Confessions of a Car Man


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,