Apr 032011
 
 April 3, 2011  Posted by at 3:38 am Random Rants  Add comments

I normally don’t do this through my blog, but this time the circumstances were just too much to keep quiet.

A few months back I moved from San Jose, California to Vancouver, British Columbia on a new assignment with my employer. One of my considerations was that I wanted to move my car, because it was just 2.5 years old, it had been driven just about 40% of the national average, and most importantly it was the metaphorical brand-new-looking car.

So I put out a request for quotes and received a few. One of the companies that responded was Autos on the Go, a company based out of Franklin, Michigan. A person called Mirel Molnar, who some claim is the owner of this company got in touch with me and sent across the forms required. This wasn’t the cheapest quote I had (though it was close), but what convinced me to go with this company is that Mirel seemed pretty professional. This company was a broker rather than an actual mover, and basically arranged for door-to-door service, doing everything from the pickup of the vehicle to the delivery and insuring the move.

The Contract

The contract I signed was pretty straightforward and among other things it had the following clauses:

Damages and Required Documentation. Neither AOTG nor carriers will be held liable for damage caused by leaking freezing, exhaust systems, acts of God, or flying objects from the road or objects falling off of cars. In the event a vehicle is otherwise damaged during transport, the carrier’s insurance is the primary insurance. Shipper agrees to fully inspect the vehicle at both pickup and delivery and denote any and all damages on the carrier’s bill of lading/condition report BEFORE the driver leaves.

Damage must be properly noted while the driver is still there, regardless of the time of day or dirty condition of the vehicle. Signing the carrier’s bill of lading at the destination without specific notation of damage shall be evidence of satisfactory delivery of the vehicle.

Claims for Damages. Shipper’s vehicle will be transported by a trucking company and the carrier actually transporting the vehicle shall be liable for any and all damage claims arising from transport. Shipper is responsible for getting an inspection sheet from the driver both at pick up location and delivery location. Shipper agrees to release and hold harmless AOTG from any damage claims. Upon request, AOTG will furnish Shipper with name, address, and phone number of the carrier and provide a copy of the carrier’s Certificate of Insurance. In the event of damage, shipper is to provide AOTG a copy of both inspection sheets from the pickup location and the delivery location within 48 hours after receiving vehicle at the delivery location. All claims are to be submitted directly to the carrier within 7 days of Shipper receiving vehicle unless noted otherwise on the carrier’s bill of lading.

Any claims for damages not noted on the bill of lading/condition report will not be honored by the carrier’s insurance company. Department of Transportation regulations require that all claims be filed in writing and all tariffs be paid in full before claims are processed; therefore, Shipper agrees he/she will not seek to charge back a credit card or stop a check to offset a dispute for damage claims. AOTG will support you in filing claim against a carrier should a problem occur, but in no way will AOTG accept responsibility for any negligence of the assigned carrier.

The above clauses are very significant in the context of what transpired.

The Pick-Up

As arranged, Autos on the Go had the vehicle picked up by their partner, Auto Shipping LLC at the appointed time on 7th December 2010. I signed a Bill of Lading that noted the existing condition of the car. As you can see, it noted minor scratches on the front and the side (nothing unusual for any car). The pickup process seemed pretty smooth.

Exhibit 1 - Pickup BOL

I have tried to increase the contrast in the BOL below to show the initial condition

Exhibit 2 - Pickup BOL: Initial Condition

The (Non-)Delivery

At the time of the pickup I had no address in Canada. So I told Mirel that I would let him know of the same as soon as I had it. My vehicle was picked up on 7th as stated, and on 9th I sent across the new address by email:

from Sayontan Sinha <say… @….COM>
to Autos On The Go <autos…@…COM>
date Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 10:20 AM
subject Re: toyota matrix auto transport contract


Mirel,

Here is my correct Vancouver address:
3104-1200 West Georgia
Vancouver, BC

The phone number there is 604-608-2705.

Regards,
Sayontan.

Now, I sat back and relaxed. On 14th December I received an email from Turbo Auto Transport, the delivery partner of Autos on the Go. They wanted me to fill up some paperwork with the address etc. I promptly filled that up and sent it back on the same day.

After waiting a few more days I called up Turbo Auto to find out where they were. Then I received an email on 20th, saying they had delivered the vehicle on 16th. Apparently they failed to reach me, so they put the vehicle in a bonded warehouse. The additional charge to me was $400, over the $745 I had already paid, the $350 I was supposed to pay upon delivery and the $90 I had to pay to clear customs. I right away refused to pay the delivery company because I had received no call from them.

