You Want To Be A Car Dealer? Trust Me. You Don’t!
Selling used cars is a bitch. Especially when you spend the day dealing with bastards.
Morning phone rings at my car lot…
Random Stranger: Hi there, like, I have this friend you know and he told me that you finance vehicles, and his name is Emmanuel and aahhh, like I was wondering, well, uh, do you have any Toyotas and like, do you, ummm… finance vehicles you know?
Me: I’m sorry. Who is this?
Random Stranger: My name is Lashandra and like, you know, I was really wondering whether you have any Toyotas, and like, how much can you give me if I came by with four or five hundred dollars because my friend Emmanuel…
Me: Where do you live?
Random Stranger: I live in Georgia, like, you know, I live in this state.
Me: (Laughing) I know you live in this state. Where exactly in Georgia do you live? I only finance folks in Paulding, Cobb, and Douglas counties.
Random Stranger: Oh, I live in Fulton. Emmanuel said that you…. (three minute diatribe with 17 likes, 14 aaahhs, and 11 you knows).
Me: Do you have any coffee nearby?
Random Stranger: Why would I need coffee?
Me: I need coffee. I really need a cup of coffee.
Random Stranger: Well, um, ahh, OK… but Emmanuel said that you (I give the phone to my confused dog and walk off.)
It’s not that I’m rude. Okay, well, maybe my inner Jersey gets the better of me. It’s just as frustrating as a Jersey Turnpike traffic jam when you just can’t seem to get through to a few of your nuttier-than-fuck customers.
Sometimes I get the most random, scary, and gibberish driven calls you can imagine. We’re talking about people still stuck in the outer space of their daily lives in a futile pursuit of a Planet X located in the netherworld of their cranium.
Here are a few examples.
The Questionnaire: “Hi there. I just have a few questions to ask you. How many miles does it have? How many owners? When was the last time you had it serviced? When was the last time you changed the oil?”
This text is followed after seven minutes of texting by me with my three-year-old phone by a second assault of apprehension…
“How often have you used the glovebox? Is the glovebox fully operational? How about the headliner? And the driver’s side cupholder. Do all the cupholders work? Do you have a Carfax? Good. How many owners?”
Oh F—- STOP!!!
The Dreamer: “I see you’re selling a Harley on Ebay. Let me ask you a question. I have never been on a highway while driving a motorcycle. Do you think I can drive it up to Tennessee?”
NOTE: After explaining to her the Darwinian nature of her quest, she still ended up becoming the winning bidder of that motorcycle. After a two month wait, her son came down to Atlanta in a Saturn with some bungee cords. His idea? He was going to tie a 600 pound Harley up on the roof of his Saturn and drive it back.
The Hardsell “Give Me A Discount!) SOB: “Hi there. I want to buy car! You sell it at discount?”… after explaining that I don’t negotiate over the phone and the car is listed for $10k… “You take $6000? I have cash! I have cash money!”…
NOTE: You never, ever, want to deal with these people face to face. What they will usually do is only speak in their native language (usually ass-hole-a-knees) then act completely clueless when you explain to them the price. This will be done over an agonizing two hour period where you will find renewed interest in sorting out your trash bin, paying bills, and dialing in a 34-part Taco Bell survey. The last time this happened to me I did all three.
The Serial Texter: “I have $20 cash. You take 20?”…
Me: “No thanks. I’m selling the window regulator for $80. I’ll let you know if I change my mind.”
Five minutes later I get another text…”25?”
Fifteen minutes later: “Cmn man! I ned it! Ur car a deesl?”
Seven texts later: “OK30. Final ofr!”
Two days later: “Stel god it?”
NOTE: This is by far the #1 reason why most folks won’t part out a crappy car on Craigslist anymore. Parts cars attract lowball crazies like stray dogs attract fleas.
The “I don’t know.”: “Hi there. I’m looking for a car.”
