Confessions of a Car Man


Car Man

Note: If you have just stumbled across this blog, please take a moment to read the entry below. It is the first chapter of my maybe-it's-coming book, "Car Man". It will tell you a little about me, and the world of Car Men. If you find it enjoyable, I urge you to read on. Please feel free to leave a comment.

David Teves

No one ever graduated from high school or college and announced to family and friends, “I’m going to sell cars for a living!” So who exactly are Car Men, and where do we come from? And more importantly, why are we all so crazy? Car Men are crazy? Hell yeah! At least the good ones are. We have to be. What sane person would choose a profession as volatile as this, a profession that does not guarantee a steady monthly income, where you face a hostile world each day armed with only a pen, wits and a strong sense of survival?

A Car Man is a guy who did not want to do manual labor for a living. If he was in one of the trades, maybe he got injured or was just too damned tired to do it anymore. Maybe he lost a business or drove trucks and burned out on life on the road. Maybe life just threw him a curve ball, and he ended up working on a used car lot, a temporary situation that lasted twenty years.

Many Car Men are people who would not have made it in the corporate world. They do not have the personality, the temperament, or maybe they have too many bad habits. We are the dreamers, the failed musicians, the failed writers; too smart to work at McDonald’s but not smart enough to make much out of a college degree.

We are the people your parents warned you about: big talkers, opinionated assholes, egotistical bastards. We are the class clowns, the nonconformists, the ex-hippies, the ones you did not want dating you sister. We are by any standard a motley crew, a collection of offbeat personalities that collectively make the wheels of the automobile business spin.

My life as a Car Man officially began on October 20, 1970 at Hayward Ford in Hayward, California, a city across the bay from San Francisco. I was two months shy of my twenty-first birthday. Actually, my automotive career started a couple of years before. I paid my dues by doing odd jobs around the dealership, going on dealer trades, washing cars. Unbeknownst to me my older brother Danny, the dealership’s young sales manager, had gotten it into his head that he could teach me how to sell cars. I quickly fell into his trap. I was an insecure young man with few marketable skills, uncertain what I should do with my life. The only thing I had going for me was what my mother called “the gift of gab”. Translated that means “natural born bullshitter”. So when Danny offered me the opportunity I took it, though the thought of selling cars for a living scared the crap out of me.

Up to this point in my life my only contacts with adults were my parents, the parents of my friends and teachers. Nothing in my life experiences prepared me for the particular breed of adult known as a Car Man. When I joined the sales force at Hayward Ford I was the youngest salesman on the crew and would remain so for a pretty long time. The majority of the salesmen were old enough to be my fathers. When I began my Car Man journey I expected them to be like all the other adults in my life: respectable, fatherly, grown up. Nothing could have been further from the truth!

On my first day a salesman by the name of Jack Dunne, aka The Silver Fox due to his full head of striking white hair, took me aside and told me this: “David, there is no lie you can tell a customer that is better than the truth.” I never forgot those words because they turned out to be very true. Call it karma if you like, but if you lie to a customer it always seems to come back on you one way or another.

The second thing he said was this: “I want you to get off to a good start so here is a list of contacts you can call.” He handed me a sheet of names and numbers.

“Gee, Mr. Dunne. Thank you!” I said gratefully. It was not until later that I realized he had just laid off his dreaded “cold call” sheet on me!

This was my introduction into the life of a Car Man. Of course I would not be a real Car Man for many years. A Car Man is a guy who has been around for a while, the veteran of many battles, wizened to the ways of the world and the schemes of The Others. That was not me by a long shot!

But I did sell a car on my first day.

Shortly after I started, I attended my first “steak and bean” feed. Steak and bean feeds were a common event in the life of Car Men. Typically, they were the culmination of a month long contest. The crew was divided into two teams, each headed by a captain. The teams competed with each other for the most sales, the prize being a dinner where the winners ate steak and the losers ate beans--and all the cocktails you could drink. They could be wild affairs. I once attended a feed where the winning captain was awarded a hooker!

My first steak and bean feed was a surreal experience. I was a true child of
the 60’s, yet here I was in a fancy restaurant rubbing elbows with a bunch of guys in expensive suits most of whom were old enough to be my fathers. I was not yet twenty-one, but they insisted that I drink with them. I had no idea what to order. A scary, one-armed salesman by the name of Tony Isom appointed himself to help me choose. He suggested a salty dog, a mix of vodka and grapefruit juice with a salted rim.

“Always order it in a bucket,” he commanded in his booming voice. Who was I to argue? One did not mess with Tony. His one-handed grip could easily break your hand or disable a shoulder! I drank salty dogs that night and for many years after.

That night I ate beans much to the enjoyment of the winning team. After dinner we drifted back to the bar for a few more rounds. Later I was ushered into a back room where a group of drunken Car Men was sitting around a movie projector watching porno movies on a wobbly screen. These were my father figures?

When it was over the salesmen, most of who were quite drunk, loaded themselves into their Ford LTD Brougham demonstrators and drove home. It was not unusual for at least one demo bite the dust on one of these nights.

I will never forget that night for it seemed to be my formal introduction to adulthood. Never more would I just be the kid who did the dealer trades and washed cars after class. I was now one of them (or at least an apprentice one of them).

I had entered the world of Car Men.

"The Demonstration Ride"

While going though some stories to place on my fiction blog, I came upon a tale about a psychotic Car Man. I had completely forgotten about, “The Demonstration Ride”. Finding it was a delight. I prepped it for the blog, making only a couple of changes, most notably changing the year of the Yakamura Extra-Van from 1997 to 2011 and tossing in a reference to the Internet. Still, I fear the story might be dated.

Please check it out if you can and let me know what you think. It was posted on 11-1--09. Information on how to get to "unexpected pleasures, stories by David Teves " is on the right.


Driving Me Crazy

I received this lead on the Internet the other day from I present it to you in full.

Name: Anthony XXXXXXX
E-Mail Address:
Phone: (510) XXX-5749
Best Contact Time: Any time 8 a.m. - 9 p.m
Comments: hi ma name is anthony XXXXXXX an i am a 19yr old college student full time an i am trying to buy me a car an build my credit . i have no credit.i work full time an i ben with my job for over a year.
Zip Code of Sender: 94509

So. Anthony goes to college. I take it it’s not the University of California. I also take it that he’s not an English major.

Do you get it now why this business is driving me crazy?

People keep telling me that the customers are getting smarter and smarter. I think that peeked about 1997. Since then, the education system in this country has deteriorated to the point that the customers are now becoming dumber again. Good news for Car Men everywhere. I think.

I will be 60 soon. Retirement is not too far down the road.

Thank God!

Talk to you later,


Mooch Magnets

You’ve got one on your lot right now, a Mooch Magnet. You know the car (or truck). It’s the one that everyone who is attracted to it either can’t afford the sucker or can’t pull the trigger and it. It’s a vehicle with a potentially great gross, but every time you see someone gawking at the little beauty your stomach does a slow turn.

“Here I go again!” you mutter to yourself.

Mooch Magnets can be either new or used. It just depends on the dealership. I don’t suppose that Kia dealerships have a lot of Mooch Magnets unless it’s on their used car lot. Let’s face it; no one is coming in daily to drool over that cute red Rio you’ve got in the showroom.

Luxury car dealerships have it the worse, I’d guess. There’s an irritating portion of the population that loves a Mercedes Benz or Lexus, but no way in Hell can they buy one.

Chevy dealerships have a built in Mooch Magnet. It’s called the Corvette. Constant readers of this blog know how I feel about Corvettes; I hate ‘em. If you’ve missed my ranting on the subject, check out “I Hate Corvettes” posted in November ’07.

When you work on a used car that specializes in low-end vehicles and low-end customers like I do the situation can be quite sad. My current Mooch Magnet is a black 2006 Buick LaCrosse with 20” chrome rims. It’s pricey for our lot at $9495. You see no one in this neighborhood can afford a car like that. It might as well be $50,000! The only hope I have is to sell it on the Internet.

The minute the LaCrosse hit the front line the deluge began: flakes, flakes and more flakes. Flakes have an incredible ability to choose exactly the wrong car for them. You see, in their eyes it’s all about stylin’. Even though they don’t have a pot to piss in, it’s almost mandatory that they drive a car that fits the hip-hop image of what they believe their life should be like. It doesn’t matter that the LaCrosse is a little edgy and is too much money for their semi-welfare budges. It’s black and has tricked out rims, and that’s all that matters to them.

Another classic Mooch Magnet is the Cadillac Escalade, probably one of the most useless vehicles on the planet. I mean, at least you can take a Hummer camping. A new Escalade is a great way of letting people know that you don’t mind flushing money down a toilet. A used Escalade lets everyone know that you are either really cool or have a screwed up value system. But when you have one on your lot, here they come, glassy-eyed, full of Las Vegas livin’ dreams, and determined to do the (usually) undoable.

“Please let me drive it! Please! Please! Please!”

Oh, God! Just the thought of it makes me want to scream!

So what’s your current Mooch Magnet? Leave a comment and let me know. Is it a Mustang GT Convertible that every 20 year old male in town wants but can’t even afford the insurance? Is it that used Lincoln Navigator with 92,000 miles on it that no one can qualify for? You have to gird yourself and take on the task of talking to that goof who is currently taking photos of it with his cell phone. It’s your job and besides, you just might make a big pop. But oh what hell you have to go through to make it!

Talk to you later,


The Monroney Sticker

I was driving through a parking lot the other day when I noticed a Honda with the factory window sticker still on it. What gave me pause was that the car was at least a couple of years old. It had license plates on it, bugs on the front bumper, and the sticker was well into the process of fading away.

“Oh, one of those,” I thought. You see them every once in a while, a nut whose idea of keeping a new car new is keeping the window sticker on it long after the new car smell has faded into history.

