Sales Talk : Messers – the dread of salesmen

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Another look into the dodgy world of car dealers in Sales Talk with Mike Humble:

A couple of tales of the regarding the motor trades most loathed customer – the messer!


 The 75 and the Black Rat:

The Rover 75 1.8 Turbo - Not every customer was your pipe and slipper man!

Just as turf accountants have their own language and tick-tack gesticulations, the motor trade has its own list of slang phrases or nick names. Out of all the well known trade phrases, there is one that is both explanatory and enough to make a grown man weep – and that phrase is ‘messer’.

This is the type of customer who will either womble into the showroom five minutes before closing on a Sunday or smack bang in the middle of a busy Saturday afternoon – just when you don’t need them. Messers can often be well skilled in time wasting, and they can and will catch even the most seasoned Sales Executive.

To those who have only ever been customers, a salesman will ask you at first point of contact, a series of tell me or paint me a picture questions, this is to gauge whether you are in the market or in some cases, in a position to afford to buy a car. This is known in the trade as ‘qualification’ and as a salesperson, his/her next plan to extrude your hard earned bunce from your pocket, will be based on the intelligence gleaned from their answers.

Saturday is usually the busiest day, so quite often, if a sales exec thinks you are there just to keep warm or chat, don’t take offence if he cuts short your discussion about the strength of the Euro and slides away. We love to chat, but we are there to sell cars and make money!

Like I stated in the opening gambit, “messers” will catch every Sales Exec at least once a month. Some people simply love to spend up to 3hrs in a showroom, going through colours, availability, options, finance plans and even go so far as finance proposal with no intention of ever buying.

This will never cease to amaze me as to why anyone would even consider entering what some people would describe as a high pressure and intimidating environment, just to waste time, but hey, that’s life. Some customers are truly plain stupid enough to waltz into your premises armed with a sack of bad debt and an atrocious credit rating and expect to get a new car.

These are known in the trade as “black rats” and whereby some simply inherit a bad credit rating by having a partner/spouse who is neck high in financial ruin or by plain bad luck, some also are well aware of their situation but have no concept whatsoever of how credit works, and it is these people who are partly responsible for the current debt crisis we are in – there is no such thing as free money.

I know it sounds slightly harsh, but car dealers tend to have an idea on who is good for money or credit by using the postcode factor, namely, if their address is somewhere that represents a bad night in Bosnia, chances are they might just struggle for finance – regardless of how much deposit they may have, so as mentioned before, qualificational questions are vital.

One customer I remember as if it was yesterday, came bumbling into the showroom mid week to view a Rover 75 1.8 Turbo. Having eyes and ears like a sewer rat, I noticed the family park their aging gaffer tape adorned Mondeo and pour out of the car resembling the Clampetts – all they needed was Granny in a rocking chair on the roof and you had the full picture.

They burst into the premises like a whirlwind complete with three kids and a tattoo clad mum, and after opening one eye, noticed my colleagues had all legged it for a smoke. I looked on in horror as the whole tribe crawled all over the 20 grand showroom centrepiece, drawing my strength, I sauntered over.

The head of the family, who resembled a cross between Rab C Nesbit & Demis Roussos, told me they had come into a ‘few bob’ and were looking to treat themselves. An old trick I had for sifting the wheat from the chaff as t`wer, was to request to see the driving licence before taking a spin.

If I was in any doubt as to the viability of the customer, I would request this blaming company policy as the reason, back then people rarely carried it with them, though today, its standard trade practice at all times. He asked for a drive out anyway, and I used this as my joker card of which he fully appreciated, rounded up his troops, took my card and a brochure and was gone – leaving me feel like I had gone deaf!

The cast from the Beverly Hillbillies caused chaos on a quiet mid week day!

Calm was once again restored and as if by magic, my two fellow colleagues drifted back to their desk – yeah cheers lads. On the Friday, the same chap but alone, came in to the showroom holding his licence and asked for a test drive in a Rover 75.

Bearing in mind he claimed to be sitting on some cash, we took the car out for a drive and asking him for his thoughts, he stated the car was everything he expected it to be. Sitting back at my desk, the Kenco poured like spring water and he made it quite clear he wanted the same car he had driven, and after being told we would have to order a car or find one in the network owing to the showroom model being not for sale, a deal was struck.

There would be no part exchange, the worthless Mondeo was going to his brother for use a banger racer and he agreed to leave £2000 as a deposit with the remainder to be settled before delivery via bankers draught or Electronic money transfer. We could get a 75 delivered in 5 weeks but the following weekend he came back claiming he had found a car for less money.

After some negotiation and seeing the proof of the better offer, we undercut a nearby rival by a few quid. Then he came back again with another offer from a dealer in… wait for it… Dundee, but he would have to collect the car in person as they would not deliver to the Midlands.

Bear in mind, a 6 hour journey single rail fare from Northants to Tayside would have cost at least £150, there was only £200 differing our prices. I stood by my guns, but so did he, and after coming within a cats whisker of the deal cocking (trade speak for failing) my guv`nor agreed to knock another £150 off, but that was his lot, we weren’t making a huge amount of money on the deal by now.

So after explaining in no uncertain terms that was his whack as far as money was going, it all went quiet again. Well it did do until our financial controller told me his payment date had come and gone, after contacting the man he came back into the showroom, only this time he was not so cocky.

Well, after buying a wide screen TV, new bikes for the kids and a holiday abroad, he had blown most of the money he had inherited and was now looking at finance for his new car. Needless to say, he bumped on his credit searches and after re negotiating the price and using a sub prime lending outlet, it quickly became apparent that even the Greek Government was in a less parlous financial state than my punter.

Owing to the length of time and the messing around we had gone through, he only got £1500 of his money back. I asked my DP what was going to happen with the ordered 75, only to be told that it was in fact never ordered, it would have been simply swapped with a car through the nearby dealer who initially beat my first offer.

Test Drive Tommy – Julember Delivery:

The title above is trade slang for customers who drive every car on the market and dither. They will start looking in July… and then buy in December. No matter what they are offered, they sometimes just won’t buy!

Whatever your views on the Scenic may be - it's not a bad drive and hard to say no with the discounts that were on offer

Working by the rule of thumb, selling a car to an OAP tends to be a painless and straightforward affair, they are patient, generally nice people, seldom haggle the shirt off your back, and tend to recommend you to others if you look after them. I know many sales folk who will run a mile from them, simply because they will not be rushed into any decision – and in my honest opinion, rightly so.

Personally, I love ’em and my main reason for this was a genuine desire to do the job right and make people happy. Some old folk had fascinating stories to tell and I loved to listen to what made them tick, people who know me think I loath the general public – but that’s far away from the truth really.

The main fact for why I no longer retail in new cars, is quite simply because the fun has gone from the job for reasons which have been partly explained in previous Sales Talk items. I take great pride in my work and always have done, and the current new car sales culture is solely to rip people off and make as much profit per unit as possible – to hell with customer service.

When I was a bit younger, I knew some terrific sales guys who often earned more than the managers, simply because they were good blokes who knew how to make a customer feel special, but today, it’s a horrible high pressure environment where building a bond for life with a customer has no time or place in the big dealer group culture.

