UPDATED: See below
Shopping is a curious thing. Some people find the process of browsing, committing, and spending therapeutic; to others, it's cruel and unusual punishment.
The differences between those two personality types are even more pronounced when it comes to shopping for a new car. That's partially because cars come with bigger pricetags, which makes the process of finding one more stressful than, say, choosing bread at Subway. But it's also because shopping for cars involves haggling, which is something that most buyers hate.
Unfortunately for those buyers, salespeople stubbornly love to haggle. In fact, they love it so much, they call the process "negotiation". So, when Edmunds published a series of videos ridiculing the negotiation process, some dealers went nuts.
The videos are set at a grocery store, where hidden cameras capture the reactions of customers as they're asked to haggle over the price of milk, vegetables, and other items. The message is: you don't haggle for food, why should you haggle for a car? The clips are meant to promote Edmunds' haggle-free "Price Promise" system, which takes negotiation out of the car-buying process.
Dealers were not happy.
Some say that the commercials perpetuate an outdated stereotype of auto salespeople as greedy and unethical. (Which may indeed be outdated, but the American public hasn't gotten the message.) Edmunds and its team point out that dealers don't appear in the videos at all, and they admit that the stereotype of haggling sales personnel is exaggerated to make a point.
Based on the comments we've seen on articles like this, one thing is clear: whether it's called "haggling" or "negotiating", shoppers hate it. Dealerships can talk all they want about negotiating good prices for customers and remaining competitive, but consumers ain't buying it.
In other words, it's not as if the Edmunds clips came out of left field: they simply reflect current consumer sentiment.
Several dealers have already indicated that in response to the ads, they'll be pulling their inventory from Edmunds' website, along with their fees to the company. As we see it, though, Edmunds has the upper hand: dealers need Edmunds more than Edmunds needs dealers. The company has hit a nerve with its clips, which should lead to increased visibility among consumers and, over time, more website traffic. If dealers want to avoid being a part of that, they do so at their own peril.
We've embedded one of Edmunds' clips above and three more below. Have a look and share your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page.
UPDATE: Edmunds has caved to dealers and pulled all four videos, thus proving once again that it's a bad idea to bite the hand that feeds you (and advertises on your website).