This got me thinking about window stickers or Monroneys as they are called. They’re named after the Oklahoma congressman, A.S. Mike Monroney, who sponsored the law requiring them in the late 50’s. Before the advent of the Monroney sticker, car dealers could ask whatever the hell they wanted for a new car just as they do with used cars today. Somehow the government decided that wasn’t a good idea, and thus began the era of the new car window sticker.

When I got into the business in 1970, Monroneys weren’t required on trucks. They had a listing of equipment but no prices. I don’t remember what they were marked up, but 20 to 30 percent sounds about right. Later, the manufactures voluntarily started adding prices to the stickers, but the dealers generally ripped them off. It wasn’t until sometime in the mid-70s before trucks finally came under the Monroney law too.

Today Monroney stickers are easily removed and given to the customer upon delivery; a simple razor blade and window cleaner will do the trick. But when I first started selling cars there was no way you could save the sticker for the customer. It was as if they used the same glue they would later use to attach the tiles to the Space Shuttle on those suckers, and getting them off was a real bitch.

The best way of getting the job done was to let the sticker soak in window cleaner for a few minutes before you attempted to remove them. The process would sometimes take the entire time the customer was in F&I signing up. (No going to fill the cars up with gas in those days!) You couldn’t use a razor blade alone. You had to have one of those scrappers used for removing paint in order to make sure it wasn’t going to be an all day job.

My brother had a little side business selling those scrapers to the salesman for $5.00 a piece, and he would occasionally pull a little surprise inspection to make sure you had one in your office. Why? It wasn’t a moneymaking thing; he wanted to make sure the customer didn’t go off the lot with the sticker still on the car. It wasn’t safe, and he didn’t want the customer to show the sticker to friends and family who might suggest he paid too much money for that Ford LTD.

Later, it was the pack sticker he was worried about. By the late 70’s we were selling Datsuns. The cars hardly any had any mark up in them at all. Every dealer packed the price, and everyone was using a pack sticker. We didn’t want the customer to later come out of the ether and realize he paid over Monroney for the car.

What you had was an automotive conundrum. Glue technology had advanced to the point where with a little finesse you could save the Monroney, so what do you do? Do you give the customer the Monroney? Do you give him the Monroney plus the pack sticker and hope it didn’t come back to bite you on the ass?

Fortunately it wasn’t a big deal not to save the stickers because in those days people hadn’t yet gotten in the habit of expecting them. You had to be a little sly about it though. The best technique was when you took the customer to finance you’d introduce them to the F&I manager and just as you left you’d casually mention that you were going to get the car ready for delivery and remove all the stickers. Then you scooted out of there before they could think about asking you to save the Monroney. Worked like a charm.

Today the customers expect to have the stickers. That’s not a bad thing. If I were buying a new car I’d want it too. But it’s now a different world. For the most part pack stickers have fallen by the wayside and it isn’t very often that you sell a new car for over sticker. So there is no conflict there. It’s a shame though. I wish the days when trying to hide the stickers because you made a nice pop were still here.

Talk to you later,


P.S. Any of you remember the pack stickers that were designed to look just like the Monroneys? A great Car Man idea while it lasted. Unfortunately the government didn’t agree.

Used Car Reconditioning

All Car Men have experienced this situation. You took a cream puff in on trade: low miles, almost new tires, no dents or scratches. It’s the dream trade, a home run for the guy lucky enough to sell it when it hits the lot. A week later the little beauty comes out of detail and is parked on the front line like a sparkling diamond.

The next day you sell it, you lucky bastard! You start calculating the gross in your mind starting with what you took it in for. You estimate reconditioning costs (didn’t need much!), plus the pack and any other charges you can think of that management might tack on. Still, the calculation is good. It’s a God damn three pounder!

Two days later you get your voucher: It’s a mini.

You’ve been screwed my man! Caught up in a little scam called “used car reconditioning”. The recon fraud is as old as the business itself. Some dealers use this opportunity to squeeze out every dime of excess gross they can before the little beauty hits the line. A car comes into inventory and is taken to the shop for safety, smog and detail. The shop attempts to find enough wrong with it to get as much bucks onto the repair order as they can. They’ll try to make the sucker brand new, though many used cars only end up with a huge reconditioning bill and not a lot to show for it.

I once worked at a Dodge dealership whose idea of reconditioning seemed to be just to drive the sled slowly through the shop while the mechanics--strike that, I meant to say technicians--waved at it. I’m not that picky, but its nice when a used car has two working headlights, a spare tire, and power windows that actually go up and down. My nickname for the place was The Evil Empire.

Used cars can be a nice little profit center for a dealer even before they’re parked on the front line. Remember, for every $100 he can tack on to a used car R.O., that’s $100 less gross he has to pay you on. He makes a profit on in the shop, a profit on the car when it’s sold, and a profit on the salesman who sells it. Pretty nifty, huh?

Obviously, not all dealers do this, and I’m not opposed to a little extra recon if it results in a more marketable car. It’s the same as when they make a Hollywood movie and you hear a critic say, “they spent a lot of money, but the results are all up there on the screen.” People will always up money for a nice car.

So, what can you do about the used car recon scam? The answer is simple: nothing. Protesting will probably get you fired. Working at a dealership ultimately comes down to the income vs. bullshit ratio. The more money you make, the more bullshit you should be willing put up with. If you’re making $10K a month, maybe it’s not a good idea to bitch about the money you suspect they’re stealing from you.

But if you’re not making enough money, and its obvious that they are trying everything in their power to keep it that way, maybe it’s time to have a little sales meeting with yourself. In view of today’s market, is it a good idea to rant and rave? If you don’t have another job lined up, I’d bite my tongue for the time being. But if you’re sure you can get a better job, by all means launch!

The perfect situation is to get a job at a place you feel you can trust. I think I wrote something once about dealership personalities. Calm well-run car dealerships will probably be reasonably straight with you. Crazy, unorganized places should set off warning lights in your brain to hang on to your wallet.

Talk to you later,


Thoughts On The GM/Chrysler Dealership Closings

If I was a Chrysler or GM dealer caught up in the recent dealership closure announcements I’d be damned curious as to what type of criteria they used in making their decision. Rush Limbaugh is already bitching that Republican dealers are being targeted, but that is patently ridiculous. I mean, how may Democrat car dealers are there out there? Like four?

Now I realize that a drastic reduction in the amount of Chrysler and GM dealerships was necessary; too many dealers, too little sales. Someone has to go. But how do you make the decision as to who goes and who stays? If you need to get rid of 25% of your dealers, wouldn’t it be logical that you just get rid of the lowest 25% performers?

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be that way. From what I gather it appears that many successful dealerships that are making money each month have inexplicably received cancellation letters while other less successful dealers have been spared. What’s that all about?

Chrysler and GM might be using this opportunity to extract a little revenge on renegade dealerships. You know, the type of dealer with an independent mind that doesn’t like to play ball with the factory all the time. Maybe they demurred when they were asked to order an extra load of Durangos during the height of the gas crisis. They’ve got a good business; they know how to sell cars (something the factory is notoriously ignorant about), yet they are going away.

I certainly hope that political correctness hasn’t entered the process. Over the last three decades the manufactures have strived to have an “inclusive” dealer body. This means they wanted more than just white males as car dealers. Minorities were actively recruited, a lofty ideal that I wholeheartedly agree with. There are certainly some great minority men and women out there that have become successful dealers because they were given a chance.

But there were also some recruits who didn’t know their asses from a hole in the ground. I know this sounds harsh, but if you’ve been around this business for any length of time you have either worked for or heard of a dealer who got his franchise for reasons other than being a potentially great Car Man. So what about these inept goofs? Have some of them been saved at the expense of a hard working stiff who was dumped because he has the misfortune of having blue eyes?

Since I don’t work for anybody in the media, I can sound off on this. Since you don’t know exactly where I live, I don’t expect any Molotov cocktails to be thrown at my front window any time soon. I’m not a racist. I just call them as I see them. In my opinion a dealer’s franchise should only be canceled because of their proven lack of merit, not because of sex, race or any other factor.

Hey, you lawyers out there! Can you smell a class-action lawsuit in the air?

One more thought before I go out and hawk for an up. A friend of mine who works at a Dodge dealership that was given the ax told me they had received a couple of taunting calls from another dealership that had escaped their fate. Make me emperor of this country for a week, and I’ll line those bastards up against a wall and have them shot.

Never forget that we are all in this together. We don’t have to like each other, but we should all recognize the simple fact that everyone has a right to make a living, and we should all have a little empathy for all our collective fates. What happens to your automotive brother might happen to you some day, so have some compassion!

Talk to you later,


Classic Cars

One of the fun things about selling Fords, Chryslers or Chevy’s is the goofballs who own “classic” cars. Typically you’ll encounter them on a weekend morning. Maybe it’s a lovingly restored ’56 Chevy, perhaps an old Barracuda, or a ’66 Mustang. They pull on the lot and park their automotive obsessions in the most conspicuous spot they can find, maybe even taking up two parking spaces so no one will ding the door of their baby.

As a lad I used to enjoy these old cars. They were a welcome break in a busy day. But over the years I began to notice something. I never sold a new car or truck to a guy driving a classic. As a matter of fact it dawned on me that they only spent a cursory amount of time checking out my inventory. They mostly seemed interested in me checking out their inventory!

Guys who sell Toyotas probably don’t get a lot of this. I mean, there’s no one out there restoring old Cressidas. At least I hope not. But even Toyota salesmen are not immune to a guy in a Buick Roadmaster if he’s desperate enough for attention.

The truth is most Car Men don’t give a crap about cars. Don’t get me wrong, we can all appreciate a 50’s chrome beauty, but for us an automobile is just iron, plastic and paint. Most gear heads don’t make good car salesman. They get too wrapped up in the excitement of it all and forget about hammering out a gross.

