Stars Mislead Us: 1/5 or Hundreds on Kinja

I am starting to feel as though I work at Dealership Dreamland.

I am starting to feel as though anecdotal experiences are irrefutable fact, that these harrowing first hand accounts of shady sales practices are Kinja Star Juggernauts. Is it that we as denizens of the Internet latch onto anything negative, anything that may reaffirm our bias, a bias that may have been first created upon reading a similarly negative comment elsewhere online? Or have we all been screwed over before? And if we have all feel as though we have been screwed over, do we know the full story before we tell it to the world?

I read a lot of bad things about dealerships. A lot of that comes from Jalopnik, CarBuying and Kinja comments. I realize that a lot of people have had negative experiences at dealerships and that some of their practices, even if completely transparent and legal, sort of do nothing positive for the customer. There are a lot of changes that dealerships need to make, as Tom, myself and many others have touched on in past posts. I get all of that.

What I do not understand is the absoluteness that people often speak with when discussing dealerships, or as they frequently refer to them as, “stealerships”. The world is not black and white and one negative experience is not representative of every other possible experience. I feel like I’m some guy on the Mazda forums screaming about my heavily boosted RX-7 having 200,000 miles on the factory apex seals. Yes, it is almost completely unheard of, but it is possible. Probably. Just give me a chance and let me show you all 38 of my rigorous maintenance scheduling guides.

I have never worked at any other dealership. I don’t know the full spectrum of their terror outside of internet comments and old people who also claim their vehicles did 11 second quarter mile runs on bias-ply tires from the 60’s. People go on the internet and lie. Old people are nostalgic. Who is to be trusted? Everyone needs to take a sample of the good and bad stories, and then average that out. The truth is likely somewhere in between unless you’re buying a used RX-7 and then I guarantee that if you follow my instructions, it will last forever.

Since I have been with my company, I have never seen an upset customer. We have never sold a vehicle with issues that were not immediately disclosed. I have never seen anyone pressured into anything. We are transparent in all of our practices. We aren’t perfect. Even if a customer pays for the entire price of a vehicle with a check, getting them “in and out” is still not nearly as quick as just building your own car. But we try, we do what we can and we are all here to make money, but also to sleep well at night.

The worst thing that I have seen is when a customer purchased a used Dodge Ram from us. During the test drive the AC worked fine, so the customer laid the money down and left. He wasn’t able to take the vehicle home that day, so he came back several days later with his family, including two very fresh babies. The salesperson that the customer had been working with pulled the vehicle up front in the morning before the customer arrived and upon doing so, noticed that the AC had completely stopped working. The salesperson did not call the customer, but he pulled it into our service center and told a mechanic what was going on. The mechanic looked over everything, pumped more Freon into the lines and made sure that all of it worked. It seemed that a valve was loose, so the mechanic also fixed that as best as he could. The issue here is that we had no idea if the AC on the Dodge was even going to be able to be repaired. We didn’t know what the issue was. For all we knew, the AC would not have been able to be repaired at all and the customer would have had to just deal with it, essentially.

We lucked out. If we were not able to fix it, the customer would have been informed and he likely would have still taken the vehicle, and then went online to tell the world that we screwed him over on his vehicle. But there is more truth to what he would have said, which I imagine would have been something along the lines of: “the dealership put just enough Freon in the vehicle to make the test drive look good, then when I came to pick the car up the AC was broken again! Arrghghgh shady sales practices not informing customers of issues aarhghggo!” When in reality, we at first had no idea why the AC suddenly stopped working. It worked during our inspection when purchasing the vehicle. It worked on numerous test drives. Then it sort of just stopped. We had to pay our mechanic to figure it out, we had to pay for the supplies to fix the issue and we did this when the car was already paid for. There was no way that we would get any extra money out of the customer.

A large part of my issue with how people discuss dealerships seemingly has to do with how people discuss everything on the Internet. I find myself very frequently being the only person in between opinions, admitting that yes, some things are bad but also, some things are good! Regulations on vehicle efficiency might take away our riotous 7L V8’s that consume gas like CarMax consumes money to pay for Doug’s Range Rover, but these regulations also brought us amazing technology, power, efficiency and the Aston Martin Cygnet. There are few things that are entirely good or bad. Even the Miata rests somewhere in between and is in fact, not the answer to everything. The answer to everything I think, is variables.

Every dealership story that you read online is not 100% true. There are variables within each story, likely within each detail, that you and the complaining customer will never be aware of. Except for the one that I told you, that story is utterly true. No, really, it is.

When I purchase something online, I read a selection of the worst reviews, the best and some from in the middle. I find that many of the worst reviews have no idea how the product works and thus, are angry. These are often people who purchased a USB phone charger for their iPhone. People apparently do not do this when listening to and telling stories about dealerships. They are all bad, every one of them.

Except that they aren’t. Buying a vehicle can be a complicated experience filled with a lot of big words like equity, APR, credit rating and money down. These are words with definitions as complicated as the procedure of buying an iPhone charger, but not as complicated as writing a scathing review online. The problem then, comes from many people not fully understanding dealerships work and what these and other words use.

And that is one of the biggest, most frustrating issue for me as an employee, a car enthusiast and someone who reads a lot of negative thoughts on dealerships. The entire process of buying a car can be complicated, scary and confusing. The first time that I purchased a new vehicle, I wanted to vomit on my way home. I honestly have no idea how people buy houses. It took me four months to find a condo to rent. So, I understand that during such a frantic and disorienting experience in which you suddenly become tens of thousands of dollars poorer, people are likely to get angry if it does, in their eyes, not work out well for them. Dealerships can do something to help out with that, I think. We can explain everything.

Last week, I had a customer come in with a 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid with less than 1,300 miles on it. He did not like the vehicle and he wanted to trade it in. He told me that he had very little negative equity on it due to his trade-in and the like, $5,000 in incentives that he took advantage of. Once we sat down and got into the finer details, I found that he was thousands of dollars upside down on his loan because he had been misled by the Hyundai salesperson. I had to go through and explain almost every word, term and phrase, before he understood what sort of situation he had gotten himself into.

Situations like these are easily avoidable, but some salespeople don’t care and realize that transparency can be the enemy. Where I work, if transparency is the enemy of a deal going through, then we aren’t going to work that deal. We’ll pass on it. Trust me when I say that none of us are losing out on many sales or large paychecks. I think that many salespeople unfortunately, are never happy with the amount of money that they make, or the management is never happy with any amount of sales. The sales culture at my job is exceedingly relaxed. Like, I wrote this entire thing in my office, relaxed. But, maybe I really am in Dealership Dreamland.