On the Concept of Estoppel
by Jamison Koehler on May 3, 2011
We are having trouble with the sliding door on our mini-van. I take it back to the Toyota dealership shop a couple of times and spend a fortune to get it fixed but there still seems to be a problem with it. Finally, when I complain about having to fix it once again, the mechanic swears to me that the door is now as good as new.
My wife and I decide to trade the minivan in for a newer model. I take it back to the dealership where the same mechanic who worked on the door appraises its value. I don’t like their offer for trade-in. I ask why it is so low. Oh, they tell me, it’s because the sliding door doesn’t work properly.
I am angry. I argue the concept of estoppel. They should be bound by their guarantees. Having assured me that the sliding door was as good as new while accepting my money to repair it, they should now be estopped from asserting that the door substantially lowers the car’s trade-in value.
They don’t buy my argument. I storm out. I go to another dealership. I get a higher trade-in value for the old minivan but I end up spending more overall to buy the new car. You paid what, my wife exclaims? But I am principled. And stubborn. And in the end not so smart.
I’ll send my wife next time. The last time she bought us a car, I told her how much she should expect to pay, and she returned with a different model. Oops, she said when she saw my expression. I think I bought the wrong car.
It was a much nicer model, and she paid what I told her she should expect to pay for the less expensive model. No wonder the salesperson seemed so astonished during the negotiations, she said.