Confessions of a Car Man


The Car God vs. The Car Man

When I first started selling cars one of the first concepts I was introduced to was that of the Car God. I imagine that the Car God is universal among Car Men. I have never worked at a dealership where the name of this automotive deity was not evoked at one time or another. So what exactly is the Car God, and what is His significance in the world of Car Men? Is He just a joke, or is He real?

Car Men are a superstitious bunch. Walk onto just about any car lot in this great land of ours, and you will find pennies scattered around the lot for good luck. The pennies are sometimes referred to as “squirrel food”, implying that they will attract buyers. The superstition forbids Car Men from picking up those pennies; that is considered very bad luck! But the penny superstition is fairly prosaic compared to the myriad of "dos and don’ts" that rule the lives of Car Men every day. To violate the rules of the car business can result in a very serious condition known as “pissing off the Car God”.

The Car God stands watch over all things involving the selling of cars, and you seriously do not want to piss Him off. To do so can result in a blown deal or even worse, a losing streak that can seem like it is lasting forever. These beliefs are rooted in the selling techniques that are used by Car Men everywhere. They were developed by trial and error, honed over the years and handed down from one generation of Car Men to another. They work because they have stood the test of time, and if you dare go against them it is believed that the Car God will strike you down.

An example of this are the steps of working a car deal that start from the moment you meet your customer to when you see him hit the brake lights just before he goes over the curb in his new car. Successful Car Men always work their deals in the same way and in the same order. Nothing is left to chance. The secret is to always make your presentation look fresh. An analogy would be that of a comedian. He writes and practices his act over years, yet each night when he comes on stage he has to make his audience feel as if the jokes are coming off the top of his head. It is exactly the same way with Car Men. Taking short cuts, or as they say, “working the deal backwards”, will stir the wrath of the Car God, and that is something you do not want to happen!

Here is another example: Mr. Smith calls you up and says he will be down there in an hour to pay cash for that used 4Runner he spotted on your front line. In your excitement you grab the 4Runner out of its position and move it to your special delivery area near the showroom. Mr. Smith does not show up. Why? Well some might say it was because The Others are notorious liars and this is undoubtedly true, but there may be another reason: You pissed off the Car God! It is bad luck to move a car to the sold position until you are absolutely positive you have a deal. To do otherwise is automotive suicide!

Yes, the Car God works in mysterious ways. Not only will He be mad at you for working a deal backwards, He interacts with the basic rules of the business, most commonly rule number two “What goes around comes around”. Treat your fellow salesmen shabbily, and it will come back to haunt you. If that miserable bastard you are working with suddenly drops dead, it might be because of clogged arteries, but it might also be because the Car God was fed up with his bullshit!

I once worked with a cantankerous salesman who was very religious. He had caught the religion buy late in life because I think he felt he needed fire insurance to protect him from a lifetime of being a prick to his fellow Car Men. One day I mentioned something about the Car God, and he became very indignant. He said I was committing blasphemy and would suffer the consequences. Now of course the term Car God is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. In reality it is a euphemism for Karma. I do not really believe that up in Heaven there is a deity in a $500 suit watching over the way Car Men conduct themselves. I tried to explain this to the old coot, but he was not buying it. In his eyes I was a minion of Satan.

So it is important that every budding Car Man take heed of the Car God and His role in your life on the line. If you follow the rules of the business and treat your fellow salesmen fairly you can avoid His wrath most of the time. Of course He will hit you with a cold streak now and again, but do not worry that is just a little thump on the head to let you know He is out there.

There is a flip side to this. All Car Men have faced the following situation after spending a good chunk of their screwing around time with an up: “I have to go home and pray on it.”

It is the one objection that strikes terror into the hearts of all Car Men because it is virtually impossible to overcome. Your customer apparently has direct communications with the Lord. What the heck can you do about that? You cannot talk bad about God! You cannot say things like,

“Praying on a car deal doesn’t work, you putz!”

Or, “God doesn’t know anything about buying cars, He’s strictly a horse and chariot guy.”

Or, “God’s not going to be around ‘till next Sunday. The sale ends today.”

Things will go badly if you say stuff like that.

I once got so pissed off at a customer trying to use the God excuse on me I blurted out,

“Don’t you think God’s got more important things to do than worry about how much you’re paying for a car?”

To this he replied, “God’s got time for everything.”


I once worked with a Car Man, a real character, who was a chameleon when dealing with customers. If the customer was a red neck, he became a red neck. If the customer was a tree hugger he expressed his deep concern over climate change. One day I was walking past his office and noticed him with a couple. What gave me pause was that the three of them were holding hands around his desk, their eyes closed. They appeared to be praying. Believe me that was completely out of character for this Car Man! I waited in the showroom, and when he finally emerged from his office I asked him what was going on.

