By on June 10, 2012


In 2001 during an early evening with a piercing December chill, Jason splayed the salesman’s grin when Dad and Son showed up in a warm showroom. Well of course he’d be happy to let them try a new Passat, “but first can I get a copy of your license?”

Moments later, Jason pulled up to the glass front doors in a black B5. He hopped out and assumed the passenger seat. Ten-year-old Son scurried in past the back door and settled in the center of the backseat with a commanding view forward.

Despite his 30 minutes of interactive product training, salesman-Jason wouldn’t be the expert in the car that evening. He didn’t stand a chance against the ten-year-old in the back. That boy’s bedtime stories came from Consumer Reports and Road & Track.

As Dad secured himself in the driver’s seat with the Teutonic click of the seat belt, the boy was already reaching forward from the back seat to show off the seat heaters.

“You can roll it to turn on the bun warmers, see!? And look, if you move the lever to the side you can shift the gears like a manual car!”

“Son, put your seat-belt on so we can go,” Dad said over his shoulder.

Salesman Jason racked his brain for Passat arcana that would put the boy in his backseated place.

Jason prescribed Dad and Son an anemic test drive route with a quick hop onto and off of the highway. Soon, salesman and boy sounded like an old couple.

Salesman: “And this car has…”

Boy: “…190 horsepower!”

Salesman: “So you can get up the driveway when it snows …”

Boy: “…this car has four wheel drive.”

During the drive Jason had a difficult time getting a talking point or a question across without Son finishing the salesman’s sentence.

Salesman: “And if you move that dial up there…”

Boy: “…you can open and tilt the sunroof!”

Salesman: “And if you pull on the handle…”

Boy: “…it goes back into the roof softly!”

When the three rolled back into the dealership parking lot, Jason mustered as genuine an expression he could stomach, turned back and said, “Hey kid, you seem to really know your stuff. You probably know…”

Boy: “…more about this car than you do?  It’s child’s play.”

By virtue of going to Road & Track night-school, Son knew more about the Volkswagen, and every other automaker’s lineup, than any salesman should ever need to know.

At the end of the day, Jason focused on selling to the front-seat driver when really he should have focused his efforts on the fifth-grader in the back.

Instead, the boy in the back settled on an Acura TL.

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53 Comments on “Salesmen, Beware Of The Backseat Boys...”

  • avatar

    Well, how would he know that particular dad actually listens to the son? Many didn’t. Paul’s father for example. How many parents listens to their 10-year old son (or daughter, but usually son) on ‘grown up’ matters like cars?

    • 0 avatar

      A lot of parents, actually, if they know their kid is knowledgeable in an area. Not just cars, but computers, electronics, etc. The kid was basically a resource.

    • 0 avatar

      The first time I helped my dad buy a car, I was 10. By that point my knowledge was already encyclopaedic, so my father was comfortable letting me give him my recommendation. From that point on, provided he liked the car on the test drive, he’d buy whatever I told him.

      According to him he’s never regretted listening.

      • 0 avatar

        I wish my parents would ask me for my advice. They know I am kind of a car nut but my parents are stuck in their ways. This time they ended up with a Buick Verano which at their age may be their last car. :(

        Maybe they don’t ask for my advice because when they told me they were looking for a new car to replace their low mileage 2006 Camry SE, I told them they were crazy and they should keep it. My father thinks it is a better deal economically to trade in early so that you get more for your trade in. :/ Oh boy.

      • 0 avatar

        I guess you got good parents… My parents never talks to me about ‘grown up’ stuff, though I am quite encyclopedic in term of cars even at early ages. It would be unfathomable thing to do for them, I think. Just like Paul’s father, I suppose.

    • 0 avatar

      I never had a lot of luck selling the merits of a Dodge Viper over a Buick LeSabre, but if I was recommending a TL over a Passat my parents may have listed more.

    • 0 avatar

      20 years ago I was that kid. I subscribed to all the buff books and memorized them all, starting at about 10 years old. When I went car shopping with my Dad, I’d always get annoyed at how little the salesmen knew about the cars.

    • 0 avatar

      @MrWhoopee: “Well, how would he know that particular dad actually listens to the son?”

