They say don’t judge a book by its cover, well the same certainly goes for customers. You would think car salesmen would take a hint, but apparently not. These wealthy car buyers share the times car dealers mistook them for being poor.
How A 19-Year-Old Bluffed His Way Behind The Wheel of A $250,000 Porsche
“So, I was never really treated poorly by a car dealership, but I know that I was treated like royalty when I pretended to be rich. Here’s how it went down:
It was the late 1980s. I was just 19 years old, working as a junior car salesman at my local Volkswagen dealership in Oxford in the UK. It was a great job, it paid well, although the working hours were long.
Whilst idly talking rubbish with one of my senior colleagues one quiet summer Saturday morning I half jokingly suggested that we kill some time and go and test drive the M635 at the BMW dealership up the road. There were no customers around and we were both a little bored.
Now, there was no way I could afford this beauty (being a teenager and quite new to the workforce), but I thought to myself… if I take a brand new 16v Golf GTi with me I might be able to convince the BMW salesman that I was serious about trading it in on the M635…
My colleague was unable to join me, but challenged me to see if I could pull it off.
Ok, so this may not look like the most amazing car these days… but in 1989 it was the dogs nuts, and, at £13,129 (funny how I still remember the price) the most expensive hot hatch at the time.
So… I drove up to the BMW dealership in Summertown, parked the brand new Golf on the forecourt and casually sauntered towards the M635 that was sat, all gleaming and menacing in the showroom…
Those of you that know about these things will know that the 1989 M635csi was the last of the model to be made. 286 horsepower of Bavaria’s finest and, in those days, one of the most desirable cars you could buy.
‘I’ve just bought this 16v Golf’, I said to the salesman.
‘But I think I made a mistake. I’m looking for something a little faster.’
The salesman eyed me for what seemed like an eternity, before saying:
‘Sure, are you thinking of the 635? We have a demonstrator if you wanted to take it for a spin?’
I played hard to get for a second or two, saying that I had to take a trip to Swindon, a 30 mile drive, and would come back and take a proper look later in the day.
‘Why don’t you leave me your Golf and just take the 635? You can bring it back tonight, or even tomorrow morning if you get back after we close.’
I was stunned. Ok, I was wearing a suit and driving a brand new Golf GTi, but was it this easy?
I hesitated a second, speechless, before mustering as much nonchalance as I could, under the circumstance.
‘Sure…. Are you sure it’s ok for me to have it overnight?’
Less than 5 minutes later I was edging this beautiful straight six masterpiece out into Oxfords morning traffic, grinning like an idiot.
I drove straight back to the VW showroom to show my colleague that I had succeeded.
He had a huge toothy smile on his face and was clearly impressed that I had managed to get the car, and even more impressed that I had secured it for the whole day.
‘Don’t stop here mate’ he laughed.
‘Why don’t you take it to the Porsche dealership and see if they’re interested in trading it in for a new 911!’
I was giddy with excitement. Could I really pull this off twice in one day? It was only around 10 am, I had the whole day ahead of me.
So…. I bet my colleague £20 that I would be back in less than an hour in a 911 and set off up the road.
About halfway between the VW dealership and the BMW dealership was an independent Porsche specialist. Again, I drove straight onto the forecourt like I owned the place, casually walked up to the salesman, and, with my confidence growing and a flashy smile, said:
‘Morning! Great day to test drive a 911!’
The salesman shook my hand and looked out onto the yard.
‘Ahhh, the BMW M635csi’ he said. ‘It looks pretty new. Are you thinking of upgrading already?’
‘No, no… I’ve only had it for a few weeks… but I’m looking for something convertible for the weekends.’
Now, you have to remember, this was the 1980s, the decade of conspicuous consumption, yuppies and newly minted millionaires. Oxford was awash with wealthy young people, so this wasn’t a totally ridiculous scenario.
My heart was pounding in my chest. I was convinced I was about to be discovered.
The salesman didn’t blink. After making me coffee, a little small talk (and taking the BMW keys as security) I was out the door in a bright red six-month-old 911 Turbo Convertible, scarcely believing what I had gotten away with. He even offered to have the BMW valeted whilst I was gone!
This was a £100,000 car – a huge amount in 1989, equivalent to £250,000 in today’s money.
I still remember clearly bursting into almost hysterical laughter as I drove out of sight of the dealership and floored the flat-six, charging back down the road towards my work.
Back on my forecourt, Michael was shaking his head, with a look of slightly bewildered admiration as I arrived.
‘TaaDaa!’ I shouted, grinning like a schoolkid as I pulled up. I had only been gone about fifteen minutes.
We took the 911 out to a local pub for an early lunch and sat there for an hour before getting serious about the next challenge…
‘What do you reckon? Do you think I could go one better again?’
