Don’t judge a book by its cover! Especially if you’re a car salesman. These customers share the time a dealership treated them differently until the moment they realized they were actually loaded. Money talks!
Hard Work Pays Off
“I’d spent three years working every hour I possibly could to make good money for myself. I’d saved up and I’d had my heart set on a brand new Audi.
I was working in another city and finished work a bit early on Friday afternoon. I’d done my research online and I knew that the model I wanted was order-only. They didn’t build to stock them. I was ready to place my order and sit back and wait six months.
So, a fresh-faced 25-year-old me walks into the Audi dealership and starts looking around. I was interested to see the other models but I knew what I wanted. There were a few people in the dealership so I knew I’d have to wait a little bit.
After about 10 minutes the receptionist came to me and asked if I needed any help. I said yes, I’d like to talk to someone about buying a car. She took my details and off she went. After five minutes a super-sarcastic guy with slick hair approached me. I told him I’d like to order a new S3. He laughed in my face and told me that I didn’t look old enough or like the kind of guy that could afford an S3.
I was instantly annoyed. I told him that I was there as a cash buyer. He demanded to see my driving license. Only then would he start to take me seriously. But, he lost me as a customer.
Two days later I went to my local dealer and paid $35000 for a brand new fully loaded Audi S3. The sales lady was so happy to have my business; I was treated like royalty. When the car arrived 6 months later, I was presented with a $150 bottle of pinot and a huge bouquet of flowers. I was stunned and amazed. Not only that, when the car went in for its first service, they gave me an Audi R8 as a courtesy car for the day!”
“Let’s Get You Into A Mercedes.”
“In college, I used to drive an 8-year-old Hyundai Sonata, bought for $4500 with around 100K miles on it. It was a nice car which served me well but it also clearly showed its age.
Right after college, I went to a really good job that paid me a comfortable six-figure income. After making due financial calculations I decided that I could easily afford a new BMW 328i, Infiniti G37, or a Mercedes C250. I understood the depreciation of a new car, maintenance costs, insurance rates, etc., but as a 23-year -old, the thrill of being able to comfortably afford these cars along with the considerable discounts being offered on those cars in December 2011 helped me disregard the cons and start shopping for them.
I assumed that my shopping experience would match the premium nature of these cars, but I could not have been further from the truth.
Blame it on the car I drove or the air of sophistication I did not exude, but when I first walked into an Infiniti showroom, I was made to wait for 20 minutes before anybody would even talk to me. During the time I was kept waiting, most other older people who walked in were immediately fawned over, offered refreshments, and ushered in by a sales associate. I eventually forced my way over to the reception desk and complained about being kept waiting. I received a terribly insincere ‘sorry, but we are busy’ response. When a salesperson finally came to us, he immediately took us to the used car section and started talking about how a 5-year-old car is affordable and not too bad to drive. When I insisted that I was there for a new G37 and that he need not worry about me being able to afford it, he begrudgingly showed me their stock of new G37’s. They did, however, refuse a test drive, citing some issues with their plates. I requested a call back when they received a specific car, with specific options I wanted, that was in transit to them. I really think they tossed my card away the moment I walked out.
My experience at the BMW showroom was almost identical to the one I received at Infiniti. The only difference was they let me drive the car, but inside their parking lot and not on the road. The associate also handed me a card for a Toyota dealership owned by the same group!!
I left both the showrooms with a starkly reduced interest in purchasing their cars, even though I started out actually liking them better than the Mercedes.
I was frustrated, felt angry, insulted, and had almost given up on these cars when I walked into the Mercedes showroom. I felt even less optimistic as the showroom had huge glass windows looking out to the parking lot, which meant everybody working there had a really good look at what I drove. I simply wasn’t prepared for what happened next though. The moment I walked in, the Mercedes sales manager, a young guy named Jose, walked up to me and the first thing he said was,
‘Looking at your car now, I know exactly why you need a Mercedes. Let’s get you into one.’
He was responsive, polite, and even insisted that I take a test car out for a couple of hours to ensure that I liked everything about it. The experience remained impeccable all through the couple of weeks I spent being indecisive, comparing prices, financing etc. I eventually got the car from them in early 2012 and still own it. I cannot be happier with the purchase today.
In hindsight, it’s very interesting how a sales associate and a simple sales experience has a very profound impact on a purchase decision as considerable as getting a $40,000 car, even when the actual car and the manufacturer had little to do with the experience.
I was later told by Jose that he identified with the situation I was in when I walked into the dealership because he had been in similar situations which were often made worse due to his ethnicity. He also simply said he did not know or care if I would be able to afford the car when he let me take it on a test drive and all he wanted to do was to ensure that I had a great experience at the dealership and left with a positive impression of him and the brand. He also mentioned, doing this usually meant his customers came back to him when they eventually decided to buy a car be it that day or a couple of years into the future. This was among the best practical lessons I had received in customer service and something that has paid rich dividends for my business over the years, significantly more than I paid for the car!”
Not So Fast Frank!
“I sold cars for a living for over forty 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 ‘up’ 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 the ‘up’ 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 of 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 American Band Stand with Dick Clark, owned their own recording label, and we’re 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.”
He Wanted To Conduct A Little Experiment
“I once had a salesman switch his treatment of me twice, both because of prejudice.
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, 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.”
Rolls Royce Equals Respect
“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 a 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 literally parked sloppily on the curb And walked into the dealership and no one seemed to mind.”
Got A New Car And The Last Laugh
“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’s.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
From A Honda To A Beamer!
“First of all, I am not rich by any means. I am an average immigrant making a living in the USA and fueling the American economy. My first car was a beat-up 2000 Honda civic that I bought from my first internship. The car didn’t have any problems, and I never had much disposable income, so I never upgraded it. Often my co-workers would joke about it. The car was absolutely basic, it had no features, not even central locking. Sometimes I’d be embarrassed when someone traveling with me forgot to lock the door. I’d stay behind and lock the doors manually rather than ask them.
After driving my Honda for almost nine years and putting close to 190K miles on it. I decided to upgrade to a luxury car and treat myself. Also YOLO, so why not! I decided to upgrade to BMW.
I had very specific needs and there were only two dealerships within 50 miles that had that specific configuration. I drove to the first dealership. The sales agent obviously saw me stepping out of my Honda. I told him that, I made a call about the car earlier and would like to test drive it. The sales agent seemed least enthusiastic about the whole business. He asked me if I had been shopping around and I casually told him the quote I had received from the second dealership (which was about $1,800 less than this dealership). He said, maybe you should come to an agreement on the price first. The price you are looking for isn’t something that we can work with. It is a waste of our time if you are not okay with our price. In my opinion, it’s part of their job description to let customers test drive their cars and educate customers about the features of the car. Half of the impulsive decisions to buy cars are made after test driving it and they totally missed the whole point.
So I decided to drive to the next dealership and had a whole different experience. I told them about my experience with the other dealership and the salesman there joked – ‘Hell, I’ll sell you car if you came here riding on a mule, as long as you can close the deal.’ I always believed in the US, especially in California, people are liberal and open-minded. They care least about what you wear, where you live, what you drive, or what you eat. For the most part, this is true but there are always isolated incidents like this. Anyways I ended up buying a slick, blue BMW M3