleaver family) declare they've been in business for at least 'twenty' years (20 seems to be an industry norm) insist they own their own fleet of trucks (they work with independent truckers) and are there to support you on this uncertain and emotional journey. (more like 'instigate' your emotions)
Most of them are brokers. So what does that mean? And why does it matter?
An auto-transport broker is a glorified 'paper pusher', the worthless middleman trying to muster up added value. These are the first employees Wall Street Investment Bankers eliminate in a merger or acquisition, because they are dead weight to an organization. The auto-transport broker has no worth and piggy-backs on those people - the truckers - who are providing the services - real services which are labor intensive. Driving an 18-wheeler is no easy task. Loading cars on both an open and closed carrier is heavy manual labor that takes a toll on the back. These truckers have a challenging job being away from their loved ones for long periods of time. They work hard for their dollar and provide added value to the economy. Unfortunately, they don't have the time to take a customer's calls and are thus forced to rely on these low-life dispatchers skimming their salary.
The auto-transport broker is a slippery connector who has no skills other than picking up a phone and speed talking as he aims to swindle the consumer. He takes a fee for connecting the consumer with the trucker to transport the car. Often, you will be bullied to pay cash, check or cashier's check for this broker fee before the trucker picks up your car. Don't ever pay cash up front. No checks, cashier's check, debit cards or cash. If there is an issue (and most likely there will be) you probably won't be able to get your money back. Even if you pay by credit card, they might put in the contract that you can't dispute the broker fee. (don't worry - these low-lifers don't have any legs to stand on against the major credit card companies)
These swindling sharks will quote you one rate and then sneakily put a different rate in the contract without telling you and change other various terms, inserting all sorts of hidden fees. Make sure you always read the contract. (although the contract will probably not be upheld anyway)They will guarantee you with a pick-up and delivery date and you'll discover it's an empty promise. And here's why:
These crooks lure in customers with a cheap rate to transport their car and then these 'rates' are thrown out as 'bids' to truckers. Well, if your rate is low, most likely the trucker is going to be holding out for a higher bid. If your car was guaranteed for pick-up within a certain time frame or specific date, I wish you lots of luck. You may never get your car picked up unless you fork out a lot of cash to expedite the process. And I mean a lot.
If after some period of time, a trucker decides not to hold out for more money your car will be transported. (this could go on for a week or weeks, however) If you want to fill your car with boxes, that's all negotiable depending on how much cash you have. Remember, Cash is King.
Another factor to consider is what kind of relationship do these truckers have with your chosen broker? Clearly, if the trucker knows that your broker is a low bidder, most likely they will not return the broker's requests for a pick-up or if they're just tired of dealing with these pilfering dispatchers, in particular: Showtime Transport - the phone will keep ringing.
These greasy thieves don't hold themselves accountable. Who do they blame?
They blame both the customers for "not understanding the 'trucking industry' and the hard-working truck drivers 'who aren't responsible enough to return their phone calls.'"
Being a woman who has always loathed dealing with the middleman as I find it cumbersome and error-prone, I tried my best to find a trucker whom I could deal directly with. I was unsuccessful. Everyone I contacted was a broker - a fast-talking vulture scavenging on the time-restricted, emotionally vulnerable consumer.
I chose Showtime Transport because I was led to believe that they were not a brokering company and perhaps subliminally I liked the fact they had a name from the Showbiz industry, having been in the entertainment business for many years. Well, Showtime Transport gave me a show, all right, and now we're in a Showdown.
I originally left a message for Michael, my representative who had responded to my email inquiry, on his voicemail, inquiring about their services, and he did not call me back. (one of my greatest pet peeves)
When I called him back some time later, (as I really had slim pickings in this industry) before proceeding, I firmly scolded him and emphasized the importance of customer service and how he was going to have to develop better communication skills. He apologized, but he wasn't sorry. A man like Michael who cheats customers out of their money doesn't have a conscience so "sorry" is not in his vocabulary. I'm convinced he doesn't even know how to spell it.
He rambled off the information faster than a New Yorker which ignited a red flag. There would be a $150 fee up front. When I asked what the $150 rate was for because that was the rate all the brokers were quoting me, he insisted it was going to the driver, they had their own fleet of trucks and they were not a broker. His female associate had told me earlier that they only 'brokered' out to some northern states as the roads and mountains are too challenging for their trucks.
This was not the case. Showtime Transport was brokering out my pick-up.
Michael told me they had been in business for twenty years and were family-owned. (their website states they've only been in business since 2008) He insisted that they have trucks four times a week in Los Angeles, California (his female colleague I had spoken to when I couldn't reach Michael, had emphasized only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Michael emphatically confirmed that he had a truck available on Tuesday May 1st and there would be no extra fee for having a specific date.