But these poor bastards who spend all their free time restoring old cars; they constantly need attention. Car shows don’t come around that often. You can only go on so many caravan rides with you buddies. Sometimes they wake up on a Saturday needing a quick approval fix. They need someone to validate all their hard work. So they take the old Camaro down to their local car dealership, hoping that someone there will “ooh and aah” over their pride and joy.

Here’s something fun for you to do when you encounter one of these middle-aged, gray-haired gear geeks: Ignore the freaking car!

I pretend like I don’t even see the damn thing. “Can I help you, sir?” I ask in my friendliest voice, my eyes ignoring his ride. Thus begins an awkward fifteen minutes. He pretends he's interested in buying something. I pretend he's going to buy something. He lingers close to his little beauty to insure I see it. I pretend he drove in in a '97 Neon. I try to draw him out, suggesting we go out back to look for one of those new trucks he mentioned. He rarely wants to go. You can see the frustration and disappointment building. It’s great!

Now here’s a perfect example of why I’m not qualified to train anyone. Because as anyone who purports to know the art of selling cars would tell you, I’m not handling this properly. After all he might really be interested in buying something. You should go ahead and massage his ego a little. Do you what you can to get the job done, son! Be a company man for Christ’s sake!

But that’s not how I roll.

There was a lady who used to come into Shellworth Chevrolet about once a month. She had this beautiful ’53 Chevy. It was eggshell blue and white. Even my jaded eyes widened the first time I saw it. It was just like the one my grandmother had, the one with a blown reverse gear. The lady wore a Chevy jacket and Chevy earrings. I suspected she had a Chevy tattoo hidden somewhere on her body. She was proud of her car and desperately wanted me to acknowledge it. I, of course, being an obstinate asshole, refused to do it. I clearly pissed her off.

No matter whatever else happens in my life, I’ll always have fond memories of that…

Talk to you later,


When The Dam Breaks

Whenever business was particularly bad for a prolonged period of time, my brother, Danny, would point at the cars streaming up and down Mission Boulevard and say, “They won’t last forever! There going to have to buy something sometime. All we have to do is wait them out.”

And of course he was right. The market would inevitably turn, and the showroom would once again fill with customers. The mooches would resume their ritual of kicking tires and asking stupid questions. The salesmen would start the process of rooting out the buyers from the stokers. The automotive world would return to its rightful order. The only bummer was the trade-ins. They had all been driven into the ground, a veritable sea of $100 dollar cars. But the lesson of it all was that the business always comes back.


Now I will be the first to admit that I never envisioned a protracted automotive drought such as this one. In my wildest dreams I never imaged the five plus years of agony we have all gone through. And I’ll also admit that I can’t predict when this crap will end, but if I were a betting man I’d put down a hundred that we have another year of misery ahead of us. One more year of buying food off the dollar menu at McDonalds and drinking cheap beer. One more year of sales managers acting like dicks and dealers walking around with long faces.

Here’s a weird angle I bet you’ve never thought of: The quality of today’s cars has prolonged this drought. Forty years ago cars were about done at 80,000 miles, so the ability of The Others to hold out on us was limited. Today, most cars are just broken in at 80K. Even American built cars, dreaded by pipe smokers everywhere, can last well over 100,000 miles. So in a sense we are victims of our own quest for quality.

But I come here today with good news. When the automotive dam finally breaks it’s going to be like Noah’s flood. There is enough pent up demand for new metal in this county to make us all lots and lots of money. All we have to do is hold on--if we can. Young salesmen still have a chance to bail out of the business if things get too rough. Old Car Men like me have no choice but to wait. We were born to this business, and we don’t know how to do anything else.

The promise of tomorrow is that we will sell a helluva lot of cars. We’ll once again be able to throw the crazy people off the lot and concentrate on the buyers. The time will come when we’ll have the luxury of bitching about the low inventory and how upper management is flooding the floor with goof balls.

All well be as it was.

So get prepared. Get out your best rain gear. Because when the dam breaks we’re all going to get very, very wet.

Talk to you later,



In the beginning of my automotive career the deposit was king. The desk wouldn’t even look at you or your deal if you didn’t have something from the customer other than a piece of paper and a credit app. Money talks, bullshit walks as they say. If your customer was using a trade for his down payment it was easy, a key and the registration or title would suffice. But if he was putting a grand down, the desk wanted to see the grand up front. Getting the customer to write the check or even worse give you the cash before finding out if he had a deal could be difficult, but the penalty for bringing a deal to the desk without it meant you’re deal might be immediately turned.

As a green pea I had a lot of deals turned.

Get something out of the customer, that was the trick. If he wouldn’t give you the full grand, get something out of the mooch! A hundred? Twenty? A $5.00 bill? His watch? His shoe for Christ’s sake? You had to get a deposit!

.The reasons for this were sound. It was part of getting a true commitment from a customer to buy the car. It wasn’t enough that you had the guy sign a line that said, “Customer will buy and take home today for $1000 down and $250 per month.” No, sir, you had to get a piece of him too!

I swear to God I once saw a guy take a baby to the sales office

Is it a good idea today? Maybe, maybe not. In reality a proper written write-up is probably all you need, but I suspect most desk men still want something to hold the customer. Nothing’s worse than a salesman going back to the customer with his freshly-minted pencil only to discover the guy had bolted on him like a spooked horse.

In reality a customer who bolts has probably done you a favor, but the desk usually doesn’t look at it that way, especially if you have a pattern of people running out of the dealership like they’re on fire even before you have a chance to bump them. The desk begins to think you’re weak; that you can’t commit a customer properly and generally don’t have any control. Do that enough times and you’re out the door! But if the desk has faith in your abilities, the more they are not as likely to require you to resort to getting a customer’s shoes before they’ll look at your deal!

What about the other times when a deposit comes into play? For instance, what about the guy who wants to give you some money to hold a used car? Do you take it? Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that in most cases NOT taking a deposit is more effective than taking one, and I sincerely hope that lightening won’t strike me for saying this.

First, what if you take a deposit on a car and someone else offers more money for it? Take the money and run, I say, but that can get a little sticky legal-wise. Same thing if you tell him a deposit is non-refundable. It’s a good bluff, but good luck getting that past a small claims court judge!

Second, sometimes when a customer has a deposit on a car he thinks it’s safe to spend the rest of they day shopping for a car he might like a little better. What’s the hurry? He can always come back and get yours. “Hell, I’ve got a deposit on it!” he thinks.

I feel the threat of losing a car can be more effective than letting the guy think he’s in control of the situation. If you can create the emotion, you’ve got to make it clear that he’s going to lose that sucker if he doesn’t buy it now!

In my opinion a deposit on a car should be like an aspirin, it should wear out in four hours. And I think that if you decide to take a deposit you should let him know that.

Customers will always ask, “Has anyone else been looking at the car”? “How long do you think it will be here?” Well, how long is a piece of string? The car might be there two months from now; it might be gone in an hour. The point is do you really want to take that chance?

When you get your deposit at the time of the write-up keep the reasons for it a little nebulous. “Its good faith money,” is probably your best bet. Or “I need all the ammunition I can use to get your stupid offer through my boss!” Tell him anything, but DON’T TELL HIM IT WILL HOLD THE CAR!

The only thing that should hold a car is its emergency brake.

Talk to you later,


The Return Of Fix It Again Tony

I remember the last time Chrysler was going tits up back in 1980. A knight on a white horse by the name of Lee Iacocca came to its rescue. His talent? Common sense and the idea for something called a mini-van.

In those days Chrysler products were nightmares. I went to work for a Dodge dealer back in 1978, and the quality of the cars were shocking. They made a car called a Dodge Magnum. The alloy wheels had these pretty clear plastic hub caps. The problem is that they refused to stay on the cars. You could walk through a line of Magnums and see them scattered all over the lot!

I remember opening doors and having the rubber seals detach and stick to the door frames. I remember trim panels not fastened property, gaps in the trunks and hood the size of the Grand Canyon. This being the days of carburetors, just about every car had fouled spark plugs so most of them ran like shit.

I lasted there three weeks.

Fast forward a couple of years. Chrysler was on the ropes, the government co-signed a loan. Lee Iacocca, Fords wonder boy if the ‘60s, took the reigns of the troubled company. He got rid of the junk and stripped down the design of the cars to their basics by creating the K platform. The K Car was a wonder for its time. It was uncomplicated and extremely practical. By keeping it simple the quality of the cars went up and so did sales.

My brother, Danny, bought a Chrysler-Plymouth franchise. I for one thought he was nuts. But as it turned out the cars weren’t bad. The K platform, though not sexy or exciting, was used for a number of cars from the Plymouth Voyager to the Chrysler Laser. We sold the crap out of those cars!

Though housewives hate them today, the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager was just about the most amazing, trailblazing vehicles to come along since the ’65 Mustang. I wish all of you could see them through my eyes at that time. Nothing on the road looked like them nor was as practical. They were the perfect vehicle for the time, a home run on the sales floor.

Then Lee retired and the dark days began again.

No matter how much they try, all car manufactures tend to screw things up for themselves. Unfortunately it’s the American companies that get hurt the worse. The Japanese have a core of practical cars that are guaranteed to sell, so if they get greedy and start building big SUVs and trucks it doesn’t hurt them much when that area of the business goes south. No so the American companies.

Volkswagen built its empire on a practical little car affectionately called the Bug. Instead of building on the legacy of the K Car as VW did with the Bug, Chrysler abandoned its platform and the philosophy behind it to go for a plethora of new models that looked good but were mechanically iffy. Anyone have any experiences with a Chrysler 2.7 liter engine?

