By on March 9, 2014


“Saturday morning, Studly!” Jimmy slurped aggressively from his third cup of coffee. Over his shoulder, past the tall plate glass of the recently remodeled dealership, the sun was just starting to rise. He punched me playfully on the shoulder. “Another chance to make yourself rich and famous.”

Jimmy was one of the more tenured salespeople on my lot. His ever-growing paunch, concealed by the poly blend polo we all had to wear, sagged grotesquely over his belt, severely testing the strength of the waistband of his worn cotton khakis. He had been athletic at some point (or at least the pictures on the wall of his cubicle suggested he had), but now his six-foot three inch frame showed the wear of three years of seventy hour workweeks. Undoubtedly, Jimmy had consumed enough coffee and food from the roach coach to kill normal men.

I had not.

That Saturday was my first at Wayne Nelson Automotive. I was fresh out of college—and when I say fresh out of college, I don’t mean I was a college graduate. I mean that I was fresh out of money. My parents hadn’t been able to give me much help for college, so I had been forced to “take a break,” as I called it, just after my twentieth birthday. The job market for under-experienced kids wasn’t so hot, so I answered an ad on a jobs board for a “New Car Consultant” at Wayne Nelson, which was the biggest dealer in town. We had eleven rooftops, all in one big row just outside of the outer belt. I had seen more Wayne Nelson commercials growing up than I could remember. He was known throughout the city as being a drunk and a philanderer, but he was also a big supporter of local college athletics, which forgave a lot of sins in the South. Nobody in the city knew it, but Wayne was just the face of the dealership. His older brother, David, was the brains of the operation. He gave Wayne enough money to be dangerous and to deflect the attention of the public while he did the day-to-day operations.

As such, it was David who led the Saturday morning sales meetings. Apparently, we all had to show up an hour early on Saturdays, “So that David can scream at us for not hitting the ever moving targets that he sets for us,” laughed Jimmy. “Then we go back to our stores and our GM takes a turn yelling at us. Then the New Car Manager takes his shots. It’s a real fuckin’ inspiration fest, I tell ya.”

I had not exactly set the world on fire my first week on the floor at the CDJR (that’s Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-RAM) store. I sold precisely zero cars. The only family I had sold on a unit turned out to be credit roaches. I’d worked fifty-seven hours before I set foot on the lot that morning. I knew that I had at least another ten hours ahead of me that day, and even worse…it was gypsy sale day.

“What’s a gypsy sale?” I had asked Jimmy earlier in the week when I first saw some of the administrative staff hanging up the big SALE posters around the showroom floor.

“Basically, we pay this ad agency a gazillion fuckin’ dollars to send out a gazillion fuckin’ mailers to whatever segment of the population that we’re targeting this week,” he had replied while smoking away on his fourth cigarette of the morning outside the door to the repair shop. He coughed in a way that made me concerned for his health, then flicked his cigarette into the nearby sewer grate. “Normally we do a bunch of special finance bullshit that we don’t make a fuckin’ dime on. They come in with a bunch of balloons and hot dogs and a big sales board. Every time we sell a car, we have to go to them and report it. They ring some big fuckin’ bell and shout your name out and high-five each other. Christ.”

I knew what cars we’d be trying to push that day—it was going to be the day we got rid of the remaining 2013 Dodge Avengers. The special finance companies LOVED them. We could get just about any roach on the lot approved for an Avenger. Just prove that you make $1000 a month and you can walk away with a 72 month term and a $379 payment. Don’t do the math on that. It will make you die a little inside.

Jimmy and I snuck into the back of the big conference room, taking a seat at the last table, right in front of the boxes of donuts and the carafes of coffe. Sure enough, there was David, dressed in a suit that probably cost more than I was gonna make in three months at the dealership, pacing back and forth like a caged panther at the front. Every new car salesman from all eleven rooftops was in the room. There were easily over a hundred of us, mostly young and out of shape men, wearing whatever wrinkled polo shirt was approved at their respective rooftop. A few women, but not many—it was tough for a woman to make it in that environment. Sexual harassment was the rule, not the exception.

New Car sales is where they stuck all the newbies—everybody knew that the money was in Used Cars, but you had to prove your worth on the New Car side before they would let you sell Used. I really wished that I had been hired at one of the import stores. Honda, Toyota, Nissan…Lexus would have been nice, but there was nobody there under forty. But I was so eager to get started that I would have taken a job mopping the floors. Which, ironically, would have paid more money than I had made so far.

“Who’s ready to sell some CARS today?” David screamed at the top of this lungs. The GMs and the New Car managers whooped in excitement, and clapped along. I looked at Jimmy. He barely registered a pulse.

“Come on, Nelson Automotive! LET ME HEAR YOU!” David was clapping rhythmically, staring at each one of us in turn to ensure we had the spirit, or something like that. Fuck. I hated rah-rah shit like this. But, I hadn’t earned the right to NOT be rah-rah yet. So, much to Jimmy’s amusement, I started clapping right along with him.