That said, some customers can drive you mad enough to want to wrap a fire extinguisher round their head and then, set fire to them. I had the misfortune to sell Renault cars in the North East back a few years back, I learnt my lesson soon after and transferred to a different franchise within the group. An elderly but sprightly couple came by one day and drifted into the showroom focussing their attention to a red Scenic 1.5D which was on display. Introducing myself, they explained that they looked after 3 grandchildren regularly and often took a ferry abroad for touring holidays, hence the reason for a retired couple looking for a people carrier type car. Self financing and no part exchange, they were your ideal type of customer.

Now even back then, Renault would throw sacks of money at a customer in the form of a generous discount, and during the test drive, the wife of the couple made various clucking and cooing noises signalling she loved the car. This is normally a good sign, get `er indoors on your side and the deal is done as a rule, but as I was to find out, this was far, much farther, from the truth.

Whatever your opinion of Renaults may be, the 2007 model Scenic for all its foibles, drove really well as did most models from this brand. Sitting at the desk going through the highlights of the drive, the husband turned to the wife and said “but how does it compare to the Touran”. To compare these two are like comparing Skegness to the Sorrento Coast.

In terms of aspiration and brand perception, the Volkswagen Touran is rock solid, but to get one with any form of credible standard equipment, you certainly pay for the pleasure of owning a Volkswagen. The Scenic on the other hand, was French, had poorer residuals but ultimately far cheaper to buy and run, also having a vastly superior level of trim. Armed with a massive discount, the Scenic was impossible to beat for value – even against something Korean.

Further conversation also revealed they had looked at nearly every people carrier on the market, so I at least, now knew this was not going to be a flash in the pan sale. Well after giving them a figure for a cash buy, they would not commit there and then so off they went.

Well after a couple of follow up phone calls, they were still no further backwards in coming forwards, so it was left to be, you win some, you loose some. A couple of weeks later, the same customer phoned to ask if they could come back and view the car again, so things seemed positive once more. After a good look round the Scenic, they once again left even after being tempted with some added value such as mats, flaps and paintwork protection for free. Even my sales manager had a go with them and once again I called back couple of times shortly after to see where they were at, they wouldn’t say yes or no, so in the end, I let them loose putting them down to buying elsewhere or just messing.

Rock solid brand perception but spartan inside unless you pay - Impossible to compare with the Scenic

After having a go with selling badly built and unreliable French cars, I transferred to a Vauxhall dealership where things were much better from a salesman’s point of view. We were riding high on new Corsa mania thanks to those memorable adverts with the soft toys running around (I still own a set of them too I confess).

Everything was selling well and Corsa, Astras and Vectras were heading out of the showroom almost as fast as GM could build them. One day during the week, I was reversing my demo into a parking bay, when in my mirror I spotted a familiar looking couple looking round a Zafira diesel we had parked on the ramps outside. It was Mr & Mrs Undecided from my times at Renault – my heart sank.

I strode over with my hand outstretched and greeted them and we all remembered each other, they explained they had come to view a Zafira diesel and would like to drive one. Now here is the crux reader… this was some eight months after they had first entered the Renault showroom, amazingly, they had still not decided what car they were buying, but as the saying goes “every suspect is a prospect” so I started afresh with the couple and the re-match was game on – only this time, they were going to buy a car. The motor they were stood next to was a dark blue metallic 120bhp Zafira Exclusive Diesel which was a long stock car (previous model year) only some minor detail differed this model from a current one and visually, they were identical.

What made this one special, was the fact there was a ridiculous sum of money slashed off the price – I can’t remember the exact figure, but it was seriously cheap. It had just gone outside for display right in the view of the passing traffic and it was brand new with only delivery mileage on the clock too. Before I committed to getting the car from display, I explained in no uncertain terms that this was an exceptionally cheap car and a one off, if they didn’t buy it or at least leave a deposit should they like it, someone else certainly would. The test drive went fine, and they both mentioned about how spacious it felt compared to the Renault. I explained how the car had better service intervals and would retain a better residual price over the Scenic too.

Just like all those months before, some drinks were made and we sat at my desk for battle to commence. I had no more time to waste on this couple, so I simply smiled and said “have we got a deal”, a minor pause and then the wife said “well… I’m not sure really”.

Mentally, I wanted to jump over the desk and thump them, but I retained my calm and asked then what the objection was. Mrs Messer went on to say that although she loved the Vauxhall, another car they had viewed had silver roof rails fitted and the Zafira rails were black. I was stunned, here was a motor with all the kit they needed, which was cheaper than a fish supper, and all they could whine on about was silver bloody roof rails.

I explained this to my manager who was also floored by the couple, a quick dash to the parts department resulted in a price for the silver effect bars, for the purpose of this article, lets say they cost £400 plus fitting. My manager said we would stomach the cost of the fitting only if it gained a signed deal today, and only for today – no messing, no mincing, today.

Sitting back in front of the dithering pair, I revised the offer accordingly only for them to ask me if they could go away and ponder on it for a few days. By this time, I snapped and it was the only occasion I have ever done so, I was by no means rude, but that was it – I had had enough. Jumping to my feet, I shook their hands and simply said “well thank you for your interest, but I feel there is nowhere for us to go at this time… best of luck with whatever car you decide to own” – and they bumbled off and out my life forever.

The couple in question lived not far from ourselves and one day sometime after, I took a drive past in the evening to see a new Mazda 5 parked outside their pretty bungalow property – the perfect choice for them I remember thinking… that poor Mazda salesman!

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

77 Comments

  1. Wonder how many of the current crop of MG dealers have had their hopes raised by “enthusiasts” who just want a drive of the MSG6 but have no intention whatsoever of buying a new one?

  2. @Rob

    Both comments are true and sadly ironic.

    However, the saying used in the trade is “bums on seats sell cars” and you would be suprised how many messers turn into customers on the strength of a test drive.

    Messers use the following to scarper if you try to pin them down…

    The wife / partner would need to see first – a classic

    Not having time to test drive – usually said after they have been there an hour

    Well, the cars not for me I’m looking for a friend

    The kids are due to be picked up soon.

    All people have to say is no thanks or say they are not in the market at the moment. I firmly believe in the adage that no one ever took offence by saying no. If the salesman still tries to nail you to the floor, just walk away.

    The managers are so hell bent on refusing to let go when people won’t buy, but if a punter walks out pissed off, he’s hardly going to walk back in when he is in a buying mood… is he?

    That said… some customers are habitual messers to the core. They would make excellent mystery shoppers though!

  3. Never forget that the feel of the wheel will seal the deal! Nice article as usual Mike!

    I used to work for a large electrical retailer (who will remain nameless). I too used to love selling to elderly people, as I believed in good customer service and taking a reasonable length of time over a sale (plus it makes good business sense; it’s a damn sight easier to plant the warranty and “essentials” seed at the start of a conversation, then you can watch it grow into a tree that bears fruit at the end of the sale, as they’re intrigued by the fact you haven’t done a hard sell on them. Plus they always came back for repeat purchases, which is rare in electrical retailing). I digress.