      My father listened to me when I was a 10 year old, and throughout my teenage years. That’s not to say that he blindly did what I said (some people seem to confuse “obedience” and “listening”), and he often disagreed with me or knew something that I didn’t. When that happened, he would mention it, and we’d talk back and forth about it, without rancor, until we were on the same page. It must have been valuable for him too, because he had more and more stuff to talk about as I got older.

      The respect that my father had for my opinion made my teenage years much easier than they would have been otherwise. That’s not to say my teenage years weren’t a horrible ordeal, but this was one very bright spot that helped to get me through some very hard times. And something that I hope to continue with my 2-year-old son.

      The communication skills I learned from talking with my dad certainly serve me well ever day. And they’ve served me much better than they served him — but that’s a story and a half.

      Anyway, I was totally the kid in the story. And my dad would listen respectfully, think about what I said. So, the answer to “who listens to a 10 year old kid” is “my dad, and it’s one of the things that he did best as a parent.”

  • avatar

    Cute story and entirely unsurprising. There are exceptions, but a typical car salesman knows precious little about his own product and even less about the competition. Auto sales is a high-turnover occupation that doesn’t really select for product knowledge.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Another example of why when buying new I’d rather order the car like I can order a laptop on Dell, Gateway, … etc… website and then wait for delivery.

      • 0 avatar


        The salesdudes total contribution to the ordering process of my car was to get out the leather sample book so I could see what Chestnut Brown leather looked like in person more-or-less.

        Count me in the category of kids with encyclopedic knowledge whos parents NEVER listened to me. They still don’t – my Mother went out and bought my Brother and Sister-in-law a Dodge Caliber – a DODGE CALIBER!

  • avatar

    #1 If that boy really does complete the salesman’s sentences, then they should put him on the payroll. In THERE WILL BE BLOOD, Daniel Plainview travels around with his adopted son and uses him to get sympathy from the people he’s trying to swindle.

    #2 When you are knowledgeable in cars and mortgages/loans, people love taking you with them to buy – but salesmen absolutely HATE ME lol.

    I destroyed a deal 3 weeks ago when a scammer tried to sell my cousin a C240 after promising him a BMW 5. We ended up buying a Malibu from another dealer instead.

    I don’t let my friends put down big deposits and i don’t let salesmen take advantage of them. Especially when I start hearing the typical financing lies.

    • 0 avatar

      Which are?

      • 0 avatar

        LOL – Glad you are interested.

        One of the new lies I’ve seen used is on people with low scores who want a better car, but, dealers make them feel they MUST settle for less.

        example – You can’t afford this used BMW , so if you take this old car right now, you can drive around in it for a couple months, make payments regularly and then bring it back to trade in once your credit score improves!!!

        This lie was used a lot in the mortgage industry.

        #1 There is no way for a dealer to know whether or not your credit will improve. They just want to make the sale.

        #2 If anything were to happen (like you get in an accident) the car’s value depreciates immediately in addition to the fact it is already steadily depreciating. Therefore, you’d end up far underwater on the car’s value. Since the salespeople are already making a profit off the sale, most likely you would be starting the loan underwater already.

        Another problem is damaged cars that don’t show damage on Car Fax. If someone gets in an accident and does the work privately without notifying insurance, it won’t show up on Car Fax. The stealership we went to showed us a car with a clean car fax, but, it was obvious this piece of junk had been in a front end collision.

      • 0 avatar

        You also don’t have to leave deposits (obviously) on many types of cars. I’ve had friends asked for $500 deposits on minivans. I usually tell my friends to leave less than $100 on a credit card if the dealer truly needs to see you’re serious.

        some cars like the BRZ and FR-S are in limited supply so it does make sense to leave a deposit for them.

        Sometimes the dealer wants a deposit because they don’t want to run credit and have to pay for it. Credit reports can cost around $25 a piece and they want to ensure you aren’t coming to them simply to check your credit. If the deal doesn’t work, they don’t want to take any loss at all.

