Monday, April 28, 2008

WHAT MAKES A CAR SALESMAN TICK

A car salesman calling himself “Alex S” posted a comment on my Blog recently. You can read his comment and my response by clicking on my Blog, http://www.earlstewartoncars.com/ and going to my article, “The No-Dealer-Fee “Fat Lady” Hasn’t Sung Yet.”

I’ve reproduced his posting and my reply below because the comments of this car salesman are very revealing of what goes on inside the heads of many car sales people today.

I often am accused of calling car dealers and car sales people “crooks” or just plain “evil”. I certainly don’t mean to. I don’t believe that most people in the retail auto business are dishonest any more than I believe that about lawyers or politicians. Of course, there are a few that are just plain bad.

“Amoral” is a better way to describe the mindset of those in the retail car business who cause the huge problem we have today with the way car buyers are treated. A person who is amoral is one who is not admitting of moral distinctions or judgments; neither moral nor immoral. When you read the words of “Alex S” below you can see that he does not believe what he does to sell a car is deceptive, immoral or unethical. I’m sure you know others like Alex. If somebody challenges their behavior, it’s never their fault. In Alex’s case, he blames me and he blames and his customers for the negativity surrounding car dealers and car salesmen.

(my comments in caps)

Earl Stewart:THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR POSTING. PLEASE EXCUSE THE "ALL CAPS" BUT THIS WILL DIFFERENTIATE YOUR WORDS FROM MINE. I'VE CHOSEN TO ADDRESS YOUR POSTING PARAGRAPH BY PARAGRAPH. FIRST, LET ME CONGRATULATE YOU FOR HAVING THE COURAGE, NOT ONLY TO RESPOND TO MY BLOG, BUT NOT TO CHOOSE TO BE ANONYMOUS. YOUR POSTING IS VERY INTERESTING BECAUSE IT SPEAKS FOR MOST FLORIDA CAR DEALERS. AS YOU POINT OUT, YOU AND MOST OF THOSE EMPLOYED IN THE RETAIL AUTO BUSINESS ARE NOT "CROOKS". A MINORITY ARE, BUT THE MAJORITY ARE SIMPLY ASSESSING THE DEALER FEE BECAUSE "THAT'S THE WAY ITS ALWAYS BEEN DONE" AND NOT TAKING TIME TO THINK OUT WHY IT'S BAD FOR THE CONSUMER.

Alex S: I work at a dealership in sawgrass(i wont mention the name because i dont have the authority to). Over the past few days I have noticed the quantity of my complaints over dealer fees have gone up, so I investigated and found your site. I respect what you are doing and can completely understand what it is that you are doing. I always disclose the dealer fees to my clients during me negotiations, i don't say plus fees i tell them plus dealer fees of XXX.

Earl Stewart: I'M VERY GLAD TO HEAR THAT MY ANTI-DEALER FEE EFFORTS ARE SPREADING AROUND THE STATE. I'M HAPPY TO HEAR THAT YOU TOTALLY DISCLOSE THE DEALER FEE TO ALL OF YOUR CUSTOMERS. UNFORTUNATELY, MOST SALES PEOPLE DO NOT. VIRTUALLY ALL SALES PEOPLE DO NOT USE THE COMPLETE TERM "DEALER FEE" [OR WHATEVER THEIR PARTICULAR DEALERSHIP CHOOSES TO CALL IT], BUT SIMPLY SAY "FEES". THIS LEADS THE CUSTOMER TO BELIEVE IT IS AN "OFFICAL FEE", FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL.

Alex S: What it boils down to for me is that "profit" is not a dirty word. Dealer fees are an essential part of profit. Car sales are all a game, the customers goal is to spend as little as possible where as my goal is to make as much as possible. If both parties can come to a happy agreement, then it is all for the better. I read your previous article and people feel they are being robbed, that is simply not the point, No salesman has ever held a customer down and made them sign, if you dont like the way we do business then leave.

