Readers of this column know that my main focus is on giving potential car buyers advice on how to buy the right car at the right price without being taken advantage of by a car dealer. I have deviated from this column format twice recently in response to the controversy associated with a TV advertisement I am running in which I speak Spanish, with English subtitles. Today’s column will vary again because the controversy continues. I am getting far more positive responses to my Spanish ad than negative, but the steady pace of negative calls and emails continues to surprise me. Many of the negative calls are anonymous which makes me suspect as to their motivation, sincerity, and integrity.
Whenever a caller or emailer identifies herself, I always respond. In the interest of getting my reasons out to others who may take issue with my Spanish-speaking TV ad, I am introducing three actual negative emails and my responses (spelling and grammatical errors intact):
(1) Dr. Mr. Stewart I could not believe seeing your commercial in Spanish with English subtitles. Why not move your business over there instead of here. I would not buy from you after seeing that commercial. Others agree with me. This is America, not some Third World Country. You are not doing them a favor either by catering to them. They need to conform to our customs, not us conforming to their thrid world culture. You should be ashamed of yourself
I sincerely apologize for having offended you with my Hispanic TV commercial. Please allow me to explain.
There seems to be a common thread within the comments objecting to my Spanish commercial on our local, English-speaking TV stations.
That thread, and common misunderstanding, is that I am targeting Spanish speaking people who, either understand no English, or understand it not very well. This simply is not correct. My market research found that the vast majority of Hispanics in Palm Beach County watch English speaking channels. These are the potential Toyota buyers I am targeting. It’s easy to understand why local Hispanics watch English speaking TV if you have ever watched the 6 Spanish channels (which all originate out of Miami). The programming is of inferior quality and there is very little variety. There may be a few Hispanics who watch English speaking TV to learn to speak English better. Do you really think my 60 second commercial is discouraging these few from learning English?
Virtually all Hispanics living in Palm Beach County are bilingual and fluent in both Spanish and English. They are also mostly American citizens like you and me, most are 2nd or 3rd generation Americans, have good paying jobs, and can afford to buy a new car. Those relatively few Hispanics who don’t speak English can’t afford to buy a car. Many are here illegally and don’t even have driver’s licenses.
The response from our local Hispanic community has been overwhelmingly positive. My commercial got their attention, where it may not have had I spoken in English. You can easily understand why it got their attention if you can imagine yourself living in another country watching TV in your 2nd language. Suddenly, “out of the blue” you are listening to a Toyota commercial in English. Virtually all Hispanics found this very positive and several have bought cars because of this ad and many more say they plan to.
I could understand why you would be angry with Channel 5 if they ran Hispanic programming at times when you wanted to watch TV, but why are you angry because I ran a 60 second commercial. I hate commercials (except my own, of course). I mute commercials, change the channel, or take the opportunity to run to the kitchen or bathroom. When I sometimes accidentally have to watch a commercial (can’t find my remote control fast enough). I see lots of really obnoxious commercials. Some are absolutely terrible! (There is one car commercial where a balding guy with a beard shouts at you). I see very deceptive commercials which are obviously designed to trick us into buying from them. How about the commercials for feminine hygiene products, hemorrhoid medications, or anti-flatulents? Why don’t these kinds of commercials upset you? Have you called or written any of these advertisers? If you did, I bet you didn’t get a response. In fact, I bet you can’t even talk to them like you can me.
Several critics have accused me of “being all about making money”. You folks that pride yourself on being better Americans than I should understand that America is the land of free enterprise and capitalism. With lots of hard work, every American has a shot at the “gold ring”. I won’t apologize to anybody for trying to make a profit in my business. Many of these Hispanics, who a lot of the anti-Hispanic commercial letter writers seem to resent, came to this country because they were fleeing the communist state of Cuba. Profits and making money are frowned upon by communists. In Cuba, it’s not “all about money”; it’s all about poverty except for the communist party leaders who live quite well.
