True Stories From a Former Car Dealer #1: The Lottery Winner

car dealer true stories lottery winner

Over the coming weeks, I am going to rack my brain to remember some of the most interesting stories from my days starting out washing cars at 15-years old until I sold my dealerships in 2006.  I hope you enjoy this series.

The year was 1995 and I was the owner of a Ford dealership in a Dallas, TX suburb.  Generally, I got to work a little before 7 AM daily, and this particular Wednesday was no exception.

I entered the showroom to go to my office and begin my day, and there was a very large African American man standing there.  It was very unusual to see a customer before 8:30 AM except in parts or service.  I acknowledged him and asked if he was being helped.  I sat my briefcase down and walked over to him and extended my hand.

The Lottery Winner

The man introduced himself as James and said “you are the owner here, right”?  I verified I was indeed.  James said, “I was in your dealership a little over a week ago and tried to buy a car, but you guys couldn’t get the financing done.”

At this point, I was sure he was going to tell me some other dealership was able to get financing for him, which had happened before.  I apologized to him that we were not able to help him with his financing, and told him I was sure we did our best, after all, that is how we make our living.

At this point James said, “let me show you something” and he reached into his shirt pocket and handed me a Texas Lottery scratch-off ticket.  It was the tic-tac-toe game and running diagonally were three Xs, and also on the ticket, it showed he had won one million dollars.  Needless to say, I was floored.

I shook James’ hand again and told him congratulations, still not clear where this was going.  I asked what I could help him with at this point, and he said to me “I went to a lot of dealerships, and you guys were the only ones who treated me with respect and dignity.  Get a pen and paper, I want to buy some cars.”

I got a pad and a pen and we headed out toward the lot.  As we walked the inventory, James would point and say “I’ll take that one, and I’ll take that one” etc.  James had a large family and he was a very generous man.  He wanted several cars for himself and his wife, had either five or six siblings, his Mom and Dad were still alive, he bought one for his Pastor, and even bought a 15-passenger van for his church.

When the smoke cleared, James picked out fourteen new Fords.  We went to my office and I tallied up the MSRP prices combined, which was his request, then added the tax, title, and license and presented him with a total of $279,000 and some change.

I waited for James to ask how much discount I was going to give him.  Instead, he said, “I’ve got an 11 AM flight to Austin to get my money.  I’ll be back by 6 PM with a bunch of people to pick them up”.  I asked to make a copy of the lottery ticket just for fun and he obliged me.

I called his salesperson at his home and asked what his schedule was for that day and he said he was on the late shift, which meant he worked from 1 PM to 9 PM that day.  I did not tell him why, I just said, “you need to come in NOW and see me the minute you walk in”.  I am sure the young man was scared lifeless and 45 minutes later he was standing in my door.

I explained that James was in the dealership earlier to see me.  The salesperson assumed James had complained about something and assured me he was super nice to James even though we could not get the financing done.

I put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eyes, and said  “Son, you did a great job” and told him what had happened and suggested he get busy getting the vehicles to make ready for washing, filling with gas, and getting the temporary plates on.

How The Story Ends

Yes, the vehicles all got delivered to James, although not that day.  He ran into a snag in Austin but kept me up to speed on what was going on.  Two days later, on Friday, James showed up with his drivers, with a cashier’s check for the full amount, and I kid you not, a semi-truck pulled up towing a 40-foot long barbeque trailer and he fed the entire dealership.

The story doesn’t end as happily, though.  James was in to see us on a regular basis, just to say hi.  The last time we saw him, just over two years after winning the lottery, he needed a new car and he needed financing for it.  All the money was gone.

Photo Credit:  Jakkarin chuenaka/Shutterstock

  1. Dennis Peery 10 months ago

    Truly a once in a lifetime story. I applaud James’ generosity. I’m sad he spent all his money, and I hope those who benefitted were grateful.