“We were asking God for another five hundred bucks to make this deal,” he whispered as he headed toward the sales office.

“What did God say?” I asked. He turned and gave me the thumbs up.

What balls he had.

I will admit that I am normally helpless when encountering this objection. I usually give up and say, “Okay, I can appreciate that,” hating myself for being so weak. But there was this one time when in the heat of a deal I said something that was completely foreign to my nature.

“God told me to pay $8000, for the car,” the customer informed me. The sincerity on his face made me feel like lunging over the desk and throttling him.

I felt anger rise in me and I blurted out, “Well, God told me to charge you $8600 for the car!”

There was silence for about thirty seconds, an eternity when you are mono-a-mono with a zealot. He looked at me asked, “Really?”

“Really,” I replied.

There was another pause, and then he said something I would never forget.


Deal closed!

Talk To You Later,



A flake is a Car Man expression for a person with bad credit. There are a hell of a lot of flakes out there. The country is full of them, and with the economy the way it is more and more are coming on-line each day. Flakiness is an equal opportunity state of being. Anyone can be or become a flake depending upon their decision-making abilities and the unexpected events that occur in their lives.

Flakes come in two categories: people who are flaky by circumstances and people who are just flaky by their nature. Many times flakes by circumstances are good people who just got themselves into a jam. A job loss or an unexpected illness or injury ruined them financially. For whatever reason, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and became flakes. For a Car Man helping these customers regain their dignity along with a reliable set of wheels can be a very satisfying experience. Not only do you have an opportunity to make a commission, you can also feel good about helping a deserving person get back on their feet.

But flakes by circumstances can also be problematical. Many just cannot accept their flakiness. They live in a world of denial; unable to believe that the glory days of driving expensive cars and shopping at Nordstroms are over. They do not understand that their financial meltdown, no matter the reasons why, have consequences. They are like ghosts who do not realize they are dead, destined to haunt a place that was dear to them when they were alive. Unfortunately, many times that place is a car lot, and they end up haunting you! They come on strong, make unreasonable demands, and seemed determined to make your life miserable.

Working deals with flakes can be all out war. The Car Man is forced to be the one to give these people a reality check, and the news is often badly received. They took all their creditors down, but they still think they are entitled to a low interest rate, and your inability to deliver that rate is somehow your fault. It makes you want to slap them until they say, “Thanks, I needed that!” like in the movies!

Many times flakes by circumstances try to hide their flakiness. They deftly fend off your inquiries about their credit worthiness, preferring to pretend they are still in the driver’s seat (pun intended), and you end up landing them on a vehicle they cannot possibly buy. After they discover they cannot have their way they pout like babies!

“You mean I can’t have the Lexus? What? A Ford Focus? Are you freaking kidding me?” At this point you start thinking about the valuable screwing around time you are losing and start devising devious plans to either make them or boot them!

There is an old Car Man saying: “Once a flake, always a flake”. This description is particularly fitting when describing people who are flaky by nature. All Car Men dislike dealing with them. Not only do they have horrible credit, they generally have messy lives and bad attitudes. There is an entire segment of the auto industry dedicated to dealing with them. Since flakes can clog up the smooth operation of a busy sales department, some dealers have a separate branch staffed with “special finance” managers that are trained to get flakes financed. Believe me these guys earn their money. Not only do they have to find a willing bank, they have to track down the myriad of stipulations the sub-prime lenders require in order to fund a loan. Getting everything you need to make a deal with a flake can be like pulling teeth!

Some dealerships do not deal with flakes. It is deemed too much of a hassle. I worked in a place like this for many years. One of the managers once asked me, “Why would we want to do business with people like this?” My reply, which fell on deaf ears, was, “Because you can spend the money you make on a flake just as easily as the money you make on a customer with good credit. You just have to work a little harder to get it!”

To a certain extent I can understand the attitude. Quite simply, flakes are a pain in the ass. I cannot tell you how many times I have waited on a person with a credit score of 399 and have two repossessions on their record that cannot understand why I am not able to sell them a car with no down payment!

Many flakes by nature have never paid a bill on time in their life. They have a credit report that is twelve pages long and it is all bad! It has always been a mystery to me how they have been able to amass that amount of bad credit during their flaky lives. You would think that somewhere along the way some lender would have said no!

What can a guy on the sales line who is just trying to earn a living for his family do about flakes? First of all use your eyes and ears. If your prospect comes into the dealership driving a $100 car it is usually a sign that something is seriously wrong. If you suspect you are dealing with a flake find out as discreetly as possible what their credit is like and how much money they have for a down payment. Remember: bad credit and no money do not mix!

