Pet peeves

Pet peeves, we all have them. Those things that people do and say that just make our skin crawl. We can’t help those things that go against our grain it’s how we’re wired. I probably have more than most, I’ll admit it. Spelling, grammar and punctuation always get a rise out of me when perusing social media. I hate to make it an indictment of intelligence but some people should really proofread their posts. It is very revealing, even more than the often stupid or controversial political nature of the post itself. I try to keep myself in check and worry about my own presence online. I’m spoiled by WordPress, my fellow bloggers actually know how to spell and structure a sentence.

My biggest pet peeve is one that bothers me more than most. I find myself calling people out when they say it. That saying is “to be honest”. When you answer an inquiry with “to be honest” what you’re really saying is, “I may not always tell the truth but this time I am”. It’s one of the most disingenuous things I’ve ever heard and it is everywhere! I hate it.

The very least that you can do for anyone is to be honest. That’s why they call it a virtue. It might as well be a virgin because nobody uses it anyway. Honesty is synonymous with the truth and we’d all be better if we told the truth. It’s less painful, it doesn’t require a good memory (see compulsive liars), and it takes a lot less time. Have you noticed that in the process of sugarcoating the shit out of something you take a statement that could be short and to the point and drag it out with filler words and lengthy diatribes just to soften what is the truth because we are so afraid to offend?

It’s painful to watch and as society gets more concerned with feelings and the line between right and wrong becomes blurry and grey this will only get worse.

People admire honesty. They admire the courage that it takes to tell the uncomfortable truth. I made a pretty decent living in sales just by being honest. Of course, my honesty has always been served with a side order of bluntness. I sold luxury cars and Honda for a long time. I was always top dog at every dealership I ever worked. And I was never slick and polished with customers. I just talked straight, knew my product and its competition and I told people the truth. More often than not I said things that could have gone either way but most people left me feeling that the car buying process was the best they ever had and it was just because I was honest. A lot of situations that often derail a sale were avoided by doing it my way, the biggest being when someone explained their budget and being able to keep them on a vehicle that they can afford. Many people don’t understand financing and may really believe that they can afford a vehicle when in actuality they are completely shocked at the numbers when presented and they leave. Time is wasted by both parties and a sale is usually lost. Totally avoidable. Especially when people often tell you in the beginning something that you recognize as not manageable. So when a customer asked. “Can I get this car for 200/month with no money down?” and you know that it will actually take $10,000 it is helpful to say no, not wait an hour to tell them that it isn’t possible. I had a customer thank me for saying no.

In short, don’t say “to be honest” because all it really infers is that you lied to them before. Nobody needs that. Just be honest all the time. It’s so much easier for everybody.

the more things change…

Ever talk to someone and immediately know that they are full of shit?

Having had an eclectic career, I have had the luxury of meeting a lot of people and as much as I hate to say it some people can be put in neat little boxes based on only a first impression.

Most of my career was spent in some incarnation or other in the car business. Between the wholesale auctions and retail sales I accumulated a lot of connections and a lot of knowledge. In addition, and perhaps most important, I acquired a lot of wisdom, particularly in the areas of first impressions and knowing when to speak and when not to. Bottom line, you don’t know what someone knows and someone out there always knows more than you.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the automotive industry.

I was at the top of my profession in every venue of the car business. At the auction I was industry recognized and respected for my remarketing skills. I was regularly recruited to opine about market trends, valuations and often called on to execute the arduous task of changing a powerhouse customer’s expectations about what they think their inventory is worth vs its actual value.

