#8 The Strangest Sales Experience Yet (Part 2 of 2)

A Personal Car Shopping Experience (Part 8 of 8)

This post concludes the XYZ SUV lease story started in Post 7.
My retail days were long ago. But even back then (the ‘90’s), when we had arranged a “sold” deal over the phone, by email, or through a buying service, we’d prepare for the customer’s arrival and would undertake a maximum effort to make his/her time spent in the dealership as short as possible. We prided ourselves on having every document pre-printed and ready to sign and the vehicle completely ready to drive-off. The “norm” for such a deal was to have the customer driving off within 45-60 minutes of arrival with most of the time spent in vehicle delivery. Fast forwarding to 2018, my expectations for time spent in the dealership for my already-agreed-upon SUV deal fell roughly along the same lines. Here is the story of how that did not happen, picking up where Post 7 left off.
When the salesperson returned, he had Lisa and I sit down at a small table that seats four right next to another couple who were negotiating a deal with a manager. There were no walls, and being feet away, we could hear everything being said at the table next to us. There was no privacy offered and yes, there were other tables in the showroom where we could have been more separated from our neighbors. From our vantage point, our deal and theirs were the only two happening, but I’m not 100 percent sure. After sitting down, our salesperson asked me to fill out part of a credit application even though I had already completed an online credit app and my report had already been secured. The explanation was that the dealership needed a handwritten app with a real signature. I did so, wondering in 2018 if this was really a requirement. While I was completing the credit app, our salesperson had our vehicle taken out of the showroom for a fill-up and a detail touch-up.
After completing the app, the salesperson took it and disappeared for a while again. Returning with a dealer plate in-hand, he walked past us and cheerfully said, “Follow me.” We didn’t need a test drive, having driven the SUV at another dealership, and he never asked us if we wanted one. I had to stop him and indicate we didn’t want a test drive, explaining our situation. All three of us subsequently sat back down for the longest time. Up to that point we were asked zero questions about our vehicle needs, wants, or planned usage…or even how we wanted the deal process to go. Realizing that these questions were not forthcoming, I asked the personable salesperson how long he had been in the car business. He answered that he has been selling since he was 16, working in the clothing business. As time ticked away, we heard about all his jobs and transitions starting from that point, and in 20-30 minutes of him talking to us, never heard about how he arrived at selling cars.
The finance manager walked over to our table cutting off the salesperson’s life story and took over. The salesperson excused himself and the manager went over our credit report with us, then had us sign some preliminary paperwork. Noting the actual lease was not among the papers he wanted us to sign, I waited for what was next, and sure enough, a printed sheet of six or seven possible warranties to buy at retail prices was laid in front of us. Never asking us any questions about how we might use the vehicle as a basis for what he was trying to sell us, he explained his six or seven “warranties” in detail and then focused upon the costliest one. As I politely said no thanks, he kept on pressing, challenging, and even lowered the price 25%. An ironic element is this: We were obtaining a 36-month/45,000-mile lease, and he was focusing his sales effort on a 39-month/39,000-mile comprehensive warranty. On top of that, he had our monthly lease payment written on his form, and it was $11 a month less than we had agreed to. I pointed that out to him, he thanked us for being honest and then went back to the push. After our final refusal, he sighed and excused himself. Then, Lisa and I sat for a long time doing nothing again.

Finally, our salesperson returned…this time with a brochure in his hand about the same comprehensive warranty: “I don’t know if (manager’s name) had a chance to go over this extended warranty with you…,” he began. I stopped him right there and said we had a long discussion about it, seriously considered it, and didn’t think it was for us. The salesperson seemed relieved and then we sat for another long time… a quite long and somewhat uncomfortable time. Uncomfortable because we heard the full story about how several years ago, his young adult daughter had become pregnant by her boyfriend and how he had urges to kill the guy (as he chuckled). Thankfully, he reasoned through with us all the good points of having a wonderful grandchild and told us of how came to a much better place about the situation. I don’t for a minute think he really wanted to be violent to his family, but sheesh, talk about an unsolicited, awkward, fully one-way conversation! All this against a backdrop of never asking Lisa and I a thing related to vehicle ownership, why we wanted an SUV, or even anything about us.

The finance manager came back with a lease agreement and had me sign the document. The deal was completed at the agreed-upon price established earlier in the week. Afterwards, the salesperson advised us that he had turned on our Sirius subscription and said he’d pair our phones for us (which I can do perfectly well, but he didn’t ask). We walked out to the now-ready (I thought) SUV and he paired my phone. I noticed that plastic still covered several different items in the passenger cabin, the two extraneous window stickers were untouched, and foam was still surrounding the seat belt receivers. So, I pulled all of that off and handed him the crumpled refuse. He gave me the keys and sincerely thanked us without offering to show a thing on the new vehicle. I had to stop him as he turned away and said that I can probably figure most things on my own, but could he at least show us how to turn on the ventilated seats (something I’ve never had in a vehicle before). He did that and said goodbye again before Lisa and I drove off.
Where to begin? There was no customer focus whatsoever. An already-sold deal took hours on a day that customer traffic in the dealership was light (Lisa wondered if that was deliberate since we didn’t buy an extended warranty). The otherwise personable and pleasant salesperson was focused solely on telling his TMI life stories. The finance manager should offer us his warranties but did not sell them based upon any specific need we might have. There was no privacy in the deal process sitting among other customers who were negotiating and discussing their financials. And there was no ask or offer regarding any part of a proper vehicle delivery. My only question to you is WHY does this happen in 2018 in a great brand’s reputable dealership?

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.