By on May 5, 2012

Since it seems to be Housekeeping Day, here an email from someone who hides behind a Gmail address, who does not sign his mail, and who calls us unethical .

Mr Anonymous writes:

“I’m writing this in response to Mr.Derek Kreindler method of acquiring the Aston Martin V8 Vantage for his recent review.

Mr.Kreindler stated while he was at the dealership, he pretended to be a well to do business man so that he can get his hand on the vehicle for a test drive. I won’t have a problem with this if he was actually comparing vehicles for his purchase. That’s how car buying goes, if you don’t like it, you don’t buy it. It’s quite obvious that this is not the case.

I know people do this all the time, but I don’t expect an editor from TTAC to do so. What he did is basically stealing a salesman time and hope. The time that he could have spent on other customers, and the hope of making a living. I just need to ask TTAC one question, how would you like it if you were the salesman? The fact that this article was published tells me that TTAC have no ethical standard in this arena.

Perhaps, you might think that I’m a salesman myself and took this personally. I have never been in the sales business, but I will call out an unethical conduct when I see one. “

Dear Mr. Anonymous:

I don’t call that unethical, I call that showing initiative. When I was young, I was in the investigative reporting business, and I operated as ethically as an undercover vice cop. Compared to that, what Derek did was benign.

If not buying a car after a test drive is stealing a salesman’s time and hope, then some 70 percent of people who ask for a test drive would be criminals. Last I looked, wasting someone’s time and robbing someone’s hope was not against the law. I wish it were, I could launch thousands of lawsuits. I see huge class action suits against politicians, corporations, presumptive employers, alleged lovers. The concept would make divorce proceedings very interesting:

“You cheated!”

“You wasted 25 years of my time and stole my hope for happiness. Let’s call it quits.”

I tell you what is unethical: Giving ringers to journalists. Carmakers who insist that only official press cars should be tested often have something to hide. A car for a test drive should show the best sides of the car.

Having said that, our first approach will always be to get a press car. If we don’t get one, dealers, friends, rental car agencies are fair game.

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56 Comments on “Housekeeping: The Ethics Of Undercover Snooping...”


  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    How about all of my time that salesmen, sales managers, F&I guys and service writers have wasted when I visit dealers as a paying customer?

    Lame. Where do these people come from? I guess some folks will complain about absolutely anything.

    The amount of stick Derek has taken since he has been a regular here is unbelievable. I’ve seen him accused of being dishonest, biased, naive, a bad writer, and now unethical.

    Frankly, if I ran this place, I’d start banning commenters for pointing out typos. The fact that Bertel lets so much of this garbage slide – and provides an explanation when he doesn’t – shows how fair and ethical this place actually is.

    • 0 avatar

      I appreciate the kind words. The unfounded criticism doesn’t rattle me, but what does get under my skin is when people, like the gentleman being discussed, DON’T READ THE ARTICLE. If he did, he’d know that this occurred long before I ever worked at TTAC.

      • 0 avatar
        Hank

        I fail to see how what you did was all that different from, say, Mike Wallace at 60 minutes when he would fake an auto problem to find out if mechanics were honest or not. He did that for years, and only expressed regret over the times that were done for easy ratings rather than real truth-seeking. And while some may argue bloggers aren’t journalists (usually either jealous journalists, or people who don’t like what said bloggers expose in their findings), I don’t see much difference, considering the problem mentioned often with manufacturers supplying ringers (how’s that different than a mechanic selling you a Johnson rod?).

        Much ado about nothing.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        Hank, that’s not an appropriate comparison. Mike Wallace was investigating people and organizations who he expected to lie about being engaged in unethical or illegal conduct. Derek wasn’t in any way investigating if that salesman or the dealer were engaged in bad behaviour. Derek just lied to get something he wanted.

        If Derek went through the sales process to test the salesman’s or the dealer’s ethics or to investigate compliance with laws and regulations, I would support what he did. However, that isn’t why Derek was there. He wanted to drive the car and he told a lie to get what he wanted. No higher purpose was served. It’s not a show-stopper in my opinion, but it wasn’t Derek’s finest moment and I’d like to think that he’s moved on to appropriate ways of obtaining cars for test.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      As the recipient of multiple flames from some of the self-appointed expert automotive pundit commenters on ttac I am not offended by anything anyone else says or thinks about my interpretation of the facts or of a situation.