In retail sales I was always at the top of the board in sales and customer satisfaction. I made it my business, while my colleagues were pacing the parking lot looking for victims or smoking cigarettes, to study the competition; learn what my product had/didn’t offer vs similar models; and know my own product inside and out. The guys who didn’t do so remained at the bottom of the board. In addition, I was the guy who was given the toughest of customers. The unruly and hostile or just the aggressive and unreasonable ones were immediately sent my way. One colleague called me “Magic Man”, after he saw me spin around a real hostile customer. I was also called the “anti-salesman” because I never lied, never pushed with cheesy lines and I always stayed calm and focused. The things I always did was learn who I was dealing with, never show my hand and, here is the big one, I never ever talked out of my ass ( for lack of a better term). Even as a senior manager of a auto finance company I never violated that policy. Again, there is always someone smarter. Once you’ve revealed yourself a fool there is absolutely no turning back.

Sadly, few people in the industry learned what I did. In the few times since I was forcibly retired, I have had the displeasure of buying a few cars. In the process of helping my mother buy her Escape, buying my motorcycle and my most recent car I have had only one good experience.

It was a good experience because I told the salesperson up front, as I did with the others, that I’m experienced in the business. ANY salesperson worth his salt who hears this will immediately treat you differently. By differently I mean that they will be more generous in appraising your trade (I know within 100 dollars what any trade is worth), in the first offer of price and in product knowledge. This salesperson simply asked me what I wanted, how much I wanted for my trade and how much I wanted to pay for the trade. Each of my numbers were readily accepted without the dreaded haggling process and it was smooth. Other than that it was mostly terrible in my other experiences.

I recently traded my truck in (I got a fair offer on my trade and the new vehicle) at a local dealership. It is a used vehicle and as shit happens it has an issue with the drive train that needed to be addressed. I told the service manager exactly what the problem was and I was correct. As I waited for my car to be evaluated I struck up a conversation with a bored salesman. He was an older gent, clearly at the end of his career, and I could tell by his desk that he wasn’t very organized. A messy desk tells customers a lot about their salesperson btw.

We got to talking. I asked him how sales were, what was hot and what wasn’t in the product line, etc. It wasn’t long before he recognized that I was an industry insider but instead of bringing his A game and not embarrassing himself he went the other direction and began talking directly out of his ass. I contained myself, not the first person to do this in front of me and I don’t point it out to them, I just pop some popcorn and dig in for the ride. Some of the things he said about the auctions immediately told me that his auction experience consisted of watching Barrett-Jackson on his sofa in his underwear.

Just as it was getting good and I was almost unable to contain my snicker he was called into the Sales Manager’s office where his manager proceeded to dress him down. Completely unrelated to our conversation, the best I can guess is that he had had a conversation with a customer that was laden with multiple errors, errors that the Sales Manager was forced to correct at great embarrassment to himself and the dealership. He gave it to the guy pretty good. I felt bad for the guy but I was hopeful that it may cause him to evaluate his habits and improve so that it never happened again but I suspect that at his age it won’t lead to change. I watched him leave the Sales Manager’s office with his tail between his legs. I felt bad for him and I didn’t. The manager wasn’t wrong in what he said. It was how he did it that bothered me.

The Sales Manager shouldn’t have dressed him down with the door open. I don’t care how small and claustrophobic his shitty little office was, the showroom was even smaller relatively speaking and he should have shut his door. Everyone heard this poor bastard get it. THAT is a major no-no for all involved.

In my many years in the biz, I spent most of them in a management capacity. Employee morale is everything and all positive morale stems from proper communication. Yelling is the biggest offense, tearing someone a new one in front of his colleagues is almost as bad. Every conversation with an employee has to have balance. For every thing you tell them they’re doing wrong you should try to tell them what they are doing right. And always behind closed doors.

This Sales Manager, who I enjoyed working with when I did my paperwork, showed a lot of others how not to do things and the lesson he “taught” his employee is forever overshadowed by the way he carried it out.

It’s not a new thing, the industry hasn’t changed much since I left it and I fear it never will.

lofty standards

I am a quirky guy, that’s as nice as I can put it. I have certain expectations out of life. In addition to the sun rising each day, I expect electronics to work. I expect passwords to be accepted 2 times in a row. And I expect people to have an acceptable level of intellect and courtesy. I have lofty standards in some categories, others I have come to accept that we’re now grading on a curve.

