Next Friday is Halloween, and in the spirit of that ghostly occasion I want to share some scary deals (or scenarios) that I've witnessed in the retail automotive industry.
I'm not talking about discounted prices and financing rates so low that it sends shivers of fear through the hearts of sales managers and dealer principals. Rather, I want to discuss some atypical and bizarre incidents that could be classified as scary.
A scary deal that happens at many dealerships involves selling the same vehicle twice. It's by accident - most dealerships employ multiple salespeople and it's impossible for each to know what deals the other reps are working on.
When the same vehicle is sold twice, there is a law that says whoever signed the deal first gets the car (regardless of what the other buyer paid). This is a fair way of dealing with an awkward situation.
Another scary deal involves a salesperson, a car buyer and a set of car keys (you can guess where this is going). The salesperson leaves the keys on his desk and goes to speak with his manager. When he returns, he discovers that the keys, the car and customer are gone.
On the subject of disappearing cars, I've also witnessed scenarios where a vehicle was left idling outside on a dealership lot during winter. During the few moments when the car was unattended, a thief stole it.
Another situation is the scary test-drive. A customer arrives appearing to be calm and low-key while in the showroom, but during the all-important test drive, that customer becomes a wannabe Indy driver who nearly kills the sales rep and anyone on the road around.
Then there is the creepy customer who is more interested in the sales rep than in buying a car. This individual becomes a borderline stalker by continuously contacting the sales rep and hanging around without any intention of purchasing a car.
Selling a vehicle can take less than an hour, or it could take months. On occasion, we encounter scary deals where a salesperson spends hours with a customer explaining the various features, benefits and pricing, and accompanying the customer on a test drive.
The vehicle is then sold and taken off the market, only to discover that the customer has no credit history whatsoever. Customers don't require Triple-A credit to buy or lease a vehicle, but they need some credit history to complete a transaction.
With many car buying transactions, customers will offer a vehicle for trade, the agreed price of which is factored into the sales agreement when purchasing a new car.
But upon closer inspection (on very rare occasions), the trade-in is discovered to have extensive structural or flood damage that wasn't disclosed at the time of the appraisal.
This type of revelation usually undermines the original appraised value of the trade-in and it could even scuttle a deal if the car's undisclosed issue is serious enough.
Trade-ins can present scary scenarios of a different sort. Salespeople advise customers to clear out any personal belongings from their trade before delivering it to the dealership.
On occasion, however, items are missed that could be deemed personal in nature. I'll leave it to the reader's imagination to wonder at the odd assortment of personal effects that we have discovered under the seats or in the trucks of cars.
On that cheerful note, on behalf of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, I wish everyone a happy Halloween and please remember to drive with caution. Little ghouls and goblins will be out in full force on Friday night and they're often hard to see in the dark.