“Now, let me tell you how today is gonna work, for you rookies. We sent a shit ton of postcards out to credit challenged customers. Each one of ’em has a key attached to it that could “potentially” win a new Chrysler 300.” All of the more veteran sales guys laughed at this. Apparently nobody would be winning a new car that day.

“We’re gonna make them all stop at the welcome center and fill out a quick credit app if they wanna have a shot to win the car. When we run them, we’re gonna hand them back their key and a Nelson Automotive balloon. If they have a beacon score below 570, they get a red balloon. 570 to 660 gets a yellow balloon. 660+ gets a green balloon. They’ll have to carry the balloon around with them in order to get a sales appointment.”

I poked Jimmy.

“What is it?” he whispered.

“Is he fucking serious?” I whispered back. “You can’t do that!”

“As a heart attack,” Jimmy replied, followed by a coughing spasm.

David had continued on. “Rookies, you get the red balloons. These are the special finance customers. Try to push them to an Avenger or a 200. Write up the foursquare so that it focuses on the payment. Do NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, mention the 24.99% APR. Got it?”

He continued to talk about how much the sale had cost him, and how many cars we were going to have to sell to break even. It was a LOT. The sale had apparently cost the dealership group over fifty grand, and each rooftop was going to be billed for its part if we didn’t make our goal. I didn’t know exactly what that meant to me or my paycheck, but I assumed that it wasn’t good.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too focused on the gypsy sale. You see, I had an appointment coming in that day. I had been given a lead by the Internet department earlier in the week on a Chrysler Town and Country Limited. The name was Tom Nestor—sounded like a solid name. He had come in as a Black Book lead, looking to trade in a 2011 328i. Said he was finishing up a 36 month lease with BMW Financial, so I knew he’d be a good credit score. Plus, the model he was looking at had about $2500 of gross front end profit on it, so it promised to be a good payday for me. That was all I needed…just one to get me started. I knew that once I sold my first car, I’d be off and running.

Jimmy and I took a golf cart back over to the CDJR store. “You gotta pop your sales cherry today, Logan,” he bleated. “You know, bend that bitch over and—”

“I got it, Jimmy.” Subtlety was not his forte.

When we got back to the store, there was a big yellow board in the back room with all of our names on it, just like David had said. My target for the day was 3 cars, and if I hit it, I got some bullshit ticket for a drawing for a trip to Puerto Rico. If I had won a trip to Puerto Rico, all I would have been able to afford to do would have been sit by the pool and drink free water. I needed cash, not prizes.

The sale started slowly. Jimmy got a green balloon for his first up, a young guy looking at a Challenger R/T, but the kid was armed to the gills with information.

“Kid’s gonna get this car for invoice minus holdback,” Jimmy complained to me outside after the customer went into the F&I office. “Another fucking mini deal for me.” He flicked another cigarette into the drain. “The kid has gold balls for credit, too. Here’s hoping he needs gap insurance.”

“I’d take a mini at this point,” I replied. I’d had three red balloons, but there were obviously just there to try to win the car. After their keys miraculously failed to start the 300, they had bolted.

But just then, I heard one of the most wonderful sounds to ever bounce around in my ear. Our hot little receptionist, Christina, whom everybody had (unsuccessfully) tried to tag, spoke words that she had never spoken before.

“Logan Brookline, please come to the New Car showroom. You have a customer waiting for you. Logan Brookline to the New Car showroom.”

Yes! My T&C customer. I maneuvered back to the showroom as quickly as I could without seeming too anxious, my heart racing. Finally, my chance to prove myself.

I saw a set of “ups” near the sales tower when I arrived—a well-dressed but unattractive man, maybe in his early forties, and a younger woman, closer to thirty, but desperately trying to look twenty-two. Tight jeans, severe make-up, and big blonde hair, she had the look of a former Southern Belle. Dancing a perfect circle around the two of them was a girl of maybe seven, skipping and prancing as she clung to her new favorite possession—a string that was tied neatly around her wrist at one end, and to a red balloon at the other.

I politely excused myself as I squeezed past them up to the tower. My sales manager sat there, penciling deals furiously with his glasses halfway down his pointed nose.

“Hey, Todd,” I said to him. “Have you seen my T&C customers? I got paged that they were here.”

He looked up at me and pointed directly behind me. “There they are. The credit criminal with the pageant queen girlfriend and her kid.”

Shit. You’ve gotta be kidding me, I thought. I walked back toward them and introduced myself.

“Tom?” I asked, hoping and praying that it wasn’t him.

“Yeah,” he smiled back at me, extending his hand. “This is Jackie,” gesturing towards the blonde, who smiled thinly and shook my hand, “and here’s the reason we need that new van, our princess, Keely.” The little girl didn’t stop her dance long enough to acknowledge me, still twirling around and singing her favorite Disney princess song. She was a dead ringer for her mom, right down to the hair and makeup.