I wish I could think of a lot of funny things to say about flakes. You would think it would be easy because these people tend to be really screwed up, but I cannot. As my friend Pablo would say, “It’s sad.”

Yes it is sad, but remember you are not running a charity. I believe that every customer deserves to be respected, even the flakes, but you can never forget that your time is more important than theirs. That is why it is so important to develop a strategy to quickly size up a customer. It is one of the things that separate a car salesman from a Car Man!

Tip: If you ever ask a prospect about his credit and he replies, “Let me put it to you this way, I’m human.” Run away as fast as you can!

Talk to you later,


Of Liners and Ex-Car Salesmen

Among all the crazy customers a car man runs into during the course of his career, there are two types that have always made me scratch my head in wonder. It’s waiting on current or ex-car salesmen. These can be among the weirdest ups you can ever encounter.

By ex-car salesman I’m not referring to a retired car man. Retired car men usually have connections in the business so waiting on one is a rare occurrence. I’m talking about the guy that didn’t make it selling cars and is very bitter about the experience. They couldn’t stand the pressure, couldn’t understand the selling process, and couldn’t take being beat up by the customers and the closers. So now they’re working in a warehouse, hating every minute of it, and they hate you because you made it in the business and they didn’t.

These assholes can pack more venom than a baby rattlesnake and must be handled with extreme caution. I’ve had several confrontations with them over the years, and some have gotten very ugly. They come on strong; announce that you can’t pull anything on them! They used to sell cars! Ta-da! Unfortunately their limited knowledge of the car business is just enough to get them into trouble.

In order to make a deal, a car man has to almost reprogram these guys as if you’ve just snatched them from the grips of a cult. Ex-car salesmen are very self-destructive. They need a car, but they will do just about everything they can to queer the deal and try to make you feel it’s your fault.

So what do you do? How the hell should I know? I’m your resident smart ass, not a sales trainer. But I do suggest that if the guy has his wife with him, turn your attention towards her. Try to prove that you’re not the big bad wolf that made her husband so very unhappy before he got a job driving a forklift. She’s the only one who has any control over her husband’s emotions. Just hope she didn’t use to sell cars too!

Then there are the guys who are currently selling cars. More often than not they’re a green pea, probably a liner in some God-awful giant Toyota store. They don’t even have enough common sense to try and buy a car from where they work! These guys like to pretend they’re car men, even though it quickly becomes apparent they’re dumber than bag of hammers. You see you don’t have to be smart to be a liner. All you have to do is follow the instructions of your closer. Unfortunately I don’t think they even understand what those instructions mean!

Another irritating thing is this: Have you ever noticed that a green pea will always claim he’s the number one salesman in their dealership? I had an eighteen-year-old tell me this. He was standing before me dressed in hip-hop clothes, his ball cap twisted crookedly on his skinny little head, a smirk on his pimpled face. So you’re the number one guy, heh? I’ll bet that’s an interesting place to work!

They also have other common traits: bad credit, no money and an obnoxious desire to tell you how to do your job.

So if that up tells you he used to sell cars or is currently selling cars, flashing red lights and sirens should go off it your brain. More often than not you do not have a deal.

You might have a fistfight, but you do not have a deal!

Talk to you later,


Things I've Learned

Never try to guess where a person comes from. If you guess wrong, you can get in trouble.

Never try to guess the relationships between your customers. For example, if you think the lady who’s with your female customer is her mother, it might be her sister. This happened to me, and it was extremely embarrassing, and I suspect it blew the deal.

Also, that good looking young honey the older guy has with him might not be his daughter or his wife.

Never work in a dealership that faces west unless it has a great air conditioning system.

Never pick up pennies on the lot. It’s bad luck.

Don’t work for an Iranian sales manager unless you are an Iranian.

Never work at a dealership where the used cars are in a different location from the new cars--unless you’re working on the used car lot.

Never work at a dealership that gives you multi commission vouchers on a car. You are undoubtedly being screwed. Keep the highest voucher and take them to the labor board after you quit.

Observe the 5 minute rule: Never have more things in your office then you can pack up within 5 minutes of quitting or being fired. Keep a cardboard box handy just in case you need to launch.

Don’t work in a dealership where you don’t have an office.

He who sales manages his own deal has a fool for a desk man.

When you go back to your customer with the sales manager’s first pencil, present the deal and then shut up. Many times the only one who screws up a “yes” is you.

Never sell cars that Chinese people like to buy.

