What We Can Learn From Stupid Car Sales People

Bill says his car's color has been described as pearl, champagne, taupe, cloud...anything but the promised "candy white."

This blog entry has been deleted and rewritten three times, not because I had a better way to make my point, but because the situation goes from dumb to dumber to dumber-er. Let me ‘splain…

His name was Rickie* and he met me at the door of the car dealership, quickly guiding me to a few models to try on (I say try on because at 6’6” I treat cars like clothes, trying them on before trying them out). Fast forward: Blah, blah, blah…car selection. Blah, blah, blah..negotiation. Blah, blah, blah..contract signed for a White VW Jetta Diesel.

Let the stupidity begin.

With the contract signed, all that was left to do was to register the vehicle and pass in my trade for the new car. However, with the contract signed, there was also no incentive for the dealership to do anything right. I was now legally bound to paying three years’ worth of lease payments. Thus, the bar was set low and the dealership set out to clear it. It would fail miserably.

What came next was a series of mistakes, lies (remember, these are CAR salesman I am talking about here), and a lot of blame pointed the customer’s way. That would be me.

From my end, I’ve gone from understanding to frustration to disbelief. I have left a loud voice mail message advising the sales rep to park the White VW Jetta Diesel in a place that is anatomically impossible, though he’d never again have to worry about hemorrhoids. I have asked the sales manager if this was the first car he’s ever sold. And I’ve spoken to the dealership owner himself and suggested (correctly, I might add), that improved communications was required to which he replied, “Yeah, we’re not very good at that.” Simply pick up the phone and call me to keep me informed. Don’t make it so that I call over and over again due to a lack of information, only to uncover the aforementioned lies. When that happens, Mr. Bigglesworth gets angry. And when Mr. Bigglesworth gets angry….

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • http://Kelly Kelly

    Congrats on by far your longest blog post to date, Bill. Lots of great lessons in here. I had a similar situation at another carmaker that starts with V, and after having my car for a week, and getting me a crappy Chevy that i had to use to take my daughter into the city for her surgery, the service manager actually had the gall to tell me, “Vo$vo might call you to survey your experience, and we really appreciate 5’s.” Really? I would have really appreciated my car back in 2 days, and to not have it in the shop 3 times in 8 months, and to not have to buy 4 new tires when you told me they were brand new 6000 miles ago.

    Anywhoo – all great lessons about honesty and turning negative situations into opportunities. The hardest phone calls are the ones where we have to deliver bad news, but they can also gain us a lot — loyal customers who know we care and are honest. Is that so rare? Unfortunately, yes!

  • http://TJTedesco TJ Tedesco

    Your point about apologizing is so true. One of our clients in the healthcare space recently told me about an interesting study. Hospitals that encourage their doctors to apologize when in error can lower their average legal settlement to $16k, down from the national average of $98k. Apparently, doing the right thing pays.

    PS. Bill, I have the perfect car for you – but you have to buy it sight unseen. Trust me, I’m in sales.

  • http://MaryBethSmith Mary Beth Smith

    Ouch and Ouch again!!! Is their business so darn good that they can treat paying customers like pests?

    Hope the color works out…


  • http://BrockHenderson Brock Henderson


    At the very least you should have told us the city you live in, and the street the dealership is on. OK, I’d really like to know the name of the dealership, but I understand you not wanting to include that.

    If, (“if” being an important word), your lease agreement stipulated a “white” vehicle then you should have immediately refused the delivered vehicle.

    Perhaps you should suggest to the owner that his team undergo some sales training, or at the very least some customer service training.

    I’m sure you could do the training, but if not I do know an excellent man for the job. (wink-wink, nudge-nudge).

    Hope all is well with you and yours.

    Brock Henderson

  • http://DrJoeWebb Dr Joe Webb

    I would not want you as a customer. Now the dealer is stuck with you. Just like the rest of us. :)

    It is hard to believe that simple blocking and tackling is all that we customers want. Even worse, we’re impressed when simple things go right. That’s how bad it can be. It’s not even little things that we’re asking for. Get the big things right. You don’t need to be heroic to be a good sales person. You just need to be good. Heroes leave debris around for others to pick up after them. Get the simple big stuff right all the time.

    Now that we know it’s Reggie at a VW dealer probably in the suburbs south of Boston, we can find him. Lemme guess: there were sales awards on the desk, and a picture of the family turned out to the customer side of the desk. And there was a time when “I have to check that out with the manager” when they walked away and talked to the manager about golf and dinner, and then came back and said “you drive a hard bargain.”

    It’s clear your guy may have won the steak knives one month at another dealership, huh?

  • http://BillFarquharson Bill Farquharson

    A few years ago I wrote an article about a stupid sales manager at a Saab dealership south of Boston. After someone cut out the article and mailed it to the dealership, I received a phone call from said manager. To his credit, he was grateful for the critique (and I noted it in my column the next month).

    Criticism is not always received well and judging from the reaction of this sales manager, I doubt they would be as gracious. It’s too bad because my comments could serve him in the future.

    As for the car, I love it! I got 57 mpg on the highway the other day and the 6 speed manual is really fun to drive. It doesn’t make the transaction any better, but it’s an interesting “quirk” to the story.