Sharks, wide-boys and order takers… call them what you want but a sales person is there for good reasons. To represent the brand, advise the customer accordingly and hopefully – sell you a shiny new car. The general consensus of opinion tends to place the salesperson on the same morale plane as Adolf Hitler, Great White Sharks, Estate Agents and opportunist thieves who rob old ladies.
I have been in and around the game long enough to know good ones and bad ones – and trust me there are many truly awful ones in the game, but on the whole, the ones I do know tend to be four square as a rule. But for every horror story I have heard about foul practice from dealers, I’ve heard two stories about customers who can often be just as shady, downright criminally dishonest or to be simply avoided.
The public are a funny lot and I recall going to look at a property in Bedford a few years ago, the vendor omitted to tell me about a notorious criminal family a few doors down or about how the local taxis used the road at night like the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans – some members of the general public couldn’t lie in bed straight. And yet it’s always the dealers fault though when a car deal goes upside down and thanks to wonders of the internet, people can vent their anger virally almost as quick as the speed of light. In so many cases, it’s the customers who have brought the strife upon themselves and even though I do know a few less than honest punters, they vent their angst virally and give some traditionally decent dealers and salesmen an often unfair kicking over the internet.
This has been brought to the fore with a posting on Facebook I read from a man who wants to change his car but wants to avoid using a dealer. Using a past experience as the yard stick, he claimed to have been hoodwinked or call it what you will with his previous car and as a consequence ALL dealers and ALL sales executives are seemingly low life amoeba’s. Personally, I have been robbed by customers who have sneakily removed tax discs, alloy wheels, tool kits, floor mats and other paraphernalia when trading in their cars for new at point of hand-over – despite agreements stating the trade in to be accepted in the evaluated condition. Many may be reading this blowing the froth of a coffee thinking ‘yeah good on them” – but do two wrongs make a right?
In my own days of selling new metal, I never set the world on fire in terms of numbers. I preferred to go for the slow burn, build up a rapport and make sure everyone was happy before the order form was signed. There have been dozens of deals that went through with no hassle or screaming but not once was I ever recognised for my toils – and trust me when I say that on more than one occasion I moved Heaven and Earth for some customers. Despite this, some punters are plain trash. There was one incident whereby the wrong colour car got ordered and I informed all parties concerned – they were more than happy to still go ahead. For their troubles, we even threw in some nice fabric mats and delivered the car to their home – they were over the moon on hand over, but the customer survey afterwards had them slating and slagging me off something terrible. They got a £50 voucher from Rover and I had strips torn off me – sometimes you just don’t win!
One of the hardest punters to deal with is Mr / Mrs Know-it-all. These are the kinds of folk who profess to know every trick in the book that a dealer might use and come armed with a rolled up What Car? or equivalent stuffed hard inside their armpit. One such example waltzed into my showroom midweek claiming to be interested in changing an Astra up to a Vectra (it was a few years back) and came out with a wonderfully rehearsed speech about how he didn’t want badgering or pestering by, and I quote – ‘bloody ponced up salesmen”. That went on for about five minutes. You have to make a snap decision with people like this to gauge if they are worth the hassle and could you ever hope to give him the satisfaction – let alone gain any form of mutual trust.
If you want a cracking deal, you have to work for it and it’s that simple – you get nothing for free in this world, but let’s get one thing straight – unless you are buying a premium class car or one loaded with options, there is nowhere near the massive profit margins you may have thought. Those optional added items such as paint and fabric protection that often get stapled onto the final quote may seem pointless and annoying but often they make more money for the dealer than the deal of the car itself. I’m not making it sound like violins of sympathy for the trade but it really is that tight in some showrooms, so by kicking the showrooms doors down with your size nines full of argumentative attitude will often as not achieve you nothing.
You see, too many people buy from either the first place they go to or the first car they drive, often as not with their eyes wide shut, with no homework done resulting in a good scalping. Then they cry like a hungry cat when the milk turns out to be sour – in this information crazy internet world we live in, there really is no excuse for this any more. Everyone knows somebody who has been subjected to a bum-steer from a car dealer, but to add some balance to the equation, I know dozens of people who have been totally satisfied, if not overwhelmed, by the level of service. The reason for this is simple – we are a nation of moaning Minnies that like nothing more than bad news. What will surprise you is the result of a survey taken out a few years ago with motor trade customers.
When asked how many would recommend a dealer to another person that had treated them fairly and squarely, the result came back at around 70% – no amazing surprise there but what about those who had felt they had been ripped off? Amazingly, the numbers were crunched and the figure this marketing company came back with was 50% – so what does that tell us? In a nutshell, half of us would like other people to suffer the same way which equates to the plain and simple fact that many of us are only happy when other people are unhappy. So a fair number of people would be happy to recommend a dealer to a friend or colleague despite the fact they may have had their trousers pulled down – why should someone else get a better deal than me is the attitude of some people – nice eh?
You can learn so much from the internet, deals have never been keener, pricing has never been more cut throat and transparent, so why are people still playing blue murder at dealer practices? Simply because they let them, it’s rather like placing your hand on a hot cooker hob and not learning from the experience – once bitten and so on. The dealer or salesman’s prime directive is to make money, and if you are loose on your purse strings, they will extract every spare penny going – with a smile of course. But by crashing into a dealer with a poor and frosty attitude is bound to get you nowhere, the salesperson will make a snap decision to see if the profit (in some cases very slim) is worth the hassle. In the aforementioned case of Mr Vauxhall, we didn’t bother to deal with him for the simple reason being he couldn’t be placated no matter what we tried.
We only buy from people we like and the salesperson will only work with you if that’s reciprocated, and despite what you may think, a dealer actually likes a well informed customer who is keen to deal and lock horns. By doing your background checks beforehand armed with a little inside track knowledge and a smile, buying a new car is a right hoot but honesty is the key. The dealer (if doing their job right) will sniff out any bull or flannel a lot sooner than you will ever realise vice versa and if you come over hostile and unapproachable, the dealer might just walk away from you. One of the best bits of advice I could ever give a potential customer is this: you have no obligation whatsoever to buy the same as the dealer is under no obligation to sell to you. See the dealer and politely explain your wants, needs and time-scale – if they still push you into a hurried decision… walk away!
So if you walk out of the showroom with an order form having been stung or overcharged, who is actually at fault? What I would say is this: combine the advice of your wife, hubby or best friend with the voice from within – your gut feeling. If something seems wrong with the proposed deal, ask for clarification or walk away – you are at no point obliged to buy and are free to leave whenever you like. Sit there like a dummy and you will be sewn up like a Kipper, we live in a world where almost every aspect of a business transaction is transparent with forums, advice sites and information right at your fingertips. There really is little excuse to complain and whine about buying a car… all you need to do is a little fact finding beforehand.
My money is on the smaller dealership, you may not get the cheapest deal but you’ll likely get the best service and a trusted relationship that lasts for as long as you want it to – the extra money you might have to spend may just buy you peace of mind – and that’s priceless in my book. A cheap deal so often always ends up costing you at some point, but a good relationship and happy motoring is built up on nothing more than good old fashioned trust and it’s a trust that needs to be reflected from both parties. Great dealers and cracking sales staff still exist but it only works if you are a cracking customer!