    Anyway, I had a similar elderly couple looking to buy a flatscreen TV. They looked at every model, compared plasma to LCD, I must have spent hours with them over several visits (they were, of course, visiting other stores too, no doubt annoying other salespeople). Eventually I had them ready to purchase a three grand TV with fancy cables, DVD home cinema system, 5 year “G” (guarantee) on the telly, 3 year “G” on the DVD, the works, even up to and including the £15 TV cleaning cloth that no-one was ever gullible enough to buy! I was just salivating over the prospect of my £50 commission as they were sat in the private booth round the back of the counter when the wife said that she really didn’t like the silver strip on the front of the telly. You can guess where it went after that. Despite me offering to remove the offending silver bit of plastic and replace it with a black trim from a cheaper model we had in stock, she was having none of it as “it wouldn’t be the same after it had been changed” which I thought was kind of the point. Needless to say, they decided to walk.

    I have a theory about buyers like these, that they eventually get so fed up with browsing that there is a tipping point when you can sell them anything, a fact proved by the fact my colleague sold them a last of line, ex-display 36″ CRT (the old-style tube TVs) that weighed about half a ton and would have needed a house extension to accommodate the 3 foot deep back to it. When I asked him why he’d steered them towards this dinosaur, that wasn’t even that cheap and how he’d managed to sell it to them with only a meagre 10% discount (when he could have given them up to 30%), he pointed to the commission code on the ticket and said “£75 end of line commission mate. I wouldn’t have let them leave the store without it!”

    Me, I reckon he was just lucky!

    (By the way, don’t hassle the employees of such places thinking that they’re making commission like that these days. They aren’t!)

  4. Great stories, I spent 40 years selling cars and yes I can identify with all those types of customer (or non-customer )
    40 years of eating my words being Mr Nice every working day selling Singers,NSU’s ,Nissans, Renaults and Austin Rovers still I must also say I some great customers to who were very loyal to me whatever make of car I was selling.

  5. Some dealer salesmen will try anything, even forging payslips, to get a person credit for a car they can’t afford. Common practice these days I hear as car sales are on their ass.

    The easiest way for a salesman to piss off a potential customer is his derogatory p/ex value of the customers pride and joy. The ‘Book’ is just a guide, but some treat it as the Gospel.

  6. @7 the other side of the coin is idiots,one came in at a car super market i worked trying to px a 3 series,the only trouble was that he larded on a stupid fast and furious snide bodykit and put knob of the year tribal/snake decals all over so what was once worth 5k had he not meddled,not only that he was spotty and wearing a MR.T starter pack and the joy i was filled with when the salesman said nah mate ill give you a grand the cars a piece of shit now!especially as he earlier stated how much he spent on de-valueing it!

  7. We used to have similar time-wasters in the Insurance game when I was starting out (a time before comparison websites lol). Thursdays and Fridays (Auto-Trader and Free-Ad day) used to be terrible, the call usually starting with some oik saying, “Hiya can you give me a quote on a couple of cars I’m looking at”… NO! lol

  8. Mark, in all fairness when some people (especially young drivers) are looking a car the price of insuring it can be a major factor! They may be weighing up a few options and taking the insurance quote into account!

  9. I think you were more than fair and polite with those people Mike. I hated my time as a seller in Banking, you’d spend hours on the phone following up 5 min chats or leads passed from the counter, researching booked appts to be certain you could offer them what they wanted, offer them cash and extra % and they’d still say no. I find its mainly the older generation who are clearly looking for somewhere warm to sit for 30 mins or so.

    These people then fill out Which? Surveys saying that its too hard to switch banks! Some people really are in just in another world!

    People tell me I’d be a natural selling cars but I think its the fast way to grey hair!

  10. @ Ben

    I spent 29 years in banking prior to redundancy so I know your pain…..

    In most cases when you make a good offer to someone they are always thinking ‘What’s the catch?’ and also think you are lining your pockets in commission. In banking it was hard enough to keep your job or get a cost-of-living payrise, never mind get rich on any commission…

  11. From a buyers perspective, I feel I am judged by the vehicle I arrive in???

    The last time I was in the market for a new car, I took our 21 year old maestro along as transport!
    To put no better point on it I was ignored by many and treated like S**t by others.
    Some quoted me the list price when asking for their lowest figure, some tried to sell me something I didn’t want, and others didn’t seem interested when I said I wasn’t interested in credit?

    Where have all the good sales people gone I thought?

    Now thanks to Mike’s articles I know they have become disillusioned and quit.

  12. @Will

    Do you think I fell down with the last drop of rain?

    I know that, it was still frustrating, as you were a sales-person, not an information service, that’s the reality of the situation. That’s why the comparison sites are better now; you only waste your own time, not some poor sod trying to earn a living’s

  13. My former Rover dealer, Edgars, has a loyal following among the elderly, mostly ex Rover owners, who have gravitated onto the Nissans and Hyundais they now sell. Obviously this family firm has a reputation for treating its customers well and some, who have been buying cars from them for 40 years, keep coming back as they know the trade in is decent, the salesmen always recognise them and the deal is good. Also cars like the Nissan Note and Hyundai i10 seem popular with older motorists and ex Rover owners are always pleased to know their Nissan is made over here.
    Contrast this with the patronising and aggressive behaviour of salesmen who work at a franchise further up the road, who are desperate to sign people up to dodgy finance and warranty deals that add thousands to the price of the cars they sell and where after sales care is atrocious and you can see why the local family business has people coming back, even though they have their fair share of messers like anywhere else.

  14. I remember hearing of a young couple who enjoyed ‘speccing up’ a new Mini Cooper ‘S’ to well over £35k and then walked – much to the chagrin of the dealer who’d spent much of a Saturday afternoon sitting patiently working through the entire on-line ‘build your MINI’ system. The same dealer sold me a MINI…

  15. I used to like dealing with a small indi garage in North Yorks. When I was purchasing a brand new motor off them (my second car from them, and my dad had a brand new car from them, and the father in law), the service was excellent. Got a nice discount too, and free leccy windows as well :). When picking the car up, there was a complimentary set of genuine cloth mats in the footwells. Sadly thanks to the overbearing manufacturer, all these small dealers are just about gone, along with the great customer service, and nice sales team. They went on to sell Kias, but sadly went bankrupt a couple of years back, after PSA pulled the rug from under them too.

  16. Many years ago I worked nights as a contract computer operator at banks in the city, I worked 2 jobs every so often and week-end, holidays and double shifts for sick work mates, I worked as much as I could.

    I made good money using a my limited company for tax purposes, in fact more than a 20something could spend.

    I wanted a Ford Escort RS Turbo, rosso red, recaro’s and as much torque steer as I could muster – yes I know but I was a young lad – so heading out along the A13 to Dagenham Motors (a work mate lived in Limehouse) to buy a RS we landed in the showroom at about 10am on a Saturday in June.

    Now working 12+ hours all night and unwashed and unshaven and full off bad office coffee the horrified sales manager walked straight up to me gazing in love/lust at a black RS turbo in center stage and said “don’t touch the cars’…

    Naturally I was a little miffed as I was escorted to the door… my mate wanted to make a fuss but I talked him into driving me to near my Mum’s place and to Ray Powell ARG dealer.

    About a hour later I owned a new G( or was it H?) reg MG Maestro (£9k cash from the local Nat West I seem to recall) which I drove to home and then went to bed.

    About 4 hours of power napping later I had a quick shower/shave put on some decent clobber and headed back to Dagenham Motors where I asked for the sales manager, I asked him to look at my MG, he started on about how much better the RS was and how he could get me into one etc.

