Confessions of a Car Man



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,



It’s a funny thing growing older. The other day I found a recent photograph of my ex-wife on the net. I was taken aback. My memory of her was how she looked when we split up back in 1978. She was about 24 and still under warranty. But I couldn’t help but think who is this old broad?

This was a stupid response, of course, and my apologies to my ex-wife if she ever stumbles across this blog. Hell, if anyone looks old, it’s me. I can’t bear to look at a photograph of myself. That’s why the photo on my profile is my granddaughter, Brooke. Maybe I was thinking you’d see me through her or some sort of liberal bullshit like that.

Growing older is as natural as a 20-year-old trade-in. It happens to everyone eventually. But I am genuinely shocked at how old I’ve become. I remember my first day at Hayward Ford like it was yesterday. They used to call me, “summer help”. Now all of a sudden I’m 11 months shy of 60! Something has gone seriously wrong!

I’m not one of those types of people who will say yeah, I’m 59, but inside I’m still 20. I’m 59 all right. I’ve got the aches and pains and high blood pressure to prove it. But I think I’m still pretty alert and conscious of the world around me. I haven’t yet retreated to a gated retirement community, a Buick LeSabre and the comfort of being a member of the AARP. At least give me credit for that.

But it bothers me that I have told young salesmen about my blog, written down the address on my business card and asked them to check it out. None of them ever has. That makes me wonder about how I am perceived by them. It makes me question my relevancy. Would they even understand the blog if they did read it? Is everyone reading this blog like me, an old fart? (I’m not talking about you, Cathy in Canada.)

I’d like to have a photo of myself for the blog. I asked my daughter to take a couple the other day. I didn’t like the results. Graying hair and a nearly white beard. I wasn’t that good looking on my best day and now—forget about it!

I think I need someone to take a photo of me with my Giants cap on. That would give me a kind of weird old guy I don’t give a crap look. Back in the day when I was writing fiction, I used to joke with a friend about having a photo of me in my author pose. You know, tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, glasses off but poised artfully to the side of my face. That serious look that says, “I know more than you do”.

I should have had that picture taken when my hair and beard were a little darker and the bags below my Portuguese eyes were not so prominent. It would come in handy now. It would give gravitas to the blog and make people wonder at my wit and wisdom.

Someday I will post a photograph. Some loved one will catch me at a moment when I don’t look too bad. Someday my ex-wife will be cruising the net and find it. Her head will jerk back from the monitor and she will say to herself, how did that jerk I made the mistake of marrying get so old? And that, my friends, will be a very appropriate question.

Talk to you later,


P.S. Still working on that trade-in piece. It’s putting up a fight, but I’ll wrestle it to the ground eventually.

Gran Torino

Saw the movie, “Gran Torino” starring Clint Eastwood the other night. Great movie! Completely politically incorrect, a state of being a lot of you know I hold dear to my heart.

What got me about the movie was the reference to the car, a green ‘72 Gran Torino fastback. It was very weird for me to being looking at a car when is being held in such reverence as a “classic” when I sold them brand new! It gave me great insight into how old I am and how long I’ve been doing this shit.

I used to say that you know you’ve been selling cars a long time when the cars you sold new were worth $100. Now I’m in a position that some of the cars I sold brand new are now considered classics. And a Gran Torino? Who would have guessed?

When I first went to work at Hayward Ford in late 1970, I recall a half dozen unsold Torinos going to seed along the side fence. These were high-performance models, 429 Cobra Jets with those hoods with a hole on the top for greater air intake. As I recall they were very hard to sell. One of them was a year old, and my brother declared it was either sell ‘em or give them a birthday party.

A few months ago, I got a phone call from a guy in New York. Apparently he had one of these cars and was looking for some information about its history. Through a series of calls he found me. Now my mind works in a weird way. I suffer from short-term CRS or as it is sometimes called Can’t Remember Shit. But as readers to this blog can attest, I can remember things that happened forty years ago like it was yesterday.

When the guy mentioned his car, it brought back of picture of them sitting side by side like ships in a mothball fleet. Trust me on this; Torinos were not part of Ford Mother Company’s golden age. As I recall their batteries were always deal and their spark plugs fouled. A royal pain in the ass.

Ironically when I asked the guy what the car was now worth, he told me 100K! Damn, I should have bought one of those suckers!

So you never know. Today’s iron is tomorrow’s classic, although I doubt seriously that a Toyota Corolla will be worth a lot of money forty years from now.

But then, you never know.

Talk to you later,


P.S. Note to the young people out there. My best guess for a car that will be worth big bucks forty years from now is one of the Chevy SSR trucks. I’d be tempted to buy one, but let’s face it; I won’t be around in forty years.

Writing Gone Awry

Writing this blog can be one of my life’s most enjoyable experiences or hell on earth. Let me give you an example. On Sunday I wrote two blog entries in the space of an hour. I’ve already posted “Dwight’s Dilemma” and a second piece, “Gran Tornio” will be posted in a few days.

Then there’s the matter of a piece I’ve been working on called “Trade-ins”. When it came into my brain one morning a couple of weeks ago, I was filled with excitement. Damn I had a lot to say on the subject of trades! It might even be enough for a two-parter. But writing the thing has turned out to be a nightmare.

