TOP TEN THINGS I LEARNED SELLING VOLKSWAGENS IN THE 70'S (Still to be proofread) 
Saturday, January 26, 2019, 10:35 AM
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I got my law degree from the University of Florida in 1983. I have not resided North of Gainesville since around 1979. I am not a carpet bagger or Johnny-come-lately. Still, some good things come from the North.

I sold cars at Volkswagen of Bayside (up a mile or two from the intersection of Northern Blvd. and the Cross Island Parkway) for about two years from the introduction of cars that only burned unleaded fuel, through a "gas crisis" where the days of the week you were allowed to buy gas depended on the last number of your license plate ("tag"). Anyway, with credit, of court, to Letterman for the "Top Ten" thing...here goes:

10. Nobody is going to say "yes" to your question: "Are you ready to buy, now?" if their arms are folded in front of them and they are turned away from you. Offer them a pen, throw a paperclip at them...do something to make them loosen up and open up and your odds of getting the "yes" increase.

9. If someone seems to be a time waster, they probably are. One day a man came in to the dealership and told me that he wanted to test drive one of our cars. I thought he was just killing time before heading over to catch a flight at LaGuardia Airport...about 5 miles away....that he wasn't a local and that he had no thoughts of buying a car. I told him "no" and said that he should leave. The sales manager, Frank, and the owner ("dealer"), Sanford, were sitting at one of the salesman's desks watching. I wondered what their reaction would be. They both stood and applauded.

To be continued.........going to buy PlayDoh and waffle mix at Target.

8. Men in the mafia have lots of free time and they know how to cook. I say this because Frank's brother and his friend, Joe, would come every Saturday around noon with lunch for everyone: a big tray of stuffed shells or manicotti It was always great. They both drove big cars. They didn't seem to work, anywhere. His brother lent money to a (girl) friend of mine when, after I left for Florida, she wanted to come visit me in Gainesville at law school. People would come to see Frank to buy cars because "___________, your brother, sent me." and Frank loaded up the cars with every over-priced option there was. This is all the evidence I need to make my conclusion (that men in the mafia have lots of free time and know how to cook).

7. Never work for a "piece of the net". In the car business (and many others) employees get a salary and commission. The idea is that if you are going to get commission---you want it based the gross (the total sale) and the net ("net profit"). Why? Because the business owner, will be the one subtracting out the expenses from the gross and determining the net, He/she will likely include as expenses: Lunch with his wife? Sure. Lunch with his mistress? Absolutely. The cost of his new pool? Yes. The gross is easy to determine (the amount that was paid), the "net" may be just a tax scam. Always demand that your pay be based on the gross. Thank you, Frank. (Oh, and if you're the owner, always in insist that commission be based on the net.)

6. Speaking of tax scams: How to get cash out of a new car sale. It was the late 70's and early 80's and I understood how taxi drivers and hot dog cart guys had a brown paper bag with $8,000-$12,000 in $20 and $50 dollar bills with them to buy a car(that is what a Volkswagen cost back then). I did not want to understand why cops had that kind of cash (but, some of them did). Here was Sanford's dilemma as it was told to me (I have no personal knowledge of any of this and am only reporting what I heard)---he wanted the cash and didn't want to put it on the books and pay taxes. But, there was a problem: car dealers "floor plan" cars---they don't own their inventory, the bank does. The bank keeps the title (really, a "Manufactures Statement of Origin" and doesn't turn it over until the car is paid for. So, the car had to be paid for. The question became: Where could he get $7,500 to pay the bank for the car so the dealership could get it registered, without using the cash from the brown paper bad? Here is how: 1) Gather up a few days of checks from the dealership parts department (checks were big back then, credit card not used so much and debit cards didn't exist). 2) Deposit the checks into the car account and use the money to pay the bank for the car. 3) Next time there is a parts department inventory, show the parts that were paid for by those misapplied checks as "shrinkage" (i.e. stolen parts, lost parts, broken parts...parts that were gone from inventory without being paid for). I don't think that now the above would work now (too much paid for by credit and debit cards....not a lot of cash around) and dealerships are so big that if the dealer (owner) wanted to take cash out, too many people would have to know.

5. Nobody is going to buy from you if you don't ask them to. Some people have trouble asking for money---they will not make great salespeople. "Do you want to buy it now?" is a good question to ask.......then, SHUT UP (whoever talks first loses).