    • Jerry Reynolds 10 months ago

      Yes, I wish I had a different ending, but that’s the way it happened!

  2. Mike Nassour 10 months ago

    It’s true, all too many lottery stories into that way.

  3. cdb 10 months ago

    bad financial move. I wonder why nobody told James that his million dollar win would be taxed at about 50%, and now he’d blown half of that on new cars for folks that might not even be able to afford comprehensive insurance on them! No wonder so many “instantly rich” lottery winners end up broke.

  4. Mary 10 months ago

    Unfortunately, the story ending is not unusual. I work for a financial advisor. People who come into sudden wealth seldom hang on to it. But, it sounds like James is a very nice man.

    • Martin 10 months ago

      Nice but not too Savvy.

    • Jerry Reynolds 10 months ago

      He was very nice Mary, you are correct.

  5. Chris Collins 10 months ago

    While I was reading this, I was thinking to myself, “no James, don’t do it. Don’t buy all those depreciating cars”. I already knew how this story was going to end. Very very sad.

  6. Don 10 months ago

    Jerry, I would like to share this story with others, only with your permission.

    • Amy Plemons 10 months ago

      Don, feel free to share it as you wish. I am glad you enjoyed it. I have another doozy for this week too. Thanks for listening to the show!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  7. Carl Swift 10 months ago

    A very nice feature. Please continue to share your experiences.

  8. David 10 months ago

    It’s nice to be generous, but you got to know your limitations. A million dollars really isn’t that much especially after taxes he probably spent half of it just buy in the new cars.

    • Jerry Reynolds 10 months ago

      As I recall David, his net was around $725,000, more than I thought it would be.

  9. Kenny 10 months ago

    Thanks, Jerry, great story! Wished it would have ended differently. James is too nice and generous. Keep the stories coming, very enjoyable and interesting.

    Thoroughly enjoy your radio show too!

  10. Angie 10 months ago

    Hopefully he was in a better financial situation when he came back. Maybe he just wanted to bless people and pay it forward . Sounds has a good heart.

  11. Stephen 10 months ago

    Woudn’t the right thing to do would have been to offer the man discounts offf MSRP even though he didn’t ask for them.

    • Jerry Reynolds 10 months ago

      I don’t know that there is a right or wrong. I don’t know of any business that gets offered XXXX dollars for the product they sell and says “Oh, let’s do it for less”.

  12. Frank De Leon 10 months ago

    It was his money to spend any way he wanted. He was happy and not selfish. I’m sure the church and pastor were very happy. I’m glad he enjoyed his big surprise. You can’t take it with you is what I say.

  13. Jimmie 10 months ago

    I love these stories. Please keep them coming. Having worked at a ford dealership when I was a young man I find this very interesting coming from an owners perspective. I’d love to hear how you handled things when the older 6.0 power strokes were having issues. I imagine there were days when you didn’t feel like coming to work. Love your show!!

    • Jerry Reynolds 10 months ago

      Thanks Jimmie, I lost a lot of customers over the 6.0, and bought back a lot of them with no assistance from Ford.

  14. Robert Young 10 months ago

    similar story when i was assistant mgr for major finance company…my boss (not a ‘people’ person) befriended one of our dock worker customers – who paid his bills on time. he showed up for a very large consolidation loan with his wife and the boss rammed the deal thru.
    a few months later, he was killed in a barroom fight (over a female) which paid the loan completely and he had plenty of insurance to console the schoolteacher widow. she appeared set for life…

    one year later – almost to the day – she sat in the loan booth and needed to borrow her “next paycheck”. incredulously, i blurted out
    “you spent ALL that money?!” she blushed and shook her head up and down. of course, we lent it to her –
    when she left, i looked at Claude and said: “if anybody on the planet
    was justified in having a ‘ball’, she was definitely entitled!”

  15. BILL 10 months ago



  16. Raymond Wachel 4 months ago

    How sad-so very sad, may he be rewarded once again!!!

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