A few years back, when I was buying and selling buses and coaches, I got itchy feet and missed the frantic bustling environment of a proper car showroom. There used to be a sizeable PSA dealership not a million miles from me that regularly used to recruit for all areas of the business. It seemed an ideal site – right next to a busy roundabout, retail park and mega-busy petrol station.
Sending in my application by email, I was invited in for a chat which just happened to coincide with some holiday I had taken but a before hand look see needed to be done first. This practice involves turning up at the dealer on spec a day or two beforehand to soak up the vibes and take note of how the other execs go about their duties – think of it as getting to know your enemy if you like.
At the time, I had a two-year Audi Avant S-Line in silver that was year old as a company smoker. On face value I looked like prime punter material as I drifted into the customer parking area smack bang outside the gin palace windows. Sauntering in, I meandered over to whatever was dead centre of the floor and did the usual opening and closing of doors. Not even a head raised from the sales desks nearby, so I moved to another car within a foot of the bored looking service receptionist and did the same – a double blank. So I went back outside and looked around a used 407 that judging by the brake discs moved around the last time Elvis did.
After becoming a bit bored I was just about to scoot when a smart looking chap came rushing out of the doors clinging onto a pile of deal files heading for the adjacent separate showroom. A question was posed to him and he briefly stopped in his tracks and said he was a bit tied up and would come back and attend to me in five minutes. Some more perusing around the used stock took place, and after ten minutes I jumped into the car and cleared off. Driving back home I thought there would be some potential to make some money there if they were all that lax on a weekday.
Fast forward 24 hours and who do you think I found myself sat in front of? Yes, that very same bloke who rebuffed me and left me to linger round the pitch, ignored like a ham bap at a Bar Mitzvah – and he failed to even recognise me. He went through the usual waffle and baloney about potential money I could earn, and what could I bring to the party and so on. I quizzed him about his staff retention rate and other stuff that really throws even the most seasoned interviewer off track, I never really got a satisfactory answer just more management piffle.
We parted company and before I had returned home barely an hour later, there was an answer phone message requesting my presence for a second interview. This was agreed and the very next day I found myself in the office again, but this time his dealer principle (DP) joined us and chipped in here and there between taking huge mouthfuls of pasta from a tupperware box. It was all very surreal. The DP asked me what I thought of the site and gave a polite answer in return, he seemed to sense my holding back and probed me for a more honest reply.
I went into detail about how the sales desk waste paper bins were crammed full of empty coffee cups, the showroom was dusty with stray leaves everywhere from the nearby foliage. He retorted with a story about how their cleaner was off sick and how he had just joined the firm to ‘kick some arses’ into gear. Now I have dealt with people like him before, and let me tell you, they are a dead loss. So I had made a mental decision they could keep the job. I wasn’t interested in the slightest. A dealership run with fear and a bully is quite simply dead in the water.
The DP left us to finish our chat leaving a stale pong of tomato and tuna in his wake, the sales manager leaned back into his chair with his hands clasped together behind his head and verbally offered me the job but wanted to know where he had seen me before. I thus explained about my recent visit and about how I was blanked by all concerned including him and he went an odd shade of pale. He then seemed almost agitated by this so I explained my tact about how I wanted to see how it all ran and so on. My reason seemed to compute and the job offer still stood. We parted company with myself requesting to think about it for a short while.
Arriving home again I decided to give it a swerve and never made a phone call back. But after a couple of days, he called me on the mobile, so I officially gave the job the flick. And the reply was quite staggering. I won’t recount all of the language used, but let’s just say he was nonplussed, telling me – and I quote: ‘I just f****ng knew you wouldn’t take the job… so bo**ocks to yer!’ He then slammed down the phone.
With this, I was raging with anger, and I drove round there that afternoon, stormed into the DP’s office and relayed the conversation to him. He wanted me to sit down and talk. No chance, I was out of it.
So this brings me to today a good few years after this event, and a while since the same dealership went into administration and duly closed down. There… just across the road on that small retail park, selling breakdown cover underneath a grubby parasol from the back of a Peugeot Bipper outside a very well known chain of car parts and push bikes, was that same gobby sales manager. He never clocked me but I kind of felt sorry for him – clearly a broken man but I believe in Karma and the old saying…
You only reap what you sow!
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
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