Confessions of a Car Man


All Hail The Courtesy Delivery!

(Note: A Courtesy Delivery, for those of The Others who might be reading this, is a car or truck sold by a national fleet company that is delivered to their client by a new car dealer for a nominal fee.)

All hail the Courtesy Delivery! All hail that institution that makes fleet managers everywhere think their actually doing something! Now don’t get me wrong. In my years in this business I have worn many hats including a stint as a fleet manager. So I’m a veteran of many courtesy deliveries myself. It’s been about twenty years since I’ve done one, but I’m certain it hasn’t changed.

Doing a Courtesy Delivery is a little like being a bottom-rung hooker. There’s not much money in it, and you can feel a little cheap when it’s done. There’s just something distasteful about delivering a vehicle for a couple of hundred dollars or so, knowing that someone else has made the gross.

The dealers are usually ambivalent about the whole thing. Many hate it and for good reason because there’s not much money in it. Some flat-ass refuse to do one.
This being said many dealers put up with it as just a part of the business. They get the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) money from the manufacturer, make a little money and sleep better at night knowing that a few courtesy deliveries helps keep all those rowdy fleet guys out of the bars on lazy afternoons.

One problem with courtesy deliveries is that after a while the fleet guys confuse them with as real car deals, which they are not. I went to work at a dealership once where a guy pointed at a painted up van for a local company. “That’s my account,” he told me proudly. Now in my brain having an account meant you went out and got the business and sold them a car. It wasn’t until later that I realized that his “account” was a bunch of courtesy deliveries!

At Hayward Ford back at the dawn of my automobile journey, I worked with a guy named Jack Allan. Jack was a truly sweet man, not a mean bone in his body. Jack was the fleet manager, and along with his normal duties he did courtesy deliveries—a lot of courtesy deliveries. He was another guy who chose to think of them as real deals.

Jack’s office was at the far end of the lot, and he had to walk past our offices on the used car lot in order to go to the business office. Every once in a while we’d be standing out there at the railing hawking for an up when Jack would walk buy. He’d hold a sheaf of papers in his hand and crow, “PH&H! Another twenty-five deliveries!”

Now Jack had one thing right. If you’re going to do courtesy deliveries, do a lot of them. If you can get into bed with a large fleet company and maybe do a couple of hundred per year, you’ve something. It’s akin to my to my philosophy of if you’re going to give new cars away, give a lot of them away (and hope you get a lot of nice trade ins!).

I remember one time I was courtesy delivering a Chrysler Fifth Avenue to an executive of a company. Got the car ready, filled out the forms, but when the guy (who had arrogant bastard written all over his face) came in, he took one look at the car and announced he hated the color. It got interesting when he demanded that I get him a different car. When I explained that I wasn’t actually selling him a car, I was simply delivering a car that was sent to me from a dealer back east, he became indignant and had a mini-tantrum in my office. Apparently he was confusing me with someone who gave a shit.

I have to admit I was enjoying all this. It was a chance to screw with a customer’s mind without getting into trouble. After grinding on me for a full ten minutes on why I couldn’t deliver the one he liked better that was on our lot, he turned red and left. A week later a transporter came and picked up the Fifth Avenue, never to be seen again.

So all hail the Courtesy Delivery! It’s the magic pill that tries to fool you into thinking you’ve sold a car when you actually haven’t. It can be an object of ridicule from the retail guys, a necessary evil for the dealer, a good thing for the service department. But a lot of times it just makes you feel like a fool.

Talk to you later,



I googled “Confessions of a Car Man” last night. A little bit of ego stroking, I suppose. What came up first, way first, was a blog called “Confessions of a Car Salesman”. It’s one of those blogs whose purpose is to reveal the secrets that will protect the The Others from evil car salesmen.

I didn’t go on that blog. I don’t have the stomach for it for the same reasons I won’t watch anything on television that has to do with selling cars. The only exceptions are stories about car dealership closures that are now popping up with frightening frequency. I watch them with dead eyes and jaw dropped wondering what the hell is going to happen to our kind. So no, I didn’t log onto the car salesman blog because I have no interest in giving any time to people I consider traitors.

It is important here that I emphasize the difference between a car salesman and a Car Man. If you haven’t read my blog entry on the subject, please do so now. I’ll wait. And while you’re at it check out the entry called “The Others”. I’ll hum something in the meantime, a take off on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.