‘There’s a specialist used car dealership in Reading that sells Ferraris and Lamborghinis……’ his voice trailed off.
We stared at each other for a few seconds.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I spent the afternoon driving around in a bright yellow Countach.
After we had spent an hour charging around Reading in the Lambo, laughing at how easy it had all been, we started the process of returning all the vehicles one by one. By the next morning, all the cars had been returned and no one was any the wiser…
How was I treated at all the different dealers? Like royalty. Everyone fell over themselves to do my bidding. Certainly, way better than one would expect at a normal dealership.
My favorite of the cars? The 911. The Countach? A total dog of a car. It was almost impossible to drive.”
“I sold cars for a living for over 40 years. My very first sale happened on my second day at the Chrysler/Plymouth dealership that I worked at in Tacoma, Washington in 1971. There were two desks near the front door of the showroom and the salesperson who was up sat at the first desk and the salesperson who was next sat at the second desk. If we got up to so much as get a cup of coffee or use the restroom, we lost our spot in the rotation and it might take another day to get to next up in position again. The salesman ahead of me was a crusty 60-year-old guy named Frank Gillahan who was on the Tacoma School Board and sold a lot of cars to teachers. I was 22-years-old and had just returned from two years service in the U.S. Army with a tour in South East Asia.
Outside a car pulled up in the parking lot of the dealership and out stepped three young hippie looking people with bell-bottom pants, Beatle boots, flowered shirts and long hair. The woman among them wore a leather jacket with long leather fringe hanging from the sleeves. They definitely looked the part of the hippie community of the early 1970′s. Frank turned to me and said ‘Hippies, I hate hippies. They are a waste of time. They are more your age. You take ‘em.’ My heart began to race. Not only was I about to take my very first up as a car salesperson, but I also knew who these people were.
I walked outside and introduced myself and welcomed my customers to the dealership. I said ‘I know who you guys are. I go to a lot of your dances. I am a big fan.’ These ‘hippies’ were a wife and two of the members of a Tacoma-based rock and roll band who had made it big called the ‘Wailers’. They had played on the American Band Stand TV show, owned their own recording label, and were currently starting a West Coast Tour and Battle of the Bands with Paul Revere and the Raiders. In 1971, these guys were big-time.
After discussing their needs, I walked them inside the dealership and took them to a silver Chrysler Town and Country nine-passenger wagon with a red leather interior which was sitting in the center of the showroom floor. It was probably the most expensive car we had in stock. I remember the factory window sticker was $6,666. They paid for the wagon with hundred-dollar bills. The next morning at our daily sales meeting, Frank tried to get half of my deal from the day before by saying that he had turned these customers to me because he thought that I would better relate to them because of my age. Our sales manager stopped him dead in his tracks. He stated that he had overheard our conversation and there would be no split deal because Frank had refused to wait on the customers because of how they looked.”
Wearing Shabby Clothes Saved Him A Cool $6,000
“I once had a salesman switch his treatment of me twice, both because of prejudices.
About six months ago I decided that my 2003 Camry, although a workhorse and a thoroughly reliable car, was probably ready to be retired. I’m 25 with a decent-paying job and I was looking for an upgrade. After testing the entry-level offerings from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes and being fairly underwhelmed, I decided to try out the Lexus IS F-Sport. It’s a beautiful, albeit polarizing, car loaded with all the bells and whistles that were missing from the German competition for a comparable price.
I should note that if I’m not at work I’m usually dressed pretty well, however, on this day I purposely wore clothes that made me look young and stupid. I’ll explain why. I got to the dealership and the salesman immediately sized me up and could barely hide his disgust at my Camry and my track pants, graphic tee, and fitted hat. He made it clear that he didn’t have long to test drive because he had a golf game to play. We got in the car and he seemed annoyed and wasn’t saying anything about the car. It was pretty clear he didn’t see me as a serious buyer – just what I wanted.
After my short (not my choice) test drive, I told him I’m very interested and would like to talk price. Like Jekyll and Hyde, he immediately switched his tune and started showing me complete respect and even offered to cancel his tee time if I wanted more time.
I made it seem like I was really interested but that paying for the car was gonna be tricky. I never explicitly told him how I intended to pay but he definitely assumed, based on my appearance and car, I’d be financing. This got him to lower the cost much more than the initial asking price thinking he’d make it all back and then some through interest on this dumb kid who definitely wouldn’t have good credit. Once I got him to agree to drop the cost 13% below the asking price in writing I dropped the bomb that I’d be paying in full today and would be back in five minutes to go get a certified cheque from the bank.
Never did it even occur to him that I’d have enough money to buy the car in cash and his prejudice saved me $6000. He was so disgusted with himself and me that he left the room without saying anything and five minutes later his younger associate came in and finalized my purchase.”
Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
“My husband and I went into a Porsche dealership to look at a Tesla X that had been traded in. The tesla was six months old and less than 1000 miles. We NEVER buy new cars and we always pay cash.
Of course, when you go into a luxury car dealership, the people looking at cars are dressed in designer clothes, handbags etc.. very showy. We don’t dress like that. We asked to see a salesman and he was polite and showed us the car but he obviously wasn’t that familiar with Tesla. We asked him to figure out some of the features and that we would take it for a test drive on the weekend. So we went back on Saturday, which was a busy day at the Porsche center. The salesman comes out and we said that we wanted to take it out for a test drive. He looks at us and rudely says ‘are you just here to joy ride in the car, if so, I don’t have time for you, I have many potential customers inside’. We were shocked, of course, luckily my husband has high EQ so he politely said that we were there to test drive the car and that we want to talk to the manager.
The manager comes out and we explain what happened. He apologizes but it was very half-hearted. I kind of got the sense that the manager’s attitude was similar to the sales guy.
On our way home from the dealership, my husband pulls off to the side of the road and calls his very good work friend (and golfing buddy) who just happens to be the CEO of all the luxury car dealerships in the city. Of course, he was mortified. At the end of the day, we bought the car with cash, from the CEO. The original salesman lost his commission and he was put on probation.
Don’t ever judge a book by its cover.”
“You Just Lost Yourself A Sale.”
“Not me, but a friend stayed around the guy in this story to get the ending. And it’s rather odd but true.
This story takes place in Anchorage, Alaska in March. A Native man wanted to buy a new truck as his was getting old and not working right. His village had a lot of potholes in the road his truck was getting beat up. (Note: Native villages are relatively small and some you can’t get to by driving but you can drive around the area, depending on the village).
So, he walks into the dealership and looks around and kicks some tires, and sits in the driver’s seat until he finds one he liked. No salesman came to help him when he came in, so he had to go search for one. One young guy came out to help him but rolled his eyes and the man noticed. ‘Why do you roll your eyes and sigh about me?’ he asked. ‘Because everyone knows that Natives are dirty addicts with no money,’ was the answer.
So on that note, the Native guy flipped him off and said ‘Ok, I’m going to go across the street, but you just lost a sale, Stupid’. Ok, that dealer flipped him off and even held the door for him to leave. Guy (and friend) go to the other dealership and do the same thing as before, buy a salesman met him as soon as he came in and was helping him. Finds the perfect truck and says, ‘ OK, I’ll take it. Do you accept cash?’ Dealer is a bit shocked but nods his head yes. Good. This was getting heavy. So he takes off his backpack and opens it and it’s loaded. (Note: in Alaska, between September and April all residents get a check from the Permanent Fund Dividend check. It’s leftover money from the oil businesses there. Also, Natives in Alaska are paid for where ever their village is located. So, their corporations get paid 1–4 times a year depending on the rules they have).
So, the Native guy and salesman go into an office and start the paperwork. When they get done, he pays for a brand new 1994 (yes, it was new, then) IN CASH and lets the salesman know that he’ll pick it up the next day and he has to go get a delivery plane set to have it flown back to his village.
He went outside and yelled to the other salesman, ‘Hey, stupid! I got a new truck paid in cash, I told you so.’ While wagging his set of keys. The friend said he could see the reaction of the first salesman. He said it looked like he was kicking himself and looking like was going to puke.
So, never assume because you could lose a big sale, your face, or your lunch. Dont be a prick.”
“I was with someone when they purchased a Rolls Royce. I literally saw the change in attitude from snobby to reverence in 0.05 seconds.
Here’s how it went down. I was 30 and took the day off from work and was dressed in jeans, driving with someone much older to help them make a very expensive car purchase at a luxury dealership. We didn’t have an appointment.
Now, as we had never been to this particular dealership before we didn’t realize we had accidentally pulled into the wrong ‘lot’ and were on the service side of the building – the customer parking lot was on the other side.
In any event I get out and walk in through the back entrance, jeans and dress shirt and the wisdom of youth and say, ‘Excuse me. Where do we park?’
The man that greeted me, obviously annoyed that not only was I not going to purchase but was coming in the backdoor and obviously parked where I shouldn’t be, came out back with me and practically scolded me, ‘Where’s your car?’
I pointed to the person I came with. 65, silver hair, and driving a Mercedes S-class sedan.
The exact profile of someone looking to trade up to a Rolls. While young folks might like to play pretend, no one respectable over 50 goes to a dealership just to waste their time…or maybe they do, I don’t know.
In any event, upon seeing the car and driver the salesman’s tone immediately changed. I asked again, ‘Where should we park?’
‘You can just park it here. Really it’s completely fine!’
So we parked caddy corner like a bunch of crazies.
And walked into the dealership and no one seemed to mind.”
