I want to start by saying if you work in car sales and don’t employ any of the tactics I’m about to discuss, I both apologize in advance and I commend you. I’d also like to ask you to contact me; my husband and I will consider working with you in the future if at all possible.

I had a different post planned for today, but after my experience this weekend, I thought I’d discuss this instead.

really big vehicleMy daughter is about to start driving. And she’s nervous about it. She’s already put it off for a year. We decided there’s a line between not rushing her and making her face her fears—and she had crossed it, so we’re kind of “forcing” her to test for her permit. The problem is, or was, before Saturday, I had a big vehicle. A really big vehicle. Wide, long, three rows of seats plus cargo room in the back and engine space in the front. It was like driving a miniature movie theater. It was really comfortable to ride in, and we all loved it (well, maybe not my husband, but the rest of us), but there was no way a terrified driver was going to drive it in a straight line down the street, let alone navigate turns.

smaller SUVWe downsized to a much smaller SUV with plenty of safety features, including notification if the car leaves its lane or gets too close to the vehicle in front of it.

Not that we’re saying she’s going to need those features, or anything.

But that’s not the point of this story.

We once counted how many vehicles we’ve purchased since we’ve been married. We’ve lost count now, but we’re estimating around thirty-three. My husband’s first job out of college was selling cars for the biggest dealership in Western Pennsylvania. He later worked for the automotive industry. When we tell a sales associate that we know how the process works and we don’t want to waste time playing games, we just want the final number, we aren’t kidding. We mean it.

We’ve trained several associates, managers, and finance people over the years in four states. We’ve found a few who were easy to work with, but we had to get through the initial crap first. It’s a pain, but we get there eventually. We thought—let me stress, thought—we had a sales associate who knew better than to try to play the negotiation game with us. I mean, come on, we all had better things to do on a Saturday. We were wrong. This conversation actually occurred when he came back with a ridiculous number.

My husband: That’s an insult. We’re leaving.

James the sales guy: Wait. I’ll see if we can do better.

My husband: James, don’t bother. You know we don’t play these games.

James the sales guy: No, really, wait. (James goes in the finance room to “talk his managers down.” There is an animated discussion where James tries to look like he’s really working for us.)

My husband: James, give me my keys.

James the sales guy: No. Wait.

My husband, to me: Did he really just tell me no?

Me: (sharp whistle, everyone—customers and employees alike—looks at me) James, give me my keys.

James the sales guy: Well, I’ll let you hold your keys, but you can’t leave yet. They aren’t done running new numbers.

Me to my husband: Did he just say he’ll let me hold my own keys?

James the sales guy exits the office, clutching the keys like he isn’t going to give them to me.

car keysI snatch them from him and take a deep breath, about to tell him exactly what I think of his latest proclamation.

My husband propels me out the door. He’s seen me make similar scenes in furniture stores and probably doesn’t want to witness another when he knows we have a long day ahead of us.

At that point, we were both in foul moods. Really foul moods. And neither of us started in great moods to begin with. (Why would we? We were car shopping.)

When we finally did buy a car at a different dealership (the negotiations there weren’t much smoother, by the way), my husband notified James the sales guy via text. He didn’t reply.

Why do I share this story with you? Because we all market ourselves every day. Some of us more than others. But there’s a right way and a wrong way.

The wrong way is standing at the door like a vulture waiting for carrion. The wrong way is holding a customer hostage. The wrong way is telling the customer no. The wrong way is insulting the people who come to you interested in your product or service.

The right way? Be welcoming without overwhelming. Be available without being stifling. Tell the customer yes. Don’t be insulting, but be helpful. If you can, be proactive with your efforts, and don’t necessarily expect anything in return.

For Writers:
Now more than ever, we all have to market ourselves to sell our books, our brand. Don’t be the car salesperson who offends everyone, taking over social media with only self-promotion links. You have to share information that will help others, promote other writers, be generous, and engage in conversations. Broken records are thrown away, fascinating artists are here to stay. How do you become a fascinating artist? Share interesting information about your genre and have conversations with other people. Remember, it’s called social media, not hermit media.

For Everyone:
We’re all looking for connections in our lives. We all market ourselves every day. We’re parents, children, employees, friends. We want to be the best we can be. We can only do that through open and honest communication, not one-sided braggadocio. Are you putting your best foot forward in all your relationships? Or have you become the sleazy car salesperson at home or at work? Did you maybe not even consider that your personal relationships have a marketing aspect to them? Let’s talk about it.


8 Responses

    • Hi Christa. Thanks for stopping by. I try to have a tie-in for writers in most of my posts. (Some, like holiday posts, I don’t. I just leave the tributes as they are.) I wish I could say this was a story, but sadly, it was a real event. In fact, I may have edited it to the “nice side” for younger viewers. (You don’t want to be with me when I car shop. It’s like Bruce Banner when he’s angry!)

  1. I had a similar experience when I was newly divorced. I thought it was my single female status that caused the guy to hold my car keys hostage. But when he compared me to his mother, I got up and asked politely for my car keys which he refused to give me. I got out my cell phone, opened to the door to the showroom and said I was calling 911 to report my car stolen if he didn’t give me the keys. I got the keys, but was furious the jerk brought out the raging you know what in me! Glad you got the car and from a different dealership. I ended up trading my car but only after the original salesman intervened when he saw what jerkman had done.

    • It’s not just women. It’s a sales tactic they use on everyone. Someone needs to intervene and retrain the whole industry. (I may try the 911 tactic next time. Nice touch!)

  2. I know that all car salesmen aren’t alike, but they do remind me of vultures. I can’t believe the audacity of this man to “hold” your keys as ransom. I would have run, not walked, to the nearest door. However, congrats on the new car.

    Good thoughts on social media – I like what you said “It’s not hermit media!”

    • Thanks, Joan. I would have been out the door sooner (like I said, I’m not THAT patient), but he had my keys! The car-selling industry really needs an overhaul in tactics. They’d do a much better business, I think.

  3. Staci I think when you spend all your hard earned cash it should be a good experience. I do agree generosity is better than overkill in promoting who you are and what you are selling. Helping others goes a long way in any trade and you are one of the most generous, helpful Author/Editors I have been lucky enough to meet. Enjoy your new car it looks lovely.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Kath. I always try to be helpful, but I think we can all probably try to be a little kinder in our dealings with people. (Yes, I have been known to lose my temper, too.) If you ever catch me holding something of yours hostage (which I doubt is something I would EVER do), remind me of this moment. I never want to be “that kind of person.”

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