“I told that customer don’t come around here.
I think feet buyers are a bunch of queers.
But times are getting rough and a guy’s got to eat.
So fleet it.
Just fleet it.

Fleet it! Fleet it!
Get yourself a truck and fleet it!
Give away the money,
Give away the gross,
Give that company a ten-day float.
Just fleet it.
Yes fleet it.”

Back? You see anyone can sell cars, but only a few of us have earned the right to call ourselves Car Men. The guy who writes the aforementioned blog was not a Car Man for if he were, he would have never sold us out with his disloyalty and lies.

I believe I have the ability to do what he has done. I have what my mother called, “the gift of gab”. This gift regularly visits my fingertips whenever I get near a computer. I believe I have the ability to sell you all out if I was inclined to do so, but I could never do it. I have spent too much time in the trenches to surrender to the Dark Side now.

The Others have an endless fascination with us and what we do. In a way we are the light bulbs and they are the moths. We are forever locked in this battle of wills. For the most part they are ill-equipped to deal with us regardless of the websites, the Edmonds guides, and whatever else that’s out there that is designed to help them screw us. And I think that’s what pisses them off the most. (Don’t you love it?)

There’s an old Car Man expression that goes like this: “How can you tell if a customer is lying? If he’s moving his lips!” It is so true! Now it’s wrong to assume that all customers are flaming assholes. Thinking that he’s guilty until proven innocent won’t put you in the right frame of mind to sell a car. But dealing with The Others is like having a tiger for a pet. You can never forget they’re wild animals and will turn on you in an instant if given a chance.

I was going to write a witty paragraph here about sales trainers, but I thought better of it. If I talk about them any more than I have, people will think I’ve really lost it.

In my opinion we should get out the pitchforks and torches and go after all the disloyal ex-car salesman who help perpetuate the notion that for some reason we shouldn’t be allowed to make any money. I can see it now. We can all gather at the local cyber Car Man bar and volley viruses at their websites. Then we’ll have a few pops, bitch ourselves into a frenzy, and run screaming down the streets with murder in our hearts.

But it’s not like I’m bitter or anything.

Talk to you later,


The Designated Bitcher (Part 2)

After writing the previous entry, The Designated Bitcher, I had an epiphany. All these months of complaining about this and that has taken a toll on me. Because the green pea in me, the one who was so eager to learn the business, knows that the things I speak about are totally opposite of what I was taught.

I learned this business by trying to stay out of trouble. When I was a kid there were literally hundreds of ways to get into trouble. The business as I learned it was full of interlocking rules, and it was incredibly easy to break one. I grew up in an era when a write-up would be torn up if it weren’t done correctly. So in order to survive, I had to learn how to stay out of trouble.

I was taught to blindly write-up anyone and everyone that crossed my path. If the postman stopped inside the showroom to eyeball the sticker on a new car, I was supposed to try and sell it to him. Now on the surface this was good. Since I was more than dumb, how could I sort out the buyers from the strokers? And to be honest, if I were running a dealership (a very scary proposal) I’d do it about the same way.

So when I write these little pieces of car business journalism, I am in a way dismantling a lot of things I was taught to avoid. I recreated myself the anti-sales trainer, and it has made me feel a little guilty inside. A part of me feels like I’m about to be paged to the sales office and be chewed out. Not a good feeling.

But back to my epiphany. Humor (or my attempt at it) is what this blog is all about, and I should learn to accept that. As I have said, someone has to do it. I defy you to find another source of information about this business that hasn’t been prepared by a greedy bastard in a thousand dollar suit who is plotting how to get as much money out of the dealers he can. There I go again, bitching about sales trainers. I’m going to have to learn to control that.

I’ve have already donned the moniker of Smart Ass, a designation that truly fits my personality. But now I’ve appeared to have taken on a second one, The Designated Bitcher. And guilty or not, I like that persona. I have to learn to embrace my smart assness, and my bitching. I have to learn that in it all there might be a little truth that I’m sending out over the used car lots of America. How about that for being pretentious!

I just want you to remember that the rules of the business are tried and true. They have been hammered out over the generations and passed on. It is our great heritage. Following them correctly will lead you to making a decent living and a good life.

But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.

Talk to you later,


The Designated Bitcher (Part 1)

The old axiom that states “the crazy people always come out” has never been truer than it is today. With the real buyers getting more and more scarce it makes it tougher for a Car Man to endure the endless parade of flakes and nuts that come on to your lot when the real buyers are home watching a movie on the Lifetime Channel.