Earl Stewart: I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW OFTEN I'VE HEARD OTHER DEALERS USE THE SAME PHRASE, "PROFIT IS NOT A DIRTY WORD". THIS PHRASE IS A STRAW DOG JUST LIKE "WE DON'T WANT GOVERNMENT TO TELL US HOW TO PRICE OUR CARS". MY DEALERSHIP IS VERY PROFITABLE AND I DON'T CHARGE DEALER FEES. I'M IN BUSINESS TO MAKE A PROFIT AND I WOULDN'T BE IF I THOUGHT "PROFIT WAS A DIRTY WORD". I'M NOT CRAZY ABOUT YOUR DESCRIPTION OF "ALL CAR SALES BEING A GAME". IT'S THE 2ND BIGGEST PURCHASE A CUSTOMER MAKES IN HIS LIFE. IF IT'S A GAME, IT'S A VERY SERIOUS AND IMPORTANT ONE. USING YOUR ANALOGY, I ONLY WANT BOTH TEAMS TO BE FULLY INFORMED OF THE RULES OF THE GAME...HENCE FULL DISCLOSURE OF THE PRICE OF THE CAR WHICH SHOULD INCLUDE EVERYTHING EXCEPT TAX AND TAG. THIS FULL DISCLOSURE SHOULD NOT COME "AFTER THE FACT" BUT FROM THE FIRST TIME A PRICE IS QUOTED IN ADVERTISING, VERBALLY, ON A WINDSHIELD OR SIGN, OR OVER THE INTERNET. YOU SAY "NO ONE HAS EVER HELD A CUSTOMER DOWN AND MADE HIM SIGN". MAYBE NOT LITERALLY, BUT I KNOW OF LOTS OF CUSTOMERS THAT WERE FIGURATIVELY "HELD DOWN". I'VE TALKED WITH ELDERLY WIDOWS IN THEIR EIGHTIES AND NINTIES WHO WERE KEPT IN A CLOSING OFFICE FOR HOURS WHEN THEY ASKED FOR THEIR CAR KEYS TO GO HOME. I ALSO KNOW OF CUSTOMERS WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND OR READ ENGLISH WELL, YOUNG, UNSOPHISTICATED FIRST-TIME BUYERS, AND BUYERS WHO ARE UNEDUCATED AND/OR JUST NOT VERY SMART WHO HAVE BEEN TAKE GREAT ADVANTAGE OF.

Alex S: People do not walk into an electronics store and fight about the price they pay for a $5000 flat screen tv. They dont walk into the grocery store and argue about the price of a pound of apples. I guess what i am trying to get at is if you are in a comfortable place with a calm attitude the dealer fee should not be a deal breaker for anyone. Talk to the dealer sales associate about it. Believe me when i say this, most sales people dont recieve compensation from the dealer fee, but i still need to collect it.

Earl Stewart: ANOTHER THING THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN WHEN YOU SHOP CIRCUIT CITY, BUY RITE, AND BEST BUY TO GET THE LOWEST PRICE ON A 50 INCH PANASONIC TV IS NOT BEING SURPRISED AT THE CASHIER THAT THE "BEST PRICE" IS NOT REALLY THE BESTS PRICE BECAUSE BEST BUY HAS A $350 "DEALER FEE". YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAGGLE WITH CIRCUIT CITY BECAUSE YOU'VE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO FAIRLY COMPARE THEIR PRICE WITH THEIR COMPETITION. THIS OPPORTUNITY IS BEING DENIED CAR BUYERS IN FLORIDA. YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT CAR SALESMEN NOT BEING PAID ON THE DEALER FEE. THIS MAKES THE SALESMAN VERY RELUCTANT TO DEDUCT THE AMOUNT OF THE DEALER FEE FROM THE PRICE OF THE CAR DURING NEGOTIATION. IF YOUR DEALER FEE IS $999 AND YOU DEDUCT IT FROM THE PRICE, YOU ARE COSTING YOURSELF $250 [ASSUMING A 25% COMMISSION]. THE SALESMAN ALSO TELLS THE CUSTOMER HE CANNOT REMOVE THE DEALER FEE BECAUSE HE IS REQUIRED BY LAW TO CHARGE ALL CUSTOMERS THE SAME DEALER FEE.

Alex S: If you find the need to rush out after the sales associate has informed you of a dealer fee, you didnt want to be there in the first place. Buying a car should be a pleasent experience.

Earl Stewart: WOULDN'T YOU "RUSH OUT" OF BEST BUY IF THE CASHIER ADDED A $350 DEALER FEE TO THE $3,995 ADVERTISED PRICE OF YOUR PANASONIC PLASMA TV? AS FAR AS CAR BUYING BEING A PLEASANT EXPERIENCE, TRY THIS EXPERIMENT...WITHOUT REVEALING YOU ARE A CAR SALESMAN, ASK THE NEXT 10 PEOPLE YOU SEE OUTSIDE YOUR DEALERSHIP IF THEY CONSIDER BUYING A CAR A "PLEASANT EXPERIENCE". I WROTE A POSTING FOR THIS BLOG ENTITLED "WOULD YOU RATHER BUY A CAR OR HAVE A COLONOSCOPY"? CAR DEALERS ARE ONE OF THE FEW RETAILERS THAT HAVEN'T ENTERED THE 21ST CENTURY. THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE TO IF THEY ARE GOING TO SURVIVE AND COMPETE. ALex, IN THE 21ST CENTURY, "THE CUSTOMER IS KING"...WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE.

