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REGGIE JACKSON AND FIVE CAMAROS
You have to play the cards that are dealt to you. Those are the rules. Not just in Poker but in business and in life. Whining, crying and complaining are not going to produce anything on a paycheck. This was, and still is true.
General Motors has had it’s share of problems over the years. Strikes can be one of the worse. In the mid-eighties it was a transportation strike that stopped the movement everything from the factory to the dealerships. No new inventory coming in, when existing inventory was sold, that was it for a long while.
Except when it came from the Van Nuys plant. They were local enough to get cars from. They only produced one thing at Van Nuys in those days, the Camaro. You never met a worse group of people than the ones that built the cars. The most amazing part was that they would complain the most about the quality. Go figure.
With the only thing for sale being Camaro’s, Chevrolet Zone management put on a contest. There would be a weekly winner for whoever sold the most new Camaro’s. The payout was $400 cash and four tickets to the California Angels. The big draw was Reggie Jackson. Mr. October seemed to either strike out or hit a home run, every time. I sold five new Camaro’s in one week and was recognized as California Salesman of the week.
Greg, Andrew, Billy and I drove to Anaheim Stadium. The crowd there was a little different from the normal Dodger Stadium people we were used to. We were sitting front row behind home plate…Great seats! They served alcohol there, not just beer, so we drank. Being we were so close, we knew the players could hear us, so we let them know we were there. Each time Reggie came up to bat, we would let him have it and he struck out every time.
The season ticket holders sitting around us didn’t appreciate our loud obnoxious behavior and sent the ushers down to ask us to settle down. They announced my name as Chevrolet salesman of the week and put us up on the Jumbotron. We looked like fools but were having a good time.
Bottom of the 8th inning, two outs and two men on, Angels are down 6 to 5. Reggie is up next. We go crazy. He is in the batters box and calls time. Reggie steps back and turns to look at who is making all of this noise. He sees four idiots and points at us with his thumb and finger, six-gun style. Reggie stepped back into the box and takes two pitches. The next one is a fastball down the middle and Reggie crushes it out of the park. The crowd went wild and Reggie watches it sail before rounding the bases. After he steps on home plate he walks up to us and with a sly smile. Out comes the double six-gun hand gesture.
Suddenly the people sitting around us like us. “Reggie Jackson hit a home run for you” they yell. “He never does that,” said another.
I sold five Camaros that week. That is because that is all that I had to sell. Five Camaros and my own little piece of History… Got to love the Car business .
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REWARD FOR JULIE
Whenever a previous customer calls me at the dealership, it is a good thing. Robert and I have been through three auto purchases together. This time he is on a mission, his pride and joy, his daughter, deservers a new truck.
Robert is always a nice man to talk to. He actually takes the time to ask how I am doing and to tell me what’s going on in his neck of the woods. He is looking for a small, extended cab pick up for his daughter. It has to be black. Lucky for the both of us I have one in stock; Robert makes an appointment for the next day.
Robert tells me about his daughter Julie. She graduated High School with a 4.0 grade point. Julie is also a very accomplished musician and plays first Clarinet. The kicker is that she just had abdominal surgery and I think it scared Robert. So Dad wants to make sure she is safe and able to get to College.
The way she wants it is with a manual transmission. It helps a lot that it has a factory CD player. The six-cylinder fuel injected engine is what she likes and wants the split bench seat. Check, everything is just right with the one we have in stock. Robert happily says, “Wrap it up”! Now Robert gets cute.
“Do you have an old beater around”? Robert ask’ and a plan is hatched. Robert wants me to get as bad a looking vehicle as possible to show his daughter Julie. His plan is for her to get upset and then he can spring the new truck on her. We always have a trade-in or two that are destined for the scrap heap, so no problem. Delivery is set for Seven pm tonight.
That evening I have a broke down rattletrap, with different color fenders pulled up by the showroom. Robert walks up with Julie and they are all smiles. She knows what kind of gifts one gets from a car lot. I am standing next to the rust bucket and do as instructed. “Here it is” is my line. Robert proceeds to tell Julie that times are a little tough and this is all that he could afford. He did not anticipate her reaction.
“Dad if this is what you can afford and you say it’s safe to drive than I will drive it, proudly,” Julie said calmly. No wonder Robert wanted to get her a new truck, what a great kid. Robert has to stifle a tear and blubbers, “I’m sorry Honey, this is really your new truck and points to the Black extended-cab sitting nearby. Julie screams.
As Robert is hugging his daughter he looks and gives me a knowing wink. Once again we have done well. I love this job.
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THE BAR TAB
One thing that you discover very quickly in the car business is that most everybody is really good at putting someone together. That’s what it was called when you would take a person and to get them to the point that they would actually take action. With customers it was to get them to actually buy the car, but with other salespeople it could manifest itself in a variety of ways. To put someone in an uncomfortable or untenable situation where they didn’t have a clear way or know the path to safety. That was usually the goal of a lot of our social interactions.
The Sales Manager uses less than great judgment and hires his friend as a salesperson. We all knew that he didn’t get hired because he was talented, so we thought we should set the ground rules early. Rick, Jim and I invited Norey out for a drink at Maxdons the local car guy bar. It wasn’t much of a plan as much as the willingness to use whatever opportunity was presented to us.
The four of us take the large booth in the corner and ask the bartender to start a tab. Of course we then order a few rounds of drinks. I don’t use the term “Bimbo” regularly but it fits this application. We have Norey sitting in the middle of the booth (no escape!) and every Bimbo chick that we could attract to our table with an offer to buy them a drink was soon sitting at our table. We kept sliding out and stacking them in until the Bimbo’s are three deep on either side of the hapless Norey. The one next to him had four to six inch long fingernails, yikes! Mind you this was in the 80’s.
One last round of drinks on the tab and off we go. Jim and I excuse ourselves to go to the restroom. Rick sees that we are headed for the door and is out right behind us. It took poor Norey more than an hour to realize that it was just him and the six hard drinking Bimbos. Drinks for ten can run up quite a tab, especially over a couple of hours with people who are drinking for free.
It’s finally time to leave and guess who the bartender gives the tab to? Apparently Norey’s credit card limit wasn’t high enough to handle the entire bill, he calls his friend, the manager who hired him, to come bail him out. I guess some things can get taken personally, because we sure got chewed out at work the next day. We were even made to repay the entire bar tab.
Let’s see, the Boss is mad at us, Norey doesn’t trust us and the bar is unhappy we skipped out leaving the tab. Not to mention we don’t want any of these gals thinking that we will ever buy them a round of drinks again, all in all a very successful evening in the car business.
Of course it’s some 25 years later and Norey is still the Boss’s best friend…or his only friend…