Pat Fowler bought a defective Chrysler and when she complained to the local TV station, they helped her get her car bought back by Chrysler. Now, thousands of people across America will be inspired to call TV stations looking for legal help. While the intention of the station was good, it will cause many people to misunderstand how the world works.
I should probably explain one more element in this equation: A disproportionate number of my clients (or people who want to become my clients) tell me that they might call a TV station “instead” of going through legal channels. They apparently believe that what happens with the Pat Fowlers of the world is the norm and TV stations aren’t there to sell advertising - they are there to whip businesses into action, helping consumers who have been wronged.
In the 23 years I have been doing these kinds of cases in Michigan, I have appeared on all three of the major TV stations in Detroit (Channels 2, 4 and 7) as well as the major talk radio stations. I have also been interviewed many times by the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. Oh, and CNN, The New York Times and the BBC. In that time I have spoken with the people who make decisions about what gets on the air or into print. It must be news. And, generally speaking, a person with a defective car is not news.
If the stations aired every story pitched to them about defective cars, your local newscast would be thirty minutes of defective car stories and even then they would have more they could not run. The station could go to “All Defective Cars - All The Time!” 24 hours a day with no commercials and probably still have car owners left out.
“But wait, Steve! I saw the woman on the TV. It happens.” Yes, in this case, the tone-deaf Chrysler rep told a woman in Seattle - complaining of roof leaks - to not park her car outdoors in the rain! It would be like telling a guy in Alaska to not drive his car in the snow, or someone in Hawaii being told not to drive their car in direct sunlight. THAT, I guarantee you, was the piece of this story that pushed it onto the air.
Want to call a news station or a radio station about your car problems? Go ahead, but don’t do it instead of calling an attorney. If you want to waste the time of the receptionist at the station, go ahead. But just make sure you call any attorney as well. The clock is ticking on your claim and the longer you wait - the harder your case will be to pursue. Especially if you are waiting for the callback from the TV station that will never come.
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Steve Lehto has been practicing law for 23 years, almost exclusively in consumer protection and Michigan lemon law. He wrote The Lemon Law Bible and Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation.
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Thanks David Kageyama for sending me the link!