“It’s getting more and more difficult for us to take Keely and all of her friends around to ballet, soccer, and gymnastics in the little Beemer, so we figured it was time to upgrade—and by upgrade, I really mean downgrade for me, hahaha. But she’s worth it.” He smiled warmly at his wife and daughter. Jackie gave him a sharp look and then returned to her iPhone.

“I’m sure she is, sir.” They had to have gotten this guy wrong at the welcome center. There’s just no way he had pulled under a 570 FICO score. “Let’s go drive that beautiful vehicle.” I quickly made a copy of his drivers license and grabbed the keys to the only T&C Limited we had.

We took one of the golf carts out on the lot, stopping by their car to grab Keely’s booster seat. I had been expecting to see a 328i, but instead we had stopped at an early 2000s V6 Mustang, white with a cracked air dam. “We brought Jackie’s car,” explained Tom. “She’s getting tired of moving the seat forward to get Keely in and out.” Things were starting to get weird. Why was she driving this old foxbody if he had a BMW?

Upon arrival at the Chrysler, I pointed out all the things that I had learned from poring over the brochure the night before. “It has class-leading luxury, sir. It has won the JD Power award for thirteen years in a row. It’s simply the best van on the market.” Do you know how tough it is to feign some sort of excitement for a minivan when you’re twenty years old?

“Honey,” said Tom, looking in Jackie’s direction, “what do you think of it?”

She looked genuinely disgusted. “It’s white. Like refrigerator white. Miranda’s is called True Blue.”
He looked back at me. “Do you have any blue ones?”

She snapped at him. “I don’t want the same fucking color she has. Christ. But I certainly don’t want white.”

I stood, rooted to the spot in my Bass shoes, waiting for somebody to speak. Finally, I decided to break the silence.

“Ma’am, if you decide that you like the van, we can do what’s called a dealer trade to go get one for you in whatever color you like.”

“Fine,” she said, and she buried her eyes back into her phone, returning to her previous state of disinterest.

Tom laughed uneasily. I laughed back, because that’s what you do when your customer laughs. I handed him the keys, helped Keely into the second-row captain’s chair with her booster, and waved them goodbye as they went on their test drive. “Take your time, guys!”

I drove the golf cart as quickly as it would go back to the showroom, hoping to find that I was right about Tom’s credit score. I ran back to the F&I office and banged open the door. All three of our finance managers were working that day, furiously working the phones.

“I need Tom Nestor’s credit report, please.” One of them handed it to me from the stack of papers on the desk without even looking up. Unreal. It was a 520. Bankruptcy two years ago. Well, so much for my sale.

I went back outside and waited for them to return. Nothing to do but kick the gravel around and wait. It really made me wish that I smoked like all the other sales guys. Maybe I could start.

I greeted them when they pulled back onto the lot. “It’s quite a vehicle, huh?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Tom as he exited the drivers’ side door. “Very smooth. Keely loved the DVD player in the back, didn’t you, honey?” She didn’t acknowledge him as she danced out of the car, singing and twirling. “I think it’s safe to say we’re interested in it. Let’s work some numbers, shall we?”

“Well, how much money were you planning to put down?” I asked, hoping and praying he was going to say something that sounded like he was a cash buyer.

“None. I saw that you have 1.9% financing over sixty months. I think I’d like to do that.”

“Well, that’s for very well-qualified buyers, sir. Let’s go sit at my desk.”

I led them through the showroom to my cubicle at the very back. Every other salesperson had awards, photos, decorations. I had a bobblehead from a Cincinnati Reds game three years ago. I was trying to think of some way I could sell them that van. There was no bank in America that would make him a $45,000 loan.
“Sit down, guys. Keely, honey, there’s a children’s play area over there.” I pointed her to our kids’ area. It was more designed for preschoolers, but whatever. I needed her out of there. She skipped over and started playing at the train table.

I took a deep breath and started talking.

“Tom, Jackie, listen,” I began. “We’re running into a snag with the financing. Your credit score is what we call ‘sub-prime.’ I’ve asked my finance managers to try to secure financing for you but we’ve been unsuccessful in finding a bank that is willing to finance you on that vehicle.”

I have never seen someone snap so hard and so quickly as Jackie did at that moment. “Jesus, Tom. We need that fucking van! Do something.” She got up and stormed over to the play area.

Tom folded his hands meekly in his lap, averting his eyes away from mine. He spoke softly.

“I went through a bad divorce a little bit over two years ago. Jackie had been my assistant at work. My wife caught us having an affair. She asked me for a divorce…well, first she ran up all of my credit cards. Then she asked me for a divorce.”

He continued to talk as he stared out of the window. “Keely is her daughter, not mine. I’ve asked to adopt her…she says that Keely needs time. I don’t know. I wanted to get her this van. I thought it might help. She quit working when we got married, but between the alimony payments and my debt…” He stopped talking.