F Scott Fitzgerald said that the true test of a great mind is being able to hold two opposing views in your mind at the same time. In past presidential elections, our country was virtually split down the middle. If you are a democrat do you really think that the half of the country that voted Republican is bad or stupid? I ask the same question of the Republicans. If you don’t agree with me, why must you hate me and threaten me. I respect your opinion even if I disagree; why can’t you respect mine?
(2) Dear Mr. Stewart
Maybe you need to talk to Tom McKenna of Seacoast Water in Stuart, who is being forced out of his business by his Hispanic landlord because he just wants tenants that appeal to Hispanics. Wake up and see what is happening in this country and you are a part of it. Sure you are entitled to your views, but you are going to lose alot of customers who do not share your views. Believe it or not, people are turning away from companies who are advertising in Spanish. America should come first and the language here is English, not Spanish.
I don't know the specifics of the matter with Tom McKenna and his lease. I believe that you are referring to a story in the PB Post. I am a businessman and I do know that a landlord cannot force a tenant "out of business". Tenants have rights just like landlords. A landlord can elect not to renew a lease, in which case that tenant would have to lease space elsewhere. He would still be in business but at a different location. Landlords have rights too. If a landlord believes that they can lease their property to another tenant that will enhance their profits, that is what free enterprise is all about…and America is all about free enterprise. In some countries, the government can tell businessmen who they can and cannot lease to or do business with.
I am in the process of expanding my Toyota dealership. I purchased the property next door to my property. On that property is a Cuban restaurant, El Colonial. Their lease in up next month and I will not be renewing it, but I am working with the owner, Jamie Gomez, so that he will have plenty of time to find a new location. Jamie and his father, Jose, operate the restaurant and are American citizens who came here from Cuba. By the way, Jaime watches English speaking TV, loves my commercials, and recently bought a new Toyota Land Cruiser from me.
PS: If you like Cuban food, this is one of the best. It's Zagat rated very high and my employees and I eat there often. I will continue to do so when they move.
(3) This is for Earl Stewart. I saw you add on TV the other night and must say I was skocked. An Add in spanish- due what you must. Not only will I not buy a X2 Scion from you but I will ask my friend and fellow employees not to by a car from you. Why should I push 1 for english and I don't need your ads in my face in spanish.
I am sorry that my Spanish language ad offended you and I’m sorry that you have chosen not to do business with my dealership again.
You may be surprised when I tell you that I believe English should be learned and spoken by all citizens of this country and that I don’t support amnesty for illegal aliens. I also don’t like the answer machines that say “touch 1 for English or Spanish”. When you call my dealership you never get an answer machine. Please feel free to call me and discuss this further at anytime. My calls are not screened and I am always available to everybody.
My innocent and only intent was to sell some more Toyotas and Scions to American citizens of South Florida who are of Hispanic descent.
I advertised on English-speaking channels, rather than Spanish for two reasons:
(1) The vast majority of American citizens of Hispanic descent living in South Florida speaks English and watches the same channels you and I watch. My ad was not aimed at illegal immigrants who are very few and can’t buy cars anyhow. Most can’t afford a car and, if they could, cannot buy a car without a social security number, drivers’ license, insurance, etc.
(2) The only Spanish channels shown in our area originate in Miami and because of their vast audience, are cost prohibitive for me to advertise on. I am paying $100 to $350 per ad and the Spanish channel, which all originate out of Miami and cover all of South Florida, cost about $5,000 for a 30 second spot. This is way over my allowable advertising budget.
You may wonder why I spoke in Spanish and there are also two reasons for that:
(1) It is a sign of respect when you speak to someone in their native tongue or the native tongue of their parents or grandparents.
(2) Speaking in Spanish on a 100% English TV channel “cuts the clutter”. It got your attention and the attention of many more. It was very controversial with lots of supporters and some detractors. This is the goal of any advertiser…to have his commercial noticed.