      We all view an issue from any number of angles (360-degrees and six degrees of freedom {roll, pitch and yaw}) and perceive it differently.

      And to state that you disagree with another’s point of view is one thing, to verbally attack or diminish that person’s comments is quite another.

      If I offend anyone with my comments, I apologize profusely since it is never my intention to offend anyone. However, my view is my view, my opinion is my opinion and my interpretation is the way I see it.

      The policy has been well publicized. This is ttac’s site and Bertel is in charge. Those who choose not to adhere to the rules do so at their own risk. I doubt they will be missed.

      I found nothing wrong with the way Derek got his story. I favor his approach of “Do unto others BEFORE they do unto you!” He got to test-drive the Vantage. All in a day’s work.

      Or don’t you think that dealership would have done unto him, if they could have?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Wow Mr. Anonymous, I worked as a commissioned shoe salesman in a department store for a few years during college. Every Sunday the same old lady would come in and try on a pair of Easy Spirit shoes that were a size 9 narrow. She did this for 2 years without ever purchasing and was the ONLY person to try on that size but could never commit to buying. I treated her with the same respect, courtesy, and level of service as any other customer. Was she wasting time I could have used with another customer? Certainly. Should I have treated her poorly or been angry as a result? Certainly not.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      Even the one who only window shops today may be a buyer tomorrow. Or a decade from now. You reap what you sow. When I was a teen my friends and I frequented every new car lot in town. You know who treated us with the most respect? The Mercedes and Cadillac dealers. They’d tell us about the cars, joke with us, and let us sit in the new cars, no problem. We may not have had the money for gas at the time, much less an MB, but what they also knew that in my hometown, how you treated me at 13 affected where I shopped at 35. That’s just smart business.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Jaeger

        Exactly. He may not have been immediately in the market, but he clearly had interest. Had he been blown away by the experience he may have set an objective to buy one some day and started saving.

        If a dealer is serious about screening test drivers and limiting the drives to serious customers only they can add additionyal conditions.

        I don’t like to waste a businessman’s time but you don’t sell Astons without first getting a bunch of people dreaming of one day owning an Aston.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        That’s why I never have understood the “screw them” attitude of some car dealers. They seem to have no clue that pissing off a kid buying his first car by screwing him over will pretty much guarantee they will never get his future business, and he will tell everyone he knows what they did to him. In a big city, they can do it, for a while, but it can’t work in the long run.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ………Even the one who only window shops today may be a buyer tomorrow. Or a decade from now. You reap what you sow……….

        Hank, that is the absolute truth. Many years ago when I was maybe 8, my dad took me into Save On Hardware, a mom and pop store for something. I still recall to this day how the old man with the huge ears pried my hands off the drill bit display saying that I was going to make a “big mess”. Fast forward to today and I am maybe 2 miles from that hardware store. I live in an 1876 home that I have spent about 10 years and $150K in materials to restore. How much of my money did Save On Hardware get? Under $100. I’ll never forget being treated so poorly and I will celebrate when Home Depot finally drives them out of business.

        As for salesmen, how about time wasted with “lost keys”, pressure for service contracts, etc? I am fully in favor of honesty and integrity, but not as a one way street.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “That’s why I never have understood the “screw them” attitude of some car dealers. They seem to have no clue that pissing off a kid buying his first car by screwing him over will pretty much guarantee they will never get his future business”

        Despite the claims of car salesmen who post in the comments sections of internet forums, car sales are not really a relationship business.

        Turnover of sales staff is high. Most of them are paid strictly on commission, and then only get paid if you buy the car through them personally. And if you buy the car for something close to their employer’s cost, then that commission will be paltry (a “mini”).

        If you walk onto the lot and you don’t buy that day, then the odds are pretty good that the person who you meet on the lot will make nothing. Meanwhile, if you aren’t a real buyer, then the salesman may be losing the opportunity to meet a different prospect who could be for real.

        Then there is the ego factor of those who work on commission. Just as a sports fisherman endeavors to catch a really big fish for the sake of bragging rights, a car salesman who can sell a car for something close to full sticker not only gets more money, but he also gets more to boast about with his buddies.

        Just so long as salesmen are compensated and evaluated by their bosses in this way, it is bound to remain this way. And since there is no reason for the dealers to change, it is not likely to change.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Mr Anonymous has a minor point. In general, wasting a salesman’s time should be frowned upon.

