He bought a lemon, but can we squeeze out some “lost time” compensation for him?

LemonMobile

Nicholas Gerasimatos says he bought a “lemon” from a Jaguar Land Rover dealership recently. I’ll take him at his word.

But it’s not the car he needs help with; it’s the time he’s lost pursuing the claim. Can we help him get some compensation for that?

Gerasimatos’ case is resolved. The Jaguar Land Rover dealership agreed to buy the car back.

“But they are not willing to compensate me for hours lost at work and time spent traveling between dealers,” he says. The dealer also has refused to refund his first month’s vehicle payment.

Gerasimatos values his time at $2,450, which includes about $100 in expenses and 10 hours of his time. He lists his occupation as “cloud evangelist.” I want his job!

But his case raises a question that comes up all too often on this site: Should we be pursuing companies when their product causes someone to lose time?

In Gerasimatos’ case, he didn’t suffer any direct monetary losses, apart from $100 in unspecified expenses. Instead, he lost “employment time” – in other words, he paid an opportunity cost.

Some of you in the comments are probably snickering by now, but stay with me.

That phrase “opportunity costs” has come up on this site before. Airlines love to use it to justify sky-high fees. No, they say, it doesn’t actually cost $200 to change a ticket, but the fee covers our lost revenue opportunity.

Similarly, car rental companies impose a “loss of use” fee when you damage one of their vehicles. That covers the hypothetical revenue it could have earned on the vehicle, had it not been in the garage. No need to prove a customer actually wanted to rent that car – you’ll just have to take the rental company’s word for it.

When you think about it, that makes about as much sense as a cloud evangelist charging for missed employment time.

But what if companies had to reimburse us for lost time just as we have to reimburse them? How would that work?

Actually, it might work great. Imagine how Gerasimatos’ Jaguar dealership might have changed its approach if it knew it would have to reimburse him for his lost employment time.

Maybe it would have come to an agreement sooner. Maybe it would have compensated him more generously. At the very least, it would have been more respectful of his time.

If corporate America can say we owe it for lost time, we should be able to say the same. And if we could, it might help more than the cloud evangelists of the world. It could do a world of good for the everyday consumers who have to stay home to wait for a technician to service a broken appliance, or the patients who are left waiting in the doctor’s office for hours while the MD finishes his round of golf.

That might be an interesting world.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to move Gerasimatos’ complaint into my “Case Dismissed” file, not because it’s unworthy, but because in today’s lightly regulated, reflexively pro-business environment littered with dangerous adhesion contracts, he has no case. But I dismiss it with a sense of optimism that someday, that could change.

Should companies compensate their customers for lost time?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • John Keahey

    No. Yes. Depends.

  • How does one value the time spent? Given the exact same situation, but one works a low paying job, the other a high paying one, does that entitle the higher paid person to more? If the person is salaried, takes some work time to handle the situation, but still gets paid his salary, does that negate the need for compensation?

    Oh..the possibilities. Seems it could get complicated very easily…..

  • John Baker

    Ok… compensate me for lost time but how do you calculate it? Easiest example is someone who has to take unpaid time off but what hours? Total time away from work? Time in the dealership? How about someone who opts not to leave their car and stays the whole time.
    What about someone who is salaried? They’re not actually out any money. Beyond that, can you imagine the screams when a CEO is paid at a rate 1000x higher for same thing?

    While imperfect at best, the current system seems to work and pass the logic test.

  • KennyG

    To me this is like wanting punitive damages. If the companies actions were that egregious, than perhaps some additional compensation might be due. It seems to me though, that that kind of decision and monetary compensation should be in the hands of a court as opposed to a consumer advocate.

  • taxed2themax

    I agree.. It’s a great idea – from an arms length.. but when I think of a variety of situations, I don’t see it as being so clear cut and easy (and I might also say ‘fair’) to administer on a larger basis.

  • sirwired

    This was ridiculous in several different ways:

    – He’s trying to impose an obligation on them after buying the car. If he wanted compensation for unplanned service visits paid for, he could have asked for this when buying the car. (Some luxury marques/dealers WILL pick up cars for service and drop off a loaner; apparently this isn’t one of them.)
    – Just like the dealership doesn’t bill you for labor and mileage for taking a test drive and not buying a car, they aren’t going to pay you $230/hr to drive your car to the dealership for repair.
    – Jag/LR are well-known for being near/at the bottom of the reliability charts; none of this should have been a shock.
    – “I had to take my Land Rover in for repair, so I wasn’t doing my $230/hr job!” Sheesh! Talk about 1st-world-problems! We should all be so fortunate to have these issues.

  • sirwired

    Well, the “labor” he performed here was not as a $230/hr “Cloud Evangelist”; it was as a minimum-wage schmuck with a Driver’s License, which, if the dealership knew they’d be on the hook for these costs, could have paid (plus an Uber) to take his car in for service.

  • AJPeabody

    Doctors aren’t late due to golf. That’s a canard as old as the hills. The doctor kept you waiting because an emergency patient was in the hospital and had to be seen, or the surgery planned for 8 am was delayed until 11, or 4 unscheduled patients had to be seen right away, or . . .

    Docs play golf on a day off, if they have any, not when they should be in the office.

  • James

    A friend of mine who is a general practitioner has noted that usually doctors fall behind because the scheduling demands of employers — “you must see four patients/hour” when it takes 20 minutes per patient is not mathematically possible.

  • James

    Probably, yes. Look at 9/1 compensation, it was based on expected lifetime

    earnings, and the current pay rate was used a proxy for that.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/9-11-compensation-500-to-86m/

    Many also were offended that the government had created a formula to place widely different dollar values on different victims based on their
    expected annual income.