Since I’m not a sales trainer I have no neat solution for this, nor is it my job to motivate you. It’s my job to bitch and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Think of me as your designated bitcher. I do know two things: firearms are out of the questions, and it’s a good time to have a microbrewery near the dealership so you can drown your sorrows in cold glass of IPA.

Yes sir the vultures are out as certain you’re about to go under as they are of Global Warming. (And yes, I do have an unhealthy attitude when it comes to climate change.) I remember once about twenty years ago a guy came in and offered me $6000 for a new car with a list of $12000. When I asked him if I could have a taste of whatever he’d been smoking, he informed me, deadly serious, that the world was about to end so there was no need for me to get what we were asking for the car.


In my particular circumstances, every deadbeat with a 500 credit score (or less) is on the prowl for a used car with no money down. They seem particularly interested in my $8495 1994 Lexus 400. It has a V8 and a 140k on the odometer. At least they’re being practical.

I just had a 45-minute ordeal with a Vietnamese family (total of seven people) who trucked up here from Oakland to try and buy my 1999 Toyota Sienna van for $2000 below our Internet “blowout” price.

Then I had the obligatory Mexican who doesn’t have a driver’s license and doesn’t understand why he can’t get a car financed. “Finance?” I said. “Sir, without a license I can’t even let you drive it!”

Call me a racist bastard. Maybe I am to a certain extent. But I’ll tell you now I’m an equal opportunity hater when it comes to strokers.

It will eventually come down to how long I can take this crap. I’m 58 now. Got a ways to go before I can park myself in the bone yard. Will mental illness overtake me before I get to collect on my Automobile Salesman’s Union 1095 pension? Only time will tell, I guess.

The only thing I ask of you out there is to send me a warning if I seem to be going off the deep end as they say. I realize a case could be made that that has already happened, but believe me it can get a whole lot worse.

Oh yeah. A lot worse.

Talk to you later,


A Few Minutes With David Teves

If the car business were a news show like “60 Minutes”, my part would be tacked onto the end, the Car Man’s Andy Rooney. I can imagine it now, three solid stories about the business: the first one about the growing problem with failing Ford dealerships. The second piece about the rising costs of demos for dealer’s girlfriends. And the last story about the National Detailers Association “Clean Off” held each 4th of July in Forth Worth, Texas.

Then, at the end of a brief commercial break and the ticking of the stop watch, me.

“And now a few minutes with David Teves,” the announcer would intone.

Cut to David Teves dressed in a gray suit, white shirt and tie and a Giants baseball cap sitting behind a large desk piled high with old credit apps and In and Out burger wrappers. I would begin with a wry smile and a smart ass attitude that befits my personality.

“I was hanging around my local Chevy store the other day,” I begin. “Why exactly, I don’t know. It’s a little like going to a dentist’s office just to check out the latest magazines in the waiting room. While examining the new Chevy Malibu which I’ve never seen outside a showroom except at an Enterprise Rental Car agency, I heard a salesman talking about getting a “floor pop”.”

“Damn, I need a floor pop,” he said, his voice dripping with desperation.

“I wondered, what exactly is a floor pop and why does he need one so badly? If you hang around with Car Men long enough you’ll discover they speak a second language, known only to them, which is harder to decipherer than Esperanto.”

“Bill had a lay down last night,” another guy mentioned. “A total grape. Big down stroke and gold balls. Why can’t that happen to me?”

“This went on for quite a while with me only understanding about every fifth word. There was a brief discussion about flakes and credit criminals. For some reason the guys harbored resentment for real estate brokers and firemen. And when a Chinese gentleman opened the showroom door everybody suddenly had to go the bathroom. The Chinese gentleman asked me what my last price was. When I drolly answered $4.99, he said it was too much money and left.”

“After the coast was clear the F&I man came out to the showroom. What exactly is an F&I man anyway? From listening to the guys later, I assume it’s an acronym for “fool and incompetent”. The F&I man went into a tirade about “missing stips”, unsigned credit apps and “if you expect me to lay off the back half, you’ve got to get me all the ammunition—and leave room for a warranty.”

“And what’s all this stuff about “getting a bump”? Is it about avoiding damage while driving around the lot, or some kind of skin condition? If you get a bump do you need medication? I suppose it depends on how big the bump is.”

