A person looking at the camera next to a sign that says Mazda. There is text in a Daily Dot newsletter web_crawlr front that says Main Character of the Week in the lower right corner.

@rawr_its_paige/TikTok (Fair Use) ArDanMe/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Main Character of the Week: The Mazda customer who discovered her car was taken home by a dealership worker

The dealership is becoming a real trap door for car owners.


Ramon Ramirez


Posted on Apr 13, 2024   Updated on Apr 14, 2024, 7:07 am CDT

Main Character of the Week is a weekly column that tells you the most prominent “main character” online (good or bad). It runs on Fridays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

The internet is a stage, and someone unwillingly stumbles onto it weekly. This makes them the “main character” online. Sometimes their story is heartwarming, like the guy who said Don Julio is overpriced; usually it’s a gaffe. In any case, that main character energy flows through the news cycle and turbo-charges debate for several business days.

Here’s the 
Trending team’s main character of the week.

It’s the woman who took her Mazda into the dealership and then discovered that a dealership worker took the dang car home.

This is a textbook “new fear unlocked” news story. That is, the news media is putting forward an alarming piece of information that is also relatable and could happen to you. Under the right circumstances, this can create a whirlwind of virality. Especially when it’s genuinely terrifying.

Unfortunately, purchasing a new car these days means considering where it will be serviced. And dealerships want you regularly returning so that you will eventually give them back your car.

The idea is that you’ll trade it in and upgrade at a moment that is more convenient for them than it is for you. It’s just good business. That means making it convenient and more affordable for you to bring in your car regularly. And whether you are a car expert or not, these days new cars come with so much proprietary software in them that the dealership is sometimes the only maintenance option anyway.

TikTok user @rawr_its_paige took her Mazda for a routine service and realized that it was parked in a residential neighborhood—at a dealership employee’s house she suspected—overnight when she checked its location. Had she not done this she would have never known.

As we reported this week:

“Confronting the dealership the next day, Paige’s interactions were fraught with frustration. The service manager’s explanation—that a new employee took her car home to diagnose a check engine light issue—did not align with her service requests. Paige’s skepticism grew as she was shuffled around without clear answers.

‘He was trying to get the check engine light to come on…There was nothing wrong with the engine,’ she recounts one of the exchanges.’”

The dealership is becoming a real trap door for car owners.

There are several TikToks about how to manage interactions with pushy salespeople, and its rise as a recurring hub designed to keep you coming back can feel downright sinister

I recently had an issue with my Hyundai Kona: It needed a repair and was under warranty. Cool. But wait, the dealership had no Austin, Texas-area appointments for several months. So I took it elsewhere and voided the warranty in the process.

I was told on the phone that this is because Austin in particular is backlogged as it awaits the opening of a long-stalled new Hyundai dealership. But that’s the problem with popular makes and models: Like heavily regulated car inspections in Washington, D.C., there’s sometimes only one place you can go to.

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*First Published: Apr 13, 2024, 6:00 am CDT