Archive for January, 2009

Bye-bye Bill Heard. Hello Durant Auto Group.
January 28, 2009

As many of you know, Bill Heard Chevrolet kept me busy for many months. The calls and emails about unscrupulous sales tactics there seemed never-ending. I’ve posted most of our stories below in case you didn’t see them.

Local 2 Investigates Bill Heard Chevrolet: November 13, 2007

New Complaints against Bill Heard: November 22, 2007

Local 2 Investigates Car Dealer’s Sales Tactics: April 25, 2008

Dirty Car Salesmen Come Clean: April 26, 2008

Woman Buys Car, Loses Identity: April 27, 2008

Bill Heard Closes Dealerships: September 24, 2008

Bankruptcy Causes Financial Nightmares: October 1, 2008

The latest news this week comes from Fort Bend Now, a newspaper out of Sugar Land.

January 26th, 2009  |  by Bob Dunn

Parkway Chevrolet owner Jean Durdin’s bid to buy the Bill Heard Sugar Land Chevrolet dealership has fallen through, and instead Durant Auto Group is in the driver’s seat.

Judge Jack Caddell, presiding over Bill Heard Enterprises’ huge bankruptcy case, approved the sale of the Sugar Land dealership to the Durant group on Jan. 21, according to Bill Heard’s financial advisor in the bankruptcy case.

The group is controlled by Tom Durant, and owns Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, and other dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Durant Financial Director Don Kerstetter said his company hopes to close on the deal within two months.

Kerstatter will head up the Sugar Land dealership assuming the transaction is completed. He said his company wants to upgrade some older equipment, and soon will be looking for employees.

City of Sugar Land sources say Bill Heard employed about 300 at the dealership. Kerstetter said Durant may not employ as many right away, but could build up to close to that number.

He said he would be concentrating first on fixed operations employees, such as parts and service. While they’ll also be interviewing sales and managers, “we’re going to bring on some of our own managers” in key positions.

“We want to make sure they understand our culture and our dedication to customer service,” Kerstatter said.

“We’re excited. We’re expecting to go down there and be very successful,” he added. “I think everyone will see we are the polor opposit of the way Bill Heard did business down there.”

News accounts show Heard Enterprises was involved in numerous consumer complaints in several states, and the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs had filed a $50 million suit against the company for deceptive advertising.

In Houston, Better Business Bureau
records show 142 complaints had been filed against Bill Heard Sugar Land over the past three years.

Including 14 mostly Chevrolet dealerships, Bill Heard Enterprises filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in September of 2008.

Once generating $2.5 billion in annual sales, the company racked up debts totaling between $500 million and $1 billion, according to the Chapter 11 filing. About $40 million of that is unsecured, according to Heard’s financial adviser in the case.

In November 2008, Judge Caddell accepted a $20 million bid by Durdin of Tomball’s Parkway Chevrolet, during an auction in which she topped an earlier bid by Houston car dealer Mac Haik by more than $7.7 million.

But, according to bankruptcy court documents, more than a month passed since Bill Heard Enterprises and the bankruptcy court signed off on an asset purchase agreement for the Sugar Land dealership, “and since that time Buyer has indicated that she does not have financing in place to close the purchase.”

In mid-December, Bill Heard sent a demand letter to Durdin to consummate the sale, and later sent a letter of intent to terminate the sales agreement, court documents show.

About a month later, the court approved a deal that, if completed, would put Durant in control of the Sugar Land dealership.

Kerstetter said some of Bill Heard’s inventory has been sitting on the Sugar Land lot since September, when the bankruptcy case was filed.

But “there are rumors that some of the older inventory has been removed,” he said.

Ketstetter said the Sugar Land Heard dealership was very successful, and was ranked No. 18 in the country in terms of Chevy sales despite being shuttered for the last three months of the year.

By contrast, he said, Durant’s Classic Chevrolet has been the highest-volume single dealership for Chevrolets for the past three years in a row.

At last check, the Harris County Tax Office was still working with the investigators at TxDOT and the State Comptroller’s Office to try and waive the registration, tax, title and sales tax for about 60 customers who purchased vehicles from Bill Heard and LandMark Chevrolet, but could not get the proper tags for them. 

A representative with the Tax Assessor’s office told me that everything was tied up in the bankruptcy and that the dealerships were still in possession of the paperwork and license plates.

That same representative told me when Bill Heard wrote a check to the Fort Bend Tax Office, it bounced.

I couldn’t help snapping these pictures of Landmark’s sad, empty parking lot when I passed by.

 

 

 

 

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Does “Liquidation” mean Lower prices?
January 21, 2009

In tonight’s “Ask Amy” segment, we went shopping.  (And I get paid to do this job!)

I’ve actually had a lot of you ask me if those liquidation sales, like the one at Circuit City now, really have good deals.

To find out, I picked several products at Circuit City, wrote down the model numbers and compared the prices at competitor Best Buy.  Best Buy is not liquidating.

We also took it a step further and looked for the same items at a reputable e-tailer. Who has the best prices?

circuitcity4

amazonimages1

 

Check it out here:

Samsung52″1080pLCDHDTV                                                                                                         

Model: LN52A550

Circuit City: Liquidation Price this week: $1890.99        

Best Buy: $1899.99

Amazon: $1489.98

Samsung 46″120HZ1080pLCDHDTV                                                                                                 

Model LN46A850               

Circuit City: Liquidation Price this week  $2340.