      • 0 avatar

        Wow, a deposit to run a credit check? Time to tell the dealer to FOAD. Why would anyone leave a deposit for anything other than a special order? I mean, I can see it for a neon green Audi S5 with red leather, but not for a car on the lot.

      • 0 avatar

        People who don’t know anything about purchasing a car get taken advantage of regularly.

        The key points to understand are that:

        #1 buying a car is nothing more than taking out a bank loan. Therefore, it should be treated like a loan – with the addition that this loan is on a steadily depreciating asset which probably won’t hold enough value to move to the next car reasonably a few years down the road.

        #2 Dealers are out to make profits and they don’t care if you can afford something or not.

        #3 You should download loan calculators (LOAN U LATER) on your smartphone to calculate amortization rates and interest costs for your loans.

  • avatar

    Let’s have the 10 year old go mano-a-mano with the F&I guy. The kid can use whatever color crayon he needs.

    • 0 avatar

      Checking and the automaker website for market rates and any financing incentives could probably be handled by a 10 year old.

      Beyond that the key is not knowing the words “no” and “thank you, I’m leaving”, it is using them. I give a 10 year old better odds on that then a lot of adults.

    • 0 avatar
      David Sacci

      Only a couple years later, the 10 year old would make an F&I guy retype a contract after carefully scanning the document for “typos”

    • 0 avatar

      You jest, but I was that 10 year old the women in my family stuck in front of the F & I manager to review contracts. Since I had tons of research and middle school math under my belt, i helped them take the emotion out of car buying. It took me another 14 years before I got burned on a car deal.

  • avatar

    This is exactly how I was as a kid, but my parents always ignored it. And actually, always regretted it. Is it a sign of my vindictive nature that I was always glad of that?

    I’m an adult now and they still ignore my recommendations. And still come to regret that.

  • avatar

    Pretty funny, but a lot of truth to this story. I always knew more about the car my father was looking at then the salesman ever did. L was never rude; my upbringing would never allow for that. But as I got older, I wielded more influence. The sales staff generally started out ignoring me, but by the end of the drive, would address both of us. I am sure Nullo has a few choice stories he could share…

  • avatar

    In my experience, the average 10-year-old definitely knows more than the average VW dealership employee.

  • avatar

    I was one of those kids as well. But my parents bought used cars, and rarely did that. However, when they do need some advice I’m always the first they come to. And several friends have done the exact same thing!

  • avatar

    I have told this before. When I was about 4 years of age, my father already listened to me about cars. I knew all the cars by make, model, and year. I went with him to shop for a car. He was trading in his ’48 Buick. At one lot, the salesman asked me why we were trading in our car, and I said that “the front end is shot on our car”. We didn’t trade there, and my Dad said just to say that we wanted a new car. He ended up trading for a new ’56 Special 4 door hardtop. It was two-tone Tahiti Pink and White, but he always pronoounced it “Titty Pink”.

  • avatar

    I was too young to comment when we bought the ’64 Riviera, but when we were looking for a second car six years later, when I was 13, I told my parents to go with ’70 Toronado instead of the Riviera, as front wheel drive was the wave of the future. Not to mention that the ’70 Riviera was somewhat homely. The Toronado was much better in the snow than our Riviera, and my mother loved that car until she passed 20 or so years later [though the car only had 30,000 miles on it when we sold it!].

    Of course, my parents had always bought Oldsmobiles, except for the Riv, so maybe they were just going to do that again anyways.

  • avatar

    Well, as usual, the tired, unimaginative remarks about dealerships.
    Just a few observations from someone who was in the ‘biz for 11 years:

