Jan 082022

My father taught me many things, and one of the most important was to never judge a book by its cover. There was a grumpy old man in our neighborhood who never smiled and would barely acknowledge anyone when they said hello to him. Everybody called him Mr. Grouch. One day I said that I wondered why he was always in such a bad mood and why someone who acted that miserable all the time even wanted to be alive. It turned out my dad knew the man and his story and told me that during World War II his ship had been torpedoed and he had watched many of his friends burn to death before they could get off the ship or drown when they did. While he came through the ordeal physically unscathed, like so many veterans of so many wars, he carried psychological scars that nobody could see that were deep and painful. We never know what the person next to us is going through, just as we never know so many things about other people.

One of the easiest car sales I ever made happened soon after I went to work for the dealership. It was a cold, rainy winter’s day in Tucson (yes, they get them sometimes), and there hadn’t been a customer on the lot in hours when a Yellow Cab pulled in and an old man in bib overalls and a striped railroad cap got out. There were four of us salesmen on duty, and the other three didn’t want to go out in the rain to mess with the old geezer. So I went outside and said, “If you’re here in this weather, you must need a car.” He shook his head and said, “No, I need a truck. I come here every winter to get out of the cold, and I’ve got an old Ford that I keep in the carport. It hasn’t wanted to start the last two years and is giving me all kinds of trouble, and I’m tired of messing with it. Show me a nice truck.”

So I did, and he settled on a brand new F-150 that certainly wasn’t the fanciest truck on the lot, but there was no question that it would start when he turned the key. We went inside, and I was prepared to negotiate a deal with him when he said, “I have to get home, I’m taking a pretty lady to dinner and I ain’t got time for all that nonsense. Just tell me how much it is and I’ll buy it.” Figuring what the heck did I have to lose, I gave him the full retail price, and he said, “Sold. Will you take my check from back home in Pennsylvania?”

I wasn’t sure about that, so I went to ask the sales manager, and he told me to call the bank the check was drawn on and see if the old gentleman had enough money to cover the purchase. This was before the days of the Internet, so I had to have an operator find the telephone number of the bank for me in the little town of Palmyra, Pennsylvania. When a lady answered the phone there and I told her I was trying to verify funds on a large check and gave her the gentleman’s name, she asked me to hold for a moment. Then a man came on and said he was the bank manager, and he understood that one of their customers was there to purchase a truck and I needed to know if he had the funds to cover the check. I told him that was true, and he asked if it was an old guy named Harvey, with bib overalls and a railroad hat, and a chaw of tobacco in his cheek. I said yes, that was him. The bank manager said, “Son, if he wants to buy the whole damn dealership, give him the keys and I’ll guarantee the check. He owns half of Lebanon County.”

Well, all right then. We got the paperwork signed, Harvey handed me a check, shook my hand, and drove off the lot. The other three salesmen who didn’t want to go out in the rain were still sitting inside the showroom complaining about what a wasted day it was. Nope, never judge a book by its cover.

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Thought For The Day – Some people dream of success while others wake up and work.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  5 Responses to “Car Sales Stories – Never Judge”

  1. Why am I not surprised, another fugal person from Lebanon County, Pa. Part of the Amish/Mennonite area. Riddle for the Day: What is the difference between an Amish/Mennonite and a canoe?

  2. I live on Cape Cod. In the early seventies my very eccentric aunt hitch hiked to the local Chevy dealer to buy a car to drive to Boston because her old jeep wouldn’t start. She was barefoot. When she walked into the dealership the salesmen told her there were no public restrooms. When said she needed a car they all smiled and said and just how are you going to pay. She replied “with cash” and produced a brown shopping bag filled with money and they fell all over themselves. After the car was ready the salesman said he was happy to have sold her the car. She said “you didn’t sell me anything, I had to beg you to buy it”. I had a young family at that time and when she returned from Boston she gave me the Chevy 2 Station wagon. I’m 83 years old now, but I remember that moment clear as a bell.

  3. Seems a 100% cash sale would have earned the buyer a nominal discount?
    He saved everyone involved a ton of time & effort…Yes?

  4. Franklin, as I wrote in the blog post, I was prepared to work out a deal with him and he didn’t want to waste any time, just tell him the price and he would buy it. So I did and he did.

  5. I’m just amazed it was that fast. The last car I bought, I paid outright for it and I was still at the dealership nearly 5 hours. Since that was the first time I’ve ever bought a car with cash I figured it was normal.
    Guess I need to put my foot down the next time I go shopping, as I mean to pay cash again.

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