The areas that I have learned to look the other way in are how people dress in public, personal hygiene, manners, tolerance, acceptance, lack of respect for personal space, attention spans, lack of respect for elders and an abhorrent lack of knowledge in civics and history.

The areas that I continue to have lofty standards in are respectful discourse, eye contact, professionalism in the workplace and doing your job well. As a manager of large staffs in several fields, I know when a person is good at their job. When I encounter someone, ranging from a clerk at a 7-11, a food server to a bank teller, if they have an attitude problem I am severely tempted to tell them to just quit already and make room for someone who gives a fuck. See, that’s my minimum requirement in life…give a fuck.

As a former sales professional, I am highly critical of those in sales. Particularly automotive sales. I did it and was damn good at it. Thorough, courteous and knowledgeable, I knew how to take care of my customer. Consequently I expect the same type of experience every 5 years or so when I buy a car.

This week my Mom got the itch to get a new SUV. She has had hers 5 years and she never keeps one longer than 5 years. A local dealership sent a notice about a recall, she reviewed it and asked me if I would go with her when she dropped hers off, in case she saw something she likes.

We saw a very nice one in a funky blue exterior, black gut and loaded. We asked for a salesperson to show it to us. Quite the opposite of the usual experience of being hounded when you first walk in, they had to find someone to help us. We were introduced to a nice guy, about my age. As he attempted to start the car he found it to be dead. Considering that is was 11 degrees with 30 mph winds it wasn’t alarming. He escorted us inside, jumped it and joined us inside as it warmed up. In conversation, as we made small talk as the car warmed up, I tossed it out there that I have been in “the biz” for over 2 decades. This serves to put a guy on notice that there will be no shenanigans today. He was pickin’ up what I was throwin’ down.

We went out to the now warm car and he asked us to get in. My mom got in the driver seat and he began to attempt to wow her with the center console. The one that wasn’t working. He was a little flustered but we got past it. The Nav screen, audio display and bluetooth set up was down but I assured my mother that I knew what it looked like and it’s very impressive. The salesperson was grateful for my save, and we drove it. Long story short, she loved it.

We went inside and asked to see some numbers. As he made small talk and drew up a proposal I played with my phone. He may have thought I was on Facebook but I was going to be his worst nightmare. I was running market reports on her trade and regional cost analyses on the new vehicle to see what others are paying. I knew there was 12% markup in domestics and quietly showed my mother what I came up with. Surprisingly they only came up 1000 more total than I wanted to pay. We got what I wanted. Easy, great deal, nice people and a good experience overall. We agreed to pick it up Monday night.

Last night was as cold as Friday was. But the car was ready, had a new battery, clean and warm. With a still-broken center console screen. Oooops. SMH. My mother was annoyed, the salesperson was flustered. He screwed up and he knew it. I asked what they were going to do and he asked if we could bring it in the next day (today). I told my mom that I would drop her off at work, bring it for her and wait for the work to be completed.

I did this as planned, waited 3 hours for them to tell me that it needed a part that they didn’t have that needed to be ordered. I told the salesperson that my mother wasn’t happy. He didn’t say anything. Here’s where I got annoyed. I said, “Really, that’s your answer? Do I have to spell it out for you?” He didn’t know what I meant. “What are you going to do for her because we’re going to be getting a little survey soon asking how you did. Do you feel me?” Crickets.

Finally, I spelled it out for him. I want you to do something for her! By the time I was done we had a promise of the first service free, a loaner when I drop it off on Friday, a full recon and a full tank of gas. Of course I had to spell it out for him with crayons and colored construction paper.

It’s difficult holding people to your own standards. It’s even ok to not be that adept at catching the sarcasm. It’s another altogether to not recognize that someone needs something and you need to give it. As a consumer I deserve it and as a person I expect it. Unfortunately, common sense is a plant that doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden.

Since when is knowing your shit a liability?