Alex S: As a last note, if you walk into a dealship expecting to be ripped off, no matter how good of deal you actually get, it will never be good enough. If you walk in expecting to be treated right, you will probably leave happy everytime.

Earl Stewart: ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT CAR BUYERS SHOULD SHOULD NOT BE WARY OF OVER-PAYING WHEN BUYING A CAR? IN THE SECOND PARAGRAPH OF YOUR POSTING YOU ADMITTED THAT "YOUR GOAL WAS TO MAKE AS MUCH PROFT OFF THAT CUSTOMER AS POSSIBLE". YOU ARE SUGGESTING THAT IF THE CUSTOMERS WEAR ROSE TINTED GLASSES, TRUST YOU TO GIVE THEM A GOOD PRICE, THEY WILL LEAVE HAPPY. ALEX, THE ONLY CUSTOMERS THAT "LEAVES HAPPY EVERY TIME" AFTER OVER PAYING FOR A CAR ARE THE THOSE WHO WERE DECEIVED.

11 comments:

  1. Good Morning Earl! Happy 1st of the month!

    I have always loved the "you don't negotiate with the grocery store for apples" excuse, or the "Best Buy won't show you their invoice" line. These excuses are generally made by the people in our business who lack the capacity to understand that we have done it to ourselves for too many years.

    My comments on your blog have thus far shared a commone theme: we can improve the way we "talk to" our customers. This is just one more example. You said it too, BestBuy does not surprise their customers with hidden fees after advertising their best price for a product. The grocery store does not advertise t-bones at $4.99/lb (stock #TB004876A) only to tell their customers "sorry, we sold those t-bones, but follow me, we have some other t-bones right over here with some additional equipment."

    It is ALL about how we talk to our customers. There is nothing inherently wrong with a dealer fee. There is, however, something very wrong with how the dealer fee is most often presented in today's climate.

    I compete with a dealer 15 minutes away, whose dealer fee is $400 higher than mine. This dealer's internet sales department can send price quotes on the same vehicles for $400 lower than mine and make the same amount of money when selling the car. The problem is, we lose more often than we win, even though we are the ones trying to be fair to our customers. Because once a buyer enters that particular dealership, they usually don't come out with their checkbook intact.

    If all dealers were at least upfront about their fees, it would not matter if the fee were outlawed or not...the only thing that would matter is that the customer is informed.

    By the way, along the lines of the grocery store/BestBuy excuses: I recently sold a car to a prominent local jeweler. He was at first a pretty tough customer, but he softened up a bit when I made it clear to him that we had nothing to hide and we would treat him fairly. After he took delivery, I told him I was in the market for a diamond, and that I was going to come see him and demand to see his invoice (like he demanded ours). He looked me in the eyes and said "Tim, I'll be happy to show you my invoice. Then we will add 250% instead of my usual 300!!!"

    I'm in the wrong business!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tim,
    I am shocked that you find Earl Stewart someone to speak to on your level. This man is trying to ruin the reputation of good, honest, hard working dealers for his own personal gain. Tim, most dealers down here are like yourself, they are very open with the dealer fee. Since the entire world here charges it, everyone is very much aware of the fee. The problem is every dealer would stop if they all stopped at the same time. It's just who jumps first. The only thing that will accomplish, however, is the dealer fee will no longer be charged. The dealers will make the same money. They have to to stay in business. What Earl is trying to do is tell the car buying world how awful dealers that charge dealer fees are. This includes you. He may have a connection with you because he is a dealers son also, but he hates you like the rest of them. Dealer fees will never be outlawed. There will only be more regulations to them. If Earl would work with the other dealers on a personal level instead of bashing them he would have more success in trying to stop the dealers from charging the fee. Earl is not really trying to stop the dealer fee, he only wants to bring awareness to the customers of how awful dealer fee dealers are. Earl is not for the best interest of the customer. He only cares about himself. Tim, if you were ever able to speak to some of his employees you would find the Earl is a mean and down right degrading person to work for. Most of his associates can't stand him. This is why he has such turn over. Some love him don't get me wrong, but that is a very small number. I would love to see every dealer on the same page with dealer fees without going around bashing each other. I don't think bashing the auto dealers helps our reputation. If Earl is such a maverick for change then he would be trying to convince the dealers to change, not the law makers. Dealers will be the only people who make dealer fees go away. Earl knows this, but would rather blog about how great he is and how he is fighting the good fight. This is all for personal glorification and gain. Tim, lastly I would like to say that I applaud you for keeping your customers informed of the dealer fee. This is like almost every dealer down here as well. Earl just likes to paint a different picture for the car buying public, because as you fully understand people believe what they read. Don't be fooled by this man. He is not a good hearted person. He is very bad. Just a few short years ago he was one of these awful dealers that he writes so much about and says he hates so much. Do you know his service labor rate depended on what kind of vehicle you drove. If you had a landcruisor or cressida watch out your labor rate was sky high. So don't be fooled. The people that really know Earl knows him for who he really is. Also one last thing. Earl does not sell the most cars in Palm Beach like he claims and the only reason he is growing so much is because he built a brand new dealership the can accomodate the business that was already there. Again please don't be fooled by this man like some many others are.

