The SunCoast Scam

Much like Pelican Parts, SunCoast Parts is another popular purveyor of parts in the Porsche community. And, much like Pelican, I’ve never really been a fan of SunCoast.

Both SunCoast and Pelican share an affinity for high prices. Their prices tend to be a minimum of 30% higher than anywhere else on the internet, yet Porsche owners flock to them. SunCoast, however, does something a bit different; they don’t use Porsche part numbers. Why is that a big deal?

Porschephiles, and almost anyone who buys any parts for any car, tend to look for parts based on the part number. People who own special cars like to make sure they’re buying exactly what they need (hence the reason we search by part number). SunCoast doesn’t use Porsche part numbers. They do stock and sell OEM Porsche parts, but they create their own part numbers. This seems really dumb to me. If I’m searching for a Porsche part number on the internet, guess what site never comes up in search results? It would seem SunCoast is missing out on potentially tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales because of this. That’s just bad business. But it also makes me think “what are they hiding?”

If you’re not using Porsche’s part numbers, therefore making it difficult for your customers to find parts, you must be hiding something. Right? That’s pure speculation, but it does seem rather suspect to me. I can’t think of a logical reason for it. However, it’s not uncommon. Many sites do this, and not just sites that sell car parts. Sites like Apple and B&H. The key difference is they still provide the manufacturer part number, they just have their own part number too (probably for stock information, location, inventory, and shipping purposes). SunCoast doesn’t. You simply cannot search by a Porsche part number on their website.

I didn’t want to spend that much time with the part number thing, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. What I want to talk about is a particular service they sell. If you go to SunCoast and search for “VIN Decoder Service,” you’ll find that for $10 you can enter your Porsche VIN and they will send you all the information about your car. Sounds cool, right? They’ll decode all the options your car shipped with when new, paint color, interior color, warranty start and stop dates, any open recalls, and much more. Very valuable information.

SCVDSPP

If you read the reviews for that service you’ll find it (currently) has a 4.9 out of 5 stars, with a total of 14 reviews (only one of them is a four-star review, the rest are five). The reviews state how it’s very informative, very neatly formatted, and how quick the turn-around service was. Very high praise all the way around. In fact, if you look up just about anything on the SunCoast website, you’ll be hard pressed to find any product with less than a 4.5 star rating. More on that in a minute, now let’s go back to the VIN Decoder Service.

If you’re even somewhat of a Porsche enthusiast, then you know there’s a number of places on the internet where you can decode your VIN or option-code sticker at no cost. Places like StuttcarsOldtimer, Kindel, VIN Decoderz, and Pedro’s Garage. Those sites will give you the same information for free that SunCoast will sell you for $10. I already have all that information, but what I don’t have is a neatly formatted, official version of that information. To me, that’s worth $10 as I like collecting all the data and information about my car as possible, and keep it neatly organized in its own folder. So, I bought it.

My only mistake was I failed to read the SunCoast site thoroughly. I thought I would get a very nicely formatted physical document mailed to my home address. But, the product page for the VIN Decoder Service clearly states: “…you will receive an email from one of our associates,” so that’s on me for not reading closely enough. The rest isn’t.

I ordered the VIN Decoder Service on Tuesday, November 28. On Thursday, November 30, I received an email from SunCoast thanking me for my order and informing me it had been shipped, but the tracking number was “emailed 11/30/2017.” Immediately, I was baffled. I contacted SunCoast parts and asked if there was a real tracking number so I would know when to expect it. Heather from SunCoast emailed me promptly back and let me know it’s an email delivery and there is no physical shipment. That’s when I read the product page for the VIN Decoder Service closer and realized I was wrong. Still, I didn’t get an email with any sort of file attachment.

I responded back to Heather stating I didn’t get an email with any attachment, and further explained that I had even checked my spam folder. I asked if she could send it again. She replied back (again, very promptly) and said she had sent it at 7:15 am this morning. At least she attached the PDF to that email. Just to make sure I hadn’t missed it, I checked my inbox, spam, and even the trash just incase I had mistakingly deleted it. It was not there. I don’t blame SunCoast for this, I’ve had emails go missing, so it could have easily just been a glitch. She attached the PDF to the email, so it should all be good. Then I looked at the PDF.

The PDF she sent was about three pages long and each page had the internet headers and footers at the top and bottom. Each page was covered with watermarks that have some sort of a numerical code, Heather’s login name (hepple), and the date. Once I saw it, I figured this wasn’t the real thing, but rather a sample of what they might send. So, I replied back:

Hi Heather,

I’m sorry, I don’t have an email from you at all! I’ve checked my spam and trash just to be safe, it’s just not there. Likely got lost in the ether somewhere? I hope the attachment on your last email isn’t the real thing as it has watermarks all over it and URLs at the bottom of each page, with date at the top. That’s not nicely formatted at all. Can you re-send the actual PDF or issue a refund? If that’s what it looks like, I’m not happy with this service. I’ve attached a screen shot highlighting the watermarks and everything else.