Me: “Great! I have plenty available. What’s your price range and what models interest you?”
IDK: “I don’t know. I’m just looking for something that is safe and reliable.”
Me: “Well, I have a 2003 Volvo S40 for $2500. It was dealer maintained since day one and I can email the Carfax and pictures if you like.”
IDK: “I don’t want a European car.”
Me: “Do you want American, Korean, or Japanese?”
IDK: “I don’t know. I’m just looking for a car.”
Me: “Well, what price range are you looking for?”
IDK: It doesn’t matter. I’m just looking for A to B.
Me: “Well, I have a 2010 Yaris. It…”
IDK: I want something bigger and newer.
NOTE: Fifteen minutes later you will find out that they want to spend no more than $5000 on a five year old car with leather.. and it must be a Toyota Corolla LE with alloy wheels and a roof. By the way, Toyota made a grand total of 10 of them way back in 2013.
The Single Mom:
SM: “Hi there. I’m a single mom getting a divorce, and I am looking for a super reliable car and I need it cheap because I have three kids.”
Me: Well, I do have a Buick LeSabre that was owned by an older couple. I can sell that to you for three grand.
SM: Actually I need an SUV.
Me: Why do you need an SUV?
SM: Because I need something safe.
Me: Most cars out there are just as safe as an older SUV.
SM: Yeah, but I’m a single mother on a tight budget. I need a 3rd row SUV, 2010 or newer, 80k miles or under for $10k or less. I’m a single mother so no American cars, only Japanese. I’m a single mother, so I need leather and an automatic and sunroof and rear A/C. Maybe a Lexus. I’m a single mother and it needs a warranty and I am going to finance with $500 down but I want the payments to be under $200. My credit is good, like 520?? I don’t want my credit run a million times because I don’t want my score to go down because I’m a single mother. LMK KTHX. P.S. Did I mention that I’m a single mother?
Me: Yeah… um… I guess I can’t afford a single mother.
SM: Well if you find a fairly new Lexus for $6000 or less let me know.
Me: I can’t.
Me: Because my 82-year-old Mom has dibs on those cars because she’s a single mother.
The Life Story!
“Yes, I’m calling about that 1998 Subaru Outback. You know I used to have one of those and let me tell you… those cars…”
Fifteen minutes and 1 very strong cup of coffee later…
“Well, I’m just looking. But call me if any more of those get in…”
NOTE: On a slow day the Life Story can be one of your most enjoyable customers because they actually know something about cars. The life story is more often than not a bored enthusiast who also has a long list of hobbies, random stories involving their kids, and an unusual desire for “that one car”. I even had one take a one way bus ticket from Ohio and buy an old Ford Escort from me, sight unseen.
The “I saw it on TV” Caller #22:
TV: “Wha-cha got for a thousand dollars!”
Me: “I’m sorry. Do you want a Chinese scooter?”
TV: “I’m a wholesaler. I’m looking for a cheap thousand dollar car. I need one with a good engine and good transmission. I wholesale cars.”
Me: “Where are you out of?”
TV: “Well… umm… I live in Marietta.”
Me: “Why are you telling me you “live” in Marietta if you’re a wholesaler?”
TV: “Well, I’m just getting started.”
Me: “OK then. Where is your place? I know plenty of wholesalers out of Marietta. None of them sell thousand dollar cars out of their home.”
TV: “Oh, umm… I’m nearby.”
Me: “Good. I wish you the best.”
NOTE: Most TV customers have visited public auctions and haven’t quite grasped the fact that cheap cars at those sales are cheap for a reason. Most cars wholesaled for $1000 these days are worth more parted out than kept together.
Every business deals with these types of customers in one form or another. So since we’re headed to the thick of another nice long week, feel free to share your stories. All the best!
Steven Lang is the creator of Dashboard-Light.com. A site that focuses on the long-term reliability of hundreds of vehicles made between 1993 to the present. Wanna figure out how your ride ranks? Click here