Do Your Homework Before You Enter A Dealership

Customer Abuse

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I once had a caller on the Car Pro Show with a car buying story that was both eye-opening and sickening at the same time. A nice lady from Ft. Worth, Texas who was pregnant and needed a larger vehicle for her growing family.

She, her husband, and a three-year old arrived at a car dealership the day before at 5 PM. By 11 PM, they left without a vehicle. Clearly she owed more on her trade-in than its actual value, nothing uncommon about that. This dealer’s solution? Buy their new car without a trade-in and let the other car get repossessed. Also astounding, the dealership at first wanted almost $700 per month, and during the six hour marathon, came down to $389. I ended the call with “there’s a special place in Hell for dealerships like this.”

Six hours in a car dealership, and their solution was to wreck these people’s good credit rating for years to come. This is what I call customer abuse. All the classic signs of deception by a bad dealership were in play here. The dealership thought they could wear the customer down to the point they’d agree to anything. They badly needed another car, and were essentially being held hostage. The dealer preyed on the fact they needed something larger.

There are certain things you need to always be aware of in a dealership and sure signs it is time to get out of there:

First Impressions.

Trust your instincts when you arrive at a dealership. Sometimes you just get a bad feeling. A group of salespeople standing around in front, smoking and laughing is generally a bad sign. If the dealership is dirty and the grounds unkempt, that is a sign the dealership does not pay attention to detail very well. It doesn’t have to be a new dealership, just clean. This shows attention to detail and that will wash over into customer satisfaction.

Time Factor.

Once you have selected a car and sat down to discuss numbers, if you’ve done your homework, you should be able to come to terms in an hour or less. Longer than that, I would leave. The longer you spend in a dealership gives them an advantage. The last thing you want to think about is starting this process all over again, and the longer you are there, the more you want to get a car and leave.

Control Your Keys.

If you have a trade-in, the salesperson will need to have it appraised. When he or she comes back from the appraisal, politely ask for your car keys back. If you sense any hesitation by them to give you your keys, you are at the wrong place and subject to being held hostage.


There are times when a manager will come in and talk to you if the terms cannot be agreed on. This is not a bad thing at all, sometimes it speeds things up. However, if the manager tries intimidation tactics on you, get up and leave. The manager should be there to help you, not threaten or shame you.

Signature Requirements.

If you can’t get a price on a car without signing something, leave. With that said, if you want to know what your payments will be, the dealer will have to look at your credit score, which will require a signature and information. Otherwise, they may quote you a payment that is too high or too low depending on interest rate and your credit score.

Remember, although the classic battle on the showroom floor is about control, you ultimately have the final say, it is your money. Don’t be afraid to leave if anything feels uncomfortable to you. There is no excuse for customer abuse.
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