Chris

Heather stopped promptly responding. Before I went to bed that night, I sent her another email:

Are you going to resend this PDF without watermarks and internet headers and footers? Or refund my $10?

The next day, Friday, December 1, I got an email from Aldo. To me, the tone was very unpleasant. Here’s what he had to say (please excuse errors, this is a copy and paste):

Chris,

We’re unable to provide a PDF without watermarks, this is an original Porsche document that only authorized personnel can request and each is water marked.
Our product offering is for VIN information details, and that’s exactly what we delivered. We delivered as advertised. We don’t advertise or expect customers to use this for any sort of display purposes, this is typiacally used for those who want background information on their vehicle, for either purchasing a car, or general information about warranty and vehicle options.
We appreciate you as a customer and hope you keep shopping with us. If you still feel as we didn’t deliver as advertised please let me know and I’ll forward your email to my supervisor.

Regards,
Aldo R

Maybe it’s just me, but that felt very hostile. Since Heather wasn’t responding anymore, I thought Aldo might be her supervisor, but then he says he’ll forward it on to his supervisor if I’m still unhappy. I’m more unhappy now. Here’s my response:

I definitely don’t feel you delivered what was advertised. Not even close.

Nowhere on the product information page does it state it will come watermarked with the date and the person’s name who ran the report. Nor does it state that internet headers and footers will be on every page. There’s an excessive number of codes and types that are left blank. This is not the product you advertise, nor the product you delivered.

Another really big problem with this document is that a lot of the headers are incomplete. At the very top of the page, beside my VIN, it reads: “Vehicle identification number (…” – What’s in the parenthesis that I can’t read??

If you look under the “Warranty Data” section, most of the headers are incomplete: Descr… Contrac… Cove… Assis… Milea… Mark… Valid …

Additionally, I had no intent of “displaying” it. I keep a folder of records for my car (as most people do) and this was going to go in that folder. I, personally, don’t even want to look at it due to the watermarks. I don’t want that in my folder of records. That makes it look “stolen” as visible watermarks on digital documents are usually a sign of unauthorized, unpaid, or demo use.

Definitely not professional. I’d be embarrassed to send this out to a customer as a paid document service, not to mention how embarrassing it would be in my folder of records.

The information found in this document can be obtained for free in a number places on the internet, I bought this because I was expecting something professional. This is not professional. This was a waste of money.

Please forward this to your supervisor

I haven’t heard back from SunCoast yet, and I’m sure it will go into the weekend with no word from them. I’ll give them through Monday, then contact them again on Tuesday if they haven’t responded. It’s not about the money, it’s only $10. It’s about a very unprofessional service for which they’re charging money. It’s a terrible, unreadable document that looks like it was printed from a demo application. I’m not putting that in any of my records.

I’ve attached the PDF below so you can see it for yourself. I’ve blacked-out my VIN number, but the rest of it is exactly how I received it from SunCoast. Now, back to their 4.5-star (and better) reviews…

SunCoast VIN Decoder Service Document

I decided I was going to leave a review of their VIN Decoder Service once this was settled. I looked at the review form on the SunCoast site and found this little checkbox (emphasis mine): “Send me an email if my review is approved.”

I think that’s really all you need to know about SunCoast. I’ll still write a scathing review of this scam product, but they won’t approve it. It’s clear they only approve four or five-star reviews. They wouldn’t dare let a negative review of get out there and tarnish their image. I’m certain I’ve lost my $10. They don’t use real Porsche part numbers, they offer a scam-service, and they won’t publish negative reviews. That makes for a… Very. Shady. Company.

***UPDATE***

While checking my email this morning, there was a refund from SunCoast for the $10 spent on their VIN Decoder Service. It’s a crap product / service, but I am happy that SunCoast did the right thing (even though they flat-out stopped responding to me December 1 (five days ago). I still won’t shop there as they still seem like a shady company to me, but at least they recognized customer dissatisfaction and acted appropriately.

***UPDATE II***

I did finally write a review of the VIN Decoder Service on the Suncoast website. While it was a completely critical review, it was also honest, non-demeaning, and not hostile. I wrote the review back in November of 2017, it has yet to be “approved” and published. I wish I had saved it, but, it was essentially the Cliff’s Notes version of this post anyway. I knew they would never publish it. The only reviews for the VIN Decoder Service are positive, and the last one was posted in February of 2017. Never trust a company that only publishes positive reviews!

 

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