    Needless to say I explained to him that I had just brought it (showing him the sales doc’s as I recall) and how I was the bloke he kicked out this morning.

    He stood a little shocked with one hand on the roof of the MG… I looked at him and said ‘oh well mate it’s only a few quid in missed commission…oh.. and don’t touch the car’

    That was my first of 3 new ARG products from Ray Powell (a MG Metro after the Maestro got a little too pranged) a Metro Racing Green for my Mum and a Rover 200 Coupe 2 litre in tahiti blue, and I brought a silver 81 TR7 on a W reg that sat in the showroom for a year or two pre registered and then stored and had something like 900 miles on it when I got it for 10 or 12K in 90 ish. Sadly that car was written off on the A31 near Winchester within a year by a elderly gentleman in a Morris 1000 which almost completely collapsed when he hit me at speed.

  17. I had a similar experience to Darren

    I was looking to buy a new focus to replace a 20 year old cavelier a few years back. Went to the ford dealer in my working clothes and by old astra diesel had a look at the focus as wife liked the estate and asked for a test drive. Told we couild not have a test drive but if we went 30 miles to the same dealer francise next week they might be able to sort. Saleman dint even ask how we were going to pay for a car or any back ground info
    We left the ford dealer and went 500 yds up the road and looked at a Astra estate , had a test drive and bought the astra estate as a cash buy no part exchange if only the ford salesmen could have been bothered to ask!

  18. Lovely stuff MICHAEL

    A lesson Learnt to many a budding salesman.

    An interesting story of similar proportions involves a certain Maurice Mickelwhite… or as we now know him… Michael Caine.

    After making the big time with Zulu, he went into the west end to buy a Roller from Jack Barclay the very morning his money had cleared.

    Unshaven etc, he walked up the Commissioner who stood at the door who blocked his path and asked “what do you want sonny”

    Caine replied “I want to buy a Rolls Royce”

    The doorman, oblivious as to who he was, leaned into his ear and said “f@#k off sunshine”

    Caine a bit narked by this, bought one from a dealer out West London way and got his fellow acting buddy and flatmate Terrence Stamp to drive the car round and round Barclay Square with Caine hanging out of the window giving the V sign to the stuffy flunkie on the door of Jack Barclays!

    Michael Caine – what’s it all about
    Chapter – Cornflakes, toothpaste, rolls royce.

  19. My dad bought a Rover 216EX in 1989, from Kenning’s of Shrewsbury. The salesman couldn’t be bothered getting off his comfy chair to look at Papa’s 7-year-old Carlton, but quoted him £700 for part-ex’. My dad accepted meekly, knowing that one of his McPherson struts had pushed through its rusty top mount, and was now touching the bonnet. The blue barge also had rusty back arches and fuel tank, and a big dent at the back, and was unsafe to drive, and barely worth repairing. A week later, Papa visited the dealer with a query about the handbook, and asked for the salesman by name – to be told “he doesn’t work here any more”!

  20. Umm, from the other side of the fench… in the last few months I have bought three new carrs (for work) all straight forward cash sales, we’d on’t either bother to haggle too much.

    Pay £35k for a Nissan Navarra V6 but then get asked to pay a credit card fee of 2% on the MOT price of the car they are MOTing while you sign docs on the new car!

    Buy a new VW Scirocco based on a promised delivery time of 4 weeks, that turns out to be 10 weeks, you only get told that a few days after the deposit is taken.

    The best was collecting the BMW 3 series, waiting for the sales guy to drive it from the “yard” to the collection area. After a long wait he appears pale and fraught… “we need to re-order the car, the workshop electric door has just dropped on to the roof of your car “. To be fair we got a loan car for the three weeks it took for a rapid factory order and some excellent free extras: SatNav and premium sound system.

  21. When I was 23 years old i walked into Buist Bramall, my local Austin Rover dealership, casually but smartly dressed and asked a saleman for a price on a new MG Metro. “They’re quite expensive” he smirked. I did manage to obtain a price and a catalogue from him and then left.

    When I bought a brand new MG Metro about 3 months later it was from another dealership.

  22. Great read and insight from Mike… actually these days I prefer dealing with car salesmen than builders and their like! I like a bit of jousting when buying another car and usually come away with a deal that I am comfortable, though not ecstatic with.

    A couple of years ago after setting up a part ex & purchase, I asked the salesman why he hadn’t tried to offer me finance deals – he said he could tell from my age (mid 50s) & appearence/accompanied by the wife – and my knowledge of the car I wanted, that I probably could afford it and didn’t need finance… he was right.

  23. There’s a lot of talk of bad dealers on here. I’ve never bought from a dealer but I HAVE gone to take the odd glance at new models.

    I’ve made my intentions clear from the start, explaining in words of one syllable that I was a car fan and just wanted to have a nosey at a new XJ (To take a recent-ish example) from the moment I walked in the door. And despite the fact that he knew I wasn’t looking to buy, the salesman STILL showed me round, held a long and fruitful discussion with me on the model, Jaguar’s future plans, and so on and so forth, and when I left it was with a full set of brochures.

    I appreciate that from the salesman’s point of view people like me aren’t worth spending time with. Despite the fact that I DO make it clear I shan’t be buying, and thus let the salesman decide whether he wants to bother with me or not, from his perspective wasting time on a windowshopper isn’t going to earn him any commission. Yet the willingness to spend time discussing the car and indulging an interest WITHOUT chasing a sale means that if my numbers come up on Saturday night he is the man I will be buying from.

    I’ve also gone into dealerships at the request of overseas associates looking to buy British spec cars – again making it clear I’m not going to be buying myself but am doing research for a friend who is out of the country. Same thing – whilst I’m not treated like royalty it’s not far off.

    Car dealers tend to get a bad press – but there are still several out there who are worth looking at and worth buying cars from.

  24. Well well, after 30 years selling cars, it’s interesting how things have changed! Antionne – I know you dont care about car salesman – but you expect us to care about you! so you reap what you sow! Because, in general, as folk treat car salesman like something scraped off a shoe it is hardly surprising we therefore live up to your expectations. Good salemane alweays try to do their best, but we cant always win! Things today are goverened by dreaded ‘sales processes’ – which I dont particularly agree with – but its the same wherever you go alas. Today, we are almost mindless drones merely complying with the processes that those in power command us to use… when to offer our name, what words to use, what stages to follow, what DVD’s to play, when to introduce the’manager’ etc etc. ‘Messers’ as so well put in the original article are more prevalent today than ever too, especially as its ‘hard times’ out there for anyone in retail so naturally everyone (no exceptions) wants the ‘best deal’. The internet exists only for the purpose of people buying the ‘lowest price’ anything – and we all do it too – whenever we want to buy anything, we look on t’interweb for the best price first, then go and look at a product/car/whatever in a store. So we have engineered all this ‘ourselves’ really. If you want great service you will have to accept that you will have to pay for it – if you want the cheapest bottom line figure then dont, repeat, DONT expect to get great service too. You just cant have it both ways. Now occasionally, this does happen – and its truly great when it does, but more often than not the poor selasman has yet another silly target to acheive, another process to follow and the jobs no fun anymore, believe me. Its all a different world than in 1982 whern I started… when you took time with a customer, a handshake was the ‘deal done’, personal cheques did not bounce and loyalty was much higher than today – and no internet to beat you up on the price! Customer ‘expectations’ are now so high these days its almost impossible to meet them anymore. If you gave £3000 off the price, a free loan car, free servicing, collection and delivery, 0% finanace for five years, and a grand over top book price for their old knacker – that they had not main dealer maintained either – they still would not be happy and would want to ‘have a think and shop about…’ so as I say, you reap what you sow…And all this claptrap about ‘we give the best service’ cobblers is just that alas. Stick with someone you get on with, get yourself a fair deal – for both parties – and just hope that a good working relationship can follow from there. People buy from people at the end of the day, so if you are fair with us, then rightly you should be dealt with in the same manner. Be fair with us, dont tell lies (and you moan about us!!)and come in when you actually want to buy something, no one wants to talk to you if you are in the market ‘one day never’ and you cant blame us either – use you bloody computer for gods sake – thats what its there for thesedays ….and I dont go to tescos and take up the shop assistants time discussing every aspect about the fact that ‘I MAY be interested in buying a Turkey next Christmas’! But will things change in reality….err…no!

