The Art Of The Deal—Car Salesmen


In my lifetime, many things have changed, some even for the better.

There was a time when 7-11 was only open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Who needs a bank teller when you can get cash out of a machine whenever you need it? Music has evolved from vinyl records to cassettes and 8-track tapes to CDs, and now it’s available via streaming. You don’t need to have the physical product anymore. I have more than 400 CDs and records, what am I supposed to do with those?

Technology has certainly changed our lives, but the jury may still be out on if it’s made our lives better.

But the art of buying a car has not changed at all. Oh sure, you have more information at your disposal about the specifications of the vehicle (thanks to the internet) and its history (don’t believe everything you read). You can even compare one dealer’s prices with another to see if you are getting a “good” deal. But unless you are buying a car from your uncle Joe, you will most likely come face-to-face with a car dealer.

Is there any other situation, other than going to the dentist, that sends shivers down your spine at just the thought of it? In what other retail situation does the sales person seem to be speaking English, yet you don’t quite understand what they are saying? When you go to JC Penney to get a pair of pants, you don’t need to take a Xanax. You need a size 42, you buy a size 42. It has a price tag of $29.99, you pay $29.99 (plus tax).

The jeans aren’t on display without price tags. You don’t negotiate the price. The smiling salesman doesn’t say “Sorry, the $29.99 price is only for new customers, but you can have those jeans for just $35.99 if you also take the two-year extended warranty. Oh wait; you want pockets on those jeans? Yes, the display model does have pockets, but not all the jeans come with pockets. Unfortunately, this model doesn’t have a zipper, but the next model up does and it’s just $39.99. You know what? If you take these jeans today, I’ll throw in the pockets!”

While checking out cars with my youngest son recently, we went to a Nissan dealer with several used “Rogue” models available. We looked up the price ($16,200) on the dealer website, compared it to other dealers using (it was in the same ballpark) and decided to go for a test drive. While discussing the terms of the pricing, I mentioned the $16,200 price and was told that price included a down payment of $3,000. I told the dealer we were looking to put more down to reduce the amount borrowed, and could I get a better price?

He said the more you put down, the lower the price gets, which seemed logical to anyone who has ever taken math in first grade. But I wanted a better starting price than the $16,200. With a grin that would have made the Grinch proud, he said that wasn’t the price. The car was priced at $19,200; the advertised price of $16,200 already includes a down payment of $3,000.

On what planet does the advertised price include a required down payment?

I understand that car salesmen must make a living, everyone does. Sometimes you just do what you have to do, you know? This is America, after all.

But must car dealerships treat us like this with a sly smile on their face? Don’t they already have a monopoly on auto sales? How else are you going to buy a new or “certified” used car, on Amazon?

Please understand that I have had both horrible and wonderful experiences with car dealerships and will continue to bring my business where I feel comfortable, avoiding the snake oil salesman. My dealership has been honest and forthcoming with me and I have made quite a few purchases from them.

Of course, I have no idea if they are taking complete advantage of me behind my back because I’m not sure I speak and understand “car salesman.” But at least I get a genuine smile every time.

I better stop at the 7-11 and get some cash so I can get my hair cut. Now that’s a profession that technology hasn’t really changed.

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Paul DiSclafani is a columnist for Massapequa Observer. He has called Massapequa home for 50 years.

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