It all started over the cost of a McDonald’s McChicken sandwich.
For Army Maj. Edward Kim, that was the amount of money that ignited a dispute with the Norm Reeves Honda Superstore that has now been raging for two years.
The 100-cent mishap began on June 8, 2018, when Kim purchased two vehicles — a 2018 Civic EX and a 2018 CR-V — from the Cerritos, California, dealership as gifts for his sister and mother.
But just days after taking the vehicles off the lot, Kim was notified by the dealer that a representative error had resulted in the CR-V’s finance arrangements being erroneously settled for $1 less than what the dealership claimed was the genuine $27,825 price tag.
Attempts by the dealer to arrange new financial terms were reportedly spurned by Kim, who told the Los Angeles Daily News that he stood pat in part because his original finance arrangements for the Civic went through without any issues.
“I didn’t think it was an honest mistake,” Kim told the Daily News, adding that he believes the dealer was using a shady bait-and-switch tactic to swindle him into worse terms than originally agreed upon.
Back-and-forth arguments ensued over incomplete credit applications, contract signatures, and vehicle repossession, but Kim dug in, and despite the dealer’s assertions of an invalid contract, was eventually able to obtain a state license plate and registration for the vehicle.
“It proves that financing was not denied — otherwise why would they send in the registration?” Kim told the Daily News. “They would not let us take the car if something was wrong. That’s why I believe it’s not an honest mistake.”
Dealership representation denied all accusations of employing a yo-yo scam, a deceptive tactic in which buyers of a vehicle are asked to return to the dealer due to a minor finance issue only to discover they’ve been given significantly worse terms.
“The experiences I had in Iraq, Afghanistan and my service in the Army have made me more determined to defend myself against Norm Reeves Honda’s deceptive practices,” Kim told the Daily News.
“Their actions are no different than the insurgents who bullied the Iraqi and Afghan people during my deployments.”
Allegations of bullying and comparisons to Middle Eastern insurgencies are unsurprisingly different tunes than the one being sung by the dealership’s legal representation, who have accused the Kim family of making no payments on the CR-V since driving it off the lot.
“The Kims have had possession and enjoyed the use and value of the vehicle for over two years without having made a single payment,” attorney Aaron Jacoby told the Daily News. “The matter could have been resolved had the Kims simply re-signed the retail installment sale contract correcting the discrepancy.”
Kim’s attorney, Eric M. Sasahara, told the Daily News that his client has attempted to make payments, which were refused by the dealership due to an insistence on new terms.
Norm Reeves Honda took legal action against Kim in February 2019, when they filed a lawsuit seeking nearly $30,000 in compensation — the cost of the vehicle and legal fees — and the return of the vehicle to the dealer.
In response, Kim reportedly sued Norm Reeves Honda for approximately $80,000 for breaking the terms of the contract and violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a measure that helps protect active-duty military from vehicle repossession without a court order.
Both lawsuits are pending, and further action has been postponed due to COVID-19, the report said.
Still, Kim remains steadfast and determined to scratch and claw for both principle and for those without the means to battle these alleged practices.
“Many of these people were most likely saving money for a long time to have an opportunity at owning a new car — only to be deceived,” Kim told the Daily News.
“They probably did not have the resources to defend themselves against Norm Reeves Honda deception and their large law firm’s legal threats to gain additional money after a sale has been completed. This is why I continue to fight.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.