Along the way they were acquired by Mercedes, who soon realized they had attached themselves to a nightmare. I guess now Fiat will give it a shot, the return of Fix It Again Tony! Back in the day Fiat’s were probably worse than comparable Chrysler products.
Any Car Man that’s been around for a while can come up with a couple of horrible Fiat stories.

I’ve have a theory that Italian cars didn’t work here because this country is too damn big for them. Their cars were not designed to handle the rigors of L.A. rush hours or thousand mile vacations across America’s hot summer heartland. The broke down faster than any cars I have ever seen!

So I guess it comes down to how far Fiat has come since its hasty retreat form America thirty odd years ago. Can they stand the rigors of American driving? Can they contribute to the rejuvenation of Chrysler or will it just be SSDD: same shit, different day.

Only time will tell.

Talk to you later,



Managers call it leg, a more polite way of saying they’re packing the payments. I realize they don’t quite see it this way, but it’s one of the ways car dealership management rip off their salesman. Here’s the way it works: You work your ass off all afternoon to close your customer at a payment $400 per month. After much agony (and maybe even a turn!) you finally make your deal. You think, All right! High five! Another job well done!

But what your sales manager didn’t tell you is the real payment on the car was actually $380 per month. There’s an extra $20 packed in there, $20 THAT YOU WORKED YOUR ASS FOR, that will be used by the finance guy to help him sell an extended warranty, sealants (AKA snake oil) or whatever other bullshit stuff they’re currently hawking in F&I office. AND YOU DON’T GET PAID ON!

Back in the old days, it was the salesmen who sold the extra market stuff. It was a lucrative way to make more money. Sometimes it was more than the commission on the car. But in their heart of hearts most car dealers don’t like it when the salesmen are making a lot of money. (Not talking about you, Tom!) They feel this way because they think that salesmen that are kept hungry will work harder, or they simply have an aversion to signing big paychecks.

So somewhere around twenty years ago selling aftermarket was taken away from us and given to the F&I department. Ironically, this was probably a good idea. When the salesmen did it, the guy who was best at selling the crap sold the most stuff. By having someone with some talent sell the snake oil, the dealer was assured that more items were sold per sale.

The problem was they forgot about us, and even though we we’re doing part of their job, i.e. the leg; they decided we weren’t deserving of participating in the profit generated by our efforts. I’ve got nothing against the F&I department selling the stuff—as long as we get a little taste of the action if we’ve helped them. The problem is that Car Men, whether on the line or in a manager’s office, are ultimately a little lazy. So if they can make their lives a little easier by screwing us out of a part of the gross, they will do it. Every time.

I think the F&I department should earn his money just like we do. I think that every dime should be put into the deal, and if the finance man can bump the customer good for him. Or if payments are being packed, a generous spiff should be paid to the salesman.

A year or so ago the state of California came up with a form called “The Optional Products and Services Disclosure”. The form tells the customer what is payment is with all the extra crap on the contract and what it would be without it. It has effectively put an end to the leg. Hallelujah!

Now I know the state of California could give a rat’s ass about car salesmen. This law was designed to protect the consumer. (I won’t go into how I feel about that!) But an unintended result is a little payback for the guy on the line. At least in California we won’t be doing extra work for free anymore!

Got a feeling this will piss some people off. I love it!

Talk to you later,


My Beast Of Burden

A young man contacted me via email yesterday. He had stumbled upon the blog and was considering a job selling at a local Ford dealership. He told me that he was determined to read the entire contents of “Confessions of a Car Man” before he started his new career.

I was extremely flattered by his email and offered to help him in any way I can. I gave him a little insight into what to expect at his new job and gave a couple of pieces of advice. All well and good. But when I went to bed that night I found myself starring at the ceiling wondering if I had done the right thing.

“Confessions of a Car Man” was conceived as a kind of catharsis for me. It is my way of setting down “on paper” my memories, observations and frustrations. It was not in any way meant to be some sort of training manual for selling cars. To be honest I don’t feel qualified to give advice. The best thing you can say about me is that I have a great power of observation and a wicked sense of humor.

But there I was lying in bed thinking about the power of words. I was wondering if the young man reads the blog from beginning to end, all 84,000 words of it, will he come away with knowledge that will help him, or will I kill the enthusiasm he will need to make it in this business before he even has a chance?

This all comes at a time when I’ve been mentally coming up with a plan to turn the blog into a book. My angle is simple: you’ve never read a book about being a car salesman like this one! As the blog’s banner says, “The only pro car salesman blog on the planet!” I envision a book that is pro salesman, completely original in concept, completely irreverent in execution--and more than likely completely unsellable!

I like writing this blog. In a time when our business is in great peril, it gives me my own little corner of the world that I can control. I have always considered it as entertainment. I don’t know how I feel about someone actually taking it seriously. And I would feel really bad if my writing damaged or hurt anyone (except for The Others, of course) or caused them to make a wrong decision—like selling Fords for example.

Oh, well. What’s done is done. I can’t change the blog, I couldn’t bear to delete it even if I wanted to, and will continue to write it compulsively until I either run out of words or keel over dead after yelling at an Indian on the lot.

It’s my beast of burden.

Talk to you later,


My First Up Last Saturday

NOTE TO THE OTHERS: If you’re going to be a vampire for Christ’s sake, at least try to be clever about it.

On Saturday my first up was a woman who parked her car and headed over to a ’96 Pathfinder on the lot. I went up to her and asked with a smile, “How are you today?” (My standard opening line.)

The lady looked at me and said, “I’m planning on buying a car from a private party, so I thought I’d go to a couple of lots to see what cars are selling for.”

What? I thought. Am I hearing things?

“So you don’t have any intentions to buy a car from me?” I asked, my voice still friendly.

Her eyes widened. She realized she had blown it. Her evil plot to stroke me had been spoiled by her own words.

“Well, well,” she stammered, “there are plenty of private party cars out there!”

Now at this point I know that a sales trainer would urge you to bring out your arsenal of clever closes to use on this lady. Charm here, woo here, make her your best friend. Make a sale God damn it! But to my jaded mind, the one that has prevented me from being a super star all these years, I just couldn’t do it.

I just starred at her, the same smile on my face. I said nothing.

There was that delicious moment of uncomfortableness. On her part, not mine. What followed only lasted a few seconds, but to her, I’m guessing it seemed like an eternity. What was she thinking? “This guy got me,” maybe. Or, “Damn salesman! This is exactly why I want to buy from a private party!”

She was like a deer caught in the proverbial headlights, unable to move. At about five seconds in real time (one hour in stress time) she stammered, “Well, thank you very much!”

“Your welcome,” I replied, still smiling.

I turned and watched as she scurried back to the safety of her car. She hurried out of the lot avoiding my friendly gaze and headed to the lot across the street from us to give it another shot. She was only there for about five minutes. Did she get the information she wanted so she could properly try to screw a private party?

I’ll never know.

Talk to you later,


The Laws Of Motion

My older brother, Danny, is now retired and living in North Carolina. We were talking on the phone the other day when the conversation turned to the car business. Danny explained his time-test formula for penciling a deal when it’s first brought to the desk.

“Send the salesman back at full list including the pack, and use a 12 chart (for determining the payment). Tell the salesman to present the pencil as written and then shut up, because sometimes the customer will say yes.”

Now I realize this is really old school, but it’s still correct, even though I don’t think formula quite works for today’s customers. First of all does anyone use a pack sticker anymore? Second, I always think it’s a good idea to discount the car at least a little on the first pencil. Even a token amount works wonders to soften a customer’s attitude.

As for as using a “12 chart” (12% add-on, which is roughly a 21.00% APR) that payment, given today’s car prices, is going to be crazy high and might cause a customer to launch. But packing the payment by using an elevated APR on the first pencil is still a good idea. Let’s them know who’s boss!

The most important part of his statement was to shut up. I’ve mentioned before that the “silent close” is the most important and effective close you can use with a customer. All too often a salesman will talk over his chance to hear his customer say yes to a pencil. So do as Danny advises; present the pencil and shut the hell up!

A car deal is a little like two kids on a teeter-totter. The balance of power goes back and forth between you and your customer. Many times a salesman takes too much responsibility for what’s going on in a deal. Remember, you’re not buying the car, the customer is. Let him feel the heat of the desk, not you, and let the desk take the heat from the customer. Your role is to be a very clever deliverer of messages, so don’t say anything that takes that power away from you!

In the old days, these powerful first pencils were a matter of course, and the beginning of a battle that could literally last for hours. These days, working under the specter of the dreaded CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index), we have all become wimps. Don’t want to piss anyone off! No, no! Don’t want to try and make a decent deal on that new car! Someone might complain.

Supposedly, CSI was introduced to tame the Wild Wild West that was once the car business. But who made the old school Car Men (and women) the people they were? If customers had approached buying a car in the same way they’d buy a new couch, our jobs would have been easier, and the various exotic ways we concocted to get the job done would never had been deployed. In other words: IT WAS THEIR FAULT, NOT OURS!”

Not that I’m prejudiced or anything like that.

That’s not to say that the business hasn’t seen its share of scoundrels, but what business hasn’t? I’m sure there are plenty of kinky heating and air conditioner salesmen out there!

A car deal is nothing more than a series of actions and reactions strung together. It’s like Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” Car Men react to a customer’s attitude. If they give us a chance to make a fair profit, we treat them with all the respect that’s due them. But if we’re presented with a car thief who wants nothing more than to screw us, we act accordingly.

And remember this: a good Car Man always wins, even if a deal ends badly. We will do what we can to make a deal, but sometimes the joy you feel when booting a particularly nasty customer off the lot is even better than the mini-commission you would have had to work an entire day to earn!

Now how’s that for old school!

Talk to you later,


Selling Cars On The Internet

The telephone rings. “Dave’s Quality Cars. May I help you?” I say.

A cheery recorded female voice says, “Another quality lead from!”

“Dave’s Quality Cars,” I repeat.