Confusion ensued, which was eventually cleared up by Mirel. He had forgotten to provide my contact information to Turbo Auto. He was quick to admit his mistake and arrived at this resolution:

  1. I was to pay the fee to the bonded warehouse – $490 ($400 storage + $90 customs)
  2. I wouldn’t have to pay the delivery company $350. He would take care of it.
  3. He would refund me $40, which I would have paid in excess. (Later I realized the figure was incorrect – he would have owed me $50, because I paid $490 instead of $350 + $90 = $440).

I was satisfied with this resolution. That was before the real trouble began.

The Damage

When I went to the warehouse to pick up the car, after paying the fee I looked at the delivery Bill of Lading. It had only one word. There was an arrow pointing to the bumper cover, saying “Cracked”. I went cold simply reading that word.

Exhibit 3 - Delivery BOL

And when I went to look at the car, my worst fears were realized. The pigs had damaged my car.

Another thing I noticed a little bit later was that my rear license plate was gone. The significance of this didn’t strike me until a few days later.

I immediately called up Mirel, sent him photos of:

  1. The damage
  2. The missing license plate
  3. The Bills of Lading for pickup and delivery.

Mirel promised he would look into this as soon as I called him.

The Silent Treatment

Days passed. I sent Mirel repeated reminders, both by email and by phone.

from Sayontan Sinha <say… @….COM>
to Autos On The Go <autos…@…COM>
date Sun, Dec 26, 2010 at 9:32 AM
subject Re: toyota matrix auto transport contract


Mirel,
This is the third time I am asking you. Do you have any updates? Please have the courtesy to respond.

Regards,
Sayontan.

I must add that Mirel did not take any of my calls. But he did respond after my 3rd reminder above.

from Autos On The Go <autos…@…COM>
to Sayontan Sinha <say… @….COM>
date Mon, Dec 27, 2010 at 9:23 AM
subject Re: toyota matrix auto transport contract


Yes I am on the phone with the insurance now filing a claim. There was a holiday here this past weekend and the insurance company (Royalty Financial and Insurance Services) was also closed on Friday as well. I will have a claim number momentarily.

Mirel Molnar [Transport Coordinator]
-Autos On The Go LLC-
Cell: 248-xxx-yyyy
Fax: 866-xxx-yyyy
www.AutosOnTheGo.com

So I waited for the “momentarily” to pass. Several days went by, in addition to repeated emails and voice messages from me. None were answered.

The Escalation

Frustrated, I called Mirel’s company’s switchboard and asked them to transfer me to him. A person called Nick, claiming to be his friend, said he would speak to him. When I received no follow-up I called up Nick again. He said he didn’t know why Mirel hadn’t called. Tired of being tossed around I told him to take a message to Mirel, that I would pursue legal action.

Upon this happening, Mirel sent across an illegible copy of an insurance document and said that he was waiting for the Bill of Lading from the pickup guys (I had sent him a high-res photograph my copy of it, mind you). After I wrote a sarcastic mail to him, he sent a better copy of the carrier’s insurance document. This was on 13th January, more than 3 weeks after the incident.

from Autos On The Go <autos…@…COM>
to Sayontan Sinha <say… @….COM>
date Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 1:56 PM
subject insurance info


Sayontan,

I am still awaiting a bol from Auto Shipping LLC. This is the company that I hired to pick up your vehicle in Cali and bring it to Seattle. The owner’s name is Sam 253-xxx-yyyy. I have attached the insurance information if you wish to file a claim before receiving their bol you may do so. But I can not do it until I receive a bol from them also.

Mirel Molnar [Transport Coordinator]
-Autos On The Go LLC-
Cell: 248-xxx-yyyy
Fax: 866-xxx-yyyy
www.AutosOnTheGo.com

So basically:

  1. He wanted me to do his work because he wasn’t able to do it. As per the contract AOTG was to have supported me in filing the claim. Mind you, the claim should have been filed by him using my BOL, which was on the carrier’s letterhead.
  2. He deliberately waited 3 weeks to tell me this, and thereby missed the 7-day deadline as per his contract, which states that all claims are to be submitted to the carrier within 7 days of the incident. This was pointed out to me later by the carrier.
  3. He wanted me to do this work with a really unreadable document.