    However, it should never be a crime.
    However(2), given the putrid ethics of many car dealerships (and their protected status via many states’ laws), car salesmen (and their employers) get what they serve.
    However(3), as Bertel noted, compared to the putrid ethics of most so-called “news” paper (and other media) car reviews, a writer misrepresenting himself as a buyer is minor ethical quibble.

    • 0 avatar
      Ben

      Well said, I agree entirely.

      I would also add that we should recognise a common sentiment amongst most of TTAC readers is the high esteem in which we hold the site, and therefore have higher expectations when it comes to ethics. TTAC plays a role in keeping the car industry honest, however this matter really was trivial.

  • avatar
    Rock36

    As far as I’m concerned that is part of the game. Who knows, maybe the salesman in question is now just a little bit better at sizing up who is actually a serious buyer or not.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      How do you size up who is capable of a purchase or not? One of my coworkers is a stationary engineer, his father was, too. Single guy, family came to the USA and made big bucks in real estate and rentals. Looking and listening to the guy you would just view him as a nice guy who loves cars, but if you stereotyped him you’d see him looking at used Corvettes. Except that he just bought an Aston Martin DBS as his retirement gift for himself. Still at work though. The dealer treated him as if he was a potential customer and that is what he became. Paid cash, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Raises hand tentatively

        Years ago I had an acquaintance who worked at a Dodge/Chrysler dealership in Fresno, California. They also had a franchise for Rolls Royce. The word from on high was that everyone who walked in the door asking to look at a Rolls was to be treated as if they were going to buy one. The theory was that you couldn’t judge a book by its cover, some guy driving a dirty pickup and wearing work clothes just might be a wealthy farm owner that could very well afford a Rolls.

      • 0 avatar
        Rock36

        Gentlemen, I’m not talking about sizing up a person regarding their financial means. I’m talking about sizing up a person to figure out it they are interested in the vehicle vice looking for a joyride.

        I’m talking about reading intentions not their pocketbook fellas.

  • avatar
    yesthatsteve

    Frankly, if I sold a quality product and provided good service, a favorable review would send money my way over the long-term. Only an idiot wouldn’t welcome that.

    A potential sale is a potential sale is a potential sale, whether it’s the same day to the same “customer,” or to that guy next week or next month, or to someone that guy refers.

  • avatar

    Any point worth its salt is done under an actual name in my opinion. I have done freelance op eds for 27 years and always have more respect for any point/counterpoint delivered by a real name. For me the nameless e-mailer in this story simply does not believe enough in his cause to come out of the safe and comfortable camouflage of anonymity.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I thought it was mildly non-cricket of Derek, but if there is one experience I have about salespeople, it’s this… They work hard to um….persuade… the customer. A lot of them are susceptible to self persuasion as well. If the salesguy wanted to believe that Derek was a prospective client, he found a way to convince himself.

    Besides, cars are sold like puppies. The petshop owner wants you to play with the little furball, they know that the chances of you buying go waaaay up afterwards. It’s part of the game.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I suppose I could quote Rodney King about just getting along but I already know the answer. I might suggest, however, that taking flak means you will take more flak. I think you already have rules. Just enforcing them without taking time off from that enforcement will reduce the amount of flak you take.

    Just remember that in a job like you have and enforcing your rules you will always take stuff. Two rules apply there. 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And, 2. It’s all small stuff.

  • avatar
    mcs

    I once worked in a high-end luxury goods sales job and was in this situation at least once. The potential customer clearly wasn’t going to be able to afford what I was selling, but I was still very happy to talk with him. Why? – because we didn’t have a lot of traffic and I really needed the practice. Since I knew there wasn’t a chance he was going to buy, there was a lot less pressure.

    I’m assuming that an Aston Martin doesn’t have a lot floor traffic, so Derek helped the salesman sharpen his skills a bit and helped improve his chances when a real customer comes along.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      Keeping your energy and focus in the right place is hard and I never minded talking to “tire kickers”, other sales people, my boss or whomever was around to keep my energy up so I was ready to go when a “real” customer with money to spend showed up. However, I always looked down on customers who led with a lie or a questionable story. There was just no point – I was going to talk to them regardless. You’d think that they’d test the waters and only lie if they felt they absolutely had to, but strangely, many people apparently thought starting out with a baloney story was the way to go. At best it was annoying and at worst it was insulting.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        This is how I felt until the last time I went car shopping.

