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December 2013 – Walking Contradiction

Sales Should Not Equal Sleaze

I like to lease automobiles. I could go on at length about the financial pros and cons of leasing versus buying, but I’m not trying to convince anyone here. Just saying that it works for me.

I guess that I should mention that I worked in sales for many years, and have gone through several training programs that ranged from the high-pressure adversarial sales approach to the helpful partnering style that I prefer. So I know enough to recognize when someone is using these tactics against me. And it goes without saying that I strongly dislike when I feel that I’m being played.

My current lease ends this month, and so recently I started shopping around for a new car. Since I don’t care about cars beyond the ability to get me around reliably and comfortably, I talked to people I know who are much more knowledgeable about these things, did a little research, and then went to local dealers to test drive the cars. I liked a few models, including one from the dealer that is the focus of this post, so I asked for a quote on how much the lease would run.

Let me pause here to explain that I will not name the vehicle brand, dealers, or sales people that I am discussing in this post. My goal is not to publicly shame them, irrespective of whether they are deserving of such a shaming. If you know me and want details, I would be more than happy to share them with you privately. I will be telling everyone I know in the area who might be considering buying a car to avoid this particular dealership at all costs.

I received the quote for the lease: $179/month! The email said in nice bold letters: “I have great news we have the [vehicle type]  in stock and available and you have been selected to recive [sic] our Lease Special.

Wow! What a great price! It was around $100 less than what I was expecting! Aren’t I so lucky!

Yeah, and I was born yesterday. Still, even though I figured that the final price would be higher, I still liked the car, so I went in to iron out the details. Up until then, the sales person had been very pleasant and relaxed; not at all the stereotypically pushy type we all loathe.

All was going well until he brought a purchase agreement for me to sign. It had no numbers filled in, but stated that I was agreeing to purchase the vehicle from that dealer. Up until that point, the only number I had in writing was the $179/month quote from the email, and I was tempted to write that in and sign it, but instead pointed out that I wasn’t about to sign a blank commitment. He fumbled with an explanation, but I still refused. At that point he got up to “speak to his manager”, and about 10 minutes later returned with that sheet with a figure filled in: $354/month!

Now let me explain: if I had been quoted that price originally, I would still have been interested, even though it was a bit higher than what I would have been paying for one of the other car models I was considering. But the extreme nature of the bait-and-switch tactics employed just really turned me off. I don’t mind paying a fair price for things I want, but I absolutely refuse to do business with companies that use these sorts of dishonest tactics in order to trap you into doing something that may not be in your best interest.

After I explained that not only was the price higher than I was willing to pay, but that I felt like I was being duped, he went back to his manager for another 10 minutes or so. I probably should have walked out right then, but I guess I still had some glimmer of hope that they would at least realize that their BS tactics weren’t going to work with me, and would instead start dealing with me straight. Instead, he came back with a quote that was a little lower, but still way higher than anywhere else (yes, I checked other dealers before coming in!). The manager even came over to try to close me, but at that point I wasn’t having any of it. I got up and left.

I still liked the car, though, and looked online for a dealer over on the other side of town. Their website quoted me $326 for the exact same car with the same features. I contacted them online, and told them that I had just been through Salesman Hell, and was hoping that I could work with them. After a few emails and phone calls to iron out the details, I agreed to lease the car from them. Everyone I dealt with at the new dealership treated me with respect; they realized that I wanted to get a car, and that they wanted to sell their cars, so it was in both of our interests to work together to make that happen.

I feel sorry for businesses that are stuck in the mindset that the only way to get people to do business with them is to trick them. Unfortunately, there are many of these still around, and I just happened to run into one of them.