Best Buy: $2099.99

Amazon: $1788.98

                                       

Samsung 46″1080pLCDHDTV                                                                                                        

Model: LN46A550

Circuit City: Liquidation Price this week $1440.

Best Buy: $1299.99

Amazon: $1099.98

               

Samsung26″FlatpanelLCDHDTV                                                                                                  

Model: LN26A450

Circuit City: Liquidation Price this week $585.00

Best Buy: $649.99

Amazon: $499.95

                   

HooverSteamVacAllTerrain                                                                                                          

Model: F7452900

Circuit City: Liquidation Price this week: $234

Best Buy: $269.99

Amazon: $263.66

                     

AudioVox7″DigitalFrame&MessageCenter                                                                                

Model: DPF710K

Circuit City: Liquidation Price this week: $89.01

Best Buy: $129.99

Amazon: $92.70

Everybody likes a freebie
January 21, 2009

The wheels of my car mysteriously turned towards the Galleria on my way home tonight.  No worries- there’s no guilt involved.  I just can’t pass up a good deal. And “free” is as good as a deal can be.

In case you haven’t heard, a class action lawsuit has resulted in a settlement where several department stores are handing out $175 million worth of cosmetics, perfume and moisturizers. The stores started giving out the products today. They will continue until they run out. Judging by what I saw at Neiman Marcus and Macy’s tonight, I think that will be very soon.

Out of more than a dozen products, only 2 were available by 7pm. Here’s the one I chose:

estee-lauder1

Speed Traps Revealed
January 19, 2009

red-lightTonight’s “Ask Amy” focused on a glitch in Houston’s Red Light Camera program. 

Eileen Donevant ran a red light at Westheimer & 610 back in December. But she did it because a Houston Police officer directing traffic told her to. Unfortuantely, the red light camera caught her SUV pulling out into the intersection, but it didn’t show the officer to the far right.

HPD says officers directing traffic are supposed to notify the red light camera department to let them know the dates, times and areas where they are advising motorists to disregard the lights.  In Donevant’s case, clearly that didn’t happen.

Along that same vein, I’d thought I’d share a pretty cool website with you. speedtrap1of

Speedtrap.org lists thousands of speed traps across the country. It’s updated by drivers just like you who were caught, almost caught or just want to make sure others aren’t caught.

When you get to the site, click on “Texas.” The cities are grouped together for the most part, but they don’t seem to be in any particular order.

Of you’re looking for Houston, the speed trap entries start on page 102 and go through part of page 115.

And strange… but true. On page 24, there is apparently a speed trap in Sachse, TX on Billingsley Street. Now all we need is for Bill to drive through town to get in on the action.

dominique1balleza

frank

 

Here are some other places you might be looking for:

Page 115- Conroe, Montgomery County

 Page 119- Humble, Kingwood

Page 120- Tomball, Magnolia

Page 123- Bellaire

Page 62- Woodville

Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting speeding is acceptable. You should always drive carefully and safely.

Your Ike Insurance Questions Answered
January 14, 2009

 Q&A with Audrey Selden, Senior Associate Commissioner for consumer protection at the Texas Department of Insurance

Q: What’s the most common insurance complaints homeowners and businesses have after Hurricane Ike?

A: Most of them deal with claims handling delays. Meaning that a consumer has told us that their insurance carrier is not acting fast enough in terms of processing their claims. We are very concerned about hearing from consumers. If you feel you have not been helped by your insurance company or agent, we want you to call the Texas Department of Insurance at 1-800-252-3439 or log onto www.tdi.state.tx.usThe thing that we’ve seen most in terms of justified complaints, dealt with delays. That delay could have been in getting my claim set up, having someone assign an adjuster, having an adjuster release a report, having received a report releasing payment. We’ve seen delays at each one of those intervals. At this point, we’d like to see more movement in terms of helping consumers.

Q: Along the coast, we’ve heard from homeowners who say they are still waiting for both the flood insurance companies and the windstorm insurance companies to decide which company is paying what amount. What advice do you have for those people still waiting for answers?

A: For consumers who are waiting on a final determination as to what was the cause of their loss, they at this point want to make sure they have filed a claim with their flood insurance program, with their regular carrier, with Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, the Texas Fair Plan, or whoever might be their carrier. At this point, we should be to the point of getting additional information about what might have happened. Many consumers should have already received an advance, meaning some partial payment either for their additional living expenses or nominal payment regarding their damages. We are now almost four months following this disaster, so we would like to see additional movement on the part of these carriers to get these claims resolved.

Q: What’s the best advice you have for people still battling with their insurance companies?

A: I always tell consumers that I speak with that you are your own best advocate. You have to be diligent about making certain that everything you’re entitled to get under each one of those policies that you purchased, you actually received. If you’re not having your calls returned, that you’ve already gone back to the carrier and said this amount is not sufficient and you’re not getting any help with a supplemental payment, then I think you should complain to us.

Q: We know most people get flood insurance from the Federal Flood Insurance Program. Can consumers still come to the state with flood insurance disputes?

A: We do have contacts with our federal partners and if someone is having a serious problem with the flood program, please have them call us or send us a complaint and we’ll work with the National Flood Insurance Program to get them the answer they might need. We do know the people to contact to get a second look, if you will, at your flood policy.