“Uh, how much are you asking for the 2003 Silverado?"

Here we go again! I think to myself. Why is it that whenever you get an up call from an Internet ad they always ask you how much the car is even though the price is right there in front of them? Automatically I raise the price two grand.

“It’s 12,995, sir,” I say in my friendliest voice.

“But it says $10,988 on your ad!” he protests indignantly.

“Then its $10,988,” I reply. Or If I’m in a pissy mood I will ask, “Well if it says $10,988, why the heck are you asking me how much it is?”

They never have a good answer for this. I suppose they’re hoping that I’d say lower rice, say $9,988. But the paranoid part of me always thinks it’s the beginning of another evil plot by The Others to screw a Car Man.

Psychologically their inane question backfires on them. By saying $12,995 I am planting the seed that the $10,988 price on the Internet is a special one, leaving at least some people to think that maybe they can’t get it for less money than the Autorader price.

Then there’s those idiots on Craig’s List.

Craig’s List people are a breed apart. I’ve come to the conclusion that this world would be a better place if the majority of them could be humanely destroyed. They are by far the largest collections of idiots you will ever encounter in the car business. Why do I say this? Because from the very beginning of the call they want to bargain the price on the phone!

I’ve searched Craig’s List hoping to discover some sort of training manual that instructs them that they should approach any car ad with an instantaneous grind, but I haven’t found anything. The only conclusion I can reach is that it’s in their genes.

“How much will you lower the price on the Silverado?” they ask. Of if they’re Asians, “You give me last price on Silverado.”

Possible replies:

“Not a dime.”

“How longs a piece of string?”

“Give me your number and if it’s still here six months from now I’ll call you back.”

“The price will go up $100 every time you ask me that question.”

Perhaps a more reasonable approach is in order, though Craig’s List people are rarely reasonable.

“Why don’t you come down and see if you like the truck then we’ll talk about it.”

Usually these conversations turn into Mexican standoffs. They want to grind you on the phone; you want to get their ass down to the dealership so you can tell them the price is the price directly to their sorry face.

As part of my job I post ten cars a day on Craig’s List and each day I will receive a couple of phone calls like the one mentioned above. The up side of it is that it keeps my blood pressure from getting too low.

Don’t get me wrong. I need the Internet to do business. My lot is in a poor neighborhood where almost no one can qualify for a car that’s more that $7,000. So If I have a nice, late model Camry for $12,995 my only hope of selling it is on the Internet.

But boy, I have to wade through a bunch of assholes before I find the ass for that seat!

Talk to you later,


The Saga of Jesse James

Please note: This blog entry is not about the outlaw Jessie James, nor is it about the Jessie James who was married to Sandra Bullock. But you might find it amusing!

In early 1973 my brother, Danny Teves, was given the opportunity to buy a Ford dealership in Oakland, California. Believe it or not at the time there were five Ford franchises in that town alone! So after getting fired from my hi-fi job, I joined him at Elmhurst Ford. The dealership was located on the corner of 96th Avenue and East 14th Street (Now International Boulevard). It was a memorable place for me, for it was the first time I had the opportunity to work with a crew of black salesman. They were a wonderful bunch of guys; full of the usual Car Man quirks but with the element of cool thrown in. I have fond memories of them all. Well, mostly fond memories, for there was the case of a salesman named Jesse James…

Yes, Jesse James was his real name, and this Jesse was not inappropriately named for he was the biggest kink I have ever met in this business. That’s saying a lot! I’ve been around nearly forty years so as you might imagine I’ve met a number of kinks in my time. None of them had the deceitful talent and all out balls of Jesse James.

Jesse was about 30, I suppose. His most distinguishing characteristic was that he spoke with a stutter. Jesse was--and I’ll try to be as kind as I can here--a first-class liar. He would say anything, promise anything, do ANYTHING to sell a car. It was because of guys like him that CSI was invented. Jesse James was truly out of control!

For example, Jesse had a customer that wanted a new Ford LTD with a 429 engine in it. The problem was we didn’t have one in inventory. Jesse actually talked the guy into buying the one we had in stock with a smaller V8 with the promise that he could come back the next week and we’d change the engine! (These were simpler time, I guess.)

When confronted with this and other outrageous lies he regularly told he would raise his hands in horror. “The ma-ma-man’s cra-cra-crazy!” he’d protest. “I’d-I’d-I’d never pro-pro-promise something like that!”

For a while he got away with it. I mean, who would honestly believe that a salesman would have the balls to promise a guy an engine? This was in the days before Due Bills, so there was no paper trail, no one to believe but the salesman or the customer. So for a while Jesse got away with his disgraceful behavior.

Here’s a story that will top that one. Jesse’s father (his father!) came in one Saturday looking for a used LTD. To be exact he told his son wanted a blue LTD. Jesse took him over to the used car lot. We didn’t have a blue one, but we did have a white one, a 90-day unit that just happened to have a weekend spiff on it. And boy, did Jesse want that cash spiff!

In those days used car managers usually desked used car deals, but our used car manager, Al Gracier, was off that weekend so there was no one there to supervise Jesse. The new car manager had no idea that Jesse was promising what he promised. That’s right! He told his father to bring the car in on Monday and they’d paint the LTD blue!

Monday came and Jesse was very conveniently off. His father went to Al Gracier to see about the promised paint job. Al went postal! Jesse’s father kept insisting that he would only accept a blue car, so they ended up having to unwind the deal. So Jesse James didn’t get his commission--but he still had his cash spiff! Al swore that he would fire him the next day. Unfortunately, he never got the chance.

Apparently Jessie had a little side business going—curbing cars*. The problem was he didn’t feel the need to go about the job properly. The normal procedure is to sell the car, hand the title over to the customer, and have him to go down to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the sled registered. I’m not saying the cars Jesse curbed were stolen, but by his actions it was apparent Jessie James didn’t have titles to the cars he sold several young men on the mean streets of Oakland, California.

When a dealer sells a car in California, a paper ROS (Report of Sale) is placed in the lower passenger’s side front window. So instead of handing over a title that he didn’t have, Jesse took his customer’s money and sealed the deal by placing a blank, folded up piece of paper where the ROS belonged. The unsuspecting buyer was then sent on his way.

About the same time Jessie was telling his father he’d paint his white car blue, a car load of young men were pulled over by the Oakland police in one of Jesse’s cars. The young men explained to the police officer that they had just bought the car from Mr. James who worked at Elmhurst Ford. The shit, as they say, hit the fan!

That Tuesday wasn’t a good day for Jessie. Al Gracier was out for blood, but before he could get to him, a paddy wagon pulled up in front of the dealership, and the police officers that got out it asked if a salesman by the name of Jesse James was in.

He was.

They took him away, and the weird thing was that no one ever saw or heard from Jesse James again. We did discover that he spent some time in jail, but he never tried to contact anyone at Elmhurst Ford ever again. It was like he had fallen off the face of the earth. Several years later a guy told me that Jesse had lost his sales license and was painting houses for a living.

Boy, do I feel sorry for those people!

Talk to you later,


*Curbing a car means selling cars, usually older ones, on the side. These cars were sometimes parked at a curb near the dealership with a “for sale” sign on them, hence the name “curbing”. The dealers have always frowned upon the practice. It’s considered stealing from the House. At Hayward Ford curbing a car could get you fired!

Pacific Stereo

Please note, the following blog entry has nothing to do with the chain of car stereo stores called Pacific Stereo. It is about another Pacific Stereo that existed a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

In October of 1972 I had been selling cars at Hayward Ford for two years, and it was getting to me. Even though I've told great stories about those days, working at that high-powered dealership was a high-stress, gut-wrenching experience. Combined with a deteriorating relationship with my long-time girlfriend, I was starting to freak out. I needed out.

I had always had a love affair with music and “hi-fi equipment” as it was called back in the day. One day I sold a car to a lady who worked for a chain of now defunct stereo stores called Pacific Stereo. She gave me an introduction to the company, and I quit Hayward Ford to pursue what I thought would be a dream job. As it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth!

You know, you don’t have to love cars or know a lot about their insides to sell them. The truth is that sometimes knowing too much can work against you. Now I’m not talking about product information and stuff like that; I’m talking about a “gear head” who decides in would be great to sell Mustangs for a living, but can’t bear the thought of selling a Taurus. It’s a recipe for disaster.

When you sell cars you should at least believe a little in your product—even if it’s a Dodge, but the doing the job requires a certain amount of detachment. If you just love, love, love new Toyotas, it shouldn’t deter you from trying to switch your customer to the used Kia out on the lot. Chances are you’ll make more money, and in the final result isn't money what it’s all about?

Back to Pacific Stereo. First of all it was an extremely weird place to work. Did you ever notice that record store clerks (remember them?) and stereo salesmen somehow think they’re in show business? They think that because their jobs are linked to music and music is linked to rock stars that somehow they’re rock stars too! For me, an insecure, slightly paranoid Portuguese kid from San Leandro, it was like being surrounded by those jocks who hated you in High School. Though I met a couple of decent guys working at Pacific Stereo, the majority of my fellow employees were, how should I put it,arrogant assholes! And if you don’t believe me, watch the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. There is a character in it that is a salesman for--Pacific Stereo!

I soon discovered that selling what you love for a living is a bad idea. The reality of survival at Pacific Stereo was pitching components that had the most profit in it even if that piece of equipment that was crap. Like the gear-head that finds he has to sell used Neons to survive, I flat-ass couldn’t do it!

Another problem I had was the pace of the sale. Selling a car, if done properly, is a relatively slow, methodical process. Selling stereo equipment was what I would call a stopwatch sale. It was all about how quickly you could do it, a pace to which I just couldn’t adjust.

