When Natalie Avalos went shopping for her first car, she knew exactly what she wanted.
"It was a 2007 Charger," she said.
She found it at Galaxy Auto Sales in North Phoenix.
It was listed on Craigslist for $8,900. Natalie said she called the number and ran a credit check with the dealership.
When she and her Dad went to the dealership to look at the car, she said the salesperson lowered the price of the car even further – to $8,100, plus financing.
"When we agreed to that, he told us to leave $300 to hold it," she said.
She handed him the money right then and there, she said.
But when she came back the next day expecting to drive away in her Charger, the salesperson told her the price had increased.
"The [car] itself was $11,000," she said. "It was too expensive."
She told the salesperson she couldn't afford that price and asked for her $300 back. He told her he would get it back to her when his manager was there.
So, the next day, she called back. "He said that his manager wasn't in," she said.
She called back a few more times, she said, until he finally told her his manager wasn't going to give her the money back.
But she still had her receipt – it clearly said it was to hold the car and had no language on it about a deposit or down-payment. And, most importantly, it didn't say anything about being non-refundable. And Natalie says she never signed a contract.
"It's not about the money," she said, "it's just that it was going to be my first car, and it didn't happen."
SHE LET JOE KNOW
So, she let me know.
I went with Natalie to Galaxy Auto Sales and asked why they wouldn't give Natalie her money back.
The salesperson who sold her the car wasn't there, so his associate called him. When I spoke to him on the phone, he said he was going to call the police.
We left the company's property and waited for police to get there. Police couldn't do anything about a civil dispute, they told Natalie.
But later, I got a call from the dealership's owner, who says he knew nothing about Natalie's $300.
When I filled him in on the details, he immediately took action.
He said it's not Galaxy's policy to keep money unless it's says "non-refundable" on the receipt or contract.
So we went back to the dealership with Natalie and her husband.
The check was waiting for her -- $300 back in her pocket. She now plans on shopping for another dream car.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
So, whenever you hand over money, make sure you know what the parameters are. Is it a deposit? Is it non-refundable? Make sure those parameters are outlined in writing.
And make sure you do what Natalie did – keep your receipt!