Sometimes writing can get out of control. When I was writing fiction I noticed that after a certain point a story seemed to take on a life of its own. This was especially true on longer pieces. There came a point when it wasn’t yours anymore. Some other force seemed to take over, and it felt like you were only there for the ride.

But in the case of “Trade-ins” the writing force went completely out of control. It turned into a veritable rant about The Others, corrupt managers and the pressures of selling cars. I completely lost myself in the thing like a bad acid trip. There came a point when I had to force myself to stop and shut the writing program down! My little exercise in writing had turned from an amusing way to wile away a Sunday morning into a wild beast with very sharp teeth.

This got me thinking about the crazier ideas that have come to me while brain storming in the shower. I wrote a complete entry about going on dealer trades when I was a kid. Now God has blessed me with the ability to recognize when the writing has gone wrong, and after I wrote the thing I realized that no one would find it interesting but me!

Then there was the case of the mythical heavy metal Car Man band called “OA/UA” (A take off on the band AC/DC.) For those of The Others who are reading this, OA stands for over allowance and UA stands for under allowance. I won’t go into an explanation about what that means because to tell you the truth it’s none of your business. The point is that I spent the better part of an afternoon spinning a mythical tale about this band. What the hell was I thinking about?

One of the things that bothers me a little is the blog entries that I could write but wouldn’t dare. It’s not like the police would be called, it’s kind of like that commercial that says “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Got to be careful about what goes out there on the web. If President Obama ever wants to appoint me to a cabinet post, I don’t want an entry about how a lady customer met me at her door naked screwing up my chances for glory. So, siree!

Getting back to “Trade-ins”, I’ll resurrect it soon enough. I’ve got to wait until I have a day off, wire myself up with coffee, and tackle it to the ground like a cowboy roping a cow. I’m sure I can make it an intelligent statement about how trade-ins and how they affect the lives of Car Men.

But then again, I might just leave it as a rant.

Talk to you later,


Dwight's Dilemma

Dwight Wilson was a Car Man of slight stature. About 5’ 5”, a buck forty soaking wet he was hardly an imposing figure. So when the trouble started, he felt ill equipped to handle it. That’s why he went to my brother, Danny, for advice.

Dwight had a wife named Janet. Their marriage was a stormy affair: on again, off again. This went on for years. The last time I saw Dwight they were still together, well over twenty years, but it had been a rocky ride all the way.

At this particular time in the mid-80’s they had broken it off. Janet had found another man and moved in with him for a time. But it didn’t last. You see Dwight and Janet were meant for each other and it wasn’t more than a few months that they’d kissed and made up. That’s when the trouble began.

You see the man that Janet had been living with didn’t like the fact that Dwight had won her back, and he began threatening Dwight with violence. To put it bluntly, Dwight was scared to death.

My brother knew a lot of people, especially true when you were running a successful car dealership. One of his friends was a guy named Walt Angelo. I won’t go into details but Walt was a guy who could get things done. You needed something, you had a problem, he’d find a solution. So when Dwight went to Danny’s office that day pleading for help,
Danny called Walt.

To give you little insight into the dynamics of this situation, let me tell you a little story. A guy I worked with, Bill Cola, used to call me Fredo like the troubled brother in movie “The Godfather”. He was implying that I had the same relationship with my brother as Fredo had to Michael Corleoni in the move. He used to say to me, “David, when your mother dies, don’t go fishing with Walt Angelo”. Get the idea?

Anyway, Danny called Walt. The next day Walt shows up with a member of a motorcycle gang known as the Hells Angels. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Dwight is called into the office and is asked to give the name and address of his harasser. Danny was a little concerned about the possibility of impending violence, but the Hells Angel assured him at this point violence wouldn’t be necessary. “Let me handle it,” the man assured him.

A few days later, Walt and his friend came buy the dealership. Danny asked him a little nervously what happened. The Hells Angle told him that he and about a dozen buddies took a little Saturday morning ride over to the guy’s house and parked up front. He went up to the door and knocked on it, and when the guy answered the door he politely suggested to the guy, “Stay away from Dwight and Janet.”

Apparently having a dozen Hells Angels parked in front of your house made a lasting impression. Dwight never heard from the guy again.

Moral of story? Don’t mess with Car Men. We have ways of getting things done.

Talk to you later,


Working The Deal Backwards

The big “no-no” of my young Car Man life was working a deal backwards. All car deals, as I was taught, had to be worked in specific steps in a specific order. To do otherwise, would reduce your chances of closing the deal and would cost you gross. If you attempted to work the deal any other way, your customer would be turned to another salesman and your commission would be cut in half.

My early trainers likened working a deal properly to a roll of nickels. Each nickel represented a step of the deal, the first being the initial greeting, the last being the time just before they leave in their new car and you tell them you ripped their heads off. (Ah, the days before CSI!) These steps were drilled into me so thoroughly that I became incapable of working a deal any other way.

