When I owned car dealerships, I remember at least a half dozen times that I asked customers not to return to my business. At first thought, it doesn’t sound like a good business decision, but there were times when I just felt it necessary.
The cases I recall involved customers who no matter what we did, couldn’t be made happy. The other cases involved people who abused my employees verbally, and once physically. At one point at just my Dallas Ford dealership, I had over 400 employees, and every one of them knew I had their back as long as they were doing the right thing.
Just this past weekend, I had a case with a radio show listener of mine on the West Coast who ran into a problem at a dealership I endorse. The listener called my dealer affiliate and asked if they’d beat the best deal he could find, and they assured him they would. Nothing unusual there, the dealer had to commit to do that or he’d never see this customer. When the listener got to the dealership, my dealer stayed good to their word, even though it was a very popular car, and in their words, they were “substantially back of their cost”, which in car-speak means they were taking a big loss.
This should have been an easy deal, but at the last minute, the prospective buyer threw in he wanted floor mats included. The dealer agreed and started to do the paperwork, and at about the time of completion, the customer said “oh yeah, I need window tinting too, if I am going to buy from you”. That was the last straw. The General Manager told the customer the deal was off. The customer was stunned and contacted me, saying he really wanted to buy from this dealership, because he has been very happy with their service department and it was close to his house. It was too late, the customer pushed too far, and the dealership made the decision they didn’t want to lose money on a customer who wasn’t going to be happy no matter what they did. To make matters worse, the other two dealers whom the listener had offers from refused to honor them.
There is a good lesson here my friends, and is goes back to a saying my Dad always used; “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered”. Car dealers have their limits too, and consumers need to keep in mind that profit is not a dirty word. It also reinforces what I said for decades as a dealer, which is that uneducated customers do not know when they are staring at a great deal, they just want to win “the game” and beat up a car dealer.
My favorite was always the customer who came in and insisted on “our best price, upfront, and you only get one shot”. You had no choice but to give them a number, then almost without fail, the customer took our best price, and then would say “knock off another $1000 and I’ll take it”. There is nothing more frustrating for a dealer.
I consider myself a consumer advocate, and I help people every day, but it has got to be a two-way street. I have consumers ask me all the time if they should wait until the end of the deal to mention they have a trade-in. My reply is always “do you want the dealer playing games with you? If not, don’t play games with them”.
Bottom line: As I say on air all the time, there are good car dealers and there are bad, just like every profession. Do your homework to find the best dealerships, even if it means you have to drive farther. Be honest with them, understand they are there-like every other business-to make a profit, and you will probably have a great experience and get a fair deal. I don’t begrudge any business I am patronizing making a profit, in fact, I want them to. If they are a healthy business, I know they’ll be there to help me after the sale. Don’t find yourself terminated as a customer.
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