Tuesday, March 11, 2008


For anyone out there actually reading this, it will be a few days before a big update. I recently switched from domestic to luxury imports, and am undergoing training. Yay, fun.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My side of the desk

Every customer, when they walk on a car lot, is scared. Whether they admit it or not, they are. I mean, customers buy a car once every 3-5 years on average. I do it for a living.

But the funny thing is, they are all afraid of being lied to and cheated by the slimy salesman, right? Guess what...in my experience, customers actually lie more than the salesmen do. Seriously. Their credit, other deals they are working at other dealerships, numbers they have been quoted, their trade-in condition...they lie about everything. Hence the saying amongst car salesmen, "Buyers are liars".

But it's an adversarial process (or has been made so over the years), and I understand why people get nervous. I'll let you in on a little secret...a lot of salespeople, the really good ones? They aren't out to screw you over. They want to make money, sure, but a fair deal for both sides is actually the ideal as it means happy customers who in turn send other customers to buy cars. So yes, I want to make a profit on the car (shocking, I know), but ripping someone off is a bad move for me professionally. Good pro's know this.

Somehow, over the years, the thought that dealer's make a profit selling a car has become a bad thing. I can't name another business where people EXPECT you to lose money to run the business. A lot of people have flat-out told me they won't buy a car if the dealer is making a profit on it. I don't go to Best Buy and demand a TV at their cost...I'd get laughed out. Same with milk at the grocery store, etc. There is nothing wrong with making money (My limit is sticker price for a car. I won't charge over that. After the MSRP, it just becomes price gouging.).

Are all dealerships like that? Not even close. There are good dealerships and bad dealerships, and the bad ones are unbelievably bad. Sadly, they drag the good dealerships down with them.

In the next few days, I will talk about good and bad dealerships, how to tell the difference, and tell you about some sales from my point of view.

Monday, February 25, 2008


February is the worst month in the car business. It sucks. Nobody wants to buy a car. You can stand a porch for days without seeing a single customer. So anyone looking for a good deal, February is your month.

I work in domestic automobiles (GM), and it never ceases to amaze me how many people think we have thousands and thousands of dollars of mark-up in the car. Yeah, because all that money GM was losing was just fake money. They are making thousands per car, they just wanted to try and fool everyone. And all those people who think like that seem to come out in February.

Them, and the guys with ridiculous payment figures. I had a guy trying to finance $39,000 and refused to pay more than $550 a month for 60 months. Go ahead, do the math.

(Hint - 550 X 60 = 33,000)

That's not even the purchase price of the vehicle. Then he accused us of trying to cheat him. I mean, seriously, how do you make $150K a year and not be able to do basic math?

Ah, well. Hopefully, I will be moving to a far more prestigious brand in the very near future. That would be cool.

Soon to come - a real inside look at the car business. Slang, what really happens when we go see the boss, and just how do dealers make money anyway?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Like father, like son

They get out of the car, the young guy and girl, and the older man. After doing this long enough, I can usually figure out the pecking order pretty quickly. I can quickly tell from the way they group together that the two young ones are married, and that the car is for them. I can also tell they know what they want. No looking around, no lost expressions. Just a purposeful march to the door, where I am waiting to say hello. It's a cold and rainy day, so that, combined with their attitude, means they want to buy a car.

I like it.

I wait for them to walk in the door before I say anything. People hate to be attacked.

"Hey folks, how are you today?"

They instantly tense up, even more than when they first exited their car.

"Good", the young guy responds.

"How can we help you today?"

"I've got a stock number here for a truck I want to buy."

My ears perk up and I get a little happier. I love a customer who has done most of my work for me.

"Great. Come on over and let me get the information on the truck."



"No, we aren't going to your office. Just go get us a price."

Right about now, I wish I was eating lunch. It never fails. No matter how polite you are to some people, they are automatically rude to salesmen. They want everything on their terms, and done their way, and they think being rude and arrogant will help their cause.

I smile politely back.

"Well, it's going to take me a few minutes to get the information, and my office is more comfortable than the showroom floor. So come on with me, and let's talk."

I don't even hesitate. I just start walking towards my office. When I go in to sit down, sure enough, they are all following me. It never fails.

I pull out my "Guest Information Sheet". I start writing down the stock number, and some basic model info. I fill in their first names, and ask them for their last names. They refuse. Same with cell number, email address, anything else.

I know people hate that. I hate giving out that info. But I get yelled at if I don't have it filled out when I go in to the managers office. And I don't like getting yelled at. But I decided it wasn't worth the fight with these people, and I excused myself to go talk to my manager.

Now, some stores, the salesmen can do the pricing and other stores, the managers do all the pricing. I've worked at both, so I know how to price cars and read invoices and all that stuff. A lot of salesmen have no idea about any of that, so I think I freak out my manager a little because I know all that information.

Now usually, at my store, the first price quote is making all the money, sticker price minus rebates. You'd be surprised at how many people sign up. I certainly don't mind. And before you get all upset, all we do is take rebates off sticker. It's not some hidden dealership black magic. Some people just go with it. It's not cheating anybody.

I knew that wouldn't work with these people, and I know we have been having a very slow month. So I told my boss that.

"Hey boss, I've got these people in my office, and they are hardcore price shoppers. I don't know what you want me to do, but they are going to be a pain as far as pricing."

"Not today, I need the numbers. We need to sell some cars."

So he takes the stock number, and looks it up. He tells me a price, and hands me an invoice, which is weird. He never hands salespeople invoices. I look at the invoice and the price he gave me. We are making a grand total of about $400 on the truck, which, by the time I get paid and the clean-up crew gets paid, means we make about $50 on the truck. It has been a slow Saturday.