  • James

    I strongly disagree. A larger partr of the issue is how people are employed and paid in this country, someone who works as a contractor is only paid of the actual hours worked. Others who are paid as full-time employees are paid a fixed rate regardless of whether or not they are working. If a contractor is stuck in a traffic jam, he is losing money, if a regular employee is stuck, that employee is still paid.

    So, is the original poster a contractor? In which case, he’s lost the ability to earn money during the time this took. If he’s a regular employee, he has not, unless his employer has docked him specific compensation for the time missed — in which case he ought to have a case for that lost compensation.

  • sirwired

    Putting a seller of things on the hook for potentially unlimited consequential damages without notice is simply not how contracts work in this country (or anywhere…) (Just like a business can’t sue you, a buyer, for, say, missing out on a new job because you paid your bill late without anything of that sort being in YOUR contract.)

    I won’t disagree that it’s entirely possible he missed out on some actual paychecks as a result of the car being busted, but that doesn’t mean he can recover for them from the manufacturer of the car. It’s not reasonable to make the dealership liable for whatever he feels his damages were (heaven forbid if he was late to a meeting to close a $1M deal because the car broke.)

    If this HAD been worked out when buying the car, it’s possible they could have worked out a deal where the dealership would drop off a loaner and drive/tow the car in for service. (Some luxury marques/dealers actually do this.) They certainly, under no circumstances, would have agreed to pay this guy his hourly rate every time the car broke.

  • Mel65

    Nice in theory. Awful in execution. Way too many variables.

  • Joe Farrell

    what about when YOU waste someone’s time. . . in line at the grocery store. At a traffic light when you’re not paying attention? In line anywhere when you arrive at the checkout window and have no clue what you want?

    Do you want to pay for being unable to tell a coherent story to a customer service person?

    My TV is defective, I want it replaced or repaired. It’s been three months and six repair visits and it is still not fixed. Instead of :

    “I was watching Jeopardy when my tv stopped working. I thought it was the cable company so I called them. Then I figured out the TV was not working. So I called the company and they wanted to come repair it on Tuesday but thats my Bridge day, so they came on friday but did not have the part. So I needed to reschedule my dental appointment so they could come last Wednesday, but it only worked again for a day while I was watching my show, so I don;t know if Luke and Laura got married. I’m so upset and then I read in the paper that they did – and on and on and on – and on and on.

    The guy bought a lemon. He spent a few hours dealing with it. The company can easily compensate him with an extended maintenance package that takes care of all maintenance for as long as the vehicle is under warranty. Fairly low cost to the dealer and the manufacturer.

    Instead of changing the way everyone does business – dealing with the problem and the individual is the best solution.

  • Joe Farrell

    good thing offended is not legal tender – or there’d be an awful lot of bazilliionaires who contribute nothing of value to anyone.

    Its a standard wrongful death analysis – speaking as a lawyer who have never done personal injury and only listened to the tall tales – the best possible client is not a dead one – but a quad in a job that required some physical ability. A dead guy is worth only the present value of future earnings while a Quad gets that plus the cost of future care. . . . its tens of millions vs a couple million.

    Yes – the computation of the value of a particular life is just that cold and unemotional.

  • Altosk

    Dude, if I got paid for all the people who wasted my time, I’d be living on my own private island.

    I don’t know what a “cloud evangelist” is, but if its anything like what Joel Osteen does…stay the heck away.

  • Éamon deValera

    As much as one might feel they should be reimbursed for their time pursuing justice, it isn’t reimbursable.

    The disdain for a ‘pro-business’ environment is troublesome. Unless we work for the government or a non-profit agency we all work for a business. Even elliott.org is a business.

    You can get compensated for lost time in many instances if your contract calls for it. These service level agreements are more expensive, but if you a guarantee something will be available or the merchant will be penalized that is the way to go.

    You could do that with a car, but you’d have to modify the contract offered, present a counter offer as it were. It probably won’t be accepted. They want your business but not so much as to have to hire a lawyer to review a contract for a car purchase. If you were buying 10 cars, then you might have better luck, and if you’re buying 50 cars you do write the contract in a sense.

  • just me

    Time is money – isn’t it the high priests’ of capitalism sauvage mantra?
    The federal lemon law provides for the attorney fees.
    The time lost is a real loss. It is not just an opportunity loss as used by the airlines or rental companies.
    I totally disagree with you that the time lost in pursuing the claim with the dealer is not part of damages. A lot depends on proof and justification. And a lot depends on showing whether the dealer was unreasonably stretching the process before it gave in.
    Not everything is ruled by contract law – there also is equity involved.
    Bottom line is – my working life is limited – the value of the my time can be established based on many factors: e.g. compensation others decided to pay me. education, etc. If my time is taken by a dealer who proves to be a schmuck – he needs to pay for that time. The reasonable amount of time needed to initiate the claim process can also be easily estimated. Everything above that – goes into damages.

  • LonnieC

    Sorry. I can’t get past “cloud evangelist”….

  • Harry

    Maybe there can be a standard “wasted time out of my life” fee they can get socked with…(government feel free to step in here)…If I have to lose 10 hours of my life, doing something that was clearly not my fault, then maybe that’s what the compensation should be for. As we get older, we begin to realize the value of how much time we have left on this planet, and each wasted hour becomes more and more precious…
    I know this will never happen, let’s just chalk it up to letting out my frustrations when things like this happen, and all it does is make me older….