I started following up with Sam of Auto Shipping LLC, who was every bit as slimy a character as Mirel. Every time that I called him he said he was waiting for the paperwork from his driver, till one day he said, “My driver cannot locate his copy of the BOL. Why are you contacting me so many days after this incident? You should have done this within 7 days of the incident. I have a reputation to protect. Why would I lie to you?” So in essence, Mirel, by his delaying tactics, made sure that I had no chance of filing a claim by myself, since he condescended to provide the insurance information so late in the day.

In the meanwhile I took further action and posted a review on TransportReviews.com.

Review posted by Sayontan Sinha on 1/7/2011 8:44:00 PM
Rating: 0 stars out of 5
Subject: Disastrous – No response after damaging my new-looking car
Review:
Judging from the reviews posted here, my understanding is that all is fine if the shipment happens without issues, but if something goes wrong, this is the worst company to rectify it. I got my vehicle shipped from San Jose, California to Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The pickup happened on time and the person I was dealing with, Mirel Molnar seemed determined to have things done properly.Once I got to Canada, though, there were some major issues, because Mirel had forgotten to provide my Canadian phone number to the delivery folks, resulting in a $400 excessive charge! However Mirel was prompt enough to rectify this and get the charge reversed.

Then came the nasty part. The front fender on my car was cracked, and the rear license plate was gone. I later realized that while cracking the front fender the license plate might have got destroyed, so the folks doing the transportation made the swipe. I immediately contacted Mirel with photos and copies of the BoL at the loading point and the delivery point. The pickup BoL obviously gave the car a clean look (minor scratches), and the delivery BoL had the word "Cracked" written for the front fender. That was it.

Mirel said he would open a claim. 5 days went by without response, despite my repeated queries as to what the status was. Finally I sent an email asking him to have the courtesy to respond, and he did, saying that he was on the phone with the insurance folks and he would have a claim number shortly. 10 days went by, as did multiple phone calls and email messages. The response – none. And I am stuck with a damaged car when I shipped it out looking brand new.

Obviously Autos on the Go has no clue as to how to deal with scenarios where the shipment has gone awry. There is no way I would recommend them. The next time I do this kind of a move I would rather drive the car than have it shipped by companies such as Autos on the Go.

The Aftermath

In the meanwhile I knew that driving without the rear license plate was fraught with the risk of being pulled over. And so it happened. My wife was pulled over by cops when she had to drop my son off at school. Luckily she had all the documentation explaining things, so not much happened. But the cops told her that to avoid being pulled over again, she should take the license plates off the front and fix them to the rear of the car.

When I went to switch the license plates I noticed something that I hadn’t seen earlier. The license plate had a decal. In California the front license plate never has a decal – only the rear license plate had one. And then the true extend of the fraud dawned upon me.

The swine who was transporting the car crunched the front bumper cover (and probably lost the license plate on the way). Then:

  1. He unscrewed the rear license plate.
  2. He drilled a couple of new holes into the front bumper cover.
  3. He fixed the rear license plate using the new holes, which helped cover the extend of the damage.

So the person who did this did so fully aware of what happened. I don’t know who the culprit is, but sure as hell I wouldn’t be able to track the scum down without Mirel’s help. And he wouldn’t give me that.

The Frauds

One day I received an email from TransportReviews.com:

from <ad…@transportreviews.com>
to Sayontan Sinha <say… @….COM>
date Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 9:49 PM
subject Transport Reviews.com – Review Removed – Action Required – Non-Customer


Sayontan Sinha –

This email is to let you know your review was removed from our site at www.transportreviews.com. The reason for removal is that Autos On The Go is unable to locate your order and has no way of proving that you are a customer of theirs.

Transport Reviews.com wants your review on our site. However, we do require that you be a customer of the auto transport company that you review and AT THE COMPANY’s REQUEST we run our non-customer review process to verify you are a customer of theirs.

The rest of the email had instructions on how to reinstate the review.

My review on TransportReviews.com had apparently got Mirel’s attention. For, soon after, I received an email from Mirel:

from Autos On The Go <autos…@…COM>
to Sayontan Sinha <say… @….COM>
date Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 9:49 PM
subject Re: insurance info


Sayontan,

I will call Sam again in the morning and hopefully he will finally have the bol for me. If it is signed accordingly as he states, then the tow yard that we use will be responsible and I will immediately contact them and file the claim. I understand your frustration and I really do feel bad but rest assured all I can do is simply wait for the bol which was promised to me for quite some time now. At this point in time I have logged in to transportreviews.com and removed the negative review you have posted because it affects our business in a tremendous manner. If we do not cover the damage on your car, then you can log back in there and post the review. Please be patient, I will get this taken care of.