    1) The regulars on this and other Boards are hardly ‘typical’ clients. Any salesmen will see this crowd coming from across the lot. Odds are, the seasoned sales types look busy or disappear for lunch. When a know-it-all, whether 10 or 40, comes onto the lot, no salesperson is going to get into an argument with them. Why bother? Odds are their minds are already made up before they get out of the car. Very often the ‘C-lawyer’ is there to give reasons NOT to buy your vehicle. I actually had clients come back without their ‘help’ because they recognized their ‘expert’ was not helping the process.
    2. Sorry, but any parents that listen to their 10 year old on a purchase as significant as a new vehicle are nuts. Humour him, certainly – that’s good parenting. Include him in the decision if you must, but rely on him/her? What use is a data dump? In my hey-day, I could data dump with the best of them, but that doesn’t sell cars. Never did, never will. At 14, I talked friend’s parents out of a Charger SE (no back window, cramped seats for a family) but I certainly did not talk them into an LTD Brougham that rusted out in 3 years.
    A good salesman will engage the precocious kid and try to control the situation; I great salesman will walk away when it become clear the process is tainted. They are professionals (although that may vary from state to state) and their time is worth something, too.
    Often if a family showed up and we were busy, I would break the group up and either take the actual buyer(s) on the test drive, or offer a time when they could come back without distractions. To do otherwise is just foolish. You cannot focus on 4 or 5 opinions and voices.
    3. As usual, the contempt many posters on this site have for dealerships shows the total lack of respect for the process in place to sell vehicles. OEMs spend billions on product knowledge and sales skills. You may not need that assistance, but most consumers do.
    I was sent to Chicago in 2000 for a 3 day seminar. GM would bring in the latest F-150, Ram, and Silverado for comparison. Or the Accord, Camry, Intrepid and Impala. We’d spend the day focusing on each vehicles strengths and weaknesses. It’s too bad posters here never met ME on the show room floor. At the Auto Shows I had a lot of fun. There I was never under the same constraints to be a$$ kissing polite back.
    Undoubtedly, there are bad salespeople out there and even bad dealerships, but anyone who arrives on the lot with a chip on their shoulder is likely going to get what they give.
    4. With regard to financing, again this group is not typical. Most people cannot afford cash, which is generally (but not always) the best way to buy. (Is there any such thing as CASH? Are you not breaking investments, or selling something to come up with that cash?)
    In the tundra, most loans for new or newer vehicles include a depreciation clause for the first 2 years. I handled several transactions where a vehicle was totaled in the first year and the buyer was out of pocket zippo, especially for the GMAC Smartleases.

    The trouble with the jaded group on this board is that if you all go around spewing your venom, the uninitiated begin to believe that it is true. Or perhaps your friends/acquaintances are savvy enough to take the source into consideration and YOU are the one being humoured.

    • 0 avatar

      …And how does that make you FEEL, carbiz ? You can tell us, and don’t sugar-coat it this time. Don’t keep it bottled up inside…c’mon, you can do it. :-)

      • 0 avatar

        Gee, we’re allow to rant on and on what shits every car salesman is. But let one defend his profession, and maybe insinuate that the customer isn’t any better . . . . . . .

    • 0 avatar

      “…the total lack of respect for the process in place to sell vehicles…”

      I almost just got a screen full of Thai basil after reading that.


    • 0 avatar

      Haha, made me laugh too. “Respect the process of selling cars”??? Even if you are as knowledgable and fair as you say,you represent about 10% of the salesman/dealers out there. Thats why we have so much contempt for the industry. The majority of dealers out there are simply trying to hoodwink the uninformed buyer to make as much profit as possible, fair or not. And the great majority of car salesman take that “millions of dollars of training” and flush it down the toilet. Either they do not care at all about learning thier product, or they simply think it doesn’t matter, i.e. selling is seling, regardless of the product. It is very rare that I meet a salesman who knows anywhere enough information about the cars they sell, and it is scary how often they lie about information, thinking we won’t notice. I don’t engage, once a salesman starts lying or shows his lack of knowledge, I move on. They care about the process you speak of: get me into a car thats in stock, get me to sign something, get me into finance and do it in one visit so I cant research or change my mind. All they want is the deal. Most people I know are not into cars, even people who like cars are not fanatics, they dont have the level of useless and detailed knowledge that the typical TTAC reader does. And thats OK, its not everyone’s hobby like it is ours. The problem is, the typical dealership preys on those consumers, whether on the sales floor or in the service bay. It isnt right, it isnt fair, and I will continue to beleive that until I see proof that the MAJORITY of the industry changes. Unfortunately I do not see that happening anytime soon… it is simply more profitable to make money with deceptive practices than to be fair.