  25. I loved reading this Mike, and all the comments. The best example I had was when my wife’s company Jetta went in for service at our local VW dealer (Halifax). I was told I could collect it at 8.00 on Saturday morning. As my wife was seriously ill and had had major surgery not long before. I duly got on my bike (literally)and cycled to the dealer arriving at 8.00 am on a cold November morning. Only to be left outside and ignored for 30 minutes by staff inside who only gained the power of sight and hearing at 8.30. I was told they never open at 8.00 on a Saturday despite what they say on the phone, what their door sign says and their website, (which all say 8.00 on a Saturday)! VW would not even deal with the complaint due to the ‘data protection act’ as it was my wife’s company car – not mine. Guess what? We no longer own the Audi I had at the time and my wifes Jetta was swapped for a MINI. We will never ever buy VAG ever again!

  26. Me and my partner were looking to buy an Audi A3 about 5 years ago so we went this Audi garage on a Sunday afternoon to do a bit of window shopping. On the lot there was this one used example that was unlocked, so we had a good crawl around it, sit in, size of boot etc. Understand that we were dressed in our usual Sunday scruffs – tracksuit bottoms, trainers, t-shirt etc, we were approached by the salesman and we just politely (or so we thought…) gave the hint we were fine and wanted left alone. Upon leaving said garage we could see him trying all the other cars to make sure they were still locked, whilst making a point of making eye contact with us as if to say “I know your game, you council estate scumbags”.

    Incensced by this encounter, we ended up buying our pristine, out-of-the-box new reg A3 from another Audi garage in the next town who couldn’t have been nicer to us – despite us being dressed in same tracksuit bottoms and trainers – I’d love to say we went back to the first dealer to have a good old gloat, sadly we tried several times by driving past in our new wheels, but said salesman was never seen again!

  27. Funny how the Scenic was described as being “impossible to beat for value”, when in the next paragraph you are relieved to stop selling “badly built and unreliable” Renaults! (you are right – my parent’s neighbours had a Scenic and it was a complete dog, caught fire one time IIRC!) If its bad, its bad, no matter how cheap it is. I’ve never found my VW’s (and i’ve had a few!) that dear for servicing either (unlike the Fiat I had years ago).
    I had a funny experience at a local dealer – they tried to explain the fact that they wanted more money for a p/ex deal than another dealer because the other dealer were “busy idiots”! Needless to say the deal was struck with the “idiots”!)

  28. Good read as ever Mike-how do you keep knocking these out? So true about customer service going down the pan.
    When my Dad got his Passat he couldn’t fault the salesman (he even asked him to let him know if ever moved elsewhere) but the customer service was so appalling, he vowed never to touch that VW franchise again (that’s you, Peter Coopers) and didn’t even bother looking at any VWs when it was trade in time.

  29. You have to look at both sides of the coin.

    From the salesmans point of view; they’re paid the lions share of their wage based on commission, like it or not, so they only want to talk deals, they’re at work afterall, it isnt a hobby.
    If people just want a nosey around it’s fair enough but they shouldn’t expect to be treated with open arms, go to a motorshow if you want fawning over.
    From the customer’s point of view they wouldn’t like to feel they were being pre-qualified and just want a good service, the problem with most customers is though, they feel like they’re doing the garage a favour by buying the car…
    Whenever I’ve bought from a Dealer I’ve always gone with a rough idea of what I’m wanting and upon that first contact let em know, but also that I have a bit of an open mind, but trust my own judgement. This has worked in letting me have a nose round as many cars as I like, without being pestered and then ultimately, having made a choice, be treated right.

  30. Going back to the comments about being kicked out of dealerships for looking scruffy.

    The parts departments used to be located around the back or with a separate entrance in most dealerships. Now they have a habit of putting the parts counter in the showroom. So there you are in rough old clothes laying under the car and find you need part X from the dealer. There you are walking in to a gleaming showroom, with dirty boots and scruffy clothes being looked down on by all and sundry until they see you approach the parts counter where they look relieved. In most dealerships you’re then ignored by everyone until you located the door bell to summon the parts bloke.

    I remember once buying a second hand satnav system from a Vauxhall Omega (back when they were a novelty), the plan was to install it in my Mini. I went into my local VX dealer, (oh what the hell it was Caffyns in Hythe) because there was some sort of code to access the maintenance menu. A very friendly and helpful receptionist listened to my query then called the service guy across, he asked what car it was for and as soon as i mentioned mini he just shrugged his shoulders and walked off. Couple of years later i needed parts for a Vauxhall, i went to the Caffyn’s in Ashford. Again another helpful receptionist directed me to the unmanned parts counter which was next to the service desk. I couldn’t see a bell or anything so asked the guy on the Service desk if there was a bell or anything, which i got an abrupt reply of “you’ll have to wait!” I realised it was the same bloke who used to work in Hythe. I mentioned to the main (polite) receptionist that i wasn’t prepared to put up with that kind of attitude and walked out. I bought the parts online in the end. I don’t mind mentioning the Caffyn’s name because if they’re intent on employing idiots like that then they can have the bad press and loss of business that goes with them!

    You get time wasters in any job and it really is hard to bite your lip sometimes. There is a fine line between treating customers with contempt and weeding out the time wasters though.

  31. As a sideways issue. . . I used to sell ‘Big Ticket’ Kitchens/Bedrooms/Bathrooms for a major firm and some were dearer than actual cars….
    The above stories made me both chuckle and wince at the same time remembering how I’d struggle to wonder how to pay the mortgage that month after the seasonal ‘dreamers’ as we used to call them, wasting my time and depriving me of well sold but not earned commision.
    T

  32. Yes Dennis – I remember in my earliest motoring days I was running a Datsun Sunny 150Y estate (remember those??), ’81 X-reg, last of the rear-drivers. Anyway, like most 70s era Datsuns the paint was by now the only thing holding it together, but I badly needed an item that could only be obtained from the main dealers. Needless to say I was pretty much laughed out of the Nissan dealer in the most patronising of ways. Bearing in mind of course the Jap makes always come out top for their dealers and after-sales.

