THREE WRECKS, ONE NIGHT
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My life in the car business started in 1983, when I stopped in to see if my buddy Mikey D. was going out that night. When I walked into the dealership to see him, the first thing he said was, “hey we’re hiring.” My initial response was that I didn’t want to be a car salesman. When Mike asked me why not, I didn’t have an answer, I just didn’t think that I wanted to sell cars.
What little I new of the car business was mostly from partying with Mike. A perfect example had been only a month before. I stopped in Maxdon’s for a drink. I didn’t see anybody that I knew. After my second drink I asked to pay my bill so I could leave. I questioned the bill amount and the bar maid said that the gentleman over there said your were paying his. She pointed to Mike.
Mike invited me along to look for a friend. It was late and we were driving fast. Mike took a turn too fast and we slid, hard into the curb. The car tipped up on two wheels for a second and came back down. Both right side wheels looked bent. We drove to the dealership where Mike worked and left the one we were driving. Mike had keys to another car and away we went. Mike saw somebody that he thought we should catch up with. Way too late, Mike decided that he should have turned and went for it any way. We missed the turn and hit the far side curb with the left front tire. It was now bent under a little.
We went back to the dealership. We got into another car Mike had keys to. Mike told me how fast this one was. Mike took off from the light like a drag racer. He missed a shift and locked the manual transmission in second gear. We have damaged three cars in one night. Mike told me that this had to be the last one, as he didn’t have keys to any others.
I later asked Mike what he did with the damaged cars. He told me that he took each one to a different service advisor, on a different day, with a different story of what a customer had done in the car. No one ever questioned him.
With that as an idea of what car sales are like, I listened to Mike.
Mike gave me a quick sales pitch, “You’ll make a lot of money and you get to dress nice.” He also explained the difference between a job that you shower after work, like a ditch digger and a job that you shower before work, like a businessman. That somehow made sense to me. So I filled out an application. Mike coached me on what to put down. Salary expected. Mike said, “Put down a big number.” So I did. I was working at American National Bank at the time. A big number to me was to double my income. I wrote $25,000 in the salary box.
Next came the interview. I interview with an old-time car guy named Joe Broom. Joe was going to be training a group of new people. Mike told me that I was going to be asked one important question, why do you want to be a car salesman? Mike told to answer it with, “Because I want a career were I can make a lot of money.”
I sat through a boring interview. Joe Broom finally looked me in the eye, leaned forward in his chair and asked me why I wanted to be a car salesman. I looked him straight in the eye and answered matter-of-factly, “Because I want a career where I can make a lot of money.” I would have never said that without being told. Joe responded with a very enthusiastic, “perfect answer.” I got hired.
I went to work at the Bank the next day and gave notice. Trudy Marvin was the person at the bank who told me that I’d be back. When she said that, I thought about people working at the bank. Most of the women working there were just given enough hours so they would not get benefits. I had run into Bill, the Bank assistant branch manager at K-mart last week. He was working there. I asked him what was going on. He explained that he had his third kid on the way and couldn’t afford another on what the bank paid. I knew that I wasn’t coming back.
One of the biggest changes was how I dressed. It was now slacks, collared shirt and leather shoes. I also had to wear a tie every day. I didn’t even know how to tie one. Lucky for me I had a roommate named Joel Burnette. (When your roommate goes by Joel, Joel, the big butt hole, it is hard to say lucky). Joel showed me over and over how to wear a tie. He showed me how to do the knot and how to make the length just right. To this day I think of Joel as I put on my tie. I still do it exactly as he showed me. It is also the way I have taught my son to do his tie.
Mike only worked with me for a couple of months. Mike got himself fired, but he did it with style. He knew that he had messed up bad. When the managers were all together in one office, they called him in. He told them that he had to use the restroom and would be right in. Instead Mike went across the street to another dealership and got hired on the spot. They gave Mike a Cadillac for a demo.
When the managers got tired of waiting in the office to fire Mike, they came outside. Mike was just finishing loading his office into his new demo. The General Sales Manager asked Mike what he was doing. Mike told him that he was just going to come in and tell them that he took another job and was quitting. They were so let down that they did not get to fire Mike.
I went looking for a party and I found a career. That’s the best answer I have when people ask me how I got started selling. The old ways of the car salesman are about gone. That is a good thing. I still talk to Mike once in a while. I recently found Joel on Facebook. I have missed his friendship. We laughed about the tie thing.
It doesn’t really matter how I got into this. What matters is, this is my chosen profession. This is how I have provided for my family. It matters how we treat our customers. We treat them well. I am, after all, your friend in the car business.
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