    • 0 avatar

      Look, if you don’t want any of us to darken the door of your dealership, just say so. No need to write a book.

      • 0 avatar

        Perhaps remedial English would help: from the very second line,
        “…from someone who WAS in the business 11 years.”
        I got out because after 56 years in business, the GM store that built an empire in the Toronto are was closed because the parent company was making too much money selling imports.
        Rather than whore myself out selling Toyotas, I went back to school and changed vocations.
        I have no vested interests in where the armchair critics buy their vehicles, but many of you are hypocrites: hate the dealer until it’s time to test drive the next purchase, or just kick tires on a Saturday because you’re bored.

    • 0 avatar

      You might be the upstanding, do the right thing kind of salesman. Nullo also sounds that way as well. But sorry, the industry earned the reputation it has by being deceitful s-bags that want to rape their customers. And if they can’t do it in the showroom, the repair shop is waiting with open bays. The stuff I have overheard is amazing. This industry is rotten to the core.

      • 0 avatar

        …then pay sticker. Simple as that. If you want to sell your grandmother to save a few bucks, knock yourself out. The process can be as easy or as hard as YOU make it.
        When I am ready for my next purchase, I will go to two dealers, get their ‘best price,’ tell both of them, then return and buy it from the store that gave the best combo of experience and price.
        Could I shop, agonize and harass dealers? I could. But life is too short, and the lousy two or five hundred bucks I’d save is not worth the hassle.
        Most people blow that in a year on overpriced lattes at Starbucks.

      • 0 avatar

        carbiz: “then pay sticker”

        I certainly don’t see how that follows. If I can improve the deal by $1K with two hours of work, that’s $500/hour. In fact, that would be $500 I could spend at Starbucks because I very much like coffee and I do, in fact, like Starbucks coffee. McDonald’s and SuperAmerica just don’t measure up. It’s sort of like how I preferred a used Toyota to a brand-new Cavalier.

        “I got out because after 56 years in business, the GM store that built an empire in the Toronto are was closed because the parent company was making too much money selling imports.”

        Around here, that’s not quite how it works. Just because product line B is more profitable in some way than product line A does not mean we cancel product line A. Now, if we could make *more* money on a new product line by reinvesting the resources formerly devoted to product line A into product line C, or additional resources into product line B, then product line A goes on the block. In practice, this means A was only marginally profitable or maybe operated at a loss.

        Given the number of dealers that needed to be culled and the narrow margins common on GM cars, the fleet sales, etc, a highly profitable GM business seems very likely to be completely unlikely.

        “Rather than whore myself out selling Toyotas, ”

        Oh, I see… you did consider it a profession.

  • avatar

    As a parent, I generally didn’t let my 10 year olds monopolize the conversation. Children should be seen and not heard.

    However, there’s salespeople that understand how to deal with clients and then there are salepeople that don’t. I’m thinking we have a story about a Type B salesperson here. If the kids knows the car and Dad’s going with the flow, sell the car to the kid and let Dad sign the check.

  • avatar

    I have always found that I know more about the product than the salesman. This is because I research the vehicle intensively before I step foot on the lot. I used to be dismayed by this lack of knowledge, but now I just come to expect it and am amused when salesman try to impress me with their often poor understanding of features of the vehicles they are selling. In three decades and fifteen car purchases, I have found exactly one Sales Associate that actually knew what he was talking about — a VW guy who also happened to be an enthusiast. I’ve never understood why the business is so infused with such poorly trained people, particularly when so much money is involved. But I guess the evolution from the horse trading business still influences everything done, even today.

    I long for the day when all dealerships are owned by the manufacturers, where all prices are fixed with no possible negotiation, where all slimy sales pitches for extended warranties, VIN number etching, and rust proofing undercoating are banished, and all cars are built to order, exactly to my specifications. Alas, with the laws protecting the local dealership hegemony, this will never happen.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t say I disagree with you on that one. The manufacturers benefit the most from the adversarial relationship. They get to pick and choose who to swoop in on and play the white knight.
      But the consumer wants to get raped, frankly. Toyota got its knuckles wrapped big time several years back when it tried to hock vehicles via the internet at western Canadian dealers for a fixed price. Consumer groups went ballistic.
      The bottom line: you’ll never be sure you got the ‘best’ price, and I feel sorry for the consumers (many of whom haunt these boards) who stay awake nights worrying about that.
      Somebody, somewhere may have gotten that Civic $5 cheaper than I did….

