Buying a Car and 'Beating the Salesman': The Dealer's Perspective

November 29, 2009

Most days we surf the automotive websites looking for items that might spark a little inspiration, something that might be a little different; something that will help you out. Today, indeed, it looked as if we found one over at AOL Autos, one of whose auto correspondents, Mike Royce, is purportedly a former car salesman who has written a how-to guide, "How to Beat the Car Salesman," and who runs a website,

After reading the game plan that he put forth in an article posted last month, we frankly ended up with more questions that answers. The first and foremost was -- who is this guy? Their answer is very apparent because he is prominent among their contributors; he's the guy with all the answers when it comes to buying a car because he's been there, sold that and now wants to share it with you.

Now, we don't know what part of the planet this column is written for. It may be for "Over the Rainbow Land" and aimed at Auntie Em and Dorothy -- maybe the Tinman; or it may be aimed at four- or six-legged semi-intelligent beings from the planet Murgatroyd. But, if it's aimed at humans, then all we can say is DUCK, if you try his strategy.

His sales strategy is simply this: Pick the car or cars you want to look at; go to the the dealership; engage some poor sales schlub who's trying to put bread on the table in a really poor market; get him to do all that is required and -- would seem to be more -- and then, after having the salesman do the whole dog-and-pony show, ask for a brochure, thank the salesman for his time and walk away.

What is wrong with that picture? Practically everything (author's disclosure: I sold cars retail and online for the better part of the last decade, so I am more than a little biased toward the folks who are trying to earn livings in a down market than I am with some overeducated professional type who is practicing the "Art Of Royce," by Sun Tzu (oops, maybe that should be the "Art of War," it makes more sense that way).

We won't go into every crook and nanny that can hold the soggy engine oil of the sales tips that this particular commentator makes because many of them are patently unfair and only recognize that the dealer or his representative is out to mess with you, so you should do the messing first.

But to advocate visiting a dealership, establishing a relationship with a salesperson, finding the car or cars you are interested in and then having the salesman show the vehicle, answer questions, provide a test drive, even begin to closing, only to announce that "you'll be back...all you need is a brochure right now" is not only disingenuous, but it's just plain wrong.

Imagine, if you will, that you go to a butcher counter on a busy morning and that you have one of the butchers, who may be flat out with customers, pick up a tray of sirloins becasue you are interested in one, only to have him put it back in the case a while later, as you tell him that you've seen all you had to see and that you'll be back later. That is just not fair to the butcher, especially if he is not paid the greatest salary, but also has to survive on sales of meat, as well.

That's exactly how it works in the car business. Those salespeople you see hanging around talking to one another or taking computerized tests or sipping coffee aren't there for their health. They are trying to earn a living and, since cars are primarily a commission business, if a salesman doesn't sell anything on a given shift or shifts then his family is likely to be very hungry and some bills may not be paid (been there; done that).

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