How not to sell a car

Followers of my Twitter stream know that my wife and I bought a new car over the weekend. Our local Honda dealer, Vista Honda, was the very soul of helpfulness and the antithesis of the stereotypical dealer experience. Full marks to Ruben, Ramiro, and Stephanie for their help. This post is not about them.

The day before we bought the car, we traveled to a neighboring community to look at a competitor whose cars offered increased content at a reduced price. This post is very much about them. 

I was fairly sure we'd end up with a Honda anyway, but before laying out twenty large on a new car, it only makes sense to consider the alternatives. To that end, I wanted my wife (who would be the primary driver of the new car) to try one out, just to see if it might suit her equally well, and therefore save us a pile of cash. So we walked onto the lot, and were greeted by an old-style car salesman. "Oh, great," I thought to myself. "This isn't going to end well." We selected a couple of cars, test drove them, and left without making any commitments, because it was fairly clear that my wife was not as pleased by the cars we drove as she was with the Hondas we'd been considering. I might add that the salesman kept up a stream of bad jokes and negative comments about the competition throughout our time there, which did not help. Of course, in order to do a test drive, they made a copy of my wife's driver's license and took down our phone number. Fortunately, I was prescient enough to give them not our home or cell numbers, but my Google Voice number. 

The salesman called me a couple hours after we left. I let it go to voicemail (I should mention here that I always let sales calls go to voicemail as a matter of course).

The next day, he called me as I was driving home from church. Again, I didn't pick up.

An hour later, he called me again. I started to get seriously irritated at this point, and once again let it go to voicemail.

Then, three hours later, as my wife and I were seriously discussing a possible purchase at the Honda dealer, he called again. At this point, I started to get so irritated that even if I wanted to buy the brand of car he was selling, I'd go somewhere else. If his dealership was the last one on Earth, I'd take up horseback riding. A few hours later, my wife was driving home in her brand new Honda.

The calls resumed the following day, while I was at work. I decided, "enough is enough," and went into my Google Voice settings and first set all calls from that dealership to go to the spam folder, which means he'd hear a ring, then get my outgoing message, but my phone wouldn't ring and I wouldn't be notified of the call. Later, I had second thoughts, said "the hell with it," and blocked all calls from that number, which means that callers from that number would hear a message saying my number had been disconnected (have I mentioned how much I love Google Voice?).

This probably just confused him, because if you count the calls marked as "Unknown Caller" that were likely from him, he called a dozen times that day.

Now, I don't know about you, but if I called someone sixteen times and didn't get a return call, I'd figure they didn't want to talk to me, had no intention of doing so, and weren't going to buy a car from me. Call me crazy, but that's how it would look to me.

Not to him. Apparently, he went to the trouble of looking up our home number (we're in the book, although I'll be fixing that) and left a message on my home machine. This was infuriating. I never give out my home number any more; if I wanted to be called at that number, I'd have given it to him. I picked up the phone, dialed the dealership number, and someone else picked up. I left explicit instructions for the salesman to STOP CALLING ME! and hung up. So far, there's been no further contact.

You might be wondering why I didn't just call the guy at the outset. The reason is simple: I didn't feel that should be necessary. I didn't owe him anything. As much as I love cars, most of the ones on the market today are just overgrown appliances to me. When I go shopping for a refrigerator or a washing machine, I don't call the guy at Sears to let him know that gee, he was real helpful and everything but we liked the Whirlpool better and he shouldn't take it personally and we wish him all the best in the future. He's not my mother, my wife, or my boss. He's a freaking salesman, for cryin' out loud. 

Contrast this with the modus operandi of the dealership from whom we ultimately bought a car: each visit to the dealership was followed by a single phone call, thanking us for our visit and offering to answer any further questions we might have. When you are a modern dealership, with quality vehicles for sale, it isn't necessary to harass and annoy potential customers.

Unfortunately, that's a lesson that the other guys will probably never learn.