All in all I was a lousy stereo salesman, a disgrace to Pacific Stereo. To make matters worse my relationship with my girlfriend ended ugly, and I was a mental mess. When the time came to fire me, the manager of the store brought me to his office and told me that the company was getting rid of what he called “dead wood”, and apparently that what was I was! Is that terrible way to fire someone or what?

The experiment had lasted about nine months. My stereo selling days were over and I was forced with concept of either moving back with my parents and going back to school or selling cars again.

I chose cars.

Talk to you later,


The Perfect Storm

Ideas for blog posts come to me in weird ways. Yesterday, my wife and I were traveling the sixty miles to see our daughter, Laura, her husband, Tom, and our granddaughter Brooke. While driving east through the long valley road that separates our home in the Sacramento Delta from the town of Plymouth in the Sierra foothills, vibrant green from the winter rain and spotted with beautiful Live Oaks, I started thinking about the car business.

Sick, huh?

The day before, Saturday, my boss John and I were real busy. Sold three cars which for a little pot lot with only two employees is pretty good. At one time we were so busy John actually freaked out a little. I felt great. I can multi-task better than a mother with triplets. It got me thinking about other Saturdays over the years, those special days where all the cosmic forces seem to come together to create a car business version of the perfect storm.

It can start at any time. Hopefully there is the respectful calm before the storm so the salesmen can load up with caffeine and bullshit to prepare themselves for the day that lay ahead. Then it begins. Up after up after up. Everything is smooth at first. The salesmen line up to take their chances on The Others, some reasonable, some apparently from Hell. But on these special days it goes beyond that, a controlled chaos that begins suddenly and can last the afternoon and into the night.

The managers, ever vigilant at first, become busy shifting through the write-ups, separating the credit criminals from the credit worthy, the buyers from the crazy people. At some point the salesmen out on the line are all but forgotten. They are left own their own to do what they want. This is where the fun begins: a lot full of customers, no one looking over your shoulder, the up list all but forgotten, your chance to do some serious cherry picking.

As we drove toward the toward Plymouth with dark spring rain clouds above us, I wasn’t thinking about the actual act of finding the buyer in a sea of strokers, I was thinking about the feeling, a feeling hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it. It's the car business at its best, exciting and vital. In that moment you’d rather be there doing this than anything else. Your outside life, your joys and troubles, are all but forgotten as you use your experience and skills to find a buyer and make a living for you and your family.

Does this sound corny or even crazy? Maybe so. I don’t think that The Others could ever relate to this. You have to be a Car Man to understand. These crazy Saturdays don’t happen often—especially these days, but when they do it’s a wonderful thing. And when the day ends you are left in the company of your friends and allies, exhausted, exhilarated—and ready for more.

Talk to you later,


The Three Things That Piss Me Off

As a car salesman there are three things that piss me off. First, it’s two managers talking to me at the same time. When I take a deal to the desk I want one competent man telling me what to do. A second manager, listening in on the first manager’s advice, will invariably tell you something different from the first manager. Whenever I am confronted with this situation I usually say something like, “I’m going to go get a drink of water. While I’m gone you two think of a game plan, and when I get back I want one of you to tell me what it is.”

The second thing that pisses me off is a customer that won’t go on the prescribed demo ride. You go out the driveway and you tell the guy to turn right and he turns left, generally a recipe for disaster. If the goof won’t go on your demo route, that usually means he is not someone easily controllable which means he’s probably going to be nothing but problems later on. It’s a good thing I’m not usually armed when I go on a test drive because there would be blood on the windshield!

The third thing that pisses me off is a guy wearing a L.A. Dodgers baseball hat. As a life long San Francisco Giant fan I can’t stand being in the presence of a Dodger fan. This situation presented itself just the other day. Generally I almost always have my Giants cap on, but on this day it was sitting on the desk when I went out to wait on this fat fuck. It wasn’t until it was too late that I spotted the hated Dodger blue sitting on his head like a dead squirrel.

For those of you who may not know, the Giants and Dodgers have been rivals for about a hundred years. It goes back to the days when the Giants were in New York and the Dodgers were in Brooklyn. When they moved to the West Coast in 1958 the rivalry continued. I was eight when the giants landed in San Francisco, and my hatred for the Dodgers was soon embedded in me like a malignant tumor.

I turned back to my boss. It was really his up, but he was heading out for lunch with his wife. I held up my hands and stopped his car. “Are you really going to make me wait on this guy? I asked.

“Yes,” he replied with a grin on his face.

“I can’t be responsible for the results,” I said.

First thing I did was retreat to my office where I grabbed my Giants hat like it was an AK47. I approached the guy cautiously. Dodger fans are sneaky little bastards; you never know what they will do when cornered. I decided to be diplomatic. “Hi,” I said. My eyes were glued to the white L.A. on blue. I just couldn’t help myself. He spotted my hat. We faced each other like gunslingers starring each other down on a dusty western street.

The first thing out of this asshole’s mouth was something negative. “I’m looking for a used Honda,” he said.

“Hey, buddy, let’s keep the conversation on cars not baseball,” I said. “You don’t like me and I sure as hell don’t like you so let’s keep it on a professional level.”

“All I said was that I wanted a use Honda,” he said idiotically.

“That’s it! Get your Dodger cap wearing ass off my lot!”

If you can believe it he looked at me like I was nuts. I mean he started it! I tried to treat him like a… a…

You know, maybe I shouldn’t have brought this up.

Talk to you later,


When A Spiff Is Not A Spiff

I get a lot of hits on this blog from dealership managers looking for new and creative spiff ideas for their salesmen. I sometimes scratch my head at the lack of imagination that is out there, but I appreciate the interest. If you Google “spiffs” my post on the subject is near the top of the list!

I was thinking about other ideas for spiffs and it dawned on me that I have yet to comment on the practice of using a spiff to scam car salesmen out of an honest commission. Here’s the way it works: The dealer puts an extremely high pack on his cars, so high that you are almost guaranteed a mini-commission no matter how hard you work for a gross.

Just to clarify, a pack is an amount of money, usually a percentage of the invoice on a new car or total cost of a used car after reconditioning, that is added on before the salesman gets his cut of the sale gross. The normal pack on a new car is usually between 1 to 3 percent of the car’s invoice. The pack on a used car can vary wildly. It’s sometimes fair, it’s sometimes a blatant way of stealing money from the salesman. I might write something just on that someday!

So in this situation the salesman gets a mini-commission. Then under the guise of a spiff you are given an incentive to earn additional money. For example, if you sell five cars, you get a bonus, ten cars another bonus. Instead of giving you an honest commission up front, something that is fixed and you can count on; the salesman has to jump through hoops to get the money that should have been yours to begin with! There are many variations of this, but you get the idea.

Any salesman that works at a dealership where the spiffs are more than the commissions should run like hell. They are taking advantage of you and your talent. It’s a win-win situation for them. If you have to work harder to earn your rent, they win. If you fail, they win too because they can keep the money that should have been yours to begin with!

Dealers, pay your salesmen honestly and up front! If you want to put on a contest or a weekend spiff let that be in addition to his commission. In the long run the salesmen will be happier and a happy salesman is one who will hang around and not jump ship at the first opportunity.

And while I’m on this subject, I happen to know the greatest sales spiff of them all: a fun place to work. The car business is tough, and these days it’s more than tough. This is the time that separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. The greatest spiff of all is to go to work knowing that you are entering a supportive environment where at least you have a fighting chance to earn a living.

Now don’t get me wrong. All Car Men need rules. Our heads aren’t screwed on that tight to begin with and without supervision we tend to wander off, usually to a bar. We definitely need to be managed. So have rules, expect the best from your salesmen, but show them the respect they deserve and try to make the process of selling cars enjoyable and profitable for all!

Talk to you later,


Playhouse 90

“Playhouse 90” was a popular television show that aired from 1956 through 1961. Each week, the show would present a live ninety-minute drama. During its time on the air it was very popular; so popular that some Car Man somewhere picked up the name of the show and applied it to the car business.

A Playhouse 90 is a term used when one or more Car Men invent a brief, fictional presentation to a customer to help make a deal. A few months back I wrote about Al Gracier “firing” me in front of a customer in order to get a bump. That was a classic Playhouse 90; probably the most elaborate and well-acted one I have participated in during my career—even though at the time I had no idea what was going on!

The most common use of a Playhouse 90 is the hit figure. I won’t go into what this entails because I don’t believe in giving ammunition to The Others. Let’s just say it’s a simple, effective way of finding out what a reluctant customer wants for his trade-in. It’s one of the tools that any experienced Car Man has in his verbal arsenal to help make a deal go smoothly.

Now I know what The Others are thinking. Lies! Car salesman lies! Well, it’s not that simple. To be blunt, most customers are sneaky little bastards. We always say that the best way to tell if a customer is lying is to look at his lips. If they’re moving, he’s lying. Car Men don’t lie or deceive intentionally, but sometimes we have to take extreme measures to get to the truth.

In the old days car salesmen were never allowed to give a figure to a customer who was going to shop them that could actually buy the car. To do so meant you’d never see your prospect again. Everybody low-balled customers. So after they had gone around and collected lies from every Car Man in town, they would come back to you and you had to find the most painless way to bust them. Enter the Playhouse 90.

I once mentioned Tony B., a salesman at Hayward Ford, who could cry on cue, lower his head in shame and admit with the same sorrow he might use for giving a confession about robbing a bank that he had lied to the customer because he needed so deal badly in order to support his family. This classic Playhouse 90 was like one of those one-man shows on Broadway about Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln, perfect in its execution and effect. With it, Tony had a deal. Without it, I promise you he wouldn't have a deal.

As I said I’m not here to give away our secrets, but I’ll tell you about one effective Playhouse 90. You have a customer in your office and you're trying to get him to commit to buy a used car. A friend of yours might stick his head in the office and simply ask, “David is that Camry you demoed sold? I have a customer who wants to look at it.” Just that one sentence can push a looker to a buyer, because he sure as hell doesn’t want to lose that Camry!