    Yet not that long ago I found I could still get Mark 2 Golf bits (bear in mind it has been out of production for 20 years now) from my friendly, family owned VW main agent. Equally another recent experience was with my local (again a family owned concern) Renault dealer who stopped at nothing to fix an irritating and recurring electrical fault on my dad’s Modus under (their own) warranty. If I’d gone to a certain other well known Scottish multi-franchise dealer whom I am sure you all know the name of, it probably would have been a different story.

  33. Never bought from a franchise dealer, the only newish car was a Megane from a car supermarket. That experience was horrid enough, from the day after taking it home I bitterly regretted buying it. Should’ve taken it back I suppose, probably couldn’t have I’m guessing. In that environment (car showroom) with “those” people I’m totally out of my depth, I can get talked into anything… Makes me sick thinking about how much that car cost me over the years, not just in finance but in constant repairs – the “warranty” was a f*****g joke too 🙁

    But thats all in the past now! No, being stood on someones drive pointing out obvious imperfections on a sub-£1000 old banger is much more “me”.

  34. Your comments are so true. There are (and always will be alas) some sales people out there who simply dont give a toss about customers – and purely see them as a cash. This is wrong, as is treating a book by its cover. appearances can so often be deceptive, but its the same both ways too. Mind you…. if they look like a twat, speak like a twat and drive and old twat of a car, then, frankly, they are a twat! just dont use one aspect to make up your mind, talk with them, and make sure to listen to them before reaching any conclusions (that goes for customers as well as salesmen!) …there are some very good folk out there after all!

  35. I’ve only once bought a car from a 2nd hand dealer, who was very helpul & showed me almost exactly the car I wanted without any pressure to commit on the spot.

  36. When Rover were doing the 24 hour test drives I strolled into the dealership and blagged a ZT-T 2.5. I was only asked to produce my driving license and proof of address and I was gone. Took it back a day later, handed over the keys, said thanks very much and goodbye.

    Simple.

  37. I must be a salesman’s dream customer as I tend to do my own research, decide on make, model and spec and then go shopping. I went from Bristol to Grantham to look at a Sterling Coupe, the dealer couldn’t do enough for me. Needless to say I bought the car – at a 2k saving over a similar car in Bristol.

    My basic principle when it comes to Car Dealerships is that the level of service and customer care will be in inverse proportion to the amount of glass and stainless steel in the showroom. So far this rule has never failed me. My best dealer experiences have invariably been with the small family-run ones, particularly A E Wilcox in Wickwar and Clist & Rattle in Flax Bourton

  38. Another time i was working at carcraft,and one of the salesmen had done a “desk appraisal” of a freelander and gave the customer nearly 4k in PX,when the customer liason chap waved him off in his brand new megane cc and went to start his trade in it wouldnt start,when we came out of the workshop to investigate i said do you think the cylinder missing will have anything to do with it? always nice to see a customer get one over the salesman sometimes!

  39. Spookily I’ve just been told of a very interesting tale where the dealer was so stupid they ending up buying back a really rubbish C4!

    Distant relative living in Scotland, traded in a VW Sharan diesel auto for a brand new C4 in late 2009. Wanted an auto but got told Citroen don’t make diesel autos anymore (they do),wanted a towbar (its still not been fitted, again Citreon’s fault not the dealers apparently) but the car also had an ability of losing all its oil every 5k miles. Tired of owning such a rubbish car they went to the dealer, test drove a C3 Picasso and offered the C4 as part ex, expecting to be shown the door but the dealer practically ripped their arms off at such a ‘well looked after example’ and the deal was done.

    Frankly if the dealer isn’t even going to check the car against the service depts computer then they deserve everything they get!

  40. Dennis: re. parts/service counters located in the showroom- they can work to your advantage!

    Twenty years ago a garage 10 miles away from here moved their counter to said location. A couple of months later I bought a used car from them. Two months later during the warranty period the car went back for a minor problem, but on collection of the car I was presented with an invoice for a new battery? Why?
    The battery was fine when I left the car?
    What’s more the price asked for the battery was 50% more than I could have bought the same spec battery for elsewhere!
    Naturally I queried this invoice and refused to pay.
    Now- Because the parts/service counter was located in the showroom potential customers looking a new cars could overhear what was going on!
    In no more than a few seconds of my query, the salesman I bought the car from arrived at the counter – with promises of a solution!
    I was ushered away and and an amicable solution found!

  41. Thinking about dealership and such, I will reall the best new sale I have ever had, it was a Kia delaer in Southern California circa early 2005.

    Looking for a van I found, drove and liked a V6 3.5l Sedona EX, all leather and DVD systems for the nippers.

    List $30k, but as this was a 2004 model in Black (a colour I didn’t want) it was 3k off… long story short I offered $15k cash on the road to the sales manager and he said ‘no way!’ – GM were doing 0 down, 0 interest for 3 years so I was going to look at those as they were about $20k

    So I said okay and got up to leave… he countered with 20k (a deal if you ask me) but I senced some panic so I said no… ‘look your going to let this one go for a measly $5k… this deal for 5k!’

    “no” I said “you are letting it go for a measy $5k”

    The manager looked physcally defeated and I drove away a new 2004 Kia Sedona EX black over silver with grey leather for $15,500 on the road.

    In fact I’ve still got it just as we are looking to move it on (@ 110+k miles) and get a MINI Countryman.

    They say $30k for a ALL4 eh… sounds like a chalange to me 🙂

  42. @TwoR8s

    Was it a CF? Driven loads of them CF/CF2’s (all ice cream vans, one panel van) all four speed. Except one, which was a five speed, had a god awful diesel engine in it, first was across and back to the left (ie where second usually is). It had bugger all power in first, so starting off in second even down hill was impossible. Loved driving them though!

    Years ago I had a Mk1 Golf, fitted with a 5 speed gearknob of course!

  43. @34 Stewart

    “Arghhhh apostraphy abuse!!!”
    “Cors’a, Astra’s and Vectra’s”

    Pots and kettles, Stewart… learn how to spell ‘apostrophe’ before having a pop at Swiss Mike.

  44. “Was it a CF? Driven loads of them CF/CF2′s (all ice cream vans, one panel van) all four speed. Except one, which was a five speed, had a god awful diesel engine in it, first was across and back to the left (ie where second usually is). It had bugger all power in first, so starting off in second even down hill was impossible. Loved driving them though!”

    They’re popular with ice cream vans though. The diesels might have been gutless to drive, but they usually seem happier on a fast tick over when running the ice cream plant than the Transit Diesels did. With the added bonus you can hear yourself think unlike the Ford Di lumps.

