Think Of The Homeless

There are over 30 million Americans who live on the streets of our nation. Can you consider giving something to a shelter near you? Your fellow human beings need socks because they walk everywhere. Food and shelter are great too, if they will take them. So please give.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Car Dealership Hell

Car Dealership Hell

Over the last ten years or so, it has been my privilege to work for not one, but two automobile dealerships in the same capacity. Once on a while you can find a dealership that is interested in someone doing their “in house” advertising, that is creation of their ads for print and radio, right there on the property itself. As a graphic designer I have done this twice in two different states and have been exposed to some of the most interesting inside information and bizarre behavior that one would never guess was even possible of mature, working adults.

First of all, you must put away all assumptions on which you have been raised about what happens in a car dealership day in and day out. This also includes some of you who already suspect much of what I am about to tell you. Selling is a tough enough job for anyone, as it involves going for another person’s wallet on a consistent basis to earn a living. I do indeed feel for the person who has to do this every day. Some people are good at it, I suppose, and they find no problem with the exercise, and it’s important that they feel this way, for it is integral to their success.

I myself, however, have never felt that this sort of thing was a good idea and I doubt I ever will. That probably goes a long way to answering the question as to why I have never been able to make any money at this sort of selling. I have, to be sure, done several jobs in the past such as retail, and for quite a few years in my younger days I was a framer. I enjoyed that sort of work, for I could actually help out customers who needed assistance and I didn’t feel there was anything improper going on behind the scenes. This doesn’t hold true for auto dealerships and I have long spouted off about the many things I have been witness to as I toiled away in the little side office with the glass wall window and the two little seats that had no salesman to occupy them.

About twelve years ago in a small town in the south I had my first assignment while I also worked for a major newspaper in the area. This was my first exposure to the incongruity of image to that of reality put forth by public advertising performed by major auto makers which is broadcast all over the country. While toiling away at the little in house computer, I had a front row seat for things rarely seen and rarely felt. There was of course, the usual standing around of salesman all day. They stand around the showroom floor of the dealership for about 10 hours a day, and they work usually six days a week. Always in dress shirt and tie, they endeavor to make the best impression on practically anyone who enters the car lot, or the showroom. But that is pretty much where it all ends.

One particularly slow day at the first dealership, and there are many, many slow days, four salesman where so board with the lack of business that they lined up on the road, a nice sized four lane highway about twenty yards from the show room floor, and if anyone even thought to slow down to turn into the car lot, they all reached for the car door handle at the same time. The car was still moving, engine was still running and the embarrassed driver was red faced and frightened. The idea, of course, was to greet the customer first and get his attention, for once a salesman has gotten your attention and talked to you, NO ONE ELSE CAN! They would slap and punch each other aside as they jockeyed for the door handle even before the driver came to a complete stop. I remember watching this one day from my little office in the corner and seeing grown men in their forties, some older, get into a literal fist fight out in the lot over the possession of a customer. I kid you not.

After watching this sort of behavior, I once got a chance to chat with the manager of the dealership and I asked him about some of the things that go on there, for they sure didn’t seem to match up with the commercials on TV. A prime example of laugh out loud fantasy would be those Honda ads where the salesman informs you that it’s his job to be helpful. I chuckle as I write that, for it is by no stretch of the imagination a car salesman’s job to be helpful.

I was informed by the manager, with practically no emotion or concern in his voice that many car dealerships prefer to hire ex-convicts as salesman, and much of the habits they form in prison follow them into the working world. I found that to be logical and also a bit alarming, having bought a few cars from dealerships myself. Yes, I found out, I probably somewhere and somehow did business with an ex-prisoner. But why, I asked, are they hired with open arms? I was told they are more productive. Really? I asked. Ex-convicts make more productive salesman? Oh yes, I was told with a wink and a nod, they don’t mind at all!

Got that folks? Ex-convicts don’t mind at all.

After my stint there, I didn’t think too much more about this as I had signed it all off to small town America placed almost invisibly along side the open stretches of highway between the major towns of our nation, where there is nothing to do and no place to go except church on Sunday. Surely, I thought, this can’t be the way things are, like say, inside a dealership in a major metropolitan city. Surely, I knew, that if I were only to see a dealership from the inside, in say, the second largest city in America, I would indeed find modern and sophisticated personages happy and busy at the work of promoting a major auto brand that everyone knew and loved all over our glorious land, the home of the brave, the land of the free.


