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Lesson’s Learned in the Field by a Car Buyer’s Agent

I may be slow, but I’m not stupid.  I don’t say this to dealers, but sometimes I want to.  Actually, I prefer to work at lightening speed.  I want to deal with the same dealers over and over and do things quickly, if possible, yet efficiently.  We don’t like to change dealers once we’ve met a good one.  Wow, that could sometimes prove unwise, as it did last Saturday.  

We have always said that our best client, “knows what they don’t know.” In other words, our best client knows that while they may be an expert in heart surgery, property management, pharmaceuticals and even Hollywood film production, they are not experts in car buying.  In fact, our average client buys a car once every four years.  Meantime, the dealer they are purchasing from, sells at least that many cars a week.  So who is best versed in the negotiation skills, the car buyer or the dealer?  You got it, the dealer has daily practice, the buyer has, at best, practice about every two to three years.

So, one of the MOST IMPORTANT things we’ve learned in the two years of practicing car buyer’s agents, and/or a national car buying service (whatever floats your boat!), is this: just because a dealer was magnificent and trustworthy 9 times out of 10 in the past does not mean that each a brand new deal is not, in fact, beginning a brand new relationship with any given car dealer.

Can you translate that?  OK, let’s get quite specific.  The great Peter Lawford, keeper of the beautiful British accent, of Passport Mini in Alexandria, VA.  Wow, did he ever do well with several VIP clients in 2013, including a internationally renowned lung surgeon who bought a brand new Mini Cooper that had to be located in Missouri and then brought to VA before being shipped to NC!  However…  Mindfulness is still the MOST important quality for every car buyer and every car buyer’s agent.  This same fellow, Peter Lawford, suggested that our (relatively) local clients just come on in for a test drive and he would work with me on the pricing of the used Mini Cooper Countryman they were going to drive in Alexandria, VA.  

So, rather than “wash, rinse, repeat” of our time-honored faithful companion of “get it in writing!!!”  I did NOT get it in writing before I brought our clients into his dealership.  Three hours later, two test drives later, these folks were ready to buy.  However, Peter wasn’t ready to negotiate.  Though he was kind enough to offer a price a mere $50.00 higher than he offered over the phone. ( “No, you shouldn’t have, Peter!” ) 

Then, much to my sheer shock and amazement, when we couldn’t come to terms on the price of the vehicle, Peter actually slipped into “payments” garble with me over the phone while our clients were still sitting in his dealership!  Well, none of our clients are payment buyers.  While payments are definitely important to some of our clients, our buyers are savvy enough to know that the bottom line and “amount financed” is all that is important in a given transaction.  A payment buyer can be tricked.  Seduced.  Cajoled.  Unduly influenced.  This is not something that interests a Car Pal client.  

Cajoled?  How so?  Well, slip me into a monthly payment, and suddenly I may not be attentive to the amount paid over time. True?  Yes, for some, but not for savvy Car Pal clients.  Needless to say, we’re done with Peter.  Our trusting clients went home that afternoon “sans new car.”  :(

The simple truth is this, however:  ”Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”  Those who are clever enough to hire Car Pal car buying services to begin with, are watching their total financial outlay.  That means that a 72 month payment is not just “what do I pay each month anyway?”  It becomes, “wait, how much am I spending over 6 years?”

The “adventure” with Peter Lawford at Passport Mini was quite unfortunate.  But good things evolve from bad events.  That door closed.  The door that opened?   Dan Vieldhouse from Prestige Mini in NJ.  I think we have a winner here!  Lesson learned though?  Absolutely.  The next time we have a Mini client in that area, Car Pal will contact Dan, but Car Pal will interview him and review our standards prior to engaging his services – each and every time.   “Wash, rinse, repeat.”  I want it in writing.  I don’t care if you’re my friend, I don’t care if I trust you, I don’t care if I have done business with you many times in the past, please put it in writing.  Let 2014 be the year for mindfulness for us all!  

Are you in the market to buy a car?  If so, call Car Pal!  336-601-6390. We offer free consultations.  If nothing else, we will remind you to be mindful.  Mindfulness (and patience, the little sister of mindfulness) can be worth a few hundred, and sometimes even a few thousand dollars, so it is worth it!

Because we, much like our clients, know what we don’t know, we acknowledge that we do not know if a given dealership has new management that may impact the great service qualities of our once beloved salesperson.  So, each day is a new day, and we shall interview a repeat dealer as if each deal is a brand new relationship between Car Pal and the dealership itself.

In the words of the English bloke, Peter Lawford of Passport Mini, for whom this blog is dedicated, 
Cheerio!
and 
Be MINDFUL!  

Lindsay Graham, YOUR Car Pal

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