I now know why the car companies are not doing well. A few months ago, I went car shopping because my teenage daughter suddenly has ‘nomadic aspirations’ having reached the magical age where she can now drive. Mind you, she’s a good kid, but I’m not one of those parents who subscribes to the notion that sixteen year-olds deserve a car just because they come of age, so my intention was to buy a car that Sarah would have moderate use of as long as her ‘train stays on the tracks’ relative to schoolwork and other responsibilities.
My first stop was Dyer & Dyer Volvo in North Atlanta. On the internet, I spotted a used Saturn SUV that would have been perfect, so immediately called the dealership on Friday afternoon and got connected with a salesperson named Sid, who was pleasant and helpful. Sid encouraged me to hurry over to the dealership before the car got sold. Since I had a conflict Friday evening, I made an appointment with Sid first thing Saturday morning at 9am sharp.
I rolled into the dealership about three minutes after 9am, with a cashier’s check in my pocket and ready to buy. Strangely, no one came out to greet me, which was okay. I didn’t need to be hounded. Three other couples were milling around the showroom, but strangely, I didn’t notice any salespeople. So, I walked up to the counter and told the nice looking receptionist that I had an appointment with Sid.
“Everyone is in the regular Saturday morning sales meeting,” she said. I asked her how long this meeting would last. “It usually starts at 8:30am and probably will last another 30 minutes,” she responded. I explained to her that I had a 9am appointment with Sid. “Yes, we know, you are on the VIP board,” she said, pointing to a prominent whiteboard in the showroom that listed client appointments, and my name was tops on the list with a 9am appointment. I said, “Can you slip a note under the door and tell him I’m here?” She did and came back saying he couldn’t come out. With that, me and my cashier’s check left the building.
Wait, it gets better.
Since the Saturn SUV had caught my interest, I drove to the nearby Saturn dealership, figuring that they would probably have some pre-owned vehicles on the lot. This time, six Saturn salespeople wearing the company uniform (red shirt and khaki pants) were standing around and one eagerly stepped forward to greet me. “I’m Steve,” he said. “How can I help you?” I explained that I wanted to buy a safe but inexpensive vehicle for my daughter to use. We walked around the lot to survey the various options, and I actually stuck my head in a couple of them. We even took a quick test drive around the block.
After I had been there approximately twenty minutes, the sales manager came over—a tall former football player with his gray hair dyed blonde. “Sir, are you planning to buy one of these cars?” he asked abruptly. I hedged, giving him a definite ‘maybe’ type of response. “Well, Saturday is our busiest day, so if you’re going to buy a car, we’re happy to help. But, we don’t want to wear Steve out because he has to work tonight until 7pm,” he said. You just can’t make this stuff up. I glanced back into the showroom, and at 10:15am in the morning, there was only one other customer in the showroom along with a bunch of salesmen standing around with their hands in their pockets.
I politely excused myself, saying, “I’ll come back when you’re not so busy.” My cashiers check and I were on the move once again.
Perhaps for spite, I whipped into the Kia dealership directly across the street from the Saturn reception desk. The folks at Kia couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive. I test drove a couple options, went back and forth a reasonable number of times, and with 90 minutes, we had a deal. The salesperson passed me off to the in-house finance minister who painlessly facilitated the legal mumbo-jumbo. After signing my life away, we shook hands and I turned to leave in my new Kia. “You’ll be getting your tickets in about three weeks,” the finance guy said.
“What tickets?” I asked. He told me, “You get two season tickets to all the Falcon’s 2008 home games when you buy a Kia.” “Why are you giving away free tickets?” I asked. He explained, “It’s a promotion to sell more cars.”
I have never been in the car business, but it seems to me that if you are going to offer a promotion to sell more cars, it might be smart to use the special offer as carrot or incentive to close deals, as opposed to mentioning it after the paperwork has all been signed and the customer is literally walking out the door.
No wonder the car business is in trouble…