“A visit to the sales manager’ office didn’t do anything to clarify the situation. I was quickly informed that unless I had a signed commitment he didn’t want to talk to me. When I tried to explain who I was he said, “Just because you’re old and on TV doesn’t mean you can sandbag me.”

“The whole thing went down hill from there. I wasn’t ready to make a commitment. After all, I’d only just met the guy.”

“By the time I left that place my head was aching more than Bill Clinton’s after an evening with Hillary. No wonder the car business is in so much trouble! In my opinion if car salesmen are to survive they will have to relent and learn to speak English. Or at least English as a second language.”

“And as for the Spanish-speaking guy, you know the one with the pencil thin mustache and the attitude? Leave him alone. The way things are going he might be the only one who will be able to understand the customers.”

Fade to commercial.

Talk to you later,


The Fourth of July

I blew $152.76 on fireworks today. That’s a bit more than last year, but not as much as some years past. Like many red-blooded American males, I’m addicted to fireworks. It must be a male thing. My wife, Trish, enjoys my yearly pyrotechnic display, but clearly not as much as me. If I didn’t come home with my yearly hoard, I don’t think it would bother her much.

When my first child, Laura, was born, I couldn’t wait until she was old enough to enjoy a fountain or a sparker. But Laura hated fireworks, one of the major disappointments of my thirties. This situation corrected itself with the birth of my son, Joe. Joe, who accompanied me on my trip to the firework stand, enjoys fireworks as much as me. Maybe even a little more.

My love for fireworks goes back as far as I can remember. Growing up in San Leandro, a small city east of San Francisco, I lived on a block filled with fellow baby-boomer kids. In those days, before the Safety Nazis declared them illegal, Lark Street was lit a bright with fireworks from one end of the block to the other. I remember my father, dressed in his tan kakis and blue jacket, lighting them in the street using a road flare for a punk. Rockets, Roman Candles, spinning wheels, (and a few cherry bombs courtesy of the older neighborhood teenagers), made the night a wonderful thing. Those July 4ths have stuck in my mind all my life.

As a kid I lived and died for firecrackers. There was a man who would appear each year parking his old Buick across 150th Avenue in the unincorporated area that separated San Leandro from it’s neighbor to the south, Hayward. There, with only the county sheriffs to worry about, he would sell fireworks out of his trunk. The good kind. The illegal kind.

For me, Heaven would have been to own a full brick of firecrackers. This would have been impossible of course. I could barely afford the fifteen cents it cost for a single package of Black Cats much less an entire brick! But I could always dream. What wondrous fun I would have with them! A whole myriad of things could be blown up, from backyard plumbs, milk cartons, to tin cans launched into the air. But I made do. Even with only two or three packs in my hand I felt like a king!

Firecrackers were always bought surreptitiously. I was certain my mother, a professional- grade worrier, would be certain I would lose at a finger or God forbid an eye! They were purchased out of the Buick, secreted back to the safety of my room, hidden with as much sly skill as I would with a lid of grass a decade latter.

Somewhere along the line, perhaps when I was eight or nine, most of the “safe and sane” fireworks were banned. The good stuff, the large multi-colored fountains, the spinning Catherine Wheels and much more, were cut from my life. The only thing that survived the carnage were the meek, pale imitations sold each July at the whitewashed Lyons Club booth at the far end of the Safeway parking lot. These fireworks could only impress a four-year-old. For me, it was the end of childhood.

But that would eventually change.

In the mid-90’s, well into my forties, my family and I moved east to the fringes of the Bay Area to a small town named Rio Vista, or as I like to call it, “The Land That Time Forgot.” It’s a place where until just a few years ago the nearest McDonalds was seventeen miles away a road stop called Flag City. Want to buy a pair of shoes? You have to drive at least twenty miles to accomplish that.

But to my joyful astonishment Rio Vista offered something I thought was gone from my life forever. Fireworks. At the end of June each year a stand wondrously appears at the local grocery store parking lot. It doesn’t sell everything, no Roman Candles, bottle rockets or firecrackers, but everything else is there. Everything necessary to bring back a piece of childhood if only for one night a year.

Earlier today I spilled the cache of fireworks onto my kitchen table, carefully liberating each from their packaging, setting free their fuses, readying them for the night ahead. The smell of gunpowder filled my nostrils. What a glorious smell! Someone should make gunpowder aftershave! And there they sit as I write this, waiting for night to fall, the party to begin, and the brief time trip into the 1950’s to occur.

For me, the Fourth of July is magic.