Mirel Molnar [Transport Coordinator]
-Autos On The Go LLC-
Cell: 248-xxx-yyyy
Fax: 866-xxx-yyyy
www.AutosOnTheGo.com

The False Hope

Obviously Mirel’s email made me somewhat hopeful. But only somewhat. A company that goes to such an extent as to remove a negative review (and promise resolution) because it affects their business deserves a second chance.

And sure enough, Mirel answered calls from me ONCE, and responded to my emails TWICE – much better than his attitude earlier. I sent him the photos of the actual damage without the license plates and explained how the license plates had been switched to falsify evidence. Mirel’s responsiveness continued for about a week:

from Autos On The Go <autos…@…COM>
to Sayontan Sinha <say… @….COM>
date Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 1:49 PM
subject Re: Damage pictures without front license plate


Wow, I am shocked by all of this and will be having a lengthy conversation with what I thought was a valid storage/towing facility. I will keep you advised.

Mirel Molnar [Transport Coordinator]
-Autos On The Go LLC-
Cell: 248-xxx-yyyy
Fax: 866-xxx-yyyy
www.AutosOnTheGo.com

A couple of days later on phone he told me, “I am filing a claim and I will let you know shortly”. And then silence ensued.

The Frauds – II

I gave Mirel repeated reminders and warnings, then as per our agreement I went ahead and reinstated my review on TransportReviews.com. So frustrated was I this time, that I wrote a more strong review, with complete details about the license plate switch, the fraud that Mirel committed the first time by getting my review removed, the non-payment of money owed to me, the non-issuance of receipts and the complete lack of transparency in communication.

My review happened to be the top review on Google Search as of 1st April 2011. The following snapshot of Google’s cache of 29th March proves it.

Exhibit 4 - Original Reviews With Mine on Top


Exhibit 5 - My Review Prior to Removal

In a weird case of déjà vu, AOTG indulged in fraudulent practices again. I received an email from TransportReviews.com again that was identical to the first one I received from them (of course, that brings to question Transport Reviews’ quality processes too):

from <adm…@transportreviews.com>
to Sayontan Sinha <say… @….COM>
date Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 8:52 PM
subject Transport Reviews.com – Review Removed – Action Required – Non-Customer


Sayontan Sinha –

This email is to let you know your review was removed from our site at www.transportreviews.com. The reason for removal is that Autos On The Go is unable to locate your order and has no way of proving that you are a customer of theirs.

Transport Reviews.com wants your review on our site. However, we do require that you be a customer of the auto transport company that you review and AT THE COMPANY’s REQUEST we run our non-customer review process to verify you are a customer of theirs.

This time there was no explanation from Mirel. This email is what actually prompted this current article. I can’t rely on an external site to keep track of reviews such as this, so I thought I should document all of this here while TransportReviews.com takes its own time to reinstate the review. 

In Conclusion

Autos on the Go is guilty of the following counts of dereliction:

  1. Stealing: They still haven’t paid me my dues. For over 3.5 months now (since January 17th) they have had my address and they know how much they owe me.
  2. Fraud: I have asked them for a receipt. Several times. But I have got zilch from them. The net result was that I couldn’t get reimbursed by my company for moving, or claim an exemption on my taxes for moving expenses.
  3. Stalling: I had been very prompt with all my actions, sending documentation when asked. AOTG on the other hand delayed sending me the documents required to process things at my end and conveniently missed the 7 day deadline for the carrier to file an insurance claim. Furthermore, when they sent something it was first illegible, then the update they sent was irrelevant.
  4. Obfuscation: I have, till date not been able to figure out who the parties in this scam are. For sure there is Auto Shipping LLC (the pickup company) and Turbo Auto (the delivery company), but there is also the unnamed tow yard. Mirel has not shed one iota of information regarding where the whole process is in spite of more than 30 messages from my end.
  5. Lying: Their contract says, “AOTG will support you in filing claim against a carrier should a problem occur, but in no way will AOTG accept responsibility for any negligence of the assigned carrier”. They don’t support you in filing a claim, let alone accept responsibility. Mind you, here the negligence is entirely on their part. THEY failed to submit the insurance information to me (so late that I cannot file a claim). THEY still haven’t told me who all their logistics partners were. 
    Also, they have twice claimed on third party forums that I was not their customer.
  6. Questionable Ethics: I cannot see how a company can be so brazen as to get a review removed from a public forum twice claiming that a customer is not actually a customer. Do they think of their customers as cretins who cannot submit proof of their transactions? Of all disgusting practices carried out by them, this takes the cake.
  7. Shambolic Customer Service: This whole post says it all. They don’t return your calls and they don’t respond to your emails. If you are transporting a vehicle through them and there is some damage, good luck getting these scam artists to help you.

