I’ve spent much of my career in the auto industry, including six years at a used car dealership where I witnessed the best and worst sides of the car business. I was fortunate in that my dealership was pretty respectable - they only engaged in one of the cheesy gimmicks listed below. Meanwhile, the upstart company across the street did everything they could to distract buyers from the disaster on wheels they were about to buy.
The internet has changed how people shop for everything, including cars. Many retail industries have evolved with the times, but I’m consistently amazed at how most car dealerships - especially the used car shops - still carry on as though buyers don’t have an ounce of grey matter in their skulls. If any such dealership representatives are reading this, take my advice and ditch these ridiculous gimmicks. Not only will you sell more cars, customers might actually come back and buy another one from you in the future.
My dealership tried this for awhile, and the only thing it did was give our guys extra cleanup work when the balloons deflated. That could’ve been solved if we just cut them loose like all the slimeball places did, but we didn’t want to anger our neighbours by filling their trees with coloured balloons and party streamers.
Nothing says class like pulling onto a car lot and seeing a 20-foot inflatable monkey, or my personal favourite, the wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men. Yeah, I’m sure to believe everything these guys say because, you know, monkey.
Just in case the rows of neatly parked cars aren’t clear enough as to what’s going on, or balloons and the inflatables don’t get the message out, there’s always the flashy “SALE” sign fallback to make sure the place looks like a bargain discount outlet store selling crap tools. I’m particularly annoyed by the dealers who use individual SALE letters under the bonnets. Except when they put them in the wrong order to spell SLAE. That’s just hilarious.
Every week I get at least one spiffy postcard in the mail from a dealership telling me I’m guaranteed to win either a new car, a new TV, a $1000 shopping spree, or a “special” fourth prize. Of course I have to visit the dealership to see what I’ve won, where I’m grilled by a salesman for half an hour on everything from my current car to my underwear preference while they “find” my prize. Imagine my surprise when, after refusing to relinquish any personal information or answer their questions, I’m given the elusive prize number four: a self-adhesive “kick me” sign I’m obligated to stick on the back of the next person who walks through the door.
Is there some kind of secret dealership school for the obnoxious where people are taught how to be as sleazy and condescending as possible? Telling people in your monster truck voice that you have too many cars and it’s making you crazy enough to give out beans is, in a word, pathetic. Perhaps this was acceptable in the past, but in today’s world of Craigslist, internet sales and instant information, buyers have no interest in being spoken to like children.
Sadly, some people still fall for this classic bait-and-switch scheme because they can’t afford a $300 monthly car payment, but somehow think $80 a week is doable. Here’s a hint: any business that bases their marketing plan on people’s inability to do basic math is not traditionally a reputable establishment. With so much information at our fingertips, there’s no reason to even give these places the time of day.
Once upon a time (as in before the internet) people weren’t often exposed to the typical car buying experience. But times have changed; buyers know all about the process, and by that I mean there is no process. It’s just another gimmick designed to make buyers feel bad for the hard-working sales rep, in the hopes they will pay more for the car. The jig is up - the sales rep gets a commission no matter what, so either accept the offer and get to business, or just say no. Either way, spare us the dog and pony show.
Today’s car shoppers are educated on what they want like never before, because they’re prepared for some crackpot sales dude to try and take advantage of them. And for the crackpot sales dudes out there reading this, it’s freaking 2015. Don’t be like our man Alex in the video above; nobody is impressed with a car that has power steering, power brakes and a boot big enough for a four-year old to play in. Whether you’re posting an ad online or trying to talk your way into a sale, bragging about features and options that have been standard issue for 30 years just makes you look stupid.
It’s a given that not all deals will apply to every situation, and for legal reasons dealers should say that in their advertisements. That’s not such a big deal. If, however, an advertised deal requires paragraphs of fine print or a speed reader to cram it into a TV ad, it pretty much negates the advertised deal. I seriously can’t think of any other medium involving such expensive items where so much deception takes place. We’re in the information age - it’s time for prehistoric dealerships to get with the times.