        I was honest and upfront with the sales guys at the first three dealerships I went to. One salesman basically walked away. Another guy flat out refused to unlock vehicles I asked to see which were as little as $1000 outside my stated budget. The last one would only show me cars that were $5000 over my stated budget.

        The moment I started making stuff up before I walked on the lot, I started seeing what I was actually looking for. Who wasted whose time?

        What seems more important to me if you’re going to talk your way into a test drive, that you it in a way that wastes the least amount of the salesperson’s time possible. Stringing someone along for days would be problematic, yes. But as long as you don’t tie them up for hours I don’t see the loss.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I have no problem with it. I have gone to dealers to test drive vehicles purely because I was curious about a particular car with no immediate intent to buy anything. Just as I have gone browsing in clothing stores just to look around. That is just part of being a retail establishment.

    I would rather TTAC get its rides this way then lose the independence that its readers value. Derek was open about how he got the car so there was no obfuscation and nothing that he has written so far at TTAC even hints that he is in the slightest ethically challenged so I would give him the benefit of the doubt anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      Are you saying it is O.K. for Derek to lie to people as long as he doesn’t lie to *you*? Situational ethics and trust do not go hand in hand.

      If I stole some money from an old lady by deception and offered you half of it, would you take it and feel good about it? You seem to be saying that it would be fine for you to keep half of that poor old lady’s money because I was open with *you* about the fact that I lied to her. Lying is fine as long as it doesn’t affect you personally? Give me a break.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        There is a difference between using deception to get a test drive on a busy Saturday when many real customers are potentially buying or test driving a car on a slow day when no other customers are waiting.

        I admit that I test drive cars at dealerships I have no intention of going back to so that that I’m not stuck with the random salesman who was “up” when I first walked in the door. Decide what I like and use the phone and internet to bypass the gauntlet of salesmen when it’s time to negotiate.

  • avatar
    TheHammer

    I can understand Mr. A’s feeling that the salesperson’s time was wasted by someone with no intention of buying a car. However, if the saleperson does an outstanding job accomodating ANY customer it is only a good thing. Ever hear of referrals?

  • avatar
    Silvy_nonsense

    I don’t care how TTAC gets the cars its going to test, as long as TTAC editors are honest with the parties involved. Pretending to be someone you are not and stating that you might do something you have no intention of doing and/or can’t afford to do is wrong and it subtracts from your credibility.

    TTAC can’t have Jack Baruth regularly attacking other media outlets for not adhering to his high standards for what constitutes an ethical, unbiased auto journalist while simultaneously defending premeditated lying by another staffer.

    This publication is called “The Truth About Cars” not “The Situational Ethics About Cars”. Stick to the truth.

    On a more practical note, if a TTAC staffer obtains a car dishonestly and has an accident, it could turn into a liability mess for that editor individually and for TTAC as a legal entity, assuming the insurers get wind of the scheme.

    Signed,

    Christopher Silvy

    (Since I don’t want Bertel to be able to make a lame attempt at undermining my arguments because I didn’t sign my real name.)

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Actually, I would have preferred this article had not been published. I did courtesy shopping when I first came to Texas and worked for a security company. I am sure that the folks I was shopping thought I was going to buy but I was just checking them for courtesy and/or honesty. I hope their hopes weren’t dashed too badly. I really think this is much ado about nothing. It’s sort of like the article that got some folks banned just recently that started out about a car and ended up practically fighting WW2 again. This started out about an anonymous complainer and we are going on and on about the ethics of grabbing a test drive.

    If I wanted to read about this sort of nitter natter I could be reading a political blog.

  • avatar

    I see Mr. Anonymous’ argument from a certain pov.

    However: Car Salesman. Ergo, argument invalid.

    So too viz. the ‘ethos’, nay -Behavioral Programming of Randian Philistines everywhere who equate exclusively money with human value.

    .
    ++ ~scale of standards, I pretty much give Anything a free pass when it comes to ~Investigative ‘Journalism’,

    short of hacking ppls phone & emails, that is ;P.

    .
    +Mr. A ignores the value that the review creates for A-M.

    Sure the split viz. TTAC is 20/80 to the site’s favor, but still.

    +The other thing is: Exclusivity-Desperation. The higher you go up the scale given a fixed amt. of juice, the more you’re likely to need to Bend the rules.