Talk to you later,


Mrs. Rousseau

I had been selling cars for maybe a year when I met Mrs. Rousseau. She was a sweet-looking woman about seventy-years-old. If you looked up “grandmother” in a dictionary there might have been a picture of her. She pulled into the lot driving a white, early ’60s Rambler American, the prototypical old lady car of the day.

“I want to buy a car,” she said simply as I greeted her. Her Rambler had not been running well, she explained. She thought it would be best to find a replacement. “A new one,” she emphasized. That was okay with me. After all, putting people into cars was what I did for a living.

Then she did something very disarming, something I remember vividly to this day. She reached into her purse, pulled out a savings account book, and handed it to me. It was her life savings, she said. and she hoped it would be enough.

This was the first and only time in my career that something like this happened to me. I suddenly felt very protective of the woman looking at me with total trust in her eyes. I sat her in my office and with more than a little reluctance opened the book. Grace Rousseau had slightly over $10,000 in her account, an amount, she told me, that she saved over the years. I felt the weight of responsibility fall on my shoulders. The smiling woman sitting before me had given me, a perfect stranger who was barely an adult, an enormous amount of power over her life and future.

I had no trouble finding her a suitable car. She settled on a lime green 1972 Ford Torino sedan. We took it for a ride, and she loved it. All the while she was driving I was doing the mental math. If I remember correctly, the Torino was in the $6000 range. When you added tax and license there would not be much left in that savings account after the deal was completed. A major chunk of her rainy day fund would be gone. I told myself, “This lady shouldn’t be using her savings to buy a new car.”

My dilemma only worsened when I took her old Rambler out to Hal Nelson to have it appraised. It had 28,000 miles on the odometer. After driving the car and giving me a figure of $300, he looked at me and said, “You know, David, there’s nothing really wrong with the car. It only needs a little carburetor work.”

I went back to the sales office with a heavy heart. God knows I wanted to sell a car, but I did not want this lady to blow her money needlessly! She should just get the damn Rambler fixed. How much longer would she be driving anyway? She does not need a new car! The sales manager was my brother, Danny. He was ten years older than me and from my perspective, the most talented and wisest person on the planet. I spilled my guts to him about Mrs. Rousseau.

Danny sat back and listened patiently, and when I was finished he said, “David, you’re absolutely right. She shouldn’t be buying a car. It makes no sense at all. She should fix the Rambler and drive it for the rest of her life.”

A wave of relief washed over me.

“But,” Danny added.

I looked at him curiously. “But? But what?”

“David, once a customer gets it into their mind that they want to buy a car, they will buy a car. It’s inevitable, and there is nothing you can do about it. Yes, you can go back there and give her advice. She will listen and thank you for your help. Then she will get into her Rambler, and drive over to the Dodge dealership next door, and I guarantee you she’ll be driving a new Dart in an hour. That’s just the way it is.”

Properly advised and chastised, I returned to Mrs. Rousseau with the figures. Danny did not try to knock her head off. He gave her a modest discount and the full value for her trade-in. Of course, she immediately agreed. I then went with Mrs. Rousseau to her bank where she withdrew the money for the Torino from her account. I took her back to the store and delivered her new car. I made a nice commission, got a much-needed mark on the board, but I did not feel good about it. My Portuguese guilt, so dutifully taught to me by my mother, lingered.

Over the years I have often thought about Mrs. Rousseau. How much longer did she live? I did a little research. A Grace Rousseau died in the Hayward area in 1985. Was it her? She must have stopped driving years before her death. Did she enjoy her lime green Torino during the time she had left? I hope so.

I learned an important lesson that day. Danny was absolutely right. If I had not sold her the car someone else, maybe someone else more tempted to take advantage of a woman alone, would have done it for me.

I have seen it countless times over my career; people buying cars when they should not. Though I have never encountered anyone else like Grace Rousseau, I witness bad decisions being made over and over again with frightening regularity. I have grown to accept that getting yourself buried in a car or truck is as American as apple pie, but sometimes it is like witnessing a train wreck. I learned long ago that there is nothing I can do about it, even if a part of me is tempted to dispense a little fatherly advice from time to time. I know that if I do not sell them the car, someone else will. Over the years I have had to remind myself over and over that it is not my job to not sell people cars. It is my responsibility to do my job properly--and with as much integrity as I can muster.

After all, I am not a saint. I am a Car Man.

Talk to you later,