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Tales from a small town

Short stories about life in a small town. Non-fiction. Great reading.

Friday, April 14, 2006

We're not in Kansas anymore

This has been an educational experience, working for this car dealership. I've got 15 years seniority at the factory job. I needed a change of pace, so I took a voluntary lay-off at the factory and got a job as a car salesman. At the factory job, 15 years will get you alot of good jobs where you're the top dog - or at least you've got a gravy job where all the new hires do the heavy lifting. At the dealership, I'm the new guy that gets crapped on. It's different.

Here's the way it works: at a dealership, you've got one or two guys who sell more cars than everyone else combined. In the eyes of management, those guys are gods. Those guys call the shots. Those guys influence trade-in values. Those guys tell customers, without consulting with the business manager, how much the customer will get for the trade-in, even if the trade-in hasn't been driven by anyone at the dealership yet.

As a newbie, you do that, and you're toast. You're not allowed to tell people what their trade-in is worth, because you honestly have no clue. When people get hung up on the idea that their car is special because they changed the oil every 2,500 miles religiously, and because of that, they've got to get 3 times the Kelly Blue Book value, there isn't a whole lot I can say.

The top salesmen know the profile of an "up" who's a "lay-down-and-buy." (An "up" is a person who comes in off the street with no prior relationship with the dealership.) A "lay-down-and-buy" is a person who will sign a purchase order on the first set of numbers presented to them, who also won't question the trade-in allowance.

If a top salesman goes after an up, that means there's a good chance that up is a lay-down-and-buy. If a newbie gets in the way of a top salesman after an up, it's not pretty after the up leaves.

So, as the new guy, you're more than welcome to puruse the "bad credit/no credit" types all you want. While you're at it, if you happen to get the ups with the "Guns don't kill people, I kill people" t-shirt on, and that person happens to have a swastika tatoo on his forehead and crossed eyes, so much the better.

Somehow, someway, you have to hang in there and hope a "lay-down-and-buy" comes in during lunch hour, or after the top guys leave (which for them, is usually 2 hours early - unless the "fish" are bitin'!)

This is how a new guy builds a clintel: bottom feeding. When a salesman quits, the customers he has are called orphans. Do you think a new guy gets orphans? No. The orphans are split amongst the two top guys. That's just how it works.

I happened to wait on an old lady who came in at the beginning of the week. When this old lady pulled up, all the salesmen were at a computer where they were watching the highlight reels from, and this woman just so happened to pull up when the salesman were watching the clip of LaBron James when he injured his ankle.

This woman's husband just died, and left her with a fat life insurance policy. She's very indecisive which is maddening, but I can sympathize with her, as this is the first car-buying decision she's ever made in her entire life. (It was either her dad or her husband who decided which cars she would buy.) She test drove 5 vehicles, and she still can't make up her mind - although she's got it narrowed down to 3.

With this being Easter weekend, she doesn't want to get involved with buying a new car this week, because her oldest son is coming down from Chicago, and she's afraid he'll get upset if she doesn't somehow include him in the decision.

Since he will be with her on Sunday when the dealership is closed, I devised a plan where I'm going to put the 3 cars she's narrowed it down to, on display in front of the dealership. I'm going to hang bright-yellow tags from the rear-view mirror of each car, and each tag will have her name written with a fat, Sharpie marker. Each car will be freshly detailed, which will make them really stand out as this has been a very rainy spring, and as a result, the cars on the lot are covered in rain-drop dust.

One of the nice things about being a salesman is, you get to tell the detail people which cars to wash and they've got to do it. I get along really well with the detail people, because I talk to them - which the other salesmen do too, but I don't snicker behind their backs when they leave, and the detail people know it. I don't like that about the other salesmen, because I think it's sad, but the other salesmen, by and large, are making six figures a year, and the detail people are making minimum wage, so in the eyes of the salesmen, the detail people are laughable.

Anyhow, that's what I'm doing. She's seeing her family off on Monday; on Tuesday she's getting a colonoscopy (which I got to hear all the details about why that was ordered - something to do with her slippery bowels) but anyway, I've got her coming back Wednesday - tentatively - to bring in her trade-in, and hopefully swap titles. I told her I'd call her an hour before the appointment to see if she was up to it. If not, we could do the next day.

She's got it down to 2, '06 Buicks and an '06 Grand Prix GT. (She's leaning toward the GT, and I think she's afraid if her son sees that in her driveway on Easter, he'll freak out.)

She made the mistake of telling me she belongs to a knitting club. If I sell her a car, I'll be mining her for referrals so I can get her buddies from the knitting club in there to test drive some cars! Hell, I don't care how many stories about slippery bowels or false teeth or Depends Undergarmets I have to endure: bring it on grandmas! Just buy some new Buicks or Pontiacs while you're at it!