The word "dealership" has many connotations. It is evocative of that ultimate dichotomy of consumerism – the new car purchase. A new car can be the paramount achievement in our buy and toss culture but it's also the one precarious purchase fraught with pitfalls, loopholes and traps. It is almost a contradiction in terms; the thing you most long for acquired in the most unsavory way. Customers imagine dealerships as homes to car salesmen who circle above that oasis of automobiles like a poisoned pond amidst a desert of consumerist despair. Buyers craft fantasies in their heads where every car nothing but the salesmen want it all, they think thoughts like, "It's only a thousand dollars. They can come down a thousand dollars." That delicate shopper, so exposed in his ignorance and being taken advantage of by shady backroom dealings when the salesman says he has to check with his boss, conjures up a world in which he is the victim, he is the lumberjack confronting the wolf, and that he'll hack from its belly A Brand New Car.
Where do we draw these impressions from? The sad truth is, we draw them from the truth.
First and foremost let's address the issue of the dealership screw job and the impression many consumers have that the salesmen are out to rape your wallet – it's not true, at least not entirely. Dealerships function within some very narrow margins and like any business have budgets to adhere to and targets to reach. When a customer wants a thousand dollars off of a sticker, it's a big deal. Imagine, you walk into your local grocery store to buy milk and at the til say, "I'd like a dollar off the price." It's pretty much the same thing here in that the price asked is the price at which they can afford to sell the product and still meet their overhead while netting a profit but for some reason it's okay to be indignant about the price of a car and do something about it unlike, say, gasoline which we're all pissed off about but still buy regardless. Negotiation is the name of the game, it's true, but highway robbery it is not.
The image of the slimy, underhanded, sleaze bag car salesman is one we can all share. We get it because salesmen are greasy, nasty people. Only, they aren't. By and large they are just like you and I – they have bills to pay, families to support and jobs to do. Sure, they get commission but that's a part of working in sales and it means they need to move products but because customers tend to have innately negative opinions of the profession and those working in the field they almost force salespeople into a mould based on their own preconceptions. Now, I'm not saying there aren't dirty, awful little trolls working in the field, but they tend to be largely relegated to the lawless, cowboy used-car lots. The point is, virtually every salesman working is no better or worse than the customer he's helping.
Which brings us to the ownership and management because that's where most of the shit rolls down from, uphill. The true measure of a dealership is how it is owned and operated and that aspect of the business is the prevue of the people at the top. They can either shit and let it roll down hill, the hallmark of a shitty dealership, or they can try to avoid shitting and clean up after themselves when they do and that is at the very core, the crux, of the issue which is how a dealership comports itself not just during its daily operations but in the face of obvious errors or mistakes.
On the one side you have dealerships which are run like any efficient business – well. They honor their listed prices, even in error. They break dance, for some reason. They give away free cars to charity cases when it's news worthy and promote local sports and events in their hometowns. These are the dealerships you almost never hear about as they're too busy running a good business to get involved in these shenanigans.
And then you have stealerships and they abound in the media. They'll total your car and then fight you or charge huge premiums on desirable products. They can be found abusing your car and even have you arrested for buying one of their cars but probably most importantly get involved in very public smear campaigns without any pause to consider the image they're creating - not just for themselves but for the fraternity of dealers.
But it's not always their fault and you can almost always out think them. Because, when the brass tacks are counted what it comes down to is that you have the money and they have the car and if an accommodation can't be reached both parties have the ability to walk away.
Besides, if we want to change the way we buy cars in person or online there are ways to accomplish those goals as long as we learn a thing or two about how the business operates and about the pressures faced by buyers and sellers and what you'll come to understand is what I've come to understand:
The difference between a dealership and a stealership is all in their image.