He urged me to sign the contract or I would lose my spot on the open carrier truck. In fact, as soon as he emailed me the contract, he called me faster than Speedy Gonzalez to make sure I received it. A man like Michael doesn't change his habits that quickly just because a woman scolds him. The neuronal wirings of Michael's brain don't alter that quickly, if ever. No. A man like Michael - a crook - had ulterior motives as to why he sent over the contract because there were all sorts of 'additions' and 'fine line' contractual obligations to be wary of.
When I received the contract, I noticed the $150 rate had changed to $200 and the pick-up date of May 1st said "first available date". I immediately inquired why had the deposit rate changed in a matter of sixty seconds? He told me the driver had just called and demanded more money because of the increase in gas prices. It didn't make sense at all, but after speaking with numerous companies, I was exhausted.
"So you are sure that the driver is getting the initial $200 and you are not a broker?" I asked.
"Yes, the driver is getting the $200 deposit," he lied.
He also lied and said that my car was definitely going to be picked up on May 1st and that the contract said "First available date" as just a technicality. I understand weather conditions, technical problems or traffic issues (all very reasonable delays) but those weren't the issues preventing my truck driver from picking up my car.
The day before my pick-up - April 30th - I telephoned Michael to confirm. He answered and informed me that the truck driver would call me a few hours before pick-up in the morning.
The next morning - May 1st - I did not receive a phone call. I called Michael. If someone was going to get an Oscar for his winning performance, it would undoubtedly be Michael. Hands down.
Michael, maybe you should come out to Hollywood?
He proceeded to throw the assigned 'trucker' under the bus (Hey truckers, are you reading this?!!) and said he was going to call him immediately. Michael didn't do that. I never received a call-back from Michael. An hour later I called him.
"Michael? What's going on? Why didn't you call me back? Did you hear from the driver?"
"He still didn't call you back?" He incredulously lied again. "I'm going to call him again - he's not returning my calls."
Well, if I were that trucker, I wouldn't return your calls either, Michael. In fact, if I didn't need my car transported, I would never have crossed paths with your seedy and unethical business practices.
I waited again and the more I waited, the angrier I got. Michael had his $200, some of which I'm convinced he was pocketing for a commission. He essentially took money out of a truck driver's pocket because if my car was going to be delivered, the rate had not changed. Truckers, are you reading this?
This is a low-risk industry in terms of the ramifications for bad customer service. Think about it. What is the likelihood that I'll be a 'repeat' customer? The chances I'll be shipping my car again is very unlikely, if at all. They don't need goodwill nor do they understand it.
Michael was never going to call me back.
I called Michael again, and I got his voicemail.
Annoyed, I called the main number and through the automated service connected to "customer service". A man answered and listened to my highly emotional story and said, "Hold on" and faster than a lightning bolt, a man answered and guess who it was? It was Michael.
"Michael?" I asked.
"Yes?" He hesitated, sensing a familiarity with my agitated voice.
"Michael, it's nice to know that you're too busy to pick up my call when you see my number, but not too busy to answer a 'transferred call.'
The showdown begins. I heatedly informed him that I was a writer and their unacceptable business practices were not only going to be highlighted in an article but taken to local media for an investigation.
Michael laughed at my angst and tauntingly said, "You know what we call this in the trucking industry? An anxiety attack," he snickered sarcastically.
Well, Michael it wouldn't surprise me if you hoodlums sold illegal boxes of Ativan in a back alley to all the customers your company made anxious.
He hastily informed me that if I was unhappy with their business practices to cancel and hung up on me. Well, I took your advice, Michael.
I called customer service again.
A man answered, named Louis, who apparently was the manager.
After a heated discussion with Louis this is what he confirmed.
1) There had been no trucker assigned to pick up my car
2) $200 does not go to the driver - it goes to the company
3) He was going to throw more of the company's money to the central
dispatch to see what 'trucker would bite' on the bid.
4) He was going to speak to Michael
The conversation continued to get more heated as I told him that I was cancelling my order and emphasized how Michael had completely lied to me.
Louis screamed that I was "dumb" for believing his employee, Michael, and not reading the contract. Yes, this guy called me 'dumb.'
Really, Louis? I'll be happy to inform you that I was always a straight A student and will challenge you to a mathematical equation or spelling bee any day, bucko!
I also informed Louis that I would be writing an article on their corrupt practices.
He then proved that he also had incredible vocal chords and he wasn't scared because "people write bad things about their company all of the time."
Louis also hung up on me.
I knew I could outsmart these clowns so I called again and chose to speak to someone in Reservations hoping I could connect with the owner. This representative was nice at first, claimed he was a 'supervisor' but when I told him what happened and that I was cancelling the order he began to yell at me about a binding contract.
