They say “don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s a rule that is especially true when you’re a salesman. These car dealers share the times they misjudged a patron by their appearance.
“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 does 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 for 1–4 times a year depending on the rules they have).
So, 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 saleman 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 key. 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 biy sale, your face, or your lunch. Dont be a prick.”
From Homeless To Hotrod
“Yes, I spent 2.5 years at a very high volume VW dealership in the conservative middle-upper class suburb Lee’s Summit, MO., near KC. One day, I was doing my rounds looking for an up (a fresh customer on the lot) when I spotted a homeless-looking fellow on the ground, laying with his dog by his side, smoking a cig and chatting with a couple of my colleagues. I thought it was odd that he was lying down outside, but we served all kinds of customers from different socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. so his appearance, while a bit disturbing, wasn’t a big deal.
Naturally, a good car salesman keeps an eye on everyone and watches for incoming trades and this fellow was trading a 7–8-year-old Camaro which are always hot as pre-owned vehicles, especially if they were SS models and I believe this one was indeed the venerable ‘one to have’. However, when I asked another salesperson, his response was, dude you will not be able to get inside. That guy is apparently homeless and lives in the car with his dog(s) suggesting that it was so foul inside our used car manager wouldn’t drive it for evaluation.
So, of course, we all assumed the Camaro and its unusual owner would be taking it back with him as they left unable to purchase. But, as you expected to hear, the old boy was sporting a 780+score and left in a brand new Passat SEL premium, a nice payment, a fine job of negotiating his best deal, and we got the stinky Camaro. And all was well once our incredible detailer finished with the Camaro, it looked and smelled virtually new with a nice young fellow who got his dream car.”
“You’re An Idiot! You’re Wasting Your Time!”
“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.”
They Only Care When They See What You Drive
“This happened to me recently. I was in the market for a new car. I was treating myself and was interested in the BMW M4 and the Mercedes C63S. I never buy new cars, so this was an interesting treat for me.
I went to the two Mercedes dealerships dressed as I always do. Shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. This is Florida, after all. Both were instantly responsive, showed me the car, let me test drive it, basically gave me excellent service.
Then I went to the BMW dealer. I walked in, past a gaggle of salespeople, and walked around the floor until I got an M4. I walked past more salespeople in the process. Most of them glanced at me and looked away. One even rolled his eyes.
I looked at the M4, sat in, and instantly liked it.
Still no signs of a salesperson.
Finally, I gave up and walked out the door. One of the salespeople glanced out the window as I got into my trade-in, a Porsche 911 Turbo.
He RAN out the door. He came up to my car and invited me back in. I politely explained that I had been completely ignored and had no interest in coming back in. He tried to tell me they were just very busy. Yeah, sure.
I’m enjoying my Mercedes.”
Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
“When I was a young US Air Force member stationed in Phoenix, Arizona around 1992 I had a side job at a luxury retirement community. My understanding was that the least expensive accommodations there were around $7K/month (in the early 90s). So one day one of the residents wanted a lift to the Cadillac dealer and no salespeople would offer her a short ride to their dealership after a phone request. The old woman was somewhat grouchy and very tight with money. Stretched her one cafeteria meal (community-provided) to last all day.
Anyway the errand fell to me and, after picking her up in the community luxury car, I drove her to a dealer across town. Because she was mad at the local dealers by now, she instructed me to pull right up front and really only stepped into the showroom for a quick visit. She selected the most expensive model -the very one on the floor- and told them to deliver it that evening. Then insisted on a special edition logo of some sort on the side. They told her that it would be tough to pull that off and have it delivered before dark. She wrote them a check for the full amount and added double the salesperson’s quick estimate of the additional cost of her demands.
Well, I took her home. Dealership pulled it off. Old lady never once drove that beautiful car in the two years I worked there. Had us pull it around front once so she could look at it though. Then asked us to wash it and even hired a night watchman to keep an eye on it for a month or two. To look at her you’d think she was struggling to get by on just social security.”
Rule Number One: Be Likeable
“I am not a car dealer but with 54 cars in 27 years and with as many as seven cars at a time my neighbors all assume I am. I have actually been that guy the salesman rejected.
