#3 A Bad Vehicle Shopping Experience

A Personal Car Shopping Experience (Part 3 of 8)

Still in search of a compact SUV to lease this spring, my wife Lisa and I recently had a dealership shopping experience that was so far from the norm, we left quite early in the process. In fact, it was so bad that in fairness to the manufacturer, I’ll not name the brand, the vehicle model, or the dealership other than calling it X brand and XYZ model.

The setting

An April Saturday morning just before noon at a volume manufacturer’s dealership; a store that was large, modern, and offered several brands under one roof. My wife and I had run an early-morning errand and decided to go vehicle shopping since we were already out near an auto mall. As I pulled into the dealership’s well-signed customer parking, I was surprised by the amount of unoccupied spaces. “Not too busy yet,” I thought to myself.

That morning, we were driving my wife’s Lexus. Typically, when dealership salespeople see us drive up in a premium vehicle, someone greets us nearly right away. That didn’t happen on this particular Saturday. What took place was not weird in some “Area 51” sense, but in terms of how most dealers want their sales personal to conduct themselves with customers, it was light years away from expectations.

The Arrival

There was a man standing on the building’s patio steps not far from the main showroom door. He had observed us park with a clear line of sight from twenty yards away and never moved off his step. After emerging from our car, Lisa and I approached the man, both noticing that he wore no dealership or automotive apparel and did not have nametag. His attire was definitely like ours… Saturday morning casual. While walking, I began to think he was a customer when he said, “Good morning, what are you looking for?” I indicated that we were on our way into the showroom to look at a XYZ model.

“You won’t find any inside. All our XYZs are right over there (pointing about 30 yards away). I think some are open. Let me know if you have any questions.” That was the extent of it. No real welcome, no smile, no handshake, no move off the step, no questions asked other than, “What are you looking for?” Just a pointing finger and directions that amounted to, “over there.”

Vehicle Presentation

Lisa and I walked over to the new vehicle line he pointed out from his step and found five model XYZs. The first one we approached was locked. The second was open and we explored it for about five minutes. I turned to look for the gentleman on the steps and he had disappeared. I searched around the immediate area and he was simply gone.
Quite surprised by this, Lisa and I decided that we didn’t want to spend any further time at this dealership, so we walked to our car and drove off. Her first comment once back in the car was that she was unsure the gentleman on the steps was a salesperson until he spoke to us.

Final Thoughts / Questions

While I do NOT believe dealership salespeople need to be dressed in business clothes, I certainly think that something on them should plainly identify their dealership employment status: A name tag, a dealership polo or oxford; anything that would clearly establish they work there. What do you think? Next, is there any situation where this gent’s actions would be appropriate, other than when customers state up front they want to be left alone? Last, what is the first action you would take with this gent to get him on the right track?

About the Author

Mark Krach is vice president at automätik, an organization dedicated to “Eradicating boring training from the face of the Earth.” He has nearly 30 years’ experience in the automotive industry—having worked for a manufacturer, a dealership, and as an automotive training writer and facilitator all over the U.S. and Europe.