    .
    +++ Thanks Again, too to The Mehta Brothers for bringing the supercar stuff to this site. You guys are great!

  • avatar

    So, what Mr. Anonymous or Jesus would have done? Bought that car, writing an article for 100§, sold that car with a 30,000 loss, growing himself a halo?

  • avatar
    kmoney

    In this specific instance I doubt that the salseman’s time was really wasted in a meaninful way.

    I live a block away from the dealership mentioned in this article and the place practically has tumbleweeds blowing throught it for most of the day. Despite being the only licensed Aston dealer in Vancouver, its sales volume is incredibly low and you see most of their inventory (all 8 or so cars) sitting on the lot for at least 8 months or more before selling — or equally likely being dealer traded, considering you rarely see any of their higher-end stock driving or parked around the city. So in reality, the opportunity costs imposed on the salesman going for one test drive are pretty much non-existent.

    Not that having done no harm makes an unethical choice any more acceptable, but taking it out of abstraction and into this specific situation, likely little harm was done to the dealer or the salesman.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Former car salesman here. Did Derek waste the salesman’s time? Of course he did. Was it “unethical”? Meh. A good salesman – the true professional who knows his product and represents maybe 5% of his breed – will sniff out the time-wasters and tactfully dispose of them. It’s part of the business.

  • avatar
    redliner

    I understand what Anonymous (Wo?)man is saying, and I generally agree with him. When I go to a dealer with no intention of buying a car, I let the sales person know up front that I am not ready to buy, and I’m honest about why. I try to visit during slow hours, so it’s not like I’m using up time that could be spent with another customer.

    I believe in the golden rule. I won’t wast their time, and usually they don’t wast mine either. My local Lexus dealer comes to mind. They allowed me to drive a new GS, even though it will be at least a year before I’m ready to buy, and even then, probably not something that expensive.

    However, I’m not oblivious to the fact that this “honest” method probably won’t work for cars costing 75k and up, especially sporty or exotic cars.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Having worked as a salesman, including selling planes, I have to say that acting like a buyer to get a test drive when you have no intention to buy is a pretty small sin. If the salesman has concerns, which I often did due to the cost and time of a plane demo, he can ask about your intentions and then if you lie, you ARE pretty close to stealing. If he doesn’t ask, you don’t have to say.
    Investigative journalists are also allowed to lie, to test a story if the have good evidence, not if they are just fishing.
    I believe Mr. Anon overstates his case, and as Derek said, should have read the story more carefully before writing in.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Didn’t James May of Top Gear do something similar with a Tata… I mean Rover Indica?
    It is a bit of a white lie but Hell! It’s not like it happens often, the car get’s good free press and consumers benefit from it. I see no problem.

  • avatar
    multicam

    I think the problem I- and probably Mr. Anonymous- had with the article in question is that it wasn’t something I would do. I’d feel uncomfortable lying to a salesman, even a CAR salesman, because I learned growing up that lying is wrong (situational ethics aside- obviously, lying to Nazis about the fact that you are hiding Jewish refugees is the right thing to do). I emphasize CAR salesman because I don’t think it’s fair to assume a car saleman is a swindler or sleazy person. Anyway, the point that seems to escape Mr. Schmitt in this response is that 70% of the people who went for test drives with no intention to buy that car would not be doing anything unethical (much less criminal… I don’t think Mr. Anonymous was arguing that anyone should be put to trial). If someone goes for a test drive and tells the salesperson that they aren’t interested in buying today, they simply want to get a feel for X car versus Y car, then the salesperson can tell them to go to hell and stop wasting his time or tell him that he hopes he can win him over and make a good impression for his brand of car.

    Another example- a buddy of mine went to a car dealership in his Army uniform. The salesman assumed he had just gotten home from Iraq and had lots of back pay to spend. He took him out on a few test drives and let him drive a Mustang GT by himself. My buddy led him into thinking that he was just back from a deployment when in fact he wasn’t and had no intention of buying anything. That probably strikes many people as disingenuous- and it was. What’s the difference between by buddy and TTAC? My friend didn’t write an article about it. I personally would not have done that… But he’s still my friend.

    There’s no judgement here, just an explanation of why this rubs some people the wrong way. And I also have no problem removing myself from the anonymity of my TTAC username.