My second auto dealership was just such the venue from which I was now going to find out just how different things must be. As before, I joined a major car brand dealership to handle their in-house advertising and in the meantime, unbeknown to them, I was now going to get the inside scoop on things, hopefully from a mature and progressive point of view. There was a young man, about the age of twenty two, let’s call him Tony, who began a job selling cars in this particular dealership about the same time I had arrived. His office was next to the one they gave me for the computer generated ads and I was able to “pick his brains” on many things during the short time he stayed there.

He did, as many salesmen seem to do all over America, stand around a lot, for hours at a time. We were located on the major thoroughfare in the area, so therefore there was no big highway to go stand out on. Most of the day, for everyone, was spent in the confines of the dealership showroom floor. In fact, if one of the salesman did indeed get someone to sell to, they had to walk a block down the street to a small fenced in lot that had a discouragingly small amount of inventory. The idea being that one had to sell what they had on the small lot, not acquiesce to customers who wanted something the dealership could not put in storage.

Tony stood around for ten hours a day, just like the salesmen at the other dealership I had been at. He was required to be on duty on Saturdays even if he was ill, in fact they told him to get another job if he couldn’t make a Saturday, no matter what the reason.

One day he had a couple of customers come in whom he managed to land while others were either busy or looking the wrong way. They were a couple of young men who were from a local church, one was an assistant to a pastor, I believe he told me, and the other was a young man who was on a work furlough from prison who was trying to put his life back together. Well, they were nice enough, he told me, and he did his best to try and give them good service, which I do believe was his true intention.

The pastor’s assistant, however, knew his way around a car sale better than Tony did, who was called a “greenie” by the salesmen, and dickered a bit too much for the young man. Seeing this, the assistant manager decided to take charge of a sales situation that was taking way to long for Tony to complete and systematically got into a loud and nasty shouting match right on the sales room floor with the pastor’s assistant, finally telling him to get the f**k out of his dealership right in front of anyone who was within the next block to hear.

After all, it’s his job to be helpful.

The assistant manager was all smiles after this, patting Tony on the back and telling him not to worry about it, despite the fact that the man had just blown Tony’s first sale. You have to understand, he told Tony, customers are stupid and they have to be shown who’s boss. Yes, you read that right, customers are stupid. This was not the first time I had heard this in dealing with the inside workings of car dealerships, but I had no idea it could be so widespread.

Yes, they do indeed believe you and I are stupid. And that’s the word they use. Additionally, they believe that much of what they have to do to sell cars is the customer’s fault. If only you and I weren’t so afraid of commitment, they tell me, then they wouldn’t have to shove you off the cliff, so to speak, when buying a car. You should thank car salesman for their abuse, and there is really no other way to put this, their “trickery” when selling you a car. It’s your own fault!

Tony didn’t make very many friends working at the dealership - he wasn’t allowed to. Older and more larcenous salesman made him a target and even used to call him “fugly” to his face. For anyone who doesn’t know, the term “fugly” is a derisive term composed of two other words, one of them being the word “ugly”.

One day, Tony casually spoke with a customer who was milling around the showroom floor, he didn’t know another salesman had already approached the person, and he only spoke with them for a moment. Later that day, while he was standing around again, the larger and more aggressive salesman who was only moments before, laughing and chatting with another salesman, suddenly saw Tony standing outside on the sidewalk and charged out there after him. He pushed his chest into Tony’s much like football players who “bump” each other after a stellar play, and put his face right into Tony’s face and yelled, “What the f**k is wrong with you, fugly????? You never talk to another man’s customer!!!!” Was there a fist fight? No, but then, since this man was an ex-prisoner, it was perhaps best.

Tony was constantly dogged by this man the whole time he was there and had to take up the practice of standing around on the opposite side of the dealership from wherever the man was. I could see him moving around from outside of my office in direct tandem relationship to wherever the other man was, if the man moved left, Tony moved right, and visa versa. A wonderful way to spend ten hours a day.

Tony landed another customer one day and was in the middle of doing the four square and the “going back and forth to see the manager” in brokering the deal. The customer was there at the dealership all day, as is the plan, and they spent way too much time for my taste sitting in the office Tony had, all by themselves.