Many times telling a customer the exact truth about a situation is not practical. Sometimes the truth is just too complicated for a non-car person to understand. A brief Playhouse 90 tailored for the situation is more efficient at getting the job done.

Now you would think a person with as active an imagination as me would be great at Playhouse 90’s, and you would be right at that assumption. But I know that the truth is always the best way to go whenever possible, and doing a playhouse, as it is sometimes called, should be done sparingly--and it’s diffidently not something for amateurs.

So the next time you buy a car and think you have all the tools needed to screw a car salesman keep in mind that things are not always as they seem. You only buy a car every few years; we do it every damn day. We’re the masters of illusion and against an experienced Car Man you don’t stand a chance.

God I loved saying that!

Talk to you later,


The Gentlemanly Art Of The Turn

It was late in the day on a busy Saturday when the turn was offered to me. I knew that everyone was busy except for me, and that made me feel a little like a deer caught in the headlights. Jim, the salesmen in question, was new to our crew, still an unknown quantity to a certain extent, but during his short time at the dealership it was rumored that his turns were garbage.

I had just delivered a car, but there was still time left in the day to snag another buyer. So that made me more than hesitant when Jim approached me. But he looked desperate. He was up to his eyeballs in customers and needed help. I gave in.

Stupid me.

It was one of those watermark moments in my automotive career: the worst turn I’ve ever had. After talking with his customer for only a couple of minutes I realized I’d been had. I can’t remember the details; I appear to have blocked them out, except that they were truly horrendous. I was left confused. We Car Men can be a screwed up bunch no doubt, but when it comes to turning a customer we at least try to be honorable. We are all aware that we are screwing around with another guy’s living, so when you have to give up a customer there had better be at least a chance that the other guy can put a deal together.

Not so with Jim. It soon became apparent to all of us that Jim didn’t turn a deal because he thought there was a deal there. He turned the deal because he was certain there wasn’t a deal there! Pardon my French, but he didn’t give a fuck about you or the time you would spend spinning your wheels with someone who had no way to go. I have never met anyone before or since who was worse than Jim!

You want to hear the weird part? If Jim turned you a deal and by some miracle you made it—he was disappointed. In his mind he didn’t get a half deal, he lost a half deal!

Turning a deal, or a T.O. as it’s called, is a basic car business institution. There are many forms of it. The most common one is when a salesman has one too many customers at the same time and turns his customer to another salesman to work. They split the deal between them.

When I came up in the business you were in no way allowed to work two deals at the same time. To do so was to risk the wrath of a highly pissed-off sales manager who might very well take the second customer from you completely. So if you were with an appointment and a be-back came in, you had to find another salesman to work the second deal for you.

It’s a common courtesy to turn a deal to the guy who upped your customer, but that isn’t always practical. If the other salesman is dumber than a bag of hammers you have to do some serious soul searching before you give the deal up. A half a deal might turn into no deal! Most salesmen have at least one buddy on the crew with whom he can turn deals back and forth. It’s usually a guy who has a similar temperament so the customer doesn’t go into shock when that nice guy he came to see turned him to a prick!

Unlike my friend Jim, the turning salesman usually tries to make sure that the guy who takes your turn is not going to be jacked-off by a mooch. I’ve known plenty of guys who will turn the more promising deal if they can. But The Others are an unpredictable lot so when a guy takes a turn it’s with the knowledge that he’s taking a chance.

Here’s an oddity. I once worked at a place where the salesmen were allowed to work as many deals at one time as they wanted. I was shocked. In my humble opinion the sales manager was a complete idiot. I once watched in horror as a guy tried to work four customers at one time while I, who wasn’t doing anything at the time and likes to think is qualified to take a turn, was ignored. At least one of his customers left in disgust while the manager did nothing!

One good way to get abused when taking a turn is something called a “Hello T.O.”. In this scenario the offending salesman (the same guy who skated you last week) gets an up, spends five minutes qualifying him, and turns him to you like he’d been working the mooch for a week. Usually he turns the deal because he smells a mini, so he’d rather get half from you while he tries to find a big dummy with a way to go.

Experienced salesmen are always on the lookout for a Hello T.O. When taking a turn from a suspicious character, it’s best to ask the customer a few questions about how long his relationship has been with the offending salesman. As the saying goes, “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me!”

Usually when a deal is turned, the two salesmen are “married”. At some dealerships both the deals have to be split to insure fairness, but that is the exception not the rule. Being married means that if I turn a deal to you, finish my first deal, and get a fresh deal while you’re still with the customer I turned you, I have to put you on that new deal. Sometimes on a busy weekend day you can end up being married to a guy for the whole day!

Many times a deal is turned while it’s at the desk. This usually happens when the salesman can’t get the deal done for some reason. He’s been with the customer for three hours, taken him down to the ten yard line, but can’t seem to get that final bump that will send him into the end zone. At this point it’s advantageous to turn the deal to another salesman because it’s an amazing how even just a change of face can breathe fresh life into a dying deal.

I have a bitch here. A deal should almost always be turned to another qualified salesman. Only as a last resort should a manager go in for the close. Why? First, a manager who regularly goes in to close a deal makes his salesmen weak and dependent on the manager. We Car Men can be a lazy bunch. Why should we bust his balls for that final bump when the sales manager will do it for free? Second, because they have the power to do anything they want, managers will sometimes give away the farm to make a deal. Third, many managers just aren’t not good closers. You wouldn’t send a salesman in cold to do the F&I man’s job, so what makes you think the F&I guy can close your deal?

Exception: In my opinion there is nothing more inspiring for a salesman than seeing a sales manger in a desperate situation get off his ass, grab the write-up and hammer a customer. IF USED SPARINGLY, it reminds the crew that the sales manager really could sell cars if he wanted to and is not afraid to get his hands dirty for the sake of his crew.

I remember standing outside the dealership that Saturday evening contemplating the significance of Jim’s shitty turn. I felt bad. I mean, if we can’t trust each other who can we trust? It’s good to remember that ultimately we are all in the same boat, and watching out for the other guy can pay for him and for you.

Always remember the rule: What goes around comes around.

Talk to you later,


P.S. I used so many cliché expressions while writing this piece someone ought to confiscate my keyboard!

The Golden Skate Award

On a bright morning in the summer of 1971, Mike Aahl was rooting around in the trunk of old Buick trade-in parked along the back fence of Hayward Ford. As his hands searched through piles of old newspapers, crumpled cigarette packages, and empty oilcans, hoping to discover any hidden treasures, his eyes brightened. There in front of him was quite a find. It was an old roller skate.

Mike withdrew his prize, his mind reeling with the possibilities. The skate itself was a scruffy, white leather affair, definitely something worn by a girl. It had old-fashioned steel wheels. Its metal frame was spotted with rust. As Mike inspected the skate, out fell an equally crusty skate key. All in all, it was perfect!

The plan for the skate’s resurrection started off simple enough, a quick clean up and a visit to the local hardware store for some gold spray paint. Within a couple of hours it was finished and set to dry along the warm western wall of the parts department. Beside it was the key, also sprayed gold, for it, too, was part of plan.

Someone suggested, “Let’s have it mounted on a nice slab of wood.” It was a great idea, no doubt, but by the time it hit the local trophy shop another even greater idea was hatched.

In a couple of days the skate was ready, and we gathered in Mike’s office to admire the results. There it was, a beautiful bright gold, looking like a bronzed baby shoe from hell. It had been mounted on an oak base befitting its importance. A small gold plaque read, “The Golden Skate Award.” It was ready to go.

Skating is a term used by car salesmen to signify stealing all or part of a car deal from another salesman. In the bad old days of the car business salesmen skated each other as if it were the national sport. This was particularly true in big dealerships where large crews of Car Men fought for survival each month.

There are different levels of skating. In it’s most common form, another salesman somehow manages to get his name on your deal after you have done all the work. Any Car Man who has been around for awhile can tell a story or two about going out to lunch only to return to discover that his appointment had shown up early. If intercepted by a shark, you could bet you lost half your deal. Even if the salesman was your friend the sales desk rarely allowed your customer to be held until you got back, so whoever was available to complete the sale got half a commission regardless of his previous involvement in the deal.

These situations managed to even themselves out over time. You could not be at the dealership to protect yourself 24/7, though management acted as if you should. Occasionally you lost a half deal, but occasionally you got a half deal back, and the order of the Car Man universe was once again restored. What goes around comes around.

Then there was the out-and-out, you-lost-a-deal skate. If it was done properly you might never know it happened. The customer you sold that Ford Mustang to sends in his buddy to see you. It is your day off; another salesman gets your referral, sells him a car and does not put your name on the deal. If you do manage to discover the evil deed the usual answer to your pissed-off inquiry is, “He didn’t ask for you.”

I have known salesman to tell customers that the guy they asked for did not work there anymore, or “David doesn’t sell used cars. I’ll have to be the one to help out with that.” Being the clever bastards we are, there were dozens of lies you could tell a customer to steal him away from the intended salesman.

Management never openly condones skating, but there is not a lot they could or would do about it. In their eyes a little skating toughens everyone up, and that is exactly the way they like it. They prefer to let the salesman work it out (or in some cases duke it out) among themselves.

Skating is one of those things that The Others could never understand. They live in a world of relative fairness in the work place where Car Men only have a marginal acquaintance. That is why the first rule of our business is the car business is not fair. It is something Car Men have to accept if they are to survive. It is not something your average schoolteacher or government worker could ever accept or understand.

I am not a saint, but I have never been one to skate people. You see, the second rule of the business, “what goes around, comes around” is a powerful force, and I learned early in my career to respect it. That and my Portuguese/Catholic upbringing always prevented me from being much of a skater, but I will admit I have been sorely tempted. Like former President Jimmy Carter, I have often lusted in my heart.