4. Do not trust "Service Advisors" (sorry, service advisors). They makes commission on what they sell, they sell by telling customers they need things fixed and......maybe they do and maybe they don't. Sanford's dealership was small and the service department was within earshot of he sales department. There were two Service Advisors 1) Dave---he sold me the Honda CX500 motorcycle I drove to Florida before starting law school and 2) A man whose name I don't remember. I will call him "Pete". Pete was an Englishman with a big, happy mustache and a marvelous English accent that made him sound somewhere between authoritative and genius. Service opened around 8AM and by 9, Dave and Pete were on the phone with customers. One morning, I heard Pete on the phone and this is what he said "Good morning, Mrs. Smith, this is Pete from VW of Bayside. We have your car up on the service lift right now and, even though we didn't need to do it, just to be safe, we took off your front wheels to have a look at your brakes. I want to assure you that you do have a little bit of brake lining left and there is nothing you need to do right now but I don't think it will be more than a month, two at most before you'll have to bring your car back in to us. Anyway, just letting you know in case you want to have the brakes refurbished now while it's here and save yourself the trouble of having to come back." The problem was---and I confirmed this with Pete---that Mrs. Smith's car wasn't up on the lift, nobody had taken the wheels off and the story of the almost-gone brake pads? Pete was making it up (though he sure did sound sincere doing it).

3. Regular sized people are not hard to control if you get them from behind. At some point (I don't remember when), a man named Raja Rajaratnum became head of he Service Department. I believe that Raja Rajaratnum was from Sri Lanka. One day he took one of the of the helpers to the General Manager's empty office to fire him. He left the door open (leaving the door open when firing someone should have made it onto this Top Ten list). I happened to walk past and saw that the now-fired helper had grabbed Raja Rajaratnum, with both hands, by the throat, and was apparently trying to choke him out and/or kill him. Both of Raja's eyes were yellow and filled with streaks of red (all the time---not because he was being choked---he wore yellow tinted glasses to try to hide this). Anyway, at this point in time, I was very pleased to find out that the "full nelson" (from the back, one arm under each armpit---hands meet at the head and push down) that we learned in gym in high school actually worked (at least until other employees, larger than I, showed up).

2. Do not buy a used car in the rain. Frank always told me that it was easier to sell a used car than a new car (and, there is a LOT more money in it). "If you make them fall in love with a used car that we have", he said "they can only get it from us." A new car they can get from any dealer (and, where I was, there was a dealer down the street who would discount new cars and we didn't). Anyway, back to the point---you shouldn't buy a used car in the rain because raindrops will hide imperfections in the paint. And, if you are in the rain looking for a car, you are really invested in buying one, you likely won't have the time to start the search again, and you will land up accepting whatever you brought home. I've seen it happen more than once. Raining? Take an Uber to a movie and wait for a sunny day to car shop.

1. Car salesmen may play fast and loose with the truth but they aren't sociopaths (at least not in my experience). One chilly Fall day, we had a VW Beetle on the lot. I don't remember having one on the lot before this. When I started selling VWs, I sold a few of the last of the Beetles, the Made in Germany convertibles. The hardtops hadn't been imported for years. But, on this particular day, we had one---it was a very decent looking '68 or '69. We knew it had some mechanical problems, needed tires, hadn't been tuned up in years(cars, back,then, needed "tune-ups"--now, they don't--did you know that?) I took an "up" (the next person who walked onto the property who hadn't already spoken to another salesperson) who was very interested in the Beetle but, what stood out about him was that he seemed "learning impaired" (what was, in the distant, uncivilized past called "retarded). He wanted to buy the car. Frank got involved and he was not happy. Here was a car that most people would know needed work but this customer didn't have a clue. He bought the Beetle. It was a Saturday (dealers weren't open on Sunday in those days) and he was going to pick it up on Monday afternoon. Monday morning, I saw something happen that I had never seen happen before: Frank walked up to Pete (the Service Advisor) and told him "See that Beetle in the lot? I need for you to take it in and do whatever needs to be done and put on new tires." Frank had done some bad stuff to used car customers in the past---made promises he never intended to keep about paint and mechanical work----made promises he changed his mind about keeping---said he'd had promised work done that he hadn't BUT, he wasn't going to take advantage of the disadvantaged Beetle buyer. The dealership took a loss on the Beetle.

One more story: It was, as I have written, a small dealership. Sometimes, Harry and I were the only salespeople. Harry was in his mid-60s (as OLD as I am now), short, white-haired, Jewish. He had selling for Frank (moderate height, slicked back dark hair, Italian) for years and years. They worked at a Chevrolet store together and, when Frank got canned, Harry followed him to the VW store.

An "up", as I explained, is the next person who walked in the door or onto the lot of a dealership who doesn't "belong" to another salesperson. When it is the salesman's turn, he takes the up. I'd noticed for a while that Harry frequently knew people who walked in to the front door of the dealership. He's see them coming through the giant, plate glass windows and walk to the door and be ready with a "Hi Bob, it's great to see you again,". That made it plain that the person walking in wasn't an up...he or she was Harry's "be back". So, Harry had dibs and it wasn't my up even if it was my turn.

Because I am not the brightest spark in the fire, it took me a long, long time to realize that the customer's name wasn't "Bob" or "Stan" or "Hyam" or whatever. Harry was just making up a name to steal the up from me. I told Frank and Frank said "It's not my problem."

I learned a lot from that. Maybe, that was the #1.
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