More Messages: Wanna Buy a Used Car?

Categories: Media
During his last appearance in The Message in Westword's June 29 edition, consumer advocate and self-professed troubleshooter Tom Martino explained that ending a national syndication deal with Westwood One was all his idea. Here's his original explanation, submitted via e-mail:

"I decided that I no longer want to do a syndicated show. I want to simplify my life a bit. That is also why I sold the phone company [Liberty Bell, a three-year-old enterprise purchased in February by New York-based eLEC Communications] and have liquidated much of my real estate. I am 52, and my life has changed dramatically over the last few years. I remarried and had a baby girl and have a boy on the way! I love being a father for the first time! Up to this point in my life, I thought I was unable to have children. In my previous life, I lived mostly outside the home, busying myself with business and expensive hobbies. My priorities have changed. I want to make a wonderful life for my new family and that will involve devoting more time to my loved ones. I am not retiring and will continue on radio and TV -- locally -- and in one other key market."

A believable explanation? Maybe. Still, a favorite phrase from Martino's field -- buyer beware -- is probably worth keeping in mind. After all, Martino's already launched yet another scheme intended to trade his reputation as a friend of the public for baby's next pair of shoes.

Martino's latest website is SaveWithTom.com, and it's dedicated to pimping "Tom Martino's Car Buying Secrets," a "Step by Step Interactive CD-ROM" that "shows you how to reduce or eliminate agonizing negotiations at the Dealership! Shows you how to get more for your trade-in. Provides you with a program just like the Dealers use to calculate your own pricing and payments from home! Shows you how to save up to thousands on financing even if you have credit trouble or are a first time buyer!"

The pricetag? A mere $29.95, plus $6.95 shipping and handling, and a 2.9 percent tax for Colorado residents.

Oh yeah: There's also a fifteen-second commercial that runs on a continuous loop, with Martino pitching like Roger Clemens on 'roids. "Do you feel like bait every time you step onto a car lot?" he asks. "There's good reason. I'm consumer advocate Tom Martino. For years, I've listened to consumers on my nationally syndicated radio show [not anymore, Tom] complaining about car deals gone bad. It's time we fight back, level the playing field, empower yourself through education. I've developed a one-of-a-kind, interactive CD program that gives you all the tools you'll need to buy smart and save big. We've gotten industry experts to reveal their trade secrets and used hidden cameras to expose their money-making tricks. If you have credit problems or owe more on your car that it's worth, my program is an absolute must."

The CD-ROM represents a shift in direction for Martino. In the past, businesses had to pay to receive his de facto endorsement on his main website, Troubleshooter.com, but consumers could use the service for free. Now, however, Martino is charging the very people he's supposedly dedicated to helping before they can get his advice.

If Martino were simply a talk-radio host, such a practice wouldn't really stand out; folks in that occupation are constantly trying to make a buck in any way they can. But he also serves as a journalist for Channel 31, and for someone in that role, his new endeavor represents the latest in a series of ethical no-nos.

At this point, though, the onus isn't on Martino to change his stripes. Rather, it's on Channel 31's management team, which thus far has turned a blind eye to his many conflicts of interest. To put it mildly, the credibility of the news division isn't enhanced when Martino is creating websites in which his blather is indistinguishable from Dealin' Doug's.

Would you buy a used car from this man? -- Michael Roberts

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