Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Tale of Two Dealerships, Pt. 1

A Tale of Two Dealerships, Pt. 1

A friend of mine, who we'll call "Cailin" (not her real name) went shopping for a new car in 2014. I tried to talk her into a used car instead...didn't work. She knew what model she wanted, had done some research, and I think she made a solid choice. Now, to find a dealership...

Image from greencarreports.com

Another friend, who we'll call "Brian," and I accompanied "Cailin" to a nearby dealership, only a few minutes down the road from her apartment. This dealership is heavily advertised on the radio and even in print, with catchy and memorable spots rotating frequently through the airwaves. We didn't select the dealership because they advertised a lot; we selected it because it was nearby.

Spoiler alert: as it turns out, we should have avoided the heavily-advertised location. Lesson learned.

Once we arrived, we were quickly greeted by one of several salesmen who were standing around outside. I decided to be optimistic—'Wow! They're ready to help customers even before they go into the building!'

I should have known better.

Welcome to [Sales] Hell

The salesman, who introduced himself as Brandon (note the lack of quotation marks...), broke the ice by welcoming us into their brand-new building. Once we were inside, he asked "Cailin" what kind of car she was looking for, what her budget was, and how much she was expecting to finance.

(Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3...let's see how he reacts to the news that she was going to finance 0% of the vehicle!)

My friend replied that she was not going to finance; rather, a generous family member was going to help pay the entire cost of the vehicle upfront. Furthermore, she had called the dealership ahead of time, and received assurance that they had the type of SUV she was looking for [this was true], and a relatively inexpensive model with few extra features, as she requested.

But Brandon protested that the person who answered the phone had 'stretched the truth' in order to get her into the dealership—they only had loaded, 4-wheel-drive versions of the SUV she wanted. The cheapest one they carried was about $5000 above my friend's price range!
Strike 1. If Brandon was telling the truth, then the dealership was systematically dishonest. If he was not telling the truth, then he was not only dishonest—he was putting the blame onto someone else! In either case, this did not reflect well on the dealership! A great start to the search...
In retrospect, we should have walked out. But "Cailin's" current car was in pretty bad shape, so she wasn't in a rush to leave. At Brandon's suggestion, she agreed to test drive the cheapest version they had on the lot. It rode well and she liked the way it drove (not to mention that the brakes were an enormous upgrade over the brakes on her twenty-year-old car!)—but the price was well above what she wanted to pay.

Brandon repeatedly tried to push "Cailin" into financing all or part of the vehicle, even after she said that she wasn't interested in financing it. During the test drive, Brandon made another push to talk her into financing part of the car. He memorably remarked "There's this myth that cash is king..."
Myth? HA! Strike 2: cash gives you the power to walk out just as easily as you walked in! And if this particular dealership was allergic to receiving a money order in the amount of the car's purchase price, then another dealership would certainly be happy to make the sale and get that money themselves!
King Cash is not a benevolent dictator for the dealership...this king serves the customer
Reality Check

Back at his desk at the dealership, Brandon expounded upon the "reality" that, since Taylor Auto Group was the largest in the area for the brand my friend was looking for, we would have to go at least 100 miles away to find a dealership that might carry what she wanted.

Of course, this was a tactic to keep her in the dealership and pressure her into buying something more expensive than she wanted, presumably by financing part of the vehicle.
Strike 3. The entire experience did not inspire confidence up to this point, and now we were supposed to believe that this jerk and his potentially dishonest dealership were our only option? 
By this time, if Brandon stood before us and announced that he had two arms, I'd suspect that he was hiding a third arm somewhere under his shirt... 
My mother frequently talks about how she doesn't trust 'BSing salesmen' [and no, she doesn't abbreviate it] farther than she can throw them! After this experience, I understood her anger, and saw firsthand how salespeople get such a bad reputation!
Brandon spent about 10 minutes somewhere out of sight, claiming that he was 'double-checking the inventory.' I suspect that it was actually a tactic to give us time to wander around the showroom floor, hoping that "Cailin" would fall in love with one of those instead.

She didn't.

This time also gave the three of us an opportunity to compare notes and impressions. It was evident to each of us that this guy was slimier than a pit of snails, and we weren't keen to give him a sale!

But we took the opportunity to discuss whether we would all be okay with traveling to another dealership—it wasn't a foregone conclusion that we'd leave, as the nearest dealership for the brand was about 70 miles away. And, since "Cailin" had her heart set on a particular model of car, getting there would be a bit of a road trip—with no guarantee that they would have what she wanted, either!

Upon returning from his "check" of the inventory, he confirmed that they had nothing that conformed to my friend's parameters. He was quick to reiterate that she probably wouldn't be able to find what she was looking for at any of the area dealerships.

Though Brandon did a whole lot of talking, he did nothing in the way of calling around, or checking other dealerships (not even other Taylor Auto Group locations!).

My training as an experimental scientist had me thinking, "Don't flood us with baloney! Give us evidence, or keep your jabber to yourself!" But I was polite and said nothing. After all, I was just there for support and to help "Cailin" make sure she didn't get ripped off—it was her show, not mine.

Still, as we had discussed in the showroom, "Cailin" said she'd take her chances and check around. She accepted Brandon's card (which we threw out the moment we left the dealership!) and walked away, secure in the knowledge that she wasn't getting pressured into a bad deal.

Hit the Road...

Brandon was the stereotypical car salesman: he came off as pushy, dishonest, self-interested, and unwilling to do anything to impress a customer. Though he ran his mouth plenty, Brandon failed to run the rest of his muscles even half as much! Not impressive. He was the kind of generally sleazy salesperson everybody fears they'll encounter when they want to buy a car!

Maybe Brandon just wasn't too eager to impress three obviously young people—perhaps his typical clientele is older and has an air of money about them. Considering the relatively wealthy suburban area, I wouldn't be surprised.

Or perhaps he would prefer to spend his time wooing someone who was going to finance the car, giving the dealership a hefty sum in interest. Considering how hard he was pushing for financing, it likely meant that Brandon would also get a larger commission for selling a financed vehicle rather than one that would get paid off immediately.

Or maybe he was every bit the dirtbag he appeared! If Brandon were selling the last car available on Planet Earth...I'd rather walk!

Curious about what happens next? Check out Part II here!


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