Never ask a customer how much he makes per month. Ask him how often he gets paid, what’s his gross pay, and then calculate to determine an accurate monthly income.

Remember, your car is less expensive. The competition’s car is cheaper.

If your thinking about moving on, remember that even though the grass on the other side of the fence might appear be greener, you still have to water it.

Always remember: The dealership CAN survive without you.

If you’re a single guy never bury a beautiful woman in a car, because you might end up making the payments.

Never piss off the service department.

Always try to switch a new car buyer to a used car if you can, but keep in mind that selling a new car is better than no deal at all.

Never fall in love with a car. Remember it’s nothing but iron and paint. Get what you can take, and take what you can get.

Most of the time, not taking a deposit on a car works better at getting a customer back than taking a deposit.

Look at a customer’s trade. Notice if it is currently registered, where it was purchased. If there is a bumper sticker that has the call letters of your local PBS station feign sickness and turn the deal to someone you don’t like.

Asking a customer where their trade is financed will tell you volumes about the people and their credit worthiness.

No job is worth being needlessly yelled at by a sales manager. Unless, of course, you’re making a 100K per year.

Talk to you later,


Selling With Nick

Most car salesmen sell cars in more or less the same manner: meet and greet, land them on a car, demo ride, write up, etc. These steps were developed by trial and error and have been handed down through the years from one generation of salesmen to the next. Generally speaking, if you don’t follow these steps, you probably won’t have a car deal. Trying to work a deal backwards is a fool’s errand, and even if it somehow works, it usually results in a lower gross.

But every once in a while a guy comes along whom defies the rules of the business, who develops a unique way selling cars that goes counter to all the established practices. These guys are a combination of maverick and visionary. They usually have big personalities and a lot of talent--and their method work for no one but themselves.

Nick was such a guy. His specialty was using a kind of reverse psychology to sell cars. Everything he said to a customer was designed to elicit a reaction opposite of what he was saying. It was utterly fascinating and an amazing thing to witness. I feel a little guilty writing about this because I don’t have the talent to convey the full impact his technique, but let me attempt to tell you just a little of how this guy handled ups.

Nick always carried a little stack of papers with him. If he spied an up, he would walk hurriedly in their direction. He wanted the customer to think he was not heading toward them, but was just on his way to do some unknown chore. When he got about ten feet past them, he would stop, spin around and with irritation on his face say, “Isn’t anyone helping you?’

No, the customer would say. Nick would utter something under his breath like, “I can’t believe those guys!” He would then shuffle the papers around in a distracted manner and act like he was doing them a favor for even stopping. It was important that he establish the thought in the customer’s mind that he was a busy guy, not really interested in selling them a car, who was simply taking a few minutes out of his busy day to talk to them.

For the next few minutes Nick would act irritated and pretend that he was only there because no one else seemed to want to wait on them. He would carefully establish what they were looking for while slowly shedding his prick act and making them feel it was their lucky day they’d found him. Heck, they now had a friend in the car business! For and even though he was a busy guy, he would actually help them find a car.

After that was accomplished, he’d would take them on a demo ride and sell them on the merits of the car. It was when they came back that the ride that the real fun began, because Nick would say to them, “I want you to go home now, and I will call you later with my best deal.”


The customer, who was mentally bracing himself for the onslaught of would-you-takes, is immediately taken aback. This guy isn’t going to try to lure us into his office? He isn’t going to try us use every close in his arsenal to keep us from leaving? He wants us to go home? He’s going to call us later on with his best deal? How great is that?

Of course, Nick had no intention of letting that happen. The next series of closes would go approximately like this:

“Why don’t you come into my office for a second so I can get your number.”

“You’re going to finance the car? While you’re here why don’t you go ahead and fill out a credit app so I can call you later with the best rate.” When that was done, he’d add. “Heck, I might as well run the credit while you’re here.”

“Got a trade? Better let me take a look at it while you’re here.”

Remember, the customer thinks all these things are being assembled so that Nick can call them later when they’re in the comfort of their home with the figures. But what they don’t understand is that they’re buying the car right now. They just don’t know it yet.

I never knew for certain how he tied everything together. He tried to explain it to me once, but I couldn’t follow it. The bottom line is Nick extracted information and mini-closes out of the customer without them realizing what he was doing. By the time he was through with them they were going home all right--driving in their new car.

Management didn’t totally approve of Nick’s ways. He never actually brought a signed commitment to the desk, but he usually got the job done, and you can’t argue with success. Nick was a consistent high performer with good grosses and high commissions as a result. He was, simply put, a freaking genius!

And as far as I know, Nick never let a customer go home so he could call him with the best price later on in the day.