    • 0 avatar

      Almost all care salesmen ARE enthusiasts. They’re not car enthusiasts, they’re making money enthusiasts. Look for the expensive gold watch.

  • avatar

    Me, too. I got MT, C & D and R & T. My parents were just relieved I was reading SOMETHING. I quickly learned car salesmen did not love cars like I did, they were just salesmen who might as well be selling appliances. My Dad taught me a few tricks as well. The check to prove he was serious was from a long ago closed account. He would tell the dealer this later. He always brought a second set of keys, just in case the dealer `lost` our keys after they looked at the trade-in. We used the other set more than once. And he always got pre-approved by the bank, a move that pissed off many an F and I man. But he often ignored my suggestions – he only bought American, period.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Hey Carbiz, defending car salesmen is like trying to defend rabid dogs. How bout this: advertise your lowest price on the internet. 2. I come back from a test drive. 3. I go get a check from the bank. 4. Don’t steal my car while you’re “appraising” it; don’t trap me at desk and haggle for hours; wasting my time pisses me off. 5. Walk me to whoever I give my check to. 6. Fetch me coffee, I like cream in mine, as I finish the paperwork.
    Let the internet be your friend. If I like your car and have financing, get your commission for answering a few e-mails and walking me to the F&I person. Is this so hard? Or does the lust of making the sale drive you?

    • 0 avatar

      The internet is a crock. You want better salespeople? Pay sticker. Guys I know that are still in the ‘biz make a fraction of what their predecessors did 20 or 30 years ago.
      I used to get all the internet leads for our dealership. I even did up a template so I could blast out 30 or 40 quotes in a day. We were offering vehicles for $600 over sticker, in an age when the average ‘gross’ in the Toronto area was about $1,400. Guess what: after 3 months and ONE sale, our Sales Manager told the General Manager to stuff it.
      First off, 3/4 of the people on the internet are time wasters. One clown (from Windsor Ontario) had left the email address trail on his heading: he had emailed nearly every GM dealer from Windsor to Toronto, looking for a Malibu. That one went into the garbage.
      Some dealers have tried hiring internet specialists. Not worth it.
      Salespeople should be on salary, they should be advisors and vehicles should be sold at a fixed price. Too bad franchise laws and ‘consumer protection’ forbids the latter.
      So the games will continue.

  • avatar

    In a way, I talked my parents into buying a new 1961 VW bug. I was commuting to college in my hopped-up 1948 Ford 2-door, and was giving Mom and Pop a sales pitch about how cheap Volkswagens were to own and run. Pop said that if I sold my car he’d buy a new bug. Well, three days later I had it sold and Pop had to make good on his promise. They kept the car for two years – I put a lot of commuting miles on it the first year – and it gave them and me excellent service for 70,000 miles with only routine maintenance needed. They traded it plus $750.00 for a new 1963 bug.

  • avatar

    These stories are nice, but did ever a child prevent the sale of a vehicle from a dealership that was truly out to financially rape the customer? I’m talking about the sort of dealer that has (note: this outfit operated in the late seventies and eighties) financing set up so the customer isn’t aware that the monthly payment isn’t really X but rather X+Y. Then when sufficient payments have been made, the dealer repossesses the vehicle because in fact the customer has only paid X and not X+Y. My brother had a high school classmate who was making a lot of money in his used car lots doing pretty much exactly this.

  • avatar

    Given that the load of us are car geeks, we’re expecting way too much from a car salesman. In the first place, any good salesman is there to sell. Period. What the item being sold is of secondary consideration.