    ReplyDelete
  3. tim (a dealer's kid) phdMay 01, 2008 4:40 PM

    Anonymous,

    I am unmoved by your comments. Here is the thing: I understand that Earl is not purely altruistic in his motives. I understand that he has hit on this issue as a way to bring about some REAL change in the industry, and as a way to differentiate Earl Stewart Toyota from the competition. So what? Does that mean that he does not genuinely care about consumers? Does that make him a "turncoat" car dealer? I certainly don't think so.

    Look, the great thing about competition in America is that as long as you are not doing anything illegal, you are free to attempt to differentiate your business any way possible from your competitors. Any time someone comes along and tries to change long established practices in the name of profit or the consumer, others ridicule them...it's just the nature of the beast...I'm sure Earl takes your comments with a grain of salt.

    I also notice how you don't point out any reason NOT to eliminate the dealer fee if it is a statewide mandate. There is no reason. You say: "its just who jumps first." Well, I'll give you one guess who that is. Hint: it's not the followers who "would stop if they all stopped at the same time." It's somebody not afraid to take the leap himself.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am a consumer Advocate on a VERY POWERFUL web site that is devoted to EXPOSING Rip Off's. I at one time sold cars for a living, and I learned very soon that car buyers that like their salesman and the dealer are the buyers that get bent over in a big way.

    You say How can that be! Let me explain. If a salesperson gets the car buyer in what I call the "U.C.Z." they, the buyer WILL GET HUMPED! The UCZ is "UNSAFE COMFORT ZONE" In other words.

    If the dealer and salesperson gets the buyer HAPPY, FEELING GOOD, and likes everybody at the dealership and the dealership KNOWS the buyer will not want to take the dealer's numbers and try to shop them at other dealerships, TRUST ME, the buyer is going to pay way more then they need to.

    Ever hear a car dealer's advertisement saying car buyers come back again and again because we treat them right? Yeah Right, if a car buyer comes back again and again, they are paying more then they should for each car they buy.

    When you believe somebody cares about you, you're going to be a little bit more foolish with your money.

    TV stations across the country interview me all the time, read the below!
    Peep this video, turn your sound up!

    http://www.azcentral.com/12news/consumer/articles/2007/11/13/20071113carfinancewebbonus-CR-CP.html

    http://www.kirotv.com/consumer/3849641/detail.html

    Here is another one!
    http://www.wistv.com/Global/story.asp?S=2771384

    Maybe Earl will have me on his talk show and tell you SO MUCH MORE!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Tim,

    I appreciate that you are not moved. I didn't want to move you, I wanted to wake you up.

    I to believe in competition. Earl is not trying to compete, he is trying to destroy and I don't mean the other dealers as competition I mean their reputation. Whether the dealer fee is right or wrong is any mans opinion. You will have a million reasons for and against it. That is not the issue. The issue is, as I said before, if Earl really and truely cared for customers in general and wanted the dealer fee to stop then he would take it to the dealership level and not the state level. Again, the state will never make the dealer fee illegal. They can't. All they can do is regulate it. This won't accomplish what Earl says he is trying to do. Tim, you do not know Earl. He is a fraud. He is someone who found an angle to represent himself as a hero and misrepresent other dealers.

    You yourself charge a dealer fee. Does that mean you are a bad guy or a bad dealer? I don't know you but I will assume, for the time being, that you are. When Earl bashes the dealers who charge a dealer fee and claims they are defrauding the customer, this includes you. Is that what you are doing Tim, defrauding the customer. Like me, I don't think so. We are up front and honest with the customer and let them know that they are paying this fee. If they leave they leave. That doesn't happen that often. We outsell Earl every month, we are higher in CSI than Earl every month and our business continues to grow. Again don't want to move you only want to educate you on a man that you feel is doing right by the customer.

