True Stories From A Former Car Dealer #14: I Quit

True Stories From a Former Car Dealer

I was a junior in High School in the mid-1970s, working after school and all day on Saturday.  I started my career in the prep department, also known as the “make ready” or “get ready” department.  Back then, vehicles came in somewhat incomplete.

The pickups were delivered to the dealership with the hubcaps and exterior mirrors boxed in the front seat.  I got really good installing mirrors and using a rubber mallet to install the hubcaps.  Weather was an issue of course; I did the installations when it was well over 100 degrees, and sometimes when it was in the 20-degree range.

One of my jobs was to be the last set of eyes when a vehicle was sold.  I was to make sure everything worked, the vehicle was clean, and that it was in perfect condition when a customer was coming in.  The delivery is that magic moment for most customers.  All the pressure was over, keys were being handed off, and the customer rode off into the sunset with the vehicle of his or her dreams.

At the time, our top salesperson was a guy I’ll call Glen.  He was nice, a bit on the crude side, but he was good with customers, they all loved him.  He dressed a bit sloppy and was unkempt, but certainly a hard worker.

One day during the summer, I saw Glen showing an older couple a new red half-ton Ford truck.  It was a top-of-the-line F-100 XLT truck and the older couple was very excited about it.  You could tell this was a huge decision for them, as it was most likely the last vehicle they would ever buy.

A few hours passed, and Glen came back to the prep department with a red truck, and as always, we asked the promised delivery time so we could prioritize vehicles.  He told me it was a rush job, his customers had gone to grab some lunch and would be back in an hour.

I pulled the truck into the state inspection bay and asked the tech to jump on this one, we didn’t have much time.  He did the inspection, then I pulled the truck into the wash bay, washed it quickly, then dried it, dressed the tires, cleaned the windows and had roughly 5 minutes left before deadline.

I pulled the truck up on the delivery drive, ran to get the owner’s manual and extra keys, and told Glen everything was done.  It was then I noticed his customers were the same old couple I had seen a few hours earlier. However, the truck they were looking at earlier, and the truck I prepped were very different.

The truck they were excited about was well-equipped, but the truck I prepped was just a down-the-line model, it didn’t even have carpeting.  It was red, and it had an automatic transmission, but that is where the similarities stopped.

I asked Glen, in front of the customers, if he was sure I had prepped the right truck.  He had a look of horror on his face, took me by the arm, and said: “let’s go look”.  As soon as we got out of earshot of the customer, he asked me “what are you doing?”   I told him I saw them looking at a nice truck earlier, but I prepped a base model.  Then he said; “they’ll never know the difference, mind your own business, and go wash something” or words to that effect.

I was devastated.  I had no idea things like this happened.  I watched as he walked the old couple out to their new truck and sat them down.  He showed them how the radio worked, as well as the air conditioning, and they thanked him.  The lady even gave him a hug, and off they drove.

Glen came back into the showroom, and although I could not hear what they were saying, he and the sales manager exchanged high fives and were laughing it up, proud of their accomplishment.  They had ripped off an elderly couple, made a lot of money, and were celebrating.

I admit I was naïve, and walked up to them and asked “How can you do that?  How can you live with yourself?”  One of them said: “you’ll learn kid.”  I just simply said two words:  “I quit” and walked to my car.

My parents asked why I was home so early, and I told them I quit and why.  They supported my decision and I said I would find another, more honorable job.

A few days passed, maybe two or three, and the owner of the dealership called me to speak to me.  He asked if I could come in to see him.  He had just learned I had quit.  He told me I was a valued employee, had a good future in the car business, and asked what happened.  I told him the story about the blatant bait-and-switch.  I also told him I couldn’t live with myself working at a place that did that.  He said to let him look into it, and he’d be in touch.

The following day, he asked me to come back in.  I did and he told me the salesperson and manager were gone, and he asked if I would come back to work.  I agreed.  I was very relieved those two were gone, and really enjoyed my job.

At an early age, I learned that doing the right thing was the most important thing you could do.  Had the owner not called, it is doubtful I would have ever worked at a dealership again, and who knows what I would be doing today?

Photo Credit: chompoo/Shutterstock

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26 Comments
  1. Curtis Bender 8 months ago

    Jerry, I’m impressed. I don’t know if I would have had the fortitude to have done the same thing back when I was a teenager in my first automotive job, glad I didn’t face a situation like that.