    As for my prime example, I always look to my late father: He discovered during his adolescence (if you could call it that, seeing it happened at the height of the 1929 Depression) the he could sell things. Pigs from the family farm. Making deals with the local CCC camp for waste food to feed the pigs. Etc., etc., etc. After finishing high school, six months at the local Bethlehem Steel plant showed him that the last thing he wanted to do for the next forty years was work in a steel mill like everybody else in Johnstown, PA. Any other skills? Well, he’d already shown himself that he knew how to sell. And he picked automobiles as something with a good profit margin and lower customer resistance (you actually sold them a tool they could use, unlike something like insurance).

    The job of a salesman is to sell. Sell, sell, sell. If they haven’t gotten you to sign on the dotted line, they’ve wasted their time – which, surprise, surprise, is just as valuable as yours. Sure, that 10 year old had a better knowledge of that car than the salesman. That 10 year old also has nothing better to do with his life at this point than memories the brochures, webpages, and whatever else is used to advertise that car. The salesman? Hmmn, there’s all those nasty little adult matters that tend to crop up on a 24/7 basis, plus his job (and not just memorizing car facts, little things like sales quotas, dealing with his manager, etc.) that tend to get in the way of memorizing all the sales brochures.

    And, to boot, most car salesmen aren’t car enthusiasts. As my father so gently put it (on his deathbed in the hospital) when we were having one of our “Hallman Chevrolet” talks, “Son, get something thru your head. Those cars were units. Items that had to be sold, if I wanted a paycheck next week. And if they weren’t sold, they were floor planning that was sucking the life out of the dealership.” And he finally drove it home that the car enthusiasm I saw in him as a young child was nothing more that a loving father enjoying watching his son having the time of his young life. Unfortunately for dad, his dream of my following him into the business never happened.

    And a lot of this constant whinging about salesmen who don’t know all the details reminds me of someone whom I have the painful duty of knowing: My sister-in-law (aka, Mother Superior, as I call her in my politer moments). Attempting to tell her anything is to run into the buzz saw of questions. Questions, questions, questions. The Spanish Inquisition minus Monty Python. For every answer you can give, that’s not good enough, here comes another question. And another question. Until we finally reach The Most Important Question.

    The one I can’t answer. Which is the whole purpose of the exercise, to be in a position where she can take an attitude of “you don’t know that, obviously I’m better than you.”

    I hear a lot of that amongst the (so-called) Best and Brightest anytime the concept of dealership or car salesman comes up. Gawd, we just gotta be superior.

    • 0 avatar

      No one is saying the salesman has to know every detail. I wouldn’t expect anyone to know everything, even me. But what we do want is for them not to lie about it. The only reason I even brought it up was because @carbiz mentioned the millions of dollars manufacturers spend on training the sales staff, which is useless if the sales staff doesn’t give a [email protected]

      Most of the complaints about sales isnt about lack of knowledge, it is about the deceptive practices used. @carbiz’s attitude about “then pay sticker” is exactly the problem, they want everyone to walk in and lay down to get raped, and anyone who attempts to shop around or get a better deal is “wasting thier valuable time” and “making the process harder”.

      I work in a sales driven field… IT, with deals worth 10x a car purchase, or more. I work with some extremely successful sales people, some of which know almost nothing about the product, and others that are almost as tech savvy as the engineers. Regardless, we dont ever lie about the product, we dont hide the prices, we dont even hide our profit margins, it is all out there in the open. And none of our customers goes home feeling ripped off or pissed off, we don’t waste thier time even when they waste ours. Thats sales, like it or not. The salesman is the one profiting from our purchase, and that means he has to deal with the time wasters along with the committed buyers. Thinking they are above that is where all the problems start. I am not looking to save $5, or selling my grandmother and calling 25 dealers. I want to feel like I wasn’t ripped off, and I want to not waste my time OR the salesmans time. It goes both ways.