    -Edward Dieppa

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    Did Derek have the ability to get the Aston Martin from the press pool? If not, then he should be free to do whatever is nessesary to get a test drive.
    In my younger years, I would regularly run down to whatever dealership had the latest cool car and would talk a salesman into a test drive. Good job Derek and keep up the good work.

  • avatar
    forraymond

    Not really off topic ethics and all, but did anyone else see that GM made over a billion (with a B) in the first quarter? I did not see any mention of it here.

  • avatar
    CanadaCarMark

    I note no link back to the original posting, so i can re-read it to see what if any credit the dealership and/or the salesperson received. i had not thought of it as unethical but would like to know if TTAC could have or did grease the wheel that makes their world go round. not having a link back make you look guilty…

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    If Derek did this before coming to TTAC, the sin rests on his shoulders, not the site’s.

    I’d like to think that TTAC as a reputable organization wouldn’t result to tricking salespeople in order to get review vehicles. Renting a vehicle seems fine, as does being up front with a dealer and asking to borrow a vehicle for a review (possibly with some compensation). I can’t help but think I’ve read TTAC reviews that mentioned at the end that the vehicle was supplied by a local dealer, and I have to imagine that those vehicles were obtained through an up front discussion with someone at the dealership about TTAC’s intentions.

    I can understand why an exotic car dealership might be reluctant to hand over the keys of a $100,000+ car to a 20 something, and I can even recall a time in high school when some buddies and I tried to finagle a test drive of a Hummer H1 – an attempt that ended in failure as the sales guy saw our intentions from a mile away.

    I get no-intention-to-buy test drive seekers on my lot from time to time, almost always on Mustang GTs, and if I don’t have anything better to do I have no problem taking them out. Personally, I appreciate it if the ‘customer’ is up front with my about their intentions. If you don’t have the means to buy a $30,000 car right now, but love the model and might some day in the future want to pick one up, sure, I’ll hand over the keys, nothing wrong with building up some positive karma. On the other hand, showing up with a phony story that makes me do a lot of work and bug my managers to work out payments, financing, trade values, etc, or showing up in the middle of a busy Saturday when there are actual paying customers on the lot is a dick move. There’s also the possibility that while I’m indulging your whims a customer I’ve worked with previously will show back up to buy, and I’ll be forced to hand over half of my commission to someone else to finish that deal while I unwittingly play make believe with you.

    To wrap it up – I don’t see a problem with getting review vehicles from dealerships, but I do see a problem with lying about your intentions. CR get their test cars from dealerships, but they actually buy them. I realize that is outside of TTAC’s budget, but I don’t think it’s out of the question to be up front about your request to borrow a car for a review. Bottom line – lying is unethical.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    Damn, the sound of breaking glass is deafening.

  • avatar

    I’m going to state for the second time in this thread alone the test drive happened nearly two years before I came to TTAC. And yes I mentioned that in the original article.

    • 0 avatar
      LALoser

      It is huMAN natURE Derek; people distill from a story in it’s entirety to get the disired result. Happens in religion, politics and the work place.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I’m sure we’ve all made questionable decisions from time to time, especially when we were younger (no offense to the younger crowd on the site). I think it’s fairly safe to say that lying is morally problematic in a lot of ways, and should not be condoned generally speaking.

    As Derek has reminded us, he was up-front about having misrepresented himself in the situation he describes, and while the kind of deliberate misrepresentation he cites seems morally problematic, nevertheless his forthrightness in telling us this (and reminding us of it again here) tells me that he too is at least sensitive to the morally problematic character of those past actions.

    I’m pretty sure there are few of us, if any, who have not misrepresented ourselves in one way or another at one time or another. It’s always easy to judge others, and we all do it to some extent. The key, at least for me, is whether or not people continue to engage in such morally questionable practices (perhaps even to the point of becoming habitual liars, for example), or whether they instead learn from such cases and work toward make themselves better persons as a result (according to the best measure they happen to have). Most of what I’ve read by Derek on this site would suggest the latter, at least to me.

    Keep up the good work, Derek.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    The thing that struck me here is the person who sent in the letter, not Derek’s methodology.

    The fact that the email senter had to remain anonymous says more about the anonymous person than of Derek.

    I’ve done test drives of various cars with no intent to buy, but have ALWAYS said something to the effect I hope to buy in the next few months, just doing research right now, at least I’m up front about my intentions (even if I never buy 6 months later).