I really wanted to help this guy. “We could look at a Caravan. We have some models that start right around twenty grand, and we have some special financing available.”

He stood up and extended his hand. “I don’t think that’s going to work out. She really wanted the Town and Country. All the women in the neighborhood have one, or something like it.” I shook his hand, and my only potential sale of the day walked away.

I stood and watched as they walked back to the Mustang, his hands in his pockets, her wild gesticulations accompanied by vocal berating that was silenced by the showroom glass between us. Keely, still clinging to her favorite red balloon as she skipped back to the car.

Jimmy walked into my cube, sipping on his coffee mug. “You walked them?? What the hell, buddy? You ever planning on selling a car here?”

I looked him up and down. His slick hair, his greasy skin, his sagging belly.

“No, I’m not. Tell David I quit.”

I shoved my way past him, tossed my name tag on the desk, and headed toward the front door.

“Where are you going?” cooed Christina from her perch at the receptionist’s desk.

As I looked back toward her, I took in the entire scene. Balloons everywhere. Eighties music blaring. Fluorescent light beating down. Grown men screaming at each other.

“To find my dignity. I hope.”

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72 Comments on “Sunday Stories: “99 Red Balloons” By Bark M....”

  • avatar

    This may be the best article I’ve ever read here.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 – is it really fiction?

      • 0 avatar


        • 0 avatar

          If fiction, rings true. Back at my first law job, a woman came in. She was a salt of the earth, hard working woman, who bought a Mitsubishi Colt. She was very proud she’d done this without her husband. The dealer saw her coming with a telescope, and on a 60 month note, the car came to a total of 26k all in. (I think it was 15k with taxes, at the time.)

          At that time, the 944 I was drooling upon was 25k.

          We put the car back on the lot (to a yelling sales manager) with a letter notifying them the sale was recinded. Since she got to us before she’d made a payment, we were able to get the finance company to back down and void the “sale”.

          I consider this my first “win”.

          Takeaway: When a buyer squeals about a bad deal, the usual dealer reply is “just make a payment and we will work it out”. This act is called “attornment”, and means you have accepted the terms. Don’t do it.

  • avatar

    Good story. Reminds me of some of Jack’s early Avoidable Contact articles from when he sold cars. Too bad it didn’t work out for Logan, selling cars is a tough gig.

  • avatar

    And that is why my wife got out of the mortgage business. When the single mother McDonalds assistant manager grossing $2000 was approved for an $800 mortgage, it was time to leave for dignity’s sake.

  • avatar

    There must be something wrong with me, but I always get deep amusement out of stories involving people who are in complete denial over just how f’ed up their lives are. Saying you want 1.9% financing with no money down when you KNOW your credit is completely worthless is like me saying I want to ride a Unicorn to work tomorrow instead of driving my 1995 Sable.

    The term “credit criminal” nearly made me spit out my coffee.

    • 0 avatar

      This type of person is a daily affair at a car dealership. Most of the time you just humor them and write up a deal to “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks,” then bring them back a few days later for the box close (throw them in f&i and let the finance manager bump them on the payment and rate or switch them on the car).

  • avatar

    Stories like this are one of the reasons I look forward to Sundays.

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    Ha! This one reminds me of my dealership days. Some broad tried to buy a brand new Subaru WRX with a – no joke – $800 a month income. Her boyfriend made nearly six figures but she refused to let him cosign cuz she wanted to do this all by herself.

  • avatar

    I figured it worked kinda like the Nixon tapes – I’m sold on Zipcar. Yeah I can zip my fly to that, there’s my dignity. Adipose tissues them dealerships, banks, big oil & insurance all for a car.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Great story. One of the best posts on here that I can remember.

  • avatar

    Sounds like all the good times I had working in a collection agency for 6 months, many years ago.

  • avatar

    This was every day of my life until two years ago. Even shucking used cars in an independent dealer was like this in destitute Pasco County. Only instead of loaded T&Cs, it was people who ‘did lawn work on the side’ with no documentable income who wanted King Ranch Crew Cabs.

    Hated bogues. Still do. But it came with the white trash area we sold cars in. Prior to that I worked at a subprime lot in south St. Pete and even the homeboys came to the table with a reasonable amount of cash down.

    Worst two years of my life in Hudson. The worst.

    • 0 avatar

      Bogues. There’s a term I haven’t thought of in quite a while. ;)

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t miss bogues one bit. Though they make good stories, they’re huge time wasters. I remember one rather portly woman started verbally lashing out on one of the salesmen about why her fiance’s payment/rate on an H2 HUMMER we had was so high (430 FICO + slow/no pay = 28% or state cap…sorry). My retorts were pretty much…
        1) If your credit is better why don’t you cosign? Oh, wait. You’re unemployed.
        2) No, you can’t buy a ‘new’ HUMMER for that much; its 2011. You can’t buy a new one period.
        3) Don’t talk to my salesman like that.
        4) Get the f**k off the lot.

