Car dealers have a bad reputation for a good reason. During my dealership career in Internet Sales, I listened closely to my customer’s intense, even harsh opinions about car dealers. Guess what? Their intensity was an appropriate reaction to the way they had been treated.
A few years ago I was working as Internet Manager for a major car dealer on the west coast. My good friend Jan was about to purchase a car at dealership on the east coast. She was literally holding the pen in her hand, about to sign the contract, when she had second thoughts about the deal that had just been presented to her. She did the right thing by putting the pen down and calling me on her cell phone.
Jan is trusting and honest. She isn’t naive, but has little experience with car dealers. Her intuition told her the great deal her salesman said she was getting was not as good as she initially believed. As we talked, Jan ran the numbers by me. When I heard the full story about the “great deal” she was getting, I confirmed that her intuition was correct: if she signed the contract she would pay about $3,000 more than necessary for the new car she wanted.
Jan asked me what she should do. I said, “Get up and walk out. We’ll talk about what your next step should be when you get back home.” As you can imagine, the salesperson and his manager didn’t want Jan to leave. They saw how close they were to making such a lucrative deal, and the last thing they wanted was for Jan to walk out.
Crossing the Line
There are still “old school” car dealers who use "old school" tricks to stop customers from leaving the dealership. They know that if they keep the customer engaged, they at least have a chance of making the sale. If the customer walks out and drives away, there is no chance of things working out in the dealership’s favor.
There was no doubt that Jan was at an “old school” dealership. How did they keep her from leaving? They literally refused to give her back her keys and registration. They had taken both to evaluate her trade. It never crossed Jan’s mind that she should ask for them back as soon as she received the trade-in value. After all, wasn’t she dealing with one of the major businesses in her community? Who would think that they would effectively hold her keys and registration hostage in an effort to make a last ditch attempt at closing a sale.
Not Just "Old School" Dealers
Car buyers beware. Savvy buyers know that all car dealers play the game in ways that can cost them money. More in this video from the author:
What Happens Next?
Does Jan get her keys and registration back? Will she return to the dealership? Does this dealer make the sale? Stay tuned for Part II to find out what happens next, including what Jan should have done to lessen her chance of being mistreated by an “old school” car dealer.