A Loan From The Bank? Heck This Guy OWNED The Bank!
“Ha! I have to share this story because it goes from the other perspective. When I was a kid, I did a short stint as a car salesman. I treated everyone equally, regardless of appearance — probably because I was too new and hungry to even have it occur to me to prequalify people.
So one day this guy walks (not drives) onto the lot, dressed in torn jeans and a ratty flannel shirt. None of the experienced salespeople wanted to go near him, so I approached him.
This was a Dodge dealership, and he wanted to look at a new fully-loaded Ram 3500 diesel engine dually — which was basically THE most expensive thing we sold, short of the Viper.
So in my youthful ignorance, I showed it to him.
He spent half an hour asking me questions, then I took him for a test drive. We got done and he wanted to negotiate, so we went inside.
Some of the ‘more experienced’ sales reps were literally laughing at me as we walked through the showroom, and giving me looks that said, ‘You’re an idiot and you’re wasting your time.’
Well. We did the paperwork for him to start the negotiations, and the manager pulled up a credit bureau on this guy.
And everyone stopped laughing.
Turned out this guy literally owned a bank. He had AAA-perfect credit, and his personal high credit line was something like $30 million.
After all the negotiations, he wrote a check for the full amount.
As I was walking him out, he turned and thanked me for treating him with respect. He told me he dressed the way he did precisely because he wanted to see who would still treat him like a human being. He had walked onto the lot because his car was a high-end Mercedes and would have given him away as ‘a rich dude.’ So he parked it around the corner out of sight.
Apparently, he had been to 5 or 6 other car lots that day, and I was the only salesperson who hadn’t snubbed him.
I’ll tell you what: After that experience as a young man, I learned to never prejudge anyone based on appearance alone.”
Where The Sun Don’t Shine!
“This is one of my favorite stories. Back in 67 when I was in the Navy in San Diego, my roommate decided to buy a VW Beetle. At that time the price was $1800, no matter where you went. He already knew how much money he needed to buy it, so he called around and found a dealer who had the color he wanted—green.
I went with him to the dealership. We were just two young sailors. Three salesmen stood there, drinking coffee. We could hear their disparaging remarks about us. They concluded we were just looky-loos. Finally, we overheard one say to another, ‘You’re up. You can deal with these losers, they don’t have any money.’
After a long wait, that salesman stepped up and halfheartedly said, ‘Can I help you, boys?’
My friend then pulled out a wad of cash. He fanned the $100 bills. ‘I have $2500 here and I was going to buy that car with it, but now you can shove it.’ We turned to go. The salesman got all flustered. He tried everything he could think of to keep us from leaving, explaining why it took so long, etc., but we just walked out.
We went to another dealership and my roommate bought a different color. So, never judge a person by his appearance.”
Times Have Changed
“I was 17 when my dad took me to a Mercedes dealership to buy a ‘family’ car. Due to my dad not being able to speak ‘a lot’ of English, he usually let me do all the talking. So he took his time and walked around the parking lot looking at inventory, while I went inside the showroom first.
None of the salesmen came up to me so I went to one that was sitting at his desk, an older gentleman, well-groomed and dressed, his head was facing down. I walked up to the desk and said ‘hello’ and told him I am interested in an S420 and if he has a dark grey in stock. He looked at me like I was made out of glass. No response and he picked up some paperwork on his desk. I am like wow.
Due to my parents being immigrants, I have been translating for them since young age like 12–13. I translated for them at law offices, at the airport with border agents, buying a new house (especially selecting options and color schemes) appliances, TV, etc so it’s not something I haven’t done before. It’s not like I am in awe and nervous talking to a salesman.
Anyway, he ignored me. By now, my dad walked into the showroom. The salesman got up and walk to say hello to my dad. As I was still at his desk, my dad followed him towards me. I know obviously what is happening here and yeah it’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened ( being ignored ) So when my dad arrived, I told my dad in Chinese, we are not buying the car from him as he just disrespected me. Dad says you decide, it doesn’t matter to him.
So, there was this young salesman next table over, I asked if he was busy and I told my dad to have seat. We ended up buying the car from him and the other salesman came over and I know he was trying to get a share of the commission ( and I heard him saying my dad comes before etc. ) I told my sales rep ‘No’ he has no rights to any fees. He tried to explain to my dad but my dad doesn’t understand what he is saying nor does he care.
Fast forward 10–12 years later. I invested in several automotive franchises. While I was chatting with my GM, I saw this older man walking around the showroom and eventually talking to my sales manager. My GM ask if he is a friend of mine and I told him this story about where know him from. Actually, over the years, I have seen him work at BMW and Audi as I was purchasing cars but I never mentioned this to anyone else as it’s already passed. By now, he has no memory that the 17-year-old he ignored will cross his path so many times.”