      I have bought a couple dozen cars in my life, and I even tried selling cars briefly. I have had some good experiences, some bad, most in-between. Obviously it doesnt HAVE to be a painful process, but the guys who make it painful are also the ones who tend to profit the most, which is why it happens.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    “Mother Superior” that’s funny. I think most people hate the overall car dealership experience. It’s start with shut the vehicle door and wait, 3-2-1 Can I help you sir? Tell em what you want and in these colors. Well sir, we have something close to that on the back lot. You go look at the vehicle on the back lot, this is an emotional decision for most of us. Meanwhile, they’re taking your vehicle out for appraisal. A the voodoo lounge? To see how well it does on an inner-city crack run? Who knows? Your offered a soft drink or coffee as u sit in the salesman cubicle and get to hear other deals being made. Some guy from service comes and mumbles to the salesperson. Their trade-in offer is lower than blue book, it’s more like it’s been beaten with a baseball bat and they tranny’s shot offer. You negotiate that offer with your salesperson making at least one trip to the sales manager. I know my vehicle is X years old but sheesh, when the same vehicle is retailing for twice your trade-in offer, doubt clouds begin to form. More negotiations go on. Once trade-in is agreed, then come the list price negotiations. It usually starts with sir, we’ll give you 200$ off list price. Much more negotiating goes on. Then the sir, we’d like a deposit. For what? The vehicle is hidden in BFE on the back lot. Nope, that deposit goes in the salesperson’s pocket that day. If the numbers are right, I’ll go to my bank and get a check. Think you’re out of hell? Not a chance. Then you have to listen to the F&I people prattle on about extended muffler bearing warranties and special cup holder spray that absorb soda can sweat. You decline all of the above. Paperwork signed you wait for your new car. You go out for a smoke and a coke. Your frantic salesperson comes up in near panic and tells you that ole Leon and Duane are still prepping your car. You check your watch, you’ve pissed away half the day. YMMV, but I bet I’m not the 1st person who’s been through this shit.

    The cheaper the car the more you stick to your numbers. However most of the B&B want a Cherry Red Thunderbolt Grease Slapper Gomez Addams Special Edition. You’ve done your due diligence and this is the only dealer in 100 miles with a Cherry Red Thunderbolt Grease Slapper Gomez Addams Special Edition. Keep your number firmish, this is the ride you want. It sucks when reality sets in, LOL.

    If you don’t like the numbers, walk. I’ve demanded my keys back more than once. I had to threaten to threaten to call the cops to get my keys back one time. They had my car for 2 hours and hadn’t brought it back. You and your salesperson are diametrically opposed. You want to buy it as cheap as possible and they want to sell it to you for as much as possible. Salespeople are not your buddy, friend or anything else, they’re salesperson.

    I’ve had ALL my bad experiences at the big three dealerships. Stuff like this turns me off from buying a used Corvette from a Chevy dealer. Cadillac is the exception. The foreign luxury guys seem to keep the 1st paragraph run-around to a minimum.

    I have a family friend who’s sold my extended family many, many cars. The cars are usually new trade-ins and priced fairly and the deal goes smoothly. My Mom bought a car off him that hadn’t even been washed by the dealership, the trade-in was that new. Also it’s good if the dealership sells Cherry Red Thunderbolt Grease Slapper Gomez Addams Special Edition to have the service records for the Cherry Red Thunderbolt Grease Slapper Gomez Addams Special Edition.

    I’ve rambled way too long and apologize for any and all grammatical errors. No trademark/copyright infringement intended.

  • avatar

    There’s one huge difference between “then” and now which plays a role, the greatly increased lifespan of new cars. Then, 80k was high mileage and a 100,000 mile car was on its deathbed. A salesman who was perceived as doing a good job could count on a repeat visit from that 2 car family in 3-5 years. In time, building his portfolio of customers, a good one could make a decent living just by servicing repeat customers. Today, with many new-car buyers keeping their cars in the family for 10-15 years or more, this mode doesn’t work anymore. Hence the focus by sales staff on getting that one killer deal with no regard for longer-term consequences.

  • avatar

    My father is another of those who almost NEVER listened to his son when looking at purchasing cars. I say almost because he finally admitted to me that he knew naff all about cars and wanted some help for his last purchase. I asked his preferences, drew up a shortlist, got him in contact with a half decent dealer (a mate of mine), got him a test drive and bingo. He got what he wanted. 70,000 miles later he is still as happy as a pig in sh*t.

  • avatar

    Sounds like I need to find some kid to go car shopping with, just to irritate the salesman. LOL

    Nice story.

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