  45. Great article, really enjoyed reading.

    Three years ago I was finally in a position to buy a new car, nothing fancy, just a nice 5 door hatch. I had driven a Focus at work and really liked it but a new one was out of my price range so i decided to try Hyundai. The i30 looks great and was being heavily discounted with the scrapage scheme. I visited the local showroom on a Saturday morning and I was completely unable to find a single salesman! I looked in the showroom and out on the forecourt, but there was no-one. Just as I was about to get in my car to leave a salesman did pull up and speak to me. He wasn’t very enthusiastic and despite having three i30’s on display none could actually be taken for a test drive. I telephoned him, not him me, over the next few weeks but he never had a demonstrator available.
    Eventually I was enticed by an unbelievably good offer for a new Astra and hot footed it down to the local dealer. The salesman was polite but bored and confessed that because the offer was only on one model he was on a flat rate commission of £50. He did not have a demonstrator available but very kindly borrowed the keys to a car awaiting collection. I liked the car and signed the order that day, after being approved by the Manager in the back. However, I was back the next after reading the paperwork thoroughly. You see I was persuaded to take a car they already had on site in a colour I didn’t really like in exchange for not getting charged for metallic paint. The invoice, though, was laid out in such a way that it took me several attempts with a calculator to see that the metallic paint had been removed from the price but exactly the same amount had been added back in elsewhere. A swift re-negotiation then took place.
    Two years later, and a larger family, I decided to part-ex the Astra for a Zafira. Once again a bored salesman with very little enthusiasm, deal approved by Manager in the back. Only this time I checked the invoice, very carefully. And sure enough, the extra discount I had negotiated had been added back in elsewhere……

  46. The few dealers I have known haven’t worked very hard at customer satisfaction. I booked a service with a dealer and I had to keep telling the service manager about three problems I had with the car and s/he still forgot two of them. Strange. I would love to be able to work for that company and make sure that the customers were happy. Another time the dealer hadn’t stamped the book. When I reminded the person over the telephone s/he refused to walk the ten yards to the car to get it and stamp it… It is a dealer for a luxury car company which used to belong to BL then Ford.

  47. Christ the Bedford CF2

    When i worked on the spanners eons ago, we had a flat bed one for collecting and delivering bus engines.

    Two of us were driving back from Ipswich on a really cold winters day, and my work mate set fire to his newspaper in the cab floor to make a point. The heater that good, we would have been warmer by winding both windows down.

    It subsequently got written off during a “suspicious” fire in the rear yard, and got replaced by a Leyland Daf 400 with the Turbo Peugeot engine. That blew its gizzards out on the A14 after a fitter pissed around with the settings on the pump in the view to extracting some extra oomph!

    The hole in the block was quite impressive if i remember!

  48. Interesing reading the comments about how much fun some folk have in ‘getting one over’ on a car dealer! ..And you blame car dealers for being rogues!…. Its a fact that the public are much worse.

  49. Having done this job now for 33 years i can honestly say it has got worse!.
    What with the advent of the internet, the Autotrader gone digital [a double edge sword] it has brought on a new breed of “Car Expert”, those that think they know it all and compare and print lists of cars they are viewing in a tour of the area, who simply want to drive your car then go and look at more before going home and doing more research on the web before “making a descision”.
    The father and son who arrive with their Parkers Guide and profess to know the game and say your car is “over priced”, always brushed off with quick answer, go and ring Parkers up and ask them to find you a car to fit your needs.
    Picky people who micro examine paintwork and tyres who are generally told go to your local new car dealer as you obviously want a brand new one!.
    Seems that they are simply out to wind you up and usually [if] they buy they are a problem afterwards!.
    We call them Spacemen, tyre kickers. Billy Bunters, testdrive cowboys and other names i dare not print!.
    After all we do sell cars and the vast majority are nice people who appreciate how we do endeavour to make their purchase memorable and painless so they return again and again!!!….After all they pay our wages!!!

  50. I have a few memories of ‘salesmen’. A fun game was chatting to a customer in VW showrooms, the look on the poor guys face as he was forced to admit that yes, the Lupo was precisely the same car as the Arosa, down to the same engine – at a 3rd again the price…

    Then there was the little discussion I had with the Toyota salesman when I test drove a Prius (shudder). Right in the middle of a busy roundabout the guy reaches across and hits the sport mode button.. and we almost end up going across roundabout – straight across the roundabout. I was more than a little annoyed, he couldnt see what he’d done wrong.

    The problem salesmen face is that alot of people will be tyre kickers, which means that said people at that point are little more than a hassle, but those same people will remember when they are treated well, or badly, and return or go somewhere else instead.

    The quality of service in dealerships is amazingly variable.

    My father once received a phone call from a dealer manager, and the guy was practically in tears, said that the car had been damaged. Once he’d calmed down my father said, just fix it, its not a problem… almost 3 years later when we bought the car outright after the lease came up, the manager remembered what had happened and we got a service out of it..

    On the other hand theres the Merc dealership that tried to refuse that one of their own recalls ever existed after the turbo on my fathers Merc munched itself, its gaskets, and pretty much everything else. The whole intake side had to be rebuilt at 30k miles and they wanted to charge for it!

    Not to mention, theres the dealership I went to that replaced the radiator on my Safrane (not a Renault dealer I might add). It came back with the wrong radiator (it was too deep), a coolant pipe that was cheerfully rubbing its way to an early death on said radiator – and the whole lot held on by 3 bolts and a cable tie…

  51. Not all salesman look at the car, never mind drive it, before offering a price for a trade in. I was offered a good price for my old Fiat a few years ago, knowing that the brakes were faulty and the windscreen had a large crack in it. Drove off in my new VW without saying a word. Did I con him? Don’t think so – key phrase is ‘buyer beware’, but I thought that applied to the customer, not the dealer!

  52. Equally, if it was a new VW, then there was probably enough profit in the new one to write off any loss on the swapper. Typical delivery time for Golfs at the moment is 4-6 months, Polos slightly less. They have no shortage of customers clearly and the prices reflect this.

  53. I’d imagine most trade ins end up at auction anyway, so they get rid of them for bottom dollar regardless of condition.

    And even if they wanted to put new brakes on, they have their own service dept with mechanics and trade contacts (and prices) for brake pads. Relative cost to them would be negligable (a bit like Ed out of Wheeler Dealers when Mike totals up the cost of car+parts but leaves out a typical mechanics £ per hour public prices)

  54. I guess so, but I’m still surprised that they didn’t even look at it – there could have been all sorts of things wrong with it!

  55. You are right, if valuing a car you should look at it! More fool him/her if not the case. Cars should be appraised properley and driven. (Any warning lights that appear that should not be there can cost a small fortune especially on todays electronic systems for example) And if most trade ins ‘…end up at auction for bottom dollar’ how come you demand top dollar for them at trade in time then? ..the truth is most salesman DO try to do a proper job on the whole, we have the manufacturer breathing down oue neck,s and mystery shoppers every 12 weeks – email and telephone – as well as Video’d physical visits that are played back to us and the dealership bonus depends on a good result, but hey, thats the way things are these days. The amount of excuses we hear why people ‘dont turn up’ for appointments, ( and if we missed an appointment you would be writing to the press screaming ‘typical car dealer’) or why they cancel the deal 3 days after ordering it – and we thought all was well- is unbelievable. The amount of ‘wrong’ phone numbers given when you try to -perfectly reasonably- follow the customers enquiry up after 2 days is unbelievable, and if I hear of another ‘death in the family’ excuse – I will laugh out loud and so it goes on….. Customers can wander about willy nilly, with no care or thought as to their actions – thats fair enough- but WE salesman cant. If you tell someone your occupation you are branded as being Arthur daly,. so its not the ideal situation, but… we DID choose to do the job after all… We just have to try to be as clever as the customers are thesedays. Thankfully though there are still a fair few customers who are decent, loyal, honest, fair and dont demand the impossible – but they are getting fewer and fewer as each year goes by…There is not much fun in the job alas but we all try to do our best – and I have been with the SAME dealership since 1989!