        In the past two years of retailing/wholesaling at a small 50-unit independent in a FAR NICER area financially and demographically (Google Palm Harbor, FL and then Hudson, FL for the culture shock difference), I’ve done a more minimal amount of subprime, but NEVER any bogues. Just genuinely nice people who have garbage credit. Which is the business. But, Jesus, folks, be a human being about yourself…

        And I type this waiting for a couple to finish their test drive on an ’11 Escape, so the beat does indeed go on!

        • 0 avatar

          I worked for a large dealership chain in the South, sometimes we would be shunted from dealership to dealership to help out with “tent sales” or whatever horrible marketing gimmick was the flavor of the week.

          Once, while I was working for the Toyota store, they needed some help at the Buick store near Atlanta’s nicer suburbs. It was a whole different world, no tent sales, no free hot dogs for the kids, no rodeos in the parking lot, just a nice, quiet environment where you could actually do business.

          The folks coming in generally knew what they wanted, had an idea of what things cost and most of all, actually had the ability to pay. I should have tried a lot harder to work there.

          Lessons learned…

  • avatar

    Well done !

  • avatar

    reminds me of my days as a rookie 30 some years ago in the North end of Flint at Blain Buick as a 24 year from New York knowing no one and subsisting on Tuna and Ramen Noodles. I found refuge in the Body Shop and Service lane. within a year I was top dog. funny how I have a customer named Tom Nestor, but his credit is outstanding, maybe something to do with a happy marriage :)

  • avatar

    Thanks for the high praise, peeps. Sunday Stories are my favorite.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Makes me wonder what the author’s new gig is. Ticket redeemer at Chuck E. Cheese’s?

  • avatar

    Just excellent! Comedy, tragedy, symbolism – this story is like the pilot for a great mini-series.

  • avatar

    Let me add to the hosannas (sorry, just back from church) for this story! Sounds similar to my life, circa 1991, as a ex-pat Yankee in Atlanta shifting Toyotas to unsuspecting victims…

  • avatar

    Tom needs to drop his new girlfriend and her daughter off at her place, and never see them again. He’s been taken to the cleaners by the first love of his life, and is now being raked over the coals by the second.

  • avatar
    Mark in Maine

    Great story, Bark – one wonders what sort of life Logan went on to lead, once he found his dignity.

  • avatar

    This is novel material. It sucked me in right from the get go. Great stuff.
    Makes me wonder if I was ever one of the sorry schmucks in my youth that was tagged as a deadbeat upon my arrival at my local GM dealership. Most likely the answer is yes. Ahhh….the good ol’ days.

  • avatar

    I think Jimmy tried to sell me my Town and Country at the first place we stopped. For some reason, they don’t like it when you tell them that you’re buying the vehicle outright, and that you don’t care how they mangle the numbers as long as the differential between trade in + new vehicle is no more than $X.

    The fourth place we went was no-haggle. We walked out in just under an hour with a T&C for exactly what we expected to pay, and the strangest sense of cognitive dissonance I’ve ever felt. We had gone in expecting a fight, yet the experience had been rather pleasant.

    Excellent writing. Truly excellent!

    • 0 avatar

      Went shopping yesterday and the CJDR salesmen(internet sales manager) tried the old hard sell right away. After talking to us for a bit and finding out our situation he backed off and became reasonable. The Toyota salesmen was the opposite, but then he started “selling” by mentioning the traction control makes it safe (I hate FWD with TCS) and the usual spiel of nonsense that impresses non-car people.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Salesmen do unfortunately cater to the lowest common denominator. But, seriously, most people aren’t impressed by traction control…which I’m pretty sure every new car on the American market is equipped with.

  • avatar

    As I wrote two weeks ago, in response to a complaint that a Sunday Story was “falsely” (at least implicitly) billed as a true versus fictitious story, good writing completely renders moot the question of whether it matters to the reader whether the tale is true or fiction.

    In fact, if the reader isn’t able to discern whether it’s true or not, that is often an indication of quality.

    Such is the case with this gem.

    It may be complete fiction. It may be completely true. Or it may be a hybrid, blending both truth & fiction, adding some secret spices.

    When I read this, I don’t care an iota. All I know is that it was very compelling.

  • avatar

    In the past, my favorite Sunday activity was to make a cup of coffee and read all of the hockey coverage from Boston to Vancouver. These days, I look forward to a hot cup of joe and Sunday Stories.

    Great piece Bark, thanks.

  • avatar

    Every word of this story is true. The way the managers act, the idiocy of the customers, and the disgusting feeling you get bring a part of it all as a salesman .

  • avatar

    Selling cars is tough. I tried for a week or two and knew it wasn’t for me. The cold calling, the rejection,etc. Just not a sales kind of person. It didn’t help that I worked at an “off the motor mile in an undesirable part of town Ford dealer”. Or that most of the guys had 15+ years and a long list of prospects and repeat customers.