I came into a dealer looking pretty haggard one day. Unshaven in weeks, T-shirt and jeans. I was clean but not well presented. I walked into a BMW dealer I didn’t normally use because they had the car I wanted out front. The sales guy was not very enthusiastic about helping me. It was a nearby college town in a rural area so I’m sure they get people wasting their time all the time. I was so ticked off at the treatment and I left.
I was determined to buy the car just to spite the sales person but I wanted to also mess with the dealer in the process so I called my BMW dealer and made a deal for the car I wanted and had them ‘DX’ (Dealer Exchange) the car. That’s when one dealer swaps cars with another dealer. Typically the dealer wants a car they can sell or have sold and trades a car they likely will never sell. I think the exchanging dealer might make $500 for their trouble but there is no sales commission paid.
The GM of my dealer called me back and said ‘Okay, we got the deal done. We can have it here for you tomorrow.’ I said ‘Don’t bother, I’ll have the bank send over the money and I’ll sign everything when I get back in the morning. I’ll pick it up from the dealer and they can DX my trade instead’. They agreed. All this took only a few hours over lunch so I returned to the dealer that had mistreated me about 4 p.m. Same sales guy was there. He said ‘Back again to look at the car?’ I said ‘No prick, I’m here to pick it up. I just bought it.’
I walked past him to the lobby and asked for the General Manager, exchanged keys and shared the story of my morning experience then walked back out and got in my new car and left. As I walked past the sales guy still trying to fully comprehend what just happened, I said ‘Next time, assume anyone can buy any car on the lot, but understand they don’t have to buy it from you.’ I was back in that town a month later and stopped at that dealer for the 1,000 mile service. The General Manager seeing I was on the schedule met me in service. I asked how the salesman was doing, and he said that he didn’t last another two weeks after my transaction. Not everyone is cut out for sales. ‘People buy from people they like.’ Be likable.”
The Story of Mr. Porter
“An uncle of mine accompanied Mr. Cannon— an elderly neighboring farmer— to the Kansas City Royal Stock Show in the late 1940s. He was asked along because the neighbor intended to buy a new Buick while in town and would need him to drive his old battered Model A pickup back home for him.
On the last Saturday of the show, they went to a Buick dealership in Kansas City. Totally ignored by the sales staff. Of course, Mr. Cannon with his patched overalls and scruffy brogans with the soles held on by hog rings around the edges didn’t make a positive impression to salesmen used to dealing with upper-crust customers dressed to the nines. On to a second dealership; the same story, only he was actually told to get out. The third dealership, the name of which I don’t know, the OWNER personally came over and showed him all the Buicks until Mr. Cannon selected the best-equipped one in the beautiful maroon color and taupe mohair wool interior that he wanted.
The dealer quoted him a fair price so Mr. Cannon pulled out his checkbook and asked if a personal check would be okay. Without batting an eye, the owner agreed and even filled the gas tank with fuel, and ordered his porters to wash and vacuum the car. In 15 minutes the car was ready and idling at the door. Mr. Cannon, my uncle said, turned to the owner and said, ‘I’ve got to say you were much nicer to me than the other two dealerships I stopped at first. And you even took my check here on a Saturday afternoon after the banks have closed. I thank you for your courtesy and trust.’
My uncle said the owner of the dealership smiled and said, ‘Well, sir, I know you and I recognized you. You’re just like my father, overalls and all, who was also a farmer. He loaned me the money to start this dealership. I’m certainly not worried about the check. Let me know if I can help you with anything else at any time, Mr. Cannon.’
True story. A good salesman knows.”
NEVER Assume A Stranger’s Worth
“On a cold January day in 1996 I watched a beat-up Dodge pickup truck pull up to the new Dodge dealership I worked at. The truck eventually stopped where the Dodge Ram pick-up trucks were located. The bold new body style of the Ram introduced a year or two prior was drawing a lot of gawkers and with the PJs and slippers the mid-50s woman had on as she eased out the passenger door, I figured she and the man driving were there to ‘just look’ as well. Thing is, I never miss a chance to do a sales ‘walk around’ on a new vehicle as it’s the best way to stay sharp on options and features — especially on an all-new model such as the Ram. So I walked out into the 30+ degree weather to greet them.
As I got closer I noticed the man was roughly the same age as the woman and while he wasn’t in PJs, the faded coat and worn button-up beneath it didn’t bolster my hopes for a sale. Yet sell a truck that day I did, to this couple — who had the cash to buy it sitting in the bank — along with enough to buy a dozen more if they wished.