All in all this was good because working the deal in an organized way is very important. I discovered that if I followed the steps faithfully, the types of objections I encountered were usually the same, so overcoming those objections just became a matter of trial and error. The weird part was that if I wandered from the steps the objections changed slightly, like the time a customer told me she couldn’t buy the car because it was a full moon and she needed to get home before the “change” started to occur. These new objections threw me off because as a young salesman I was unsure of myself, not particularly creative on my feet, and still unfamiliar with the creatures of the night.

Of course, after selling cars for nearly forty years, I’ve heard every possible objection a million times. Overcoming them, or in a lot of cases simply ignoring them, has become as natural to me as drinking beer. But I still remember being young and dumb as if it were yesterday. Now I realize a case could be made that I am now old and dumb, but now is not the time to get into that.

So what point am I trying to make? Learn the steps of a deal and follow them, God damn it! Work each deal with the precision and organization of a brain surgeon. You’ll never be able to cash in on a Big Dummy With A Way To Go if you screw up your presentation.

Ironically, I deal almost exclusively with flakes, and I now work most of my deals backwards. Well, I suppose it’s not truly backwards. Let’s just say that I’ve had to resort the roll of nickels. When you deal with flakes you can’t line them on a car in the traditional manner. You have to find out up front about their credit, down payment, whether they have a driver’s license. Many times I run their credit before I even show them a car!

But every time I do this I feel a twinge of guilt even though I know I’m doing things properly. In my mind I envision my brother, Danny, scowling at me, tearing up my credit app and turning the deal.

In my declining years I often think about the rules of our business as they apply to real life, and the term “working a deal backwards” has new meanings. Every day I run into people who live their entire lives doing things backwards. They land on cars they can’t possibly afford. They purchase the latest styles in clothes but don’t pay their rent. Every thing on their credit is bad, and they can’t understand why they can’t buy a car with nothing down. And the saddest of all: they have children without the benefit of a spouse. Their lives are as out of control as leaves blowing down the street in a winter wind. It’s all quite sad.

Jeez, this commentary has taken a sober turn! I’ve gone from creatures of the night to social commentary in a few short paragraphs. Somebody slap me!

The bottom line, I suppose, is that we can’t do much about The Others and their messy lives. The only thing we can do is figure out a way of selling them a car and making a little money to starve of our own creatures of the night. The important thing is that we do it competently and with integrity. And we must do it quickly—before the full moon when the “change” occurs.

Talk to you later,


P.S. Writing this has given me a feeling of déjà vu. Am I starting to repeat myself?

The Case For The Up System

If you ask one of The Others about car salesmen, one of their chief complaints about us is they don’t like to see us standing around upfront “like a pack of jackals” or something to that effect. In this observation they are both right and wrong. It’s just a matter of perception.

One thing that people don’t understand about car salesmen (and I’m surprised how many managers have forgotten it) is that standing around and talking is both natural and necessary to the sales process. I’m not kidding about this. The banter that goes back and forth while waiting for an up is the Car Man equivalent to warm up pitches for a baseball player. A Car Man’s mind and his tongue have to be kept loose and ready for action, and bullshitting is the best way to do it.

The problem is where they do it. Many managers can’t stand salesmen in the showroom unless they’re making phone calls or writing someone up. Some dealerships won’t even let the salesmen in the showroom unless they have a customer with them! So they have no choice but to outside and stand around in clusters taking about things you don’t want to know about—trust me on this.

To make matters worse, T.O. (turn over) houses force their young salesmen to stand outside and hawk for ups. They chase cars down. They call colors. They do all kinds of crazy crap to get an up. Trying to earn a living on the lot becomes as primal as lions chasing down their prey. It’s humiliating for the customer and it’s humiliating for the salesmen alike.

That’s why I want to make a case for the “up system”. The up system for those of you who are Car Man lingo challenged is basically taking turns waiting on people. An actual list is made up and you wait your turn to take an up. Sounds reasonable, but it’s fraught with controversy within the car sales community.

Closers and their sales managers (I refuse to refer to a closer as a sales manager) hate the up system. They don’t consider it aggressive enough. After all, it’s not them running around the lot trying to tackle an up. They don’t think of the image they are projecting to the public or the possible result on their CSI. They just want their guys to get a buyer at all costs.

The solution to all this requires a delicate balancing act between being aggressive or working in what we used to refer to as “an old lady store”. I urge anyone out there who is in management to take a look at how your dealership handles this most important issue.

You know, one of the reasons a salesman is supposed to drive the car first on a demo ride is because the customer’s first impression of a car is the one that lasts. It’s the same thing for the customer’s first contact with the dealership itself. How many customers pass your dealership by because they don’t like what they’re seeing on the point?

But on the other hand you have to let the guys have a place to bullshit without The Others thinking there’s conspiracy going on. Going back to my baseball analogy, I envision modern car dealerships with a bullpen area, just like in baseball. Coupled with the up system, a bullpen would give the guys a place to go and discuss the issues of the day, like climate change for example, or pussy depending on their mood, until they are called upon to wait on a customer.

A case for the up system. A case for bullshitting. Let’s face it. You’ll only read about these things here. Don’t you feel lucky?

Talk to you later,


P.S. If I offended anyone with the pussy reference, my job here is complete.