    Just went shopping yesterday for a new family hauler and this story plus my brief experience brought it all back. The standing waiting for “ups”, the old timers pacing and smoking. Getting yelled at by the sales manager. BTW, I loved the smell of new car dealers when they could smoke inside. Smoke, new tires and new car bits out-gassing.

    We dealt with the internet sales manager, but he sent a newbie on the test drive with us. The kid had only been there a month and had never been in a Town and Country. We liked the van and will be getting one, but the young guy might have been more impressed than we were by it.

  • avatar

    As far as no haggle is concerned, has anyone here ever tried Costco’s auto program or something similar? I’m also eligible for some Chrysler Affiliate program from my employer which is 1% under invoice. Any input appreciated.

    • 0 avatar

      The affiliate program is legit. It’s an easy way to buy a car at a no-haggle price. There is definitely additional room to be had, but if you want to feel like you got a good deal with no stress, go apply for your code and be done with it.

    • 0 avatar

      In the case of affiliate deals (like Ford X plan), you can definitely still negotiate with the dealer as you normally would as the special pricing is from the manufacturer. The dealer’s markup is still intact.

  • avatar

    I know the numbers are different, but do the affiliate programs work for leases too? I’m all about a fair deal for me and the dealer and I hate haggling. The interwebs make the fair part better now.

  • avatar

    I spent a week at a Ford store just out of college. Same story as the one here. My only “up” was a cash buyer who wanted a loaded F-150 extended cab XLT with everything EXCEPT air. He was willing to order it, but the Sales Manager insisted I talk him into an XLT on the lot WITH air.

    I told the Sales Manager to pee up a rope, and walked away. A week later, I got a check in the mail for 40 hours of minimum wage. Lesson learned.

  • avatar

    Very well written…I had to read the entire thing.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m helping my grandmother shop for a new car. Some salesmen truly are sleazy, some are bad because they are victims of the car-sales environment, and some truly are pleasant to deal with. We’ve had an excellent experience with a particular salesman at the Kia dealership, and will probably go ahead and pull the trigger on an Optima SX tomorrow. There’s no way my grandmother will not be able to afford the car, so we won’t end up wasting two hours to find out that she can’t approved. But—since I remember my Dad working long hours as a Toyota salesman a decade ago—I’ve tried to be considerate of the salespeople’s time in other ways. I can kind of gauge my grandmother’s reaction and tell whether or not she’s even interested in the car we’re viewing, and if she isn’t, I politely thank the salesperson for his/her time, so that he/she can move on to a more promising prospect.

  • avatar

    (Tongue firmly in cheek) Advice for all the Potential Tom Nestor’s out there.

    You’re welcome.

  • avatar

    I just hope if he went back to college, he majored in one of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Health care fields so that he would never have to sell another car ever again. Or if he never went back, that he learned a trade. If he has to sell something, I would rather sell clothes or anything else than cars. If he majored in philosophy or something like that (and worse yet, ends up with a couple of kids by his high school sweetheart), he might end up at a dealership again.

    P.S. Never, ever, major in business administration, it is the most miserable subject out there.

    P.P.S. Why is it an Estee Lauder lady is more professional and knows more about what my mother would like than car salespeople know about their products?

    • 0 avatar

      Why does everyone seek an MBA then?

      • 0 avatar

        Cause not everyone’s bachelor is in one of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Health care fields .

        • 0 avatar

          And that is kind of sad. Take for example my brother in law. He majored in communications which he has never used (I do think he wanted to be a sportswriter or a sportscaster). He is patient and strong and I think could have had a career with sports medicine or a physical therapist but even though his father was a teacher and a librarian he never had the science and math in high school to prepare him. He did play football though and school was all about sports, sports and more sports. Oh, and if you do want to sell cars, be sure to mention that you played high school football, that seems to get you hired. I don’t know why, because what does football have to do with cars?

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know, and maybe you can inform me. Everyone I ever met who has an MBA is a grouch. Is the math that bad?

        • 0 avatar

          I have no idea which is why I asked. Almost everyone I meet anywhere is a grouch so I’m not sure its a business administration thing.

        • 0 avatar

          Maybe they are grouches because their MBA doesn’t differentiate them from others in the job market.

          I have multiple employees with MBAs. I wouldn’t care if most of them left the company. I would be fine replacing them with someone that just has a BS/BA. Hell, I’d take someone with an AA and experience in some positions.

      • 0 avatar

        You get the MBA once you’re already working because your company will pay for it.

  • avatar

    Ha! This reminds me of my lot attendant days at my previous employers.

    I was a sales lot attendant, so pretty much I’d be the one to put new cars on the line, gas ’em up, if any had issues, I’d be the one to get them fixed, keeping the lots cleaned, that kind of stuff.

    I’ve seen all of this. The “used car extravaganzas!”,”tent sales!”,”IRS” sales (inventory reduction sales), “mall sales” ect, et al.