  56. I’m a punter, bought a Honda Civic in 1999. Honda UK, franchised dealer and SMMT totally disinterested in admitted fault with vehicle.
    Went to Toyota dealer, spent twenty minutes crawling all over Corolla on two separate occasions, no interest whatsoever from sales persons.
    Bought last car from internet dealer and tempted to do so again. Why would I want to haggle if these people are disinterested?

  57. Great article MIke
    spent 10 years myself as a Peugeot Salesman (1998-2008) and everything you say rings true !
    Worst part of the job for me was the misguided notion by the Factory that 24hr test-drives actually worked. Peugeot marketed nationally this offer in 2003 on the then new 307cc. There was nothing more depressing than going through the motions with a couple who had about as much chance of trading up from their P-reg Astra to a new CC, as i did of sh@&&ing Kylie. This of course always happenened whilst the bloke next to me had a “white flagger” on an overage bonus used car, and someone else had a mobo (motability) come in to order there next taxpayer-funded freebee!

  58. One of the first things that was drummed into me when I began flogging Ladas, Hyundais and Protons at 16 was never judge a book by its cover, if a punter came in dressed in ripped jeans and scruffy T shirt, he was just as liable to buy as the bloke wearing a suit.

    I do detest the dealers that are as nice as pie until such time as they have your money. We paid cash for the S-Max, and yes the sticker price was cheap, and it was the colour and spec we wanted, all went well, we collected the car, but the couple of issues we found after collection, well, basically we were told to **** off! The car having missing locking wheel nuts, and Evans Halshaw Cardiff denying any knowledge over it despite us having an invoice from them showing that the service dept had ordered 4 new normal wheel nuts on the pre sales invoice…

    Needless to say we will never purchase a vehicle from Evans Halshaw again, and it’s highly unlikely I’d cock my leg for them if they happened to be on fire!

  59. I should clarify when I say missing locking wheel nuts there was no nut on it at all, not locking or otherwise, and despite us having photos of the car on their forecourt on the day we test drove it showing that nuts were missing, their attitude was screw you, not our problem. Even trading standards couldn’t be bothered. Had they not been so far away, I’d have been up there every weekend telling prospective customers what they’re like!

  60. When I bought our Roevr 75 from EH in Edinburgh, we took the servicing and extended warranty packages. Couldn’t be nicer. Mind you the salesman told me Reg Vardy had been taken over and put out of business because they were crooks. The Peter Vardy chain was, apparently, a ploy for Reg to get back into the business…..

    Anyhow, I got a ZS from same branch of EH but didn’t take the extras as was confident I could do pretty much any repair on the car myself, and the Sale of Goods Act should take care of any immediate major faults should they arise. Couple of promises made about touching up some lacquer on the bumper when the ‘painter got back off the sick’ came to nothing, and I never got my 7 day call asking if all was ok. Parasites

  61. When I was in the die cast model trade, and did toyfairs, there were always a bread of so called ‘punters’ known as LFT’s (Lookers, Feelers, Touchers). They never, ever seemed to buy anything, but would always want to prod & poke. They were right royal pains in the backside. These people seemed to be rife in the Yorkshire area.

  62. @70 marty b

    I also collect die cast model cars and toy fairs are good for finding the odd rare model or restore projects.
    Must admit do a bit of LFT’s before I buy models but always respect the items for sale and put them back in place.

    A few years ago a die cast model stall at a classic car rally had a great selection with good prices and the seller was sound, I bought toy cars from him and went for a long look around the car show but came back to the stall before going home and the seller was angry! I said whats happened and he said this brat of a kid about 5-7 age with mom appeared and he picked up the toy cars and threw them down hard all over the stall causeing damage and the mum said nothing.
    It shows that respect to property on sell or other wise is not teached or taught by some parants to they kids even at a young age.

  63. @70 marty B and 71 will 101… I also still have a collection of Corgi & Dinky models (cars & commercials). Many are still in orig boxes and in excellent nick. They were my childhood toys and I always looked after them. In fact when buying them new, I used to check they were not scratched or damaged before leaving the shop.

    I know what you mean about some kids not being taught respect for their own or other peoples property. As my Mother used to say in this situation “Easy come – easy go”

  64. My experience similar to Rob C, MD Honda UK sent me lots of bits of paper with lots of words telling me nothing. Honda rep tested vehicle and proudly told me he is ‘brick wall’. Why does Honda need a brick wall?
    Sales manager, P. Wood, Honda franchised dealer, Elite Motors, London, SW17 completely ignored the matter.
    Was in the trade in 60’s, three motor cycle dealers in vicinity had bad name, one was Elite Motors, Tooting, SW17.
    SMMT New Car Code states:
    ‘Our new car promise. Once you have ordered your new car, it is our responsibility to ensure that the car supplied to the retailer is manufactured to a high quality standard which will meet with your expectations’. I drew this quite specific responsibility to attention of SMMT, they immediately ceased to communicate with me, and has refused to communicate with me since.
    So much for motor trade integrity.

  65. @ Michael – comment 19 – I know it’s a way back now, but just wanted to say that was beautiful! Revenge truly is a dish best served by a Maestro 😉 (as the ladies showed in the London-Cape Town rally recently – hehe)

  66. Beware the big franchises with their tempting, low prices and acres of nearly new cars for sale. I wanted to buy one of the new Ford Fiestas from the local main Ford dealer, seemed quite keen on a 58 plate 1.25 Ghia with all the toys for £ 6995. Salesman seemed friendly, but I rapidly became aggrivated when he disappeared to talk to his manager and they offered me £ 1200 for a 55 plate Nissan Almera with low miles. ” These cars are completely past it now, no one wants them, ” he muttered as he started playing with his calculator and reckoned that with the trade in the Fiesta would be mine if I stumped up £ 300 for a one year warranty, £ 200 for gap insurance and a deposit of £ 300. Seeing that I was being conned and disliking the attitude of the salesman and his manager, I said I had to go.
    Decided to try my local ex Rover garage that sells Nissans and Hyundais and does Ford approved used. Salesman recognised me from when I bought the Nissan and offered me £ 2000 for it, and when I recounted the story, he laughed and said the main dealer was only interested in nearly new cars that they sold themselves. I spotted a mint 58 plate Fiesta Style, OK not as well trimmed as the Ghia but good enough for mr, for £ 5700 and the deal was done. Also they have an £18 a month servicing plan, a free 12 month warranty and you get a bottle of wine. You can see why I and thousands of others locally prefer this family dealer to the two big franchises that sell Fords and Vauxhalls.

  67. Still say that family dealers are the best to deal with as they know if they let you down, bad news travels fast and a few bad experiences can put them out of business, unlike a supermarket business like Carcaft who can afford to annoy plenty of buyers as people are always attracted by their seemingly low prices on nearly new cars.
    Locally Edgars, B and H Motors, East Road Ford, Stan Palmer and Neil Walkingshaw are still owned by the families who set up these businesses decades ago and have a massive following, Edgars having won Rover dealer of the year prizes in the past when selling Rovers and Ron Batty of B and H Motors winning SEAT dealer of the year twice. Having dealt with Edgars and Mr Batty in the past, I can say these family owned garages have far higher standards of courteousy and customer care than the franchises, Arnold Clark in particular, whose evil empire has now spread into Cumbria.

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