    None of us are perfect so to call Derek out on this is anonymously is like calling the kettle black here.

    • 0 avatar
      etrnlrvr

      I don’t see how this is the pot calling the kettle black at all. How is the letter writer deceiving anyone? I don’t really have a problem with the ethics of the situation at all by the way but this anonymous fixation by Bertel and some commenters is a giant red herring.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    About 10 years ago, I had my heart set on buying a 5-series. I found that going to BMW dealers in my usual ripped jeans and t-shirt on a weekend usually got me completely ignored by all the sales reps who would rather chat with each other at the water cooler than talk to an interested customer with 40 large burning a hole in his pocket.

    My point is that the only way you are going to get any level of service at most luxury car dealers is to impersonate a successful businessman, no matter your intentions.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      You reminded me of my Dad’s best friend who was a car salesman at a Chevy, Buick, Oldsmobile dealership. He would always chuckle as he told stories about the local GM Powertrain employees who would come in dressed like they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” as if they were going to fool the salesmen. He also laughed about the guys who would come in (largely immigrants) driving a car that was destined for the crusher and wearing clothes that a thrift store would turn down and then would buy something very nice off the used lot paying cold hard cash for it. He always said; “A customer is a customer, forget their apperance and it doesn’t matter if they’re wearing ripped jeans or a tie.”

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Appearances can be deceiving.

        When we drove through the Phoenix, AZ, area on our way home to Southcentral New Mexico and dropped in on a Chrysler/Dodge/RAM/Jeep dealer there to look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee that had caught my wife’s eye from I-10, I was wearing shredded bluejean shorts, a t-shirt with obscenities printed on it, and had a week-old beard (unshaven). A bum would have looked better.

        We got the deal we wanted, we got the JGC she wanted, and I didn’t really give a rats @ss what anyone thought of my appearance. My check was good. Money talks. Bullsh!t walks.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Cry me a river for car salesmen. If anything, Derek gave the salesman a chance to practice his trade, selling. Derek might end up a Aston Martin customer one day, at the same dealership and maybe even the same salesman.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Showing initiative.
    I am disappointed.

  • avatar
    LetItBe

    Warning: this piece is lengthy. –End of Warning–

    I’ve just reread Derek’s post. Here’s what we can’t accuse him of.

    1. Not letting the salesman see other customers: He arranged for a Saturday morning test drive. The specific time is unmentioned but he does describe that the roads are clear. We can interpret this to mean negligible to exactly zero “drop-in” test drivers(who will then sign all the papers needed to walk away with their purchase that same day). The fact the arrangement was agreed upon shows that there were no prior and conflicting appointments with the same salesman. We don’t know if Derek also had the salesman’s concerns in mind but we can be reasonably sure he didn’t jeopardise his ability to earn his income with that particular test drive.

    2. Being a worse person than us: He has done what a lot of us have wanted to but had no idea how. Derek made up a vending machine business background(and advised wearing an expensive watch) in order to persuade his salesman. He does not mention what else was done, presumably(but not conclusively) because it wasn’t. He has done what most of us think of doing and what some do regularly.

    As a side-note, I’d say it’s worth comparing what Derek did with what Jack Baruth recommended, through his source. Mr. Anonymous, if you really are in the sales business, I believe it reflects more positively upon you to accept this as a job hazard and work out a plan around it. Your job is to find whoever is going to contractually oblige themselves to product/service you are selling regardless of what others think about it. If someone like Jack Baruth asks you to calculate installments while he takes your test drive unit for a spin, you either live with it or you find a way to get his pen right on the dotted line before you hand the keys. Or just make sure you surf here often so that you know when one of them shows up. I’d let them review it honestly, if I were you. It’s your colleagues in product development and the accountants who need to make sure they don’t put a million dollar price tag on a piece of shiny crap. The sooner they know it, the sooner they can focus on building something of quality.

    It’s fair to call out on a salesman who is either too inexperienced or too petty to let an issue like this be. As for whether we might as well launch lawsuits for other kinds of contestable offences, why not review the laws we have already agreed upon prior and ask ourselves which offences we can live with and which we wouldn’t.

    If we can no longer tell the difference, then how can we say that our attempts at justice are more than just settling any old score, that we aren’t using “might is right” to justify ourselves? Knowing the difference is why we have ethics in the first place. And a court system.


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