Friday, May 12, 2023

Grading Car Dealers on the “Curve”

 Grading Car Dealers on the Curve 

Who Are the Most Honest Prisoners in Sing Sing?  

Every Saturday morning from 8 am to 10 am EST, you can listen to or stream Earl Stewart on Cars. This is a consumer advocate, live talk show that Nancy Stewart (my wife and co-host) and I have been doing for about 20 years. You can access our show at,, www.StreamEarlOnCars, or listen to us on any True Oldies Radio Station in South Florida.  

The highlight of Earl Stewart on Cars is our mystery shopping report. Every week we dispatch a secret shopper/undercover agent to a different car dealership…mostly in Florida, but also as far away as Pennsylvania and Tennessee. This person pretends to be a buyer for a new or used car and goes through the same process that most car buyers do, responding to an advertisement and trying to get the best price. We report the actual experience of our mystery shopper exactly as it happened, identifying the real names of the car dealerships, salespeople, and managers. We don’t pull any punches, and nothing is censored. If a federal or state law is broken, we say so. If a salesperson or manager lies to our mystery shopper, we report it exactly as it happened. Of course, we are more than happy to report on the good, honest, and ethical car dealers we, unfortunately rarely, encounter.  

Skeptics reading this will likely be thinking, how do I know YOU’RE not lying about other car dealers just to make your show more interesting or bad-mouth your competition. (I own and operate a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, FL.) I will answer the skeptics with this fact. In the over 20 years that I have sent mystery shoppers to car dealerships every week, I have never been sued by another car dealer or employee of a car dealership 

If you do not already know this, ask a lawyer what the only perfect defense against libel and slander is. He will answer, THE TRUTH. Car dealers cannot find a lawyer to sue me because they know they cannot win, not to mention that the publicity from the trial would seriously damage their reputation and business.  

You can read my archived mystery shopping reports at When you look at the two lists of dealers, recommended and not recommended, you will notice that there are some very low letter grades on quite a few on the recommended list…even D and D-. Most of you are familiar with “grading on the curve.” Grading on the curve dictates that the smartest students get A’s and the least smart get F’s. Most students fall between and receive C’s. To me, the flaw in this system is that the smartest student in one group may be the dumbest in another group. As the old joke goes, “He’s the most honest inmate in Sing Sing 

After every mystery shopping report that I read on Earl Stewart on Cars, I ask those viewing and listening to please score this dealership with an A, B, C, D, or F based on their honesty, ethics, and transparency. Nancy and I, as well as Stu Stewart and Rick Kearney, also vote. I remind everyone that we grade ON THE CURVE. We would rather not grade on the curve, but because the average car dealer’s advertising and sales practices are so poor, that we’d have virtually no car dealers to post on our “Recommend Dealer List.”  

Sadly, the reason for this is that our regulators and law makers are wont to ignore dishonest and unethical car dealers. This is because car dealers and car manufacturers, through their Political Action Committees, lobbyists, and trade associations, are instrumental in the elections of politicians and the appointments of regulators. A state attorney general cannot get elected without the support of Big Auto.  


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