I was young — 26 — and learned a valuable lesson early — NEVER, EVER assume you know a total stranger.
Turns out their family was from Kentucky where at one time decades ago there had been a large family farm of hundreds of acres. The interstate system was built right through the land — which eventually was purchased by the University system of Kentucky and other entities as the exit placed there drew in business and development.
Then there was a Hispanic man in what was perhaps the raggiest clothing I’ve ever seen someone wearing as they looked at vehicles. He was in a company truck for a paving business. He spoke Spanish to the other Hispanic men with him and thickly accented English to me. The next day he came back with his wife who picked out the exact Suburban that he bank-wired the cash for. Turns out his company truck, was HIS company truck — he was the owner of a multi-crew paving company specializing in major retail — and was paving the entire asphalt surface of a huge outside shopping complex almost completed a few miles away.
Let me include here as well the man who wouldn’t get out of his luxury land yacht Lincoln. A very nice car when new — back around 1982, not so much 25+ years later. I truly thought he lived in it from the clothes, food wrappers and so on filling the inside. Very hard to pass a card to someone who doesn’t exit their car, much less sell them a car. But he knew the one he wanted from an ad he had with him, and he had multiple stacks of banded, crisp, new $100 bills — that I had to ride with him to a bank to convert to certified funds. In the 20 minutes of conversation I learned he was an original partner for a large metro Atlanta commercial developer. The car was a gift for his wife on their upcoming 50th anniversary.
I could keep going with more examples but the point is simple: You lie to yourself and you lie to your circle of friends and family each time you presumptively place judgment on a stranger’s place in this world, their thoughts, their worth to society, all from 10 seconds or so of your observations — but heaven forbid if someone does the same to you.”
All Smiles At The Porsche Dealer
“My ex-boss was going to turn 40 and went through a mid-life crisis. He asked a good friend what he should do about it, so the friend said: either get a fast car or a fast (and younger) woman. Being happily married, he chose the first option.
Now, my boss is a real simple guy but very wealthy. He wore a cheap black Casio until a client poked fun at him and said, ‘For a rich guy like you, that’s a cheap watch!’ So he went out and got an Omega Constellation… nothing flashy but a very workhorse kinda watch.
Anyway, he decides without much research that he’d like a Porsche 911 so he goes to the local Porsche dealership one Saturday morning all by himself. So how is he dressed when he goes into the dealership I hear you ask. Just a plain white polo t-shirt, dark blue Adidas track pants with the three white stripes down the side, an old baseball cap, and an old pair of sneakers. Yes, very understated to put it mildly. He goes into the showroom to look at the cars and is impressed by the metal on display. He’s interested in getting one for sure. Only thing is that when he looks around, all the salespeople are studiously ignoring him. Being a smart guy, he realizes it’s because of what he’s wearing since the much nicer-dressed people are all being attended to.
He’s pretty mad by now so he looks for the most junior-looking salesperson – a young boy of 18 years old who’s not even a salesperson. He’s just there as a trainee and the boy tells him so – ‘Let me get you a proper salesperson sir, I’m only a trainee.’ My ex-boss says no and that he only wants the trainee to get the sale and the commission.
He bought one of the 911s that they had in the back lot that had just arrived from Germany. Paid with a cheque and when some phone calls had cleared the cheque, he drove it there and then out of the Porsche dealership. The rest of the senior salesmen and saleswomen watched him drive off and the only one smiling was the trainee!”
A Fistful of Dollars
“This was Dad’s story. He worked one summer at a Lincoln dealer in a nearby town sweeping floors, and general flunky work. This was probably 1938 or 1939.
A man came in and was looking at a new convertible. The price was about $1,800 (a bit over $33,500 in 2021). No salesman spoke to him or acknowledged his presence. He was dressed in old faded overalls and a battered hat. He rolled a cig and lit it by striking a match with his thumbnail.
A new salesman finally walked up and asked if he could help him.
‘How much fer that there car?’
‘It’s 1800 dollars, sir. It’s the latest and nicest model. Are you certain you can afford it?’
The farmer pulled a wad of cash from each front pocket larger than his fist.
‘Yep. Rite’er up, boy!’
The farmer continued to buy Lincolns there until he died.”