“This place smells like a distillery!” roared the Dealer Principal, hurling a previously useful phone book across the office. The veins in his neck popped out like redwood trees and I thought he was going to have a coronary right there on the spot.
“Clean yourself up or you’ll be looking for another job by 5 o’clock!”
In reality, his rage was not directed at me but rather at a co-worker who, by all accounts, seemed to have rolled into work that Saturday morning straight from the downtown bar district. Ron and I were both in our early 20s, but he had started at the dealership about a year earlier. Known for being greasier than an oil slick, Ron’s charm and sales ability generally kept him in the good books with his co-workers and the Dealer Principal. This time though, I wondered if his luck was about to run out.
“Shit, Ron. What the hell did you get up to last night?” I asked him. Ron truly did look like death warmed over.
“Not a clue, Matt”, he replied. At least I think that’s what he said. Now that I think about it, the words sounded more like “Nobaclew, Mzzz”.
“Listen, there’s a minivan I took in on trade last night that’s not entered into any of the systems yet. It’s parked around the building. Go lie down. And take these Tylenol”, I instructed. Ron grunted his thanks, shambling off in the direction of the back lot. It took him a couple of hours to resurface.
It was hardly his first time being threatened with job loss. The previous summer he and I had done particularly well with a specific leasing program on full size trucks and both of us were rewarded with a sport coupé each for a company demo. A dealership supplied car for personal use is a perk afforded to all sales staff, one for which I am grateful every waking minute of the day.
The quality of one’s demo is always directly proportional to one’s sales, or lack thereof. Do well, you drive well. Languish near the bottom of the Big Board, however, and a base model Penalty Box is your punishment. One month, all hands were deemed unworthy and the manager busted everybody down to used vehicles. His efforts were for naught. As there were a plethora of SUVs and trucks in the used inventory, most of us ended up driving better used demos than the new demos that were taken away. It wasn’t long before the manager wised up and we were all back in our original cars.
The sport coupé wasn’t in Ron’s possession for very long. A couple of weekends after being presented with the keys, he decided to attend a concert just outside of town. This was fine, except he chose to drive right down to the bottom of a steep grassy field – not unlike, upon reflection, that episode of Top Gear UK where the hosts bought crap cars and drove them like teenagers in a series of challenges.
After a night of partying and a morning of sobering up, Ron decided it was time to depart. It was at this time he discovered the grass had the approximate traction properties of the Jell-O shooters being consumed the previous evening. In a fit of frustration, the coupé was given bootfuls of right foot, creating a cloud of acrid clutch smoke that most definitely remedied the blackfly problem in that part of the world for at least three weeks.
Limping back to the dealership, sporting a burnt and now useless clutch, the coupé was put on a lift in the service department for repairs and Ron was read the riot act by the Dealer Principal. Predictably, he got away with it based on his most recent sales performance and the assertion that he would be driving the worst car on the lot for the next two months. Unfazed, Ron continued to outsell almost everybody on staff.
Ron’s not at the dealership anymore, having moved on to greener pastures of his own volition. It’s the people that make this industry bearable and, dare I say it, fun. Ron is just another one of life’s characters. Wherever he is, someone’s probably throwing a phone book at him – and I mean that as a compliment.
Matthew Guy buys and sell cars. He tweets as Matthew the Car Guy (@matthewkguy) and writes for the British website for young enthusiasts, Car Throttle.