I asked for the owner's name. He wouldn't give it to me because he said he would lose his job. He yelled at me some more, told me to 'be quiet', and then told me that I liked to listen to my own voice.
I told him that telling a customer to 'be quiet' is not appropriate. He yelled some more and hung up on me.
I immediately emailed them a written confirmation that I was cancelling my order and miraculously I had a couple of truckers text me a couple of hours later stating they had a spot on their truck. But, deal over, Showtime.
So what next?
My investigation of Showtime Transport.
Leaving no stone unturned
After the fact, (yes this level of due diligence should always be done before you work with someone) I scoured their website looking for discrepancies. And, boy, did I find them. Listed on their website under a list of Sponsors were:
BBB (The Better Business Bureau)
Showtime Transport was given an F rating by BBB
With a fine-toothed comb, I contacted each and every organization letting them know I was doing an investigation of this company based on their shady and unethical business practices. This is what I discovered both verbally and in some cases written confirmation.
1) AAA covering the Florida region where they are based did not have a
relationship with Showtime Transport. They also did not have them nationally
listed as an AAA partner for customers to receive any AAA discount. They were
not aware of Showtime Transport and sent the issue to their national office for
further clarification. (verbal confirmation)
False representation, Showtime Transport.
2) Autotrader.com - they sent me written confirmation that they are not a
sponsor of Showtime Transport.
What are you thinking, Showtime Transport?
3) Cars.com - they didn't even know who Showtime Transport was and did not know why their name was listed as a sponsor. They immediately contacted their legal department to contact Showtime Transport (written confirmation)
Misleading the customer, Showtime Transport.
4) A representative from eBay Motors was not aware of Showtime Transport
and sent out an internal alert. (verbal confirmation)
I tried to reach their media contact for further clarification. No response.
5) The Better Business Bureau has given Showtime Transport an F-rating.
They've had 35 registered customer complaints. (on their website)
Advertising/Sales Issues Complaints 5
Delivery Issues 8
Guarantee/Warranty Issues 1
Problems with Product/Service 21
The Better Business Bureau says:
"This company is not an accredited Business of the Better Business Bureau. This company has failed to discontinue the use of our Federally Registered Trademark when demands have been made to do so. Misrepresentation of BBB accreditation constitutes false and deceptive advertising and trademark infringement."
After much hesitation, I called the 'personal endorsements.'
Carlos Del Monte had a link underneath his name which directs you to K&R Engineering Performance. I contacted this company. They responded that Carlos Del Monte is not a direct customer of theirs and they have no clue as to why their link is on Showtime Transport's website. (written confirmation after speaking with them)
Showtime Transport has a lot of chutzpah.
I did not hear back from the other personal endorsement.
Two days after I had contacted these companies, Showtime Transport, who had insisted they weren't frightened about my pending article removed ALL of the companies who were listed as SPONSORS.
A victory. But my investigation isn't over Showtime Transport. No, the show is just beginning. I have "print screen" shots of your original website just in case you "grease balls" try to change your story. I'm on to you and you're going to be shut down, bucko.
Showtime Transport still falsely states on their main page that they are a member of the Better Business Bureau and boldly prints lies such as: "We value ourselves on being customer oriented. We are often asked, “What makes you so different from other companies?” The answer is simple: We care! We answer our phones, we return messages and we respond to emails."
Really, Showtime Transport?
Well, here are just a few of the many links of customers who were ripped off by Showtime Transport. The most heart wrenching story is a man who served our country - fighting for our democracy, risking his life - after serving one year in the Middle East, he returns to the United States of America and gets screwed by a fellow American - Showtime Transport.
Really, Showtime Transport?
"I just got back from an overseas deployment two weeks ago. After one year serving in the Middle East, I finally arrive home to the States and have to deal with issues such as this one with Showtime Auto Transport Inc." See link below.
Better Business Bureau link
Other Rip Off Reports
I've contacted the local news stations to do an investigative report on Showtime Transport and will be doing my own video interview to be aired in the next few days. This company should no longer be in business.
What about my car?
I'm completely traumatized by the egregious breaches of business standards by these filthy hoodlums and have a fear of dealing with any other auto transport company. It is a dark, seedy world which I don't care to be part of. So for now, my car remains in California while I take care of my personal matters in the Midwest, indeed, without my car.
But to Showtime Transport - here are my closing remarks.
Show over. Curtain closed. Exit stage left, bucko.
Personal Note from the Writer to the Readers:
I prefer to write health-related articles, but this was a topic that was important to bring to the attention of the public. However, my blood pressure did rise and my chest muscles were constricted so technically speaking it can still constitute as a health-related article. Dealing with Showtime Transport was a health hazard.