There was a term in the car sales business called hammering someone. That’s when a salesman has a customer that he literally hammers into signing the paperwork to purchase a car. It’s a high-pressure sales tactic, something that I did not believe in. I sold plenty of cars just by being myself and trying to help my customers find the right car for their needs and budget. However, there was that one guy…
They were the first customers on the lot that day, arriving in two vehicles; him in a decked-out four-wheel-drive Chevy Silverado pickup gleaming with chrome add-ons, and her in a four-door 1961 Chevy Biscayne with faded paint, worn out upholstery, and a lot of miles on it. They got out of their respective vehicles and the man said, “My wife thinks she needs a new car. She doesn’t, but I’m tired of listening to her complain. Help her find something quick, so we get this over with.”
I introduced myself and asked her what kind of car she had in mind, and he said, “Something cheap. The only place she goes to is the grocery store and our daughters’ houses to see the grandkids. What’s the cheapest new car you have on the lot?” I showed them a couple of base models while he stood with his arms folded across his chest, shaking his head, saying, “There’s no reason for you to have a new car. Anytime we go anyplace, we take my truck.” He also told her to make up her damn mind because he had to meet the boys for lunch. A couple of times, she opened her mouth to say something and he gave her a look, and she quickly changed her mind about that.
We settled on what actually was the least expensive car we had in stock, but it was still too much as far as he was concerned. When he looked at the window sticker, he said, “I’m not paying for air conditioning. She doesn’t have air conditioning in her car now and doesn’t need it for as little as she drives.” He also mentioned again that we needed to speed this up because he was having lunch with the boys. I told him that it was Tucson, Arizona, and I didn’t think I’d ever seen a new car come through any dealership that didn’t have air conditioning. He muttered that it was a waste of money, then said, “Okay, here’s the deal. I’m not paying more than $225 a month, I’m not putting any money down, and that car of hers is a classic so don’t try to rip me off. My buddy told me he’d give me $10,000 for it today.”
I suggested we go inside and work the numbers. She started to say something and he shot her a look, and really did say, “Hush.” There was no question in my mind that this woman had been browbeaten ever since the day she said, “I do.” I didn’t like the man, but I decided he wasn’t walking out of there without buying his wife that car under MY terms.
As we were going inside, I paused to look at his truck and complimented him on having such a nice ride. “You bet your ass it’s nice,” he said. “It’s got every option they make. Most expensive one they had on the lot!” I asked if it came with the tonneau cover and the chrome push bar and bed rails and running boards, and he said no, he had had all of that added on and told me the truck had a stereo system that would blow my mind.
We sat down, and as I started trying to work the numbers, he reminded me again that we needed to get things going as he was having lunch with the boys. He also reminded me that he wasn’t putting any money down, and his friend would give him $10,000 for his wife’s old car that very day, so I’d better sharpen my pencil. I crunched the numbers and said, “All right, here’s where we’re at. I can give me $3,000 for your trade, and I need $2,000 down, and your payments are going to be $255 a month.” I smiled at him, and as expected, he hit the roof. “I told you I’m not paying more than $225 a month, and you can forget any down payment because it ain’t gonna happen. And like I said, my buddy says that car of hers is worth $10,000.”
“No problem,” I told him, nodding my head in agreement. “You said your buddy will give you $10,000 for that old Chevy today even though it doesn’t have air conditioning and it‘s a three-on-the-tree shift with almost 200,000 miles on it because it’s a classic. So let’s do this. Give me a check for $5,000, which is your $2,000 down payment and the $3,000 trade allowance I offered you. I’ll hold the check a couple of days, so you can sell her car to your buddy for $10,000 and still put five grand in your pocket. Problem solved.” I handed him a pen and told him where to sign.
His mouth looked like a fish’s does when you pull it out of the water, and he sat there for the longest time. Then he remembered his other demand. “I told you I wasn’t gonna pay more than $225 month.” I told him I remembered him saying that, then said, “We’re running out of time if you’re meeting your friends for lunch.” I asked him where they were meeting, and he mentioned a popular café not far away. His wife spoke up and said, “He can be a little late. They get together every day.” He gave her a look, but at least he didn’t say “hush” again.
I said I had been in that diner, and they sure had some good-looking waitresses. Then I casually asked, “Please tell me you’re not one of those cheapskates who sit there half the day shooting the bull and then only tips the waitress a quarter. I hate people like that.” “Hell no,” he replied. “I always leave a buck or two.” I smiled and sprung the trap when I said, “That’s interesting. You’ll give some good-looking young waitress in tight jeans a buck or two every day. But your wife, the woman who raised your kids, the woman who’s been by your side all these years, the woman driving a beat-up old stick shift car with no air conditioning while you drive that big fancy truck of yours isn’t worth a dollar a day to you. Because that’s what we’re talking about, a dollar a day. That’s $30 a month, which covers the rest of the car payment. I’d pay a dollar a day just to have her drive by in her new car with an automatic transmission and air conditioning and wave at me. But I guess we all know what your wife is worth to you, don’t we?” There was silence at the table for what seemed to go on forever, and then his wife looked at him and said, “Sign the damn paperwork. Now!”
Sometimes you do have to hammer people. And it’s not about the commission you will receive.
And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. It’s things like this that keep me up late at night thinking about the choices I have made in my life.
Thought For The Day – Please cancel my subscription to your issues.