The net result is that I have to shell out close to $1000 for my car to account for Autos on the Go’s incompetence. But they could care less. After all, people whose vehicles they don’t trash give them pretty decent reviews (and they probably do a decent job there). And they can handle the more pesky ones like me by removing our reviews.

Such things rarely happen if a company has aggrieved you, but I sincerely hope that these corporate guttersnipes go belly-up and/or get their management arrested for fraudulent practices. I am probably not going to see a penny covering my vehicle. And I am sure they cheat other unsuspecting clients in the same manner. So this is the least that they deserve, and I hope this recounting of the entire affair dissuades other customers from being lured into their trap.

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  11 Responses to “Autos on the Go (Franklin, Michigan) – Avoid the Guttersnipes Like the Plague”

  1. [...] Autos on the Go (Franklin, Michigan) Avoid the Guttersnipes Like the Plague Shipper's vehicle will be transported by a trucking company and the carrier actually transporting the vehicle shall be liable for any and all damage claims arising from transport. Shipper is responsible for getting an inspection sheet … Autos on the Go (Franklin, Michigan) Avoid the Guttersnipes Like the Plague [...]

     
  2. I think you can lodge this complain in Consumer Reports (http://www.consumerreports.org/) It has quite a good impact!

     
    • Consumer Reports deals with goods rather than services I believe. Their site doesn’t seem to indicate otherwise.

       
  3. You can mail your story to Micahel Finnley:

    http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/bio?section=resources/inside_station/newsteam&id=5771733

    You can file a claim in small court against them.

    You can file a claim against them in BBB.

    Auto transport in general is very iffy and is full scams, crooks and thugs.

    Arvind

     
    • Arvind,
      Thanks for the advice. Small claims is difficult immediately because I am outside the country and will not return until the end of this year. Moreover from a legal perspective I will probably need the advice of someone well-versed in the law. Their statement about “helping to file the claim but not being liable for negligence of their carriers” is open to various interpretations, though small claims is more likely to side with me.

      I will look to mail to Michael Finnley, though.

      Sayontan.

       
  4. Mirel Molnar had a signed document to pickup three of my cars. Some transport company picked up six. I have no knowledge of where my cars are.

    Mark

     
  5. Oh no… my heart just sank as I read this. AOTG picked up my car in Cali over 3 weeks ago and they were supposed to ship it to Toronto. I haven’t heard from Mirel in almost 2 wks now and the guy in Cali who picked it up told me he delivered it to Michigan at least 10 days ago. Not sure what recourse I have if I can’t track down Mirel (he’s ignoring my calls and emails) and the guy in Cali can’t reach him either.

     
    • Good luck! Of course, when Mirel responds to you, the first thing he is going to say is that he was on vacation or that he was not well. He will then tell you that he is going to do his best to track it down and you will spend a few hopeful yet anxious weeks waiting to hear from him.

      My advice to you would be to wait for a week and see if he responds. If he doesn’t, post a review on http://transportreviews.com. That gets his attention, as he tends to get a lot of bad publicity through that channel. So he is going to get your review pulled and he will promise you that he will resolve this.

      Hope you get this resolved. And if you don’t, feel free to share your experience here. My guess is that a lost car is probably easier to track, so you should be fine. All the best!

       
  6. Wow, I’m glad I found your blog on Autos on the Go. They gave me a good bid to pick up a UTV I bought on Ebay from Georgia and deliver it to my home in Michigan. I don’t think I will use them after reading these horror stories. Hope everything eventually ends up OK for everyone involved. Thanks.

     
  7. Mr. Sayontan, I’m having problems with them right now and really wanted to take this to the next level cause its really frustrating. my car was picked up in Florida 15 of Feb and should be transported to Toronto Canada, until now there’s is still no response, i was reading on what happened to you and feels like im in that shoe right now as far as being given the run around.

     

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