  2. Clayton griffin 8 months ago

    Did the owner do the right thing and call the elderly couple in and give them the one they fell in love with

    • Amy Plemons 8 months ago

      The couple was compensated, but kept the truck they took delivery of, they said it was fine.

  3. Mike Nassour 8 months ago

    I was just wondering if the couple ever got the right truck.

    • Amy Plemons 8 months ago

      The couple was compensated, but kept the truck they took delivery of, they said it was fine.

  4. Kelly Daniels 8 months ago

    A shame more people don’t have the same integrity. That was a very honorable thing to do at a young age. Your stock just went up in my eyes.

  5. Albert 8 months ago

    You had good parents. You knew the difference between right and wrong, and your parents supported your honorable decision not to work with weasels.

    Bravo, sir.

  6. pv 8 months ago

    Jerry: heart warming story, congrats to you and the dealership manager, you did the right thing. I wouldn’t have had the confidence or moxie to do that. Your stories are now my favorite part of the newsletter. Keep them coming. BTW, do you have you a special place in your heart for the “get ready” guys/gals when you were the manager/owner? pv

  7. John 8 months ago

    great story, very inspiring

  8. TIMOTHY HANNON 8 months ago

    I love your stories. I particularly liked this week ‘s and last week’s stories. They make the car business human.

  9. Steve 8 months ago

    That is very impressive for a high school kid Jerry! As we have conversed before, my first high school job was also washing cars (make ready) at Bill McDavid Pontiac on W. 7th St. in Fort Worth (as Bill and my dad were good friends and business associates). Thankfully I never had this sort of issue but kind of doubt I would have handled it as well as you. No wonder you’ve had such a long and great career in the car business! SL

  10. Al 8 months ago

    Did the dealership swap out for the correct truck with the victims ? Two other readers ( above ) ask the same question .

    • Amy Plemons 8 months ago

      The couple was compensated, but kept the truck they took delivery of, they said it was fine.

  11. Andres Martinez 8 months ago

    Please make sure YOU CALL those elderly people and be sure they get the truck they paid for! ,
    otherwise coming back to the dealership means nothing!

    • Amy Plemons 8 months ago

      The couple was compensated, but kept the truck they took delivery of, they said it was fine.

  12. Steve 8 months ago

    Another Home Run Jerry.
    Keep em coming

  13. David Wolf 8 months ago

    Believe me, Jerry, the story you just shared was a lot more common than not back in the day.

  14. Don 8 months ago

    Had the same thing happen to a relative in 2004. I was in Chicago to help her buy her first new car, a Toyota Corolla . The model and features she wanted was not in stock. The dealer agreed in writing to our negotiated price and said they would locate the vehicle and contact her when the vehicle arrived. Before we left the dealership, the salesman asked me how long I would be in town. That raised some red flags and I told him to take good care of my relative. Turns out the dealer swapped out a stock vehicle and had my relative pick the car up in a dimly lit bldg. at the dealership. When she got home, she realized that she had been duped. When the auto dealer was confronted, she was directed to the dealer’s General Manager’s office who angrily refunded her money and told her to never come back. Subsequent to this terrible treatment, she went to another dealership nearby. They had the exact model with features she wanted, got a fair deal, and she was treated with dignity.

  15. Jim Munson 8 months ago

    Way to go Jerry!

  16. Mitzi Young 8 months ago

    So glad to hear that you stood up for your principles and good parental values that were instilled in you.

  17. Bryan Cruze 8 months ago

    It’s really sad what some people will do to make a buck. Maybe the hospital switched babies with their Mother’s at birth. Guess what! They wouldn’t have known either. It’s called karma!

  18. Larry Borne 8 months ago

    Jerry, I grew up with parents, church, and Scouting that all bent this little tree to know right from wrong. I think you may have had the same rearing. Thanks for the story. Larry Borne, Fort Worth

  19. Tom Plotinski 8 months ago

    Jerry,
    Thank God that you are out there for us and you are who you are! Your heart, mind and soul are ALL in the right place and you deserve EVERYTHING good that life has to offer for being the honorable man you have choosen to be! 😊👍🏻

  20. Bruce Mitchell 8 months ago

    I worked for Jerry ! I can tell you I don’t doubt this story a bit he was good to all of my customers! I appreciate the way he took care of people!

  21. Don Salveson 7 months ago

    Great story! Shows Jerry’s integrity along with the dealer/owners.

  22. Keith Fox 7 months ago

    I did not expect the ending. I was impressed the owner of the dealership did the right thing too. You both proved to be upstanding individuals. It’s a shame more people don’t have the same high standards in life.

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