    ReplyDelete
  6. stick bogart,

    you are a bitter man with a axe to grind for someone. Let me ask you a question. Why is the car dealer a criminal because he wants to make a profit? I am talking about the car dealer that is upfront and honest with the customer, which happens to be the highest majority. Why aren't jewelers being regulated on the amount of mark up for a diamond? Why isn't the grocer being brought up on charges for making a profit at the grocery store? The truth of the matter is because you are allowed to make a profit and run your business. If you don't like the price you have the right to leave the dealership you are working with.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Let me say how touched i am that i was put on the front page. I just needed to comment on some of the things that were written regarding my post.

    The 21st century qoute in no way can apply to me because im only 24, i wasnt selling cars in the last century, however i did buy cars. It was always a pleasent experience for me, i went in excited because i was getting a car and i left excited because i got a car. im not telling people to not do their homework, what i am saying is treat the sales person with the same respect you want. If you are a jerk to them from the get go, they certainly will do everything they can to "tear your head off".

    Tim,
    i used to work at best buy, they will never tell you what they pay for anything, and unfortunatly the mark up they have in some of there items is significantly higher than that of some of my vehicles. Also, they may not have a dealer fee, but they do make a full hearted effort into pressuring you into getting a $100 warranty for a $90 product.
    A dealer fee is the cost of doing business, some places charge them some do not, some charge twice that of others, people know there are dealer fees, but its all about the bottom line. Tell the dealer what you expect to be out the door and guess what, they will have no choice but to factor in dealer fees. "I compete with a dealer 15 minutes away, whose dealer fee is $400 higher than mine"<-- Looks like you also charge dealer fees where you work, go figure.

    Anonymous,
    Bashing Mr Stewart will get you nowhere in life. Also what i learned growing up is if you ever have anything to say to anyone, you should man up and let them know who you are, but i digress. This whole dealer fee thing is nothing but a huge ad, and it is working, because if i decide i want a toyota, im going to go where i know they dont charge dealer fees. Not every Boss is loved by all employees, the job of a boss is to run a business. I see it all the time where i work, the ones who do what they need to do, like the boss because he never bothers them, the ones who dont, are consistently on the bad side.

    Sorry if there are any grammar errors in here, just typing fast

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear Alex S,

    You wrote that you are 24 years old and bought "cars" prior to the year 2000. The last time I checked, children under the age of 18 cannot contract to buy a car or anything else for that matter. Arithemetically it's impossible for you do what you said.

    I think what you "meant to say" was that car-buying was a pleasant experience and you were excited when your Mommy and Daddy brought you along when they bought cars.

    Ask your parents what they think of their car buying experiences over the years. When I was 24, I thought I had all the answers too and I didn't think my parents were all that sharp. Around the time I reached my thirties, I was astounded at how smart my parents had become in six short years!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Actually, i had purchased cars, I was lucky enough to be in a situation where over the course of these six short years i was able to purchase 6 automobiles that i myself had owned. I also went with friends who were buying cars and helped them. Please don't insult me due to my age. I have been taking care of myself since i was 15 years old, Had my first home when i was 20, and still continue to take care of myself, i actually send Mommy and Daddy money each month. I said what i meant

    ReplyDelete
  10. Alex,

    Don't get so upset. Earl is very old and remember never had to work very hard in his life. He was handed a automobile dealership. You work hard and understand the value of hard work. He was given his lifestyle. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Get just gets me that a person wants to post on this site in a Anonymous way, have no convection my friend? maybe you are Earl Stewarts compatition. Who cares, I know you have NO BACK BONE> Maybe you are the dealership that bends car buyers over for the $1000,oo doc fee. I would love to have a chat with you! Car buyers that live close to Earl Stewart Toyota should be REAL CAREFULL when buying a car from dealers in that area if not from Earl Stewart Toyota. I am a car buyers Advocate on ripoffreport.com I feel that all of the dealers in that area should have a Rip Off Report posted on www.ripoffreport.com

    They need to be exposed! here you have a guy that's trying to help the car buyer get a better deal and some want to attack him, Sounds like the attackers are the dealers that WANT TO HUMP their customers with a BS FEE. They are a Rip Off and should be EXPOSED on RipOffReport.com

    My name is Stick Bogart! yes that's my real name!

    ReplyDelete

Earl Stewart On Cars welcomes comments from everyone - supporters and critics alike. We'd like to keep the language and content "PG Rated" so please refrain from vulgarity and inappropriate language. We will delete any comment that violates these guidelines. Oh yeah - one more thing: no commercials! Other than that, comment-away!