Getting up for a break, I went into the break room the dealership had only to see Tony and another salesman sitting there watching soap operas on the TV set in the break room. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was going over the deal he was trying to make with the manager. Really? I said with a bit of surprise, eyeballing the TV set with General Hospital on the broadcast. Yes, he told me, if the customer is here until about 4pm, then they will be more ready to make a deal that the manager will give his okay on. “Weren’t they here early this morning like about 8 or 9am?” I asked him. Yes that’s true, he told me, but the manager won’t let him do this any other way, and besides, their keys are on the roof anyway.

“Their keys are on the roof?” I asked. “Yes, I had to take their car to be judged for the trade-in and I was told to throw their keys on the roof in case they tried to leave too soon.” This is done to stall you at all costs I am told, never never, give them your whole ring of keys. Never!

Tony’s customer eventually bought the car, but could not take delivery for the next week. In the meantime, Tony could not wait to leave. He told me that as soon as the customer picked up their car he would give them the keys and keep on walking, so disgusted was he with the crap he had to put up with.

In the meantime, another salesman wrote down the customer’s name on a piece of paper, sideways in a notebook and brought it to Tony. “Look,” he said, showing the name written on a page in a notebook. “I talked to your customer first, so I want you to go tell the manager this and get him to give me half of the commission.” Not wanting to make any more enemies, Tony went and told the manager what the salesman had done. The manager laughed openly at him, but still refused to comply and told Tony not to give in.

This made no difference, he was then accused for the rest of the week of trying to screw the salesman out of HIS money. So Tony had to avoid this man also when standing around the same showroom floor for ten hours a day, six days a week. Every time the salesman would confront him about it, the other salesman, the one who pushed Tony around on the sidewalk, would start visibly chuckling to himself. I told Tony to watch this when it happens, for it is a sign of inside knowledge old salesman are aware of and to stand firm to get his money, for he was indeed being scammed.

Tony’s customer got his car and Tony did indeed leave with them, in fact I believe he left without his commission on the sale, but I am not sure of that. Before that however, I was privy to the paperwork Tony did on the sale and he showed me how the customer was actually paying over $6,000 dollars more over the life of the financing they received than they were even aware of.

I am not a financial person, and my understanding of this was a bit foggy, but according to Tony, there were so many hidden fees within the small print of the paperwork that they added up to about $6,000 dollars that was hidden from the customer’s immediate knowledge. I found that incredible! He showed me a hidden finance fee of 40% on window tinting which the customer didn’t know about because it was included in the whole financial numbers. I didn’t understand this, but he told me there were many other hidden things like this that the finance manager had done.

Tony warned me never to get financing from the dealer. No matter the great deal they want to give you. I knew someone who had once been the finance manager at a car dealership and I asked him about this at a later time. He giggled like a school girl at the mention of it. “Yes,” he told me. “Stuff like that happens all the time.”

Here are some other things I learned about buying a car from an auto dealership. There is such a thing as an informal warranty. When too many of the same new model of cars have shown the same mechanical problem, the manufacturer will inform the car dealerships that it will cover the cost of repairs beyond the standard warranty. These warranties, however, are never publicized. Buyers need to write to the center for auto safety to find out about these things, and discover which components of the car are likely to fail and qualify for these repair warranties. If the part is covered and the service manager won’t fix it, you’ll need to either have a factory’s regional office representative mediate the matter, or take them to small claims court. Documentation is always needed.

Keep an eye on dealerships in your area that you may think you’ll do business with in the future. Go and look around one when you are not going to buy anything. You just want a feel for the personnel, and how they operate. When they approach you, and believe me, they will after standing around all day, just tell them you are window shopping and you’ll come and get them if you need anything. If they don’t insult you right there, then that’s a good sign. But good luck on that, this is not retail, they are not there to just be helpful. Don’t let them intimidate you or engage in any random banter.

Go to the service area also and just hang out a few minutes. Notice if things are being run smoothly, if the manager there and working, are customers treated with respect. Make sure you know for sure. Look at the service lot, notice the license plate frames. In a good dealership you’ll see plates from competing dealerships.

Don’t go out on the highway for a dealership, the salesmen know they have just one chance to make a sale, they could get violent. Multi-franchise dealerships can add to the overall trauma you experience in car buying, too many people are involved and this will cause a lot of confusion.

You choose the salesperson, don’t let them choose you. Ask them about themselves, how long they have worked, where they have worked, and if you may have references from former customers. If this works and you aren’t reviled and insulted, you may have a good thing going.