Years later I sold a car to a guy who had bought his trade-in from Nick. I casually asked him how he liked buying a car from the ol’ Nickster. The customer looked at me, and I swear to God this is what he said: “By the time he got me into his office, I realized I was talking to a crazy person, and that the only way I was going to get out of the place was to buy the car. So, I bought it.”

What a thing of beauty.

Talk to you later,



My favorite car joke is a cartoon I saw many years ago. It shows a salesman sitting behind his desk, a couple sitting in front of him. On the wall behind him are all kinds of awards and plaques. They say things like “salesman of the year, etc”. You get the idea. The caption says, “Buy the car or I’ll kill you:”

Wouldn’t it be great to use that close just once?

Another cartoon shows a bar crowed with guys in suits. (I like to think of them as the salesman I worked with when I was a kid.) The bartender is on the phone. He says, “Ma’am you’ll have to be more specific. This places is packed with sneaky little shits.”

Here’s a good joke. When I heard it I was working at a dealership where the dealer had long gray hair that he used to wear in a ponytail. Let’s call the guy Bill Smith, but the joke is easily modified for use with your own dealer.

A car salesman dies and goes to heaven. After entering the pearly gates he’s taken on a tour of the place by an angel. It’s filled with big mansions, parks and wide streets. Occasionally, the salesman sees a chauffer-driven convertible with a man with long flowing hair in the back seat driving up and down the streets. After seeing him for the third time, the salesman asks the angel, “Excuse me, but is that God driving down the street?” The angel replies, “No that’s Bill Smith. He just thinks he’s God.”

Another favorite: Once again a car salesman dies and goes to heaven. The angel takes him on the tour. After it’s completed the salesman says, “You know this is all great, and I’m very grateful. But to tell you the truth, I’m really going to miss selling cars. I know this sounds stupid, but do you have any dealerships up here?”

The angel beams. “We sure do!” The angel takes him to a huge Honda dealership. The inventory is wonderful; plenty of new, plenty of used. There are ups everywhere. The angel explains, “You’ll really like it here. The ups are easy, but not too easy--great opportunities to make a nice gross. Split shifts, an up system, and we’re always closed on Sundays.”

The salesman is very happy. “This is great! Now I know I’m really in heaven! But let me ask you something. I’ve really got to take a leak. Where’s the nearest bathroom?

The angel says, “Oh. Just go over to the edge of that cloud.”

The salesman goes over. He unzips and is about to let it loose when he notices people walking around below him. He turns to the angel and says, “I can’t go here, there’s people down there.”

The angel replies, “That’s okay. Those are all the people that told you they’d be back!”

Talk to you later,


Crazy People

If the world were going to end in an hour, there’d be a goof out on your lot asking if he could drive the Mustang. Air raid sirens are going off; people are running the streets in a panic. Others are on their knees praying, but this guy is oblivious. He wants to talk to you about a freaking car.

Let’s face it. Times have been tough for car men lately. For the last couple of years business has been crappy; virtually no one is making any money. (But take heart, remember the second rule: “What goes around, comes around”.) It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but for anyone who’s in this business for the long haul, it’s just part of life, albeit an extremely shitty part of life.

The problem with slow business is this: the crazy people still come out. They’re not going to buy a car anyway, so what does it matter to them if the economy is in the tank? When times are good, car men can simply broom these vermin. They’re an annoying part of the business, but you’ve got to take the good with the bad, right? But when business is down these idiots are like a piece of glass in your eye, irritating as hell.

Crazy people don’t care if business is up or down. They don’t care if it’s rainy or sunny. The don’t care if your closing in fifteen minutes. They’ve got no money, and a lot of spare time with nothing to do. Sometimes they’re just lonely. They just want someone to talk to. You.

What do you do?

I’m a firm believer that the best way to get rid of someone who’s jacking you off is to ask them to buy the car. Be specific, be strong. “Got any down payment money, you idiot? How’s your credit, flake? You gonna buy or what—asshole? Well maybe the asshole part is too extreme, but that’s what you’re thinking, right? Why the hell am I out here in the cold talking to this goof?

Make me emperor of this country, and I’ll enact a law that says stroking a car salesman is punishable by death. It’s the charitable part of me that feels this way. Trust me; the world will be a better place.

Oh, well. There is no practical way of dealing with these people. Someone should invent a mooch detector that’s mounted at the front of your driveway, like those anti-theft devices at the exits in stores. Vaporizing laser beams wouldn’t be bad either.

Maybe their I.Q. and credit score should be tattooed to their foreheads.

Now that’s an idea.

Talk to you later,