"Here, take the invoice and go out there and tell them this price and show them the invoice and make a deal."

"Yes, sir."

I can do that. My previous store was a volume store. Forget making money on each car, just sell one and go get another.

I go back in the office and hit them with the price. His mouth gapes open a little and his wife's eyes get bigger. I think they like it.

"Whoa", he says. "We weren't expecting that. Can we go talk for a minute?"

"Sure, take your time. I'll be right here"

I love it. They are in. It's a mini (minimum commission) deal, but oh well. It was quick and easy. I am rather happy. It feels good to sell a car.

They break up their meeting and come back into my office. Apparently, the older guy is the father of the young guy. I guess he there for advice and support. The couple is too young to have bought many cars.

The young guy looks at me. I am expecting to hear what a great deal it is and where can they sign.

"Is that price out the door?"

"No, that's just the selling price."

Standard practice. Always give a selling price, never out the door unless they ask for it. Besides, most people know they have to pay the tax man anyway. It's not the dealer's fault.

"No, sir. That's just the selling price."

"Oh. Well, we want that price out the door and we might do the deal."

At this point, I grabbed the invoice and explained how to read it to him. I pointed out all the facts and figures, and explained to him that selling it at that price would lose the dealership about $1100.

"OK...but thats the price I am willing to buy it for."

"Well, then, sir...I think we need to look at another vehicle with a few less options to get to that price. That will be our best shot at getting to that price."

"No, I am not going to give up anything. I want that price out the door."

I couldn't take it. I just couldn't. I couldn't deal with this stupidity any more. Does this guy go into Best Buy and demand they lose money to sell him a TV? How about when he goes to the grocery store? Of course not. But it's perfectly OK at the car dealership.

At my old dealership, I would have just kicked him out. At this one, I let the manager do it. I went and got him, and he came and sat down to take a turn on the customer. At this point, I as a salesman shut the hell up. I don't say a word.

So he gets in there and starts saying the exact same things I said. Not quite word-for-word, but close. As the son is about to open his mouth to make his ridiculous demand, his dad finally says something to my manager.

"You damn salesmen are all alike, all you do is lie."

He points to the invoice.

"All that is a made-up sheet. You're making tons of money here."

(It's not and we aren't)

And that's it. My manager shuts down. He doesn't quit talking but I can tell any negotiations are over. They go back and forth for a while, but it's obvious neither one is budging. Finally, my manager writes his price on the invoice and tells them that is it. If they want the car, that's the selling price. The kid still insists on that price out the door. My manager gets up and says "Thanks for coming in, call me if we can do business in the future" and walks out.

I just look at them, and they look back at me.

"Last chance" says the kid.

"You folks have a nice day", I respond.

They get up and leave. I follow them out and wave goodbye.

One of the other salesmen looks at me and asks "What happened to your customers?"

I looked at the car driving away and think how miserable they must be, so afraid of being cheated they can't see the plain truth when it is right in front of them.

"Customers are people willing to buy a car."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Multiple Personalities

I really liked selling cars at first. It's a hard job, but it's not difficult. It takes long hours and a lot of work, but it's not challenging work. It's more like loading boxes onto a truck...easy to do but still hard work. There are a lot of cool aspects to the job. You have an office but aren't in it very much (some places will fire you for spending too much time in it), you get to be outside a lot, and despite micro-management on an insane level in some aspects, you still have lots of freedom.

About a year and a half in, it was like a switch flipped. I came home one day fine and dandy with my job, and the next day I went to work and immediately began to hate it. All of it, every part of my job except for some of my friends. I just simply couldn't stand it. 8 months later, I still can't pinpoint exactly what it was that triggered the emotional 180. I worked at an awesome dealership (for the most part), worked with mostly nice people and could ignore the ones I didn't like, made good money.

I finally figured out what turned me around though. No specific incident, I just got tired of lies. Mangers lie to me, salesmen lie to each other, I lie to customers, and customers lie to me. It's such a jacked-up process, and I started feeling tainted by it. I am a very honest person, and I hate lying to people like that.

A little while ago I parted ways with my first dealership, and even though I found another place to work, I am still looking another dealership to work at. I hope to do this through the summer and then start a real job, with a salary and everything. It would be nice to get paid for being at work, instead of months like this where I can show up for work every day and not make a dime.

But I still get excited when I am working a deal. It's like a legal drug or solving an intensely difficult riddle. I hate my job except for those few brief moments, and it scares me sometimes that I might actually miss that.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Trying to come up with a snappy title sucks

Well, the things you do late at night when you're bored...eat a whole pizza, drink too much beer, start a blog.

I could say I never thought I would be doing this, blogging, but the truth is that I have thought about it off and on for some time. A place to vent, share funny stories, maybe get some useful information to people, or just let you know what it's like to be on the other side of the table. I mean, most people hate buying cars, what kind of sick and twisted moron wants to do it for a living?

Lot's of different people, actually. I've met guys that are exceptionally intelligent and guys that are utter morons. Some should be doing other things, and some were born to be salesmen. But all pretty much have a common goal...money. You can make a lot of money doing this.

Of course, the hours suck, working conditions can be terrible, and on a good day, it's an uphill battle. On a bad day, it's like being the audio set-up at a Judas Priest concert. You feel like you've been run over by a tank division.

I've been doing this a little over 2 years and I can't wait to get another job. In the meantime, for you few that read this, I will attempt to both enlighten and entertain you.

More to come, I do believe it's time for bed now.