    The long hours in 100+ degree heat. Having salesmen rush me, trying to send me on dealer trades and deliveries. The overtime (which I gladly took though), dealing with the beater trade-ins, like the 280ZX that had a family of rats living in in it, the 1st gen RX7 that would not start under any circumstance, the $25 Chevrolet van trade-in, the Jetta that almost blew up before making it to the “wholesale” lot and the Scirocco that the customer and salesman KINDLY forgot to mention that it had no functional brakes what so ever. That was entertaining in the sense that getting shot at is also entertaining as well.

    Nothing beat the group that would come in do these sales. It’s true;(though we didn’t do that key thing, but we did have $300 junkers that were the “cars starting at $300 and up” that normally we wouldn’t keep.) these guys were just like in the story; the loud music, the cheesy decorations, the BBQ’s and how they would wear really….. ummmmm “interesting” clothing (I’m really trying to be civil about that!) and they would have the costumed chicken/cow/rabbit/whatever up front spinning signs and waving at passing cars.

    I also remember the salesmen too. Some were decent guys trying to make a living, some were really good at it, some weren’t. Some were cool, many were dicks. Some made sure the lot attendants got treated well, some treated us like trash. One common theme I recall were the broken marriages… God, there were so many…… I’d see guys with their wives and kids and then they’d throw it all away to sleep with the receptionists and cashiers. In retrospect I’m glad I wasn’t successful there. That probably paid dividends…. probably why I don’t have a negative view of women in general unlike the salesmen…..

    …… I did keep a memento from all of that, one of those “sales groups” got wasted after a sales event and left a ton of crap behind. I scored 2 CD’s full of 70’s and 80’s “mullet” rock that would play during the event. I still have ’em.

  • avatar

    Precisely why I spent most of my career selling high-line cars, mostly German. Almost no credit challenged customers and for the most part worked with very professional managers and fellow salespeople. Now that I am retired, I am amused when I go into a dealership now and see some of the things taking place that are described in the article. For me, my years were mostly pleasant and I earned a very respectable living. Don’t miss it now though.

    • 0 avatar

      And this is why the Genesis absolutely must be sold at a separate dealership. I can’t stand to be near any dealership that caters to the mostly credit challenged clientele, buying private one-owner used is the way to go if you got to go cheap, but then you actually have to work at it, and the mouth breathers can’t fathom that.

  • avatar

    The only thing that spoiled the story for me was that the title reminded me of “99 bottles of beer on the wall”, and the modified lyrics kept distracting me:
    99 red balloons on the lot,
    99 red balloons,
    If one of the cars on the lot was sold,
    98 red balloons on the lot.

  • avatar

    Your Sunday Stories lately have been thought provoking, compelling reading. Thanks for another excellent piece Bark.

  • avatar

    Yep ;

    Another gold standard bit of writing Bark .

    Keep it up .


  • avatar

    The war machine springs to life
    Opens up one eager eye
    Focusing it on the sky
    Ninety-nine red balloons go by

    Nena – 99 Red Balloons Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  • avatar

    LOL – I too had to take a job selling cars out of college due to chronic broke syndrome and what a disaster it was!

    It was at a “german car” dealership so it avoided SOME of the pitfalls associated with volume stores, but it was still a dignity crushing experience that I wish I never did.

    I mainly did it because I got a demo on day #1 which allowed me to sell my daily driver and get flush with cash again ($3100). Which may as well have been $31,000 at the time.

    Once I did that and began slowly selling just enough cars to not get fired I began creating an escape route. Too bad the 2008 economic meltdown was still in full force at the time (2009) that I couldn’t even get an interview for a real job, let alone hired.

    I would send out resumes from the work computer all day and only deal with customers that came to my desk. I never followed up or harassed anyone to buy one of those overpriced shit boxes if they didn’t buy the car then and there, on that day. With that strategy I was always a bottom feeder on the sales board, but it paid the bills. I didnt get canned and I was able to keep “some” of my dignity. My “I don’t give a shit if you buy it or not + guilty conscience “dont buy this one, its junk” sales approach also garnered 2 letters of praise sent right to the CEO. So they HAD to keep me on, even at the bottom of the sales board.

    I did that job for 2 years before I just couldn’t do it anymore. I hated that dealership, I hated the people that worked there, I wanted to strangle the degenerate GM and mainly I hated wasting my time there after I’d been to school to be much more.

    At the end I started showing up late, taking longer lunches and leaving early because I just could not bring myself to do it anymore. I got fired after a couple weeks of that but was able to get unemployment (which I’d never drafted a cent from previously) which gave me enough time to sort things out and finally get a real job.