Just to note, in the high pressure of a salesroom, everyone is a target even if they are in the same ethnic group as you are. I once got a message on the phone for one of two African-Americans who worked for dealership #2 and I didn’t know who anyone was at first, so I asked the only African-American on the floor if he was this man Raymond, for whom I had a message, and I was snapped at and told “NO, I am the OTHER one!” So even the brothers didn’t get along and the customers were treated with no favoritism.

Remember, they believe that you and I are stupid, and therefore deserve what we get. So educate yourself first. Get as much information as possible on the car you want before you even sit down with a salesman. Collect brochures and read magazine articles on the auto you want. Don’t let them try to fool you with their impressive knowledge of the car, as this is just a device to take control of the sale and establish authority in the transaction.

You have to be knowledgeable and strong willed, and ready to leave at any moment. Know the competition too, if you mention that you are wavering between them and the competition they will, of course, knock them and be very convincing if you are uninformed. This isn’t a friendly exchange folks, don’t be fooled. Big money is on the table when it comes to you as a customer and they are armed to the teeth with ways of getting your money.

If you don’t know what you want, you will be sold what the salesman wants to unload. The most expensive model, with the most extravagant items, and all those hidden finance charges. You will have to eventually take a test drive of the car you want in order for the salesman to get you to take mental ownership of the car, he will glowingly praise the car in the meantime and try to get you to have fun while driving - NEVER GIVE HIM YOUR KEYS. Make absolute sure you give the salesman a single copy of your auto key if they truly need it, be prepared for this. Be prepared to walk (and be insulted as you walk away) if you need to. At this point in the sale, the salesman can take on an attitude not unlike a serpent with forbidden fruit for you to try. “Go ahead, it won’t really hurt.” he’ll imply.

Don’t buy when you are tired, if you are there for any length of time, just leave. Don’t let them sit in the break room and watch TV on you. They want you to wear out and believe that you will be primed to take whatever they promise you, even if they don’t have it, under the condition of being tired. There are no such things as idle questions either, any question is a probe to get to know what they can say back to you to make the sale. If they ask you what you do for a living, tell them you drive a cargo ship from here to the planet Jupiter, and without batting an eye they will tell you they have a cousin who does that too! Avoid probing questions if you can.

Remember those hidden finance charges? Options are where the dealer makes his money. So say for instance the dealer tells you that ALL cars come with power windows. But you don’t want power windows. At this point they will tell you it has to be a special order and it could take months. Walk out at this point if he doesn’t “work something out”. They magically will, they need the sale.

Standard options are listed in the manufacturer’s brochure. Cars for the lot may be ordered without a standard option like say, carpeting. You’ll be told that it is extra if you don’t know any better, and you’ll be charged for it too. Know what you are doing people!

Turning you over is a wearing down tactic. If they feel that you are not going their way or responding in the way they want you to, they will go on a break and let another salesperson talk to you. This can happen four or five times until you actually get frustrated and either buy a car or you are told to get the f**k out. If your salesman leaves for a break, then you leave too. There is a Starbucks every five hundred feet in America. I mean it! Be tough!

When you do finally buy the car, insist on itemization of what you have been charged and look closely for incongruousness in the finance price and the final price. Many people are just too confused and tired after a day at the dealership to really watch the fine print.

Check the car over and make sure everything is working and is just like you dealt for. Sometimes a car can be dented in transit and the dealer will park the car against a wall to hide the dent. Balloons in the back seat can be fun, but they also can hide interior damages. Remember, when you drive a car off the lot, it’s YOURS, there is no return policy and you just lost about $3,000 dollars just for making it a sudden used car the moment you hit the tarmac. Really! The value drops about $3,000 dollars the moment you drive away.

Laugh at those commercials you see on TV folks, they are NOTHING close to the reality of the auto dealership’s attitude toward you. Buy a good used car and have a mechanic look it over before you buy. The value is worth the work. And don’t even get me started on leasing. Avoid it if you can.

Oh and one last thing. There are NEVER any "sales". Those Veteran's day sales and Fourth of July sales are all smokescreens. Most of the time the "sale" is bargained and dickered away. Nothing really special every happens price wise on those days, they are just advertising.

Good luck to you, I hope this helps. And to those of you who have different experiences than what I have outlined, well... lucky you. ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
    auto dealer licensing


Escape The Hezbollah