At Hayward Ford we had a kangaroo court. If the skate had been particularly egregious, you could ask for a hearing after a morning sales meeting. On average, this occurred a couple of times a month. These mini-trials were wildly popular if only for their entertainment value. Here you would have two impassioned opponents ready to hunt bear, but instead of bear it was each other.

After the sales meeting the managers cleared out. They rarely wanted anything to do with this, but agreed to honor the outcome. The salesmen would stay. We had a big crew so sometimes there would be twenty or more Car Men crowded into the meeting room, downing coffee, smoking cigarettes, and ready for a show.

Usually, three Car Men acted as judges. The accuser would point out the guilty party and state his case. Both sides would then tell their version of the events, most of the time wildly different from each other. If there were witnesses they would testify. Then the judges would deliberate. Keep in mind that the sales managers would only tolerate us being off the floor for fifteen or twenty minutes, so there was no Perry Mason oratory going on in there.

The judge’s decision was final. Sometimes you won; sometimes you lost. It was accepted that this was the end of the issue until, of course, the salesman who lost managed to get the other salesman back. Car Man justice!

It was out of this that The Golden Skate Award came into play. It was decided that Mike Aahl’s find should be given out monthly to the man who best exemplified not only skating, but also the spirit of skating. In some ways a Car Man who was a little out of control was admired. Sheer craziness was something grand to watch in a weird, sick way. Car Men are always into weird and sick.

The award would be given after a sales meeting at the beginning of the month. A few days before the event a panel of Car Men, headed by our salesman emeritus, Hank Medeiros would gather to choose the man they deemed worthy enough to be singled out for this honor.

The much-anticipated morning finally came. Everyone was in high spirits. Even the Grand Old Men of the dealership, many who had been with Hayward Ford since the late 1940’s when it was nothing more than a converted garage on the corner of Mission Blvd. and “A” Street, would came to watch the proceedings.

Hank was the MC. He was ideal for the job being a natural born ham. He had been at Hayward Ford for years. He loved to be in the limelight, tell a few jokes, and have a good time. He set the perfect tone for The Golden Skate Award ceremonies. I wish I could tell you the names of some of the winners, but the sad fact is that skaters, though entertaining in a strange way, never last long at a dealership. They are like the itinerant gamblers of the Old West, always drifting from one place to another to ply their trade before getting out of Dodge when the citizens got wind of their cheating.

Hank would tell his jokes then run down the list of the dirty deeds allegedly committed of the award’s winner. When the culprit was finally announced and presented his prize, it was met with howls of laughter and the red face of the thought-he-was-clever winner. Busted!

The second prize was then given out. The Golden Key Award went to the salesman who tried hard but came in second best. The glittering key was decked out with a fancy blue ribbon and presented with as much good-natured malice as the skate itself.

Prizewinners were required to keep their trophies in their offices and on prominent display throughout the month. There it could be seen by all, questioned by customers, and a little reminder that they were not as smart as they thought they were.

“The Golden Skate Award” is a cherished memory of my youth. These days, working mostly alone on a small used car lot, there is no one to skate me—though I have to keep an eye on my boss, another Hayward Ford veteran. But I am certain that the practice sill goes on because skating is part of our tradition, and for Car Men, traditions run deep.

Talk to you later,



If I’ve ever heard a car salesman pray, its for his next up not to have a trade-in. Any Car Man with a lick of common sense would prefer that his next up not have a trade. Why? Because after bad credit, it’s the most common thing that can screw up your deal and your commission.

On the surface a trade-in should be a good thing. After all, car salesmen prefer selling used over new, so what would be a better source of used cars than trade-ins? This is true as long if it’s the other guy’s trade. Let him be the noble one that supplies the dealership with much-needed used cars. Why not you? BECAUSE JUST ABOUT EVERYONE IN THIS DAMN COUNTRY IS BURRIED UP TO THEIR EYEBALLS!

Now I must confess that we only have ourselves to blame. After all, we’re the ones who buried them in the first place. You’d think that The Others would have enough common sense to hang onto their iron until it makes sense to buy another one, but it appears that a large portion of the American population has no common sense whatsoever! They financed a SUV for 84 months and now they want to trade it in after in 24? Hello! Don’t any of you idiots understand basic math?

A Car Men tries to discover the truth about a trade before the desk even knows he has a potential write-up. He tries to kick a problem trade if he can, because deskmen are sometimes not too helpful in these situations. This one of those times where the best interests of the salesman do not run parallel with those of the house because if the trade is desirable, the desk will try to get it no matter what, and the next thing you know you have a mini. I suppose many managers out there will not appreciate me saying this, but that’s just the way it is.

I suppose it’s a mute point anyway. Many times its damn near impossible to kick the trade. Then there’s the goof wants $3000 for a $300 car. You can try your best to line your deal properly, but in the end there’s not much you can do about it except write the sucker up and hope for the best. My advice: write quickly.

With credit being so tight, our ability to unbury people like we used to have diminished significantly. The banks and credit unions just aren’t rocking like they used to. It used to be that they would try to help you make your deal, but these days they seem more determined to find new and creative ways of turning your deal down. And these freaking trades don’t make it any easier.

My best suggestion for you truly buried customer: A mysterious fire in his driveway.

THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE: I like to refer to it as “The Perfect Storm” of car deals. The customer has a trade that’s worth a fair amount of money, and by God it’s clear! (It also helps if he’s “a big dummy with a way to go”.) The golden cords of a U/A* beckon to you like a siren’s song. It’s a pounder in the making, and what a grand and glorious thing it is. It’s one of those times when you are reminded why you got into this business in the first place.

Problem trade-ins are a part of our business. Not much you can do it. Now I’m not suggesting you sandbag the desk—well I suppose I am—but it’s up to you to do your own due diligence before you spend a lot of time with a guy who owes $31,000 on ‘05 Yukon. And remember the rule: The Car Business Isn’t Fair. So don’t expect it to be. But with a little bit of creativity and common sense you can level the playing field a little.

Talk to you later,


P.S. For you managers out there here’s an idea from the old days at Hayward Ford. In those enlightened years before the advent of shoulder harnesses and 5 MPH impact bumpers the house had a policy that if you sold your own trade it within 30 days of bring it in, you’d get another 5% of the gross. I’ve always thought that was a great incentive for the guy who had to grind out the deal that produced that trade.

*U/A = Under Allowance


A house deal is a venerable car business institution going back to the days when the first Ford dealer’s brother-in-law wanted to buy a new Model T, and the managers were too lazy to go out and land the guy on a car themselves. House deals are often called a “HD” for short. Many times a HD is turned over to a salesman to do the legwork. The amount of work he does on one of these “freebee” deals can vary greatly. Sometimes he only plays the minor role of finding the right car for the customer. Sometimes it is as much work as a regular car deal with the Car Man doing all the work including closing the deal. Sometimes it is as easy as the salesman being handed a report of sale to slap on the windshield of a car.

Which salesman gets the HD is an interesting process. Sometimes it is fairly given out to the Car Man who is next on the “up” list, or a salesman who just happens to be standing in the right place at the right time. It might be given out as a reward to someone who has done some extra work around the lot or helped a manager out with a special project. Sometimes a HD is given to a guy that is in a slump as a way of pumping him up.

A “spoon” is a derogatory term for a HD, usually applied to a salesman who seems to get more than his fair share of house deals, as in “Hey, they just gave that asshole David another spoon!” Getting a spoon implies you are being “spoon fed” like a baby being given pureed carrots.

HDs are often given to the manager’s favorite guy, usually the one who is most adept at kissing his ass. This is when a house deal officially becomes a spoon. A salesman who consistently gets a lot of spoons is a sore point among the other Car Men. It will get them grumbling and can cause the animosity level of the crew to rise precipitously. They really do not like the salesman who seems to get all the house deals. I am sort of an expert on this topic, because, you see, back in the day I was the one who used to get most of the spoons.

I worked for my brother, Danny, for twenty-three years, and let me tell you, it was not always easy being the younger brother of the sales manager and later the dealer. At the beginning of my career Danny gave me deals as a way of helping me survive the rigors of learning the business and for generally being a dumb shit. Later, it made sense for him to turn deals to me. People were referred to him because he was the owner, and they did not want to be pawned off to—God forbid—a salesman! But handing them off to his little brother, hell that was almost as good as dealing with the owner himself.

This type of logic did not help me with my fellow Car Men. I was getting two or three extra deals a month and it really pissed them off. I understood their point, but what was I supposed to do, turn the deals down? Hey, lets be realistic about this; I had a family to support! It got to the point where every time I had a car deal, my fellow salesmen would suggest it was a spoon. Their nasty comments began to get to me so being the devious bastard I can sometimes be I developed a plan.

When you brought a car deal to the sales office the first thing you did was write it on the sales board. There was a spot that asked for the source of the deal. After years of enduring my colleague’s bad vibes, I decided that every time I boarded a deal, whether it was given to me or not, I would draw a little spoon on that spot on that asked for the source. It made everyone nuts!

Sometimes revenge is sweet.

A spoon can be a great thing for a struggling Car Man desperate for a deal, but it also has a down side: It is the quickest way to a mini-commission. Let me tell you it was not a great feeling being called into the sales office on a Saturday when everyone was rockin’ and rollin’ out on the line to help my brother with some jerk-off banker who wanted a sweet deal on a new car. Sometimes these deals cost me more money then they made me, but what was I going to do?

To this day I am sure a lot of guys I worked with in the old days still think most of my deals came from Danny. That was not true—not by a long shot, but if we ever meet again at a Car Man’s reunion and they ask me about it, I will tell them, “I never got a deal on my own in my life!”Talk to you later,