    The sales experience was good from it, but that was it. My resume will forever be tarnished with the car salesman stain, and it takes some slick stick handling to explain it in a panel job interview, let me tell ya’! LOL

    • 0 avatar

      I also worked a lot straight out of college thinking that it would be a great step toward automotive journalism. The experience put me RIGHT the hell off of that notion and I hated cars/car culture after the experience for many years following.
      It was a Saturn dealership in late 1999 on the west side of Pittsburgh. Horrible location, horrible people, horrible products. I was there right as the L-series was being rolled out so they were very excited to drag more bodies in to huck those turds with wheels. I came in with about five other people; I lasted about three months before getting fired for not selling. I had a whopping ONE sale–which under Saturn’s fun policy was returned after two weeks of driving around. My fun punishment was to drive that MFing POS (SC2) from Pitts to Spring Hill for training. That’s right, they wouldn’t fly me, had to drive the whole way there with another sales guy who turned out to be MFing nuts. About an hour into the trip, he stuffed a tape into the radio that I ignored as it was some twangy hillbilly music; however it turned out to be KKK twangy hillbilly music. I’m not white. It got better still when he informed me that he didn’t feel safe in the south (???!!) and brought along his little friend which was a .38 snubnose in a fanny pack. AWESOME! He kept giving me shit about speeding and saying that if I got a ticket in a company car I’d lose my dealer’s permit and I didn’t understand why he made up such a lame BS story–having a piece in the car made more sense. I learned little about selling crappy plastic cars, the plant tour was interesting and they got to take a little piece of my soul by making us do our I say’s (fist pump), “I say, I say, I say SATURN!” Ha ha, joke’s on them, I say dissolution bitches.
      Back at the dealership, it was more of the same cast of characters, the wierd top seller, the chain smoker, a guy they called the eagle for no good reason, the prickly little Italian sales manager and then came the closer. Some gorilla from a Dodge dealer who was going to try to unwind the Saturn no-haggle process because our store was a graveyard. Location, lack of advertisng meant that there were stretches measured in DAYS between customers. I sat for a 12 hour day and into the next day before a body walked in. Not couting ups, but a single body that wanted to look at (but not buy) a silly plastic car. The gorilla had it with me after I let a guy in a suit walk out the door without sending him into the box (which isn’t supposed to exist at Saturn anyway). As Blake might have said, “Hit the bricks pal, because you are going OUT!”
      I hated that job like no other and any day I go to work not feeling happy about what I do, I consider that if I don’t do a good job, my punishment will be going to work at a dealer again.
      On that note, I’m going to get back to work and maybe even skip lunch today.
      Oh yeah, I also frequently hijacked a SW2 from the used lot for long lunches with my girlfriend. They kept wondering why it had no gas in it. I took that crapcan because nobody could sell it and nobody otherwise cared.

  • avatar

    It may be fiction Bark but it’s very close to the Lexus dealership where I had a (very) short career in the mid-90’s. Same atmo, same people, same ….. Gysy Sale Day (balloons, swaying blown up moving figure outside, etc.). I made pretty good money there for about six months (selling 95% used cars) and then one of my customers “liberated” me. If I had been there any longer I would have ended up hating cars and not reading this blog.

  • avatar

    This is too close to home. In a period of unrest at work back in the late 80’s I had a friend that worked at a dealer as the detailer and he offered to help me get a job as a salesman to see if it would work. I couldn’t do it! Tried it for one week, didn’t sell a thing but I learned a lot about the car business and the “fellas” that work at car dealerships. It turned out I didn’t need that job and had a much better offer from several other sources and have become the sought after buyer with the 750+ credit score and a six figure income. Boy do I love new car shopping now. It’s nice to walk out of a dealership like this without buying anything their selling. I do business with sales people that don’t have a schtick! They are few and far between. I’ve found a few and they are my go-to guys for any automotive needs. I still work on my own vehicles due that you can’t even find an oil change place that has intelligence. They should teach the neanderthal’s how to recognize an aluminum oil pan and how tight the drain plug needs to be. Now that I have a collection of my own these guys call me when they get something special in to come by and give my opinion on it. You wouldn’t believe the crap they trade for at some of these places, just because it says Cobra or something on it. They don’t understand that usually those badges mean that someone bought it and spent the next couple years destroying what otherwise could’ve been a nice ride if it were taken care of.

    • 0 avatar

      ” I still work on my own vehicles due that you can’t even find an oil change place that has intelligence.”

      I always do my own maintenance on the cars I own for the same reason. The fact that you can’t trust some places to actually put oil back in the engine, and resisting the constant sales pitch to replace recently installed transmssion fluid.

  • avatar

    I worked for a Tom Nestor in 2011. He drove a 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, that he had owned since 1989. BofA did him a favor and gave him a severance package.

  • avatar

    This one was great! I hated everyone in the story, save the protagonist – who I’d still question about college loans.

    Keely… ugh.

  • avatar

    Great article, but it sucks that he didn’t try to tough it out…too bad.

    I personally can’t relate, I pulled off a hat trick on my first day (also happened to be a Saturday). I wound up selling 26 cars that month…

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