Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Tale of Two Dealerships, Pt. 2

A Tale of Two Dealerships, Pt. 2

Get the full backstorycheck out Part I here!

Though she didn't get pressured into a bad deal on a vehicle she didn't want, my friend "Cailin" was still stuck with an old car that had shoddy brakes, balding tires, and vibrated heavily whenever she pressed on the gas. Time to regroup and go to plan B.

Fortunately for us, the Internet is a thing! Whipping out our smartphones, we all hopped into "Brian's" car, since it was more fit for a road trip than "Cailin's" was! After about 10 minutes of searching, we located a particular example that was close to what she wanted, though it wasn't her preferred color and it had a few more bells and whistles than she was looking for.

"Cailin" was willing to check it out, however, even if it wasn't exactly what she was looking for. Rolling her eyes, she exclaimed, "Anything to avoid going back there again!" We called ahead to make sure it was on the lot, and the friendly person on the phone confirmed that the particular "Tuck-sen" [an atrocious mispronunciation!] we saw online was in stock.

She offered to have the sales staff hold it until we arrived, and forced the dealer's "big blowout sale" several times into the 5-minute phone conversation (obviously because she was told that she had to bring it up to everyone who called! Psh, dealerships...)

We made the 70-mile trip, which gave us plenty of time to think about our previous experience. After dealing with that, we weren't about to take any more garbage from windbags like Brandon!

Night and Day

Fortunately, we didn't have to. Our experience at the second dealership was the polar opposite of our experience with the first one! The sales staff—and everybody else at this rural dealership!—was friendly, professional, straightforward, and honest.

They showed us the particular car we had called about, and they let us look around on our own at the other cars they had on the lot. Unlike the previous dealership, there was no bait-and-switch. They had exactly what they said they had, and there was no pressure to finance, or to go with a more expensive alternative, or anything of the sort. They answered our questions and generally did everything to serve our needs, rather than just trying to upsell to make a quick buck.

A couple different staff members emphasized that the owner was a Christian man who, on principle, emphasized integrity and customer service over profit. That probably plays well with their typical rural Midwestern clientele, but we all knew full well that not all people of integrity are Christian, and not all who claim to be Christian behave with integrity.

In this instance, however, the claim matched up with reality. The salesman showed us the dealer invoice for the particular vehicle we were looking at, and accepted an offer that was only a few hundred dollars above that.

This experience was exactly the opposite of the traditional stereotype of pushy, dishonest car dealerships! This just goes to show that stereotypes are never entirely accurate!
I'd also like to note that, from a customer-service perspective, it's much better for your business in the long term behave this way—that is, to do the right thing and really serve the customer's needs—than the typical myopic practice of putting pressure on your customers in order to make a quick buck!
Taylor Auto Group, in the well-to-do suburban Toledo, Ohio area, tried to pressure us and lost a customer in the short-term. And to boot, they lost at least 3 potential customers in the long term ("Cailin," "Brian," and me). High-pressure sales pitches can backfire badly when the customer isn't in a hurry to buy your product!

By contrast, Tom Ahl Hyundai, in rural Lima, Ohio, got the short-term sale, as well as good word-of-mouth (plus this positive blog post, for whatever that's worth!). It's unknowable just how much of a positive long-term impact that has for them, but I can tell you from experience that it's no accident that Tom Ahl Hyundai has a 5-star rating on 135 Google reviews as of the time of writing this!


Fortunately, this saga has a happy ending! Though "Cailin" wanted a barebones version of the vehicle without a lot of bells and whistles, those are pretty hard to find. So she got the least-expensive model on the lot, even if it was a little more feature-rich than she initially wanted.

And, even though she wanted a higher-visibility exterior color, she ended up making peace with the dark exterior as well. The bright running lights helped ameliorate her concerns about visibility!

She would have preferred a color closer to this one, but I guess you can't get everything...

She got a good deal on the kind of vehicle she wanted, she got an industry-leading warranty, and she remains very pleased with her car to this day (about 3 years after the purchase). No buyer's remorse here, I'm happy to report!

Lessons Learned

As someone who doesn't have a car and had never before been on a serious car-buying trip, I took a few lessons away from this experience:

     1) A dealership that advertises a lot probably isn't the best choice.

     2) A dealership in a relatively wealthy area probably isn't the best place to find a low-cost value.

     3) A little-advertised rural dealership is probably a better bet.

     4) Know specifically which features you're looking for, and know your price range.

     5) Be willing to walk away! *This is the biggest factor!*
          -Since we were willing and able to walk away, had the ability to pay the entire cost upfront without financing, and my friend knew what she wanted and roughly how much it would cost, we were able to ditch the pushy salesman at the lying dealership, and get a better deal on the kind of vehicle that my friend was looking for!

     6) As hard as Brandon pushed my friend to finance the vehicle, there is surely a financial incentive for salespeople to arrange "financing" (i.e. a loan). Financing a vehicle means that compound interest is working against you—and for a depreciating asset, to boot! Do not pay interest on something that is certain to be worth less in a year than it is when you purchase it! That's not what rich people do...

and, finally,

     7) Even though my friend bought her car new, I still advocate buying a used car nonetheless, no matter your salary! Let someone else take the big depreciation hit, while you still get a reliable vehicle that will likely last you for many years to come!

Car Shopping Tips

     -Do your research ahead of time. Consumer Reports is well-known for its rigorous work on testing new and used cars for reliability, comfort, etc. Consumer Reports reviews all sorts of other consumer products as well; a subscription is probably worthwhile! Even if you don't want to buy a year's subscription, many public libraries have current and back issues of the publication. I'd highly recommend Consumer Reports as a source for objective information to do your research!

     -Get an inspection by an independent mechanic (i.e. one who isn't affiliated with any dealerships). An expert opinion is well worth the time and cost, to make sure you're not getting a lemon. Local mechanics will often do this if you schedule an appointment in advance; call and ask if they offer that service. I was surprised to find it was only $39 at a mechanic near me!

     -And don't go shopping without knowing which features are essential and which are not necessary for you. Many people confuse 'wants' and 'needs.' Make sure you know the difference!

My apologies for letting a year elapse between Part I and Part II! Between teaching, working on my dissertation, 
completing my coursework, applying for jobs, etc, I'm not posting original content as frequently as I'd like. Hopefully 
things will clear up in the future!

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