Chrysler Dealership Sues Woman Over Charging Her too Low a Price

As reported in the New York Times, a crazy legal action makes you understand the adage “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

And now a Chrysler dealership in Hopkins, Minn., is using that concept to sue a customer over a deal it says she should have known was an error.

In October, Tammie Townsend of Golden Valley, Minn., bought the 2007 Chrysler Pacifica that she had been leasing for two years. She signed the papers to convert the lease to a sale, agreeing to pay $11,639, or about $6,000 less than the car’s Blue Book value, James Eli Shiffer wrote in The Minneapolis Star Tribune on Saturday.

And there’s the rub. Walser Chrysler says that the price was “an administrative error,” The Star Tribune reported. The dealership contacted Ms. Townsend two weeks after the purchase to say that it wanted an additional $7,000 or she needed to return the car.

“She was told several times what the [correct] price was,” said Doug Sprinthall, vehicle operations director for Walser Automotive Group. “We made a clerical error.”

In fact, Mr. Sprinthall said, the dealership would have reimbursed Ms. Townsend if it had accidentally overcharged her.

But Ms. Townsend, whose husband recently lost his job, doesn’t see it that way.

“You can’t sell someone something and then come back and say: ‘Whoops, I made a mistake. You have to pay more,’ ” said Ms. Townsend, 40, a hairstylist who lives in Golden Valley.

Ms. Townsend said in a telephone interview on Monday that since the article about her situation appeared in The Star Tribune, she had been inundated with phone calls from people — “even people I don’t know,” she said — supporting her.

The dealership has been getting phone calls, too, and those calls have also been backing Ms. Townsend, Mr. Sprinthall said on Tuesday.

But he said some of those callers had misconceptions, thinking that the deal had been a straight sale. But it was a lease-buyback arrangement, he said. So there are essentially two contacts — the original contract for the lease, which set a purchase price for the car, and the contract for the actual purchase.

“We’re attempting to negotiate this out with Tammie right now,” Mr. Sprinthall said, although Ms. Townsend said in an e-mail message on Tuesday that she had not heard anything about that from her lawyer.

“We don’t make a habit of suing customers,” he said. “I think we’ll work it out, and we’ll move on.”