My husband went up to bed about forty-five minutes ago because he put in a full day at work today and got up two hours before the rest of us so much as stirred a toe out of bed.
As he was passing around the good-night smooches, I said to him, "Doesn't it feel good to go to bed knowing that we can just about get caught up with your paycheck next week?"
He looked disconcerted. "Oh. I meant to mention that to you earlier....but never mind. We can talk about it in the morning."
I was instantly electrified. "What? What do you mean 'mention it to me earlier'? Tell me now."
Do you remember the two trucks my husband sold that I put under the heading "Mysterious Ways" in my post titled "Reality Cheque" a few days ago? Well, one truck was delivered on Saturday and the other was to be delivered today.
The buyer of Truck #2 was a young man in his early twenties. My husband was a little nervous because he couldn't get the young man's credit approved -- this is not the kind of thing you look forward to telling customers who come to the dealership, all excited about getting their new vehicle. He tried to call him at his house, but there wasn't an answer.
When the guy showed up for his appointment, he had his father with him. My husband broke the bad news, but the young man didn't seem too worried.
"Oh, that's okay," he said easily. "My dad will co-sign for me."
"Really?" asked my husband, looking at the dad.
"Sure," said the guy's dad.
My husband said that he passed the paperwork across his desk for them to sign, but the father balked as he looked it over.
"Say," he said, frowning. "This isn't the original price you quoted."
"Excuse me?" asked my husband, bewildered. He had written down some figures on the back of a business card and given it to the young guy the previous Saturday; of course, they didn't have the card with them to verify that my husband had changed prices. But of course, since he is a car salesman, right up there with politicians and lawyers as the least trusted professional, he was the one who was trying to pull a fast one. Right?
"These aren't the same numbers," reiterated the father, pushing the papers back across my husband's desk. "You said you'd give him $xxxx for his trade-in, and that's not what's written here."
"No, that's not right, sir," my husband said. "This is the price I quoted, right here." He looked up just in time to see the son shoot a quick look at his father and then at my husband. The young man shifted his eyes away from my husband without meeting his gaze.
"We're just not going to buy this truck, then," declared the father. "This isn't right."
At this point, my husband felt that he was impaled on the horns of a dilemma. In a case like this, what you'd really like to do is tell the customer to bite you and go inflict their business on some other lucky dealer. But in times like these, you have to hold on to what you can grab. Plus, no dealership wants a customer to leave and go blabbing around that such-and-such dealership tried to cheat them.
"Let me go talk to my manager," said my husband.
"I thought that might change those number back," the father said smugly. Again, his son glanced at him and then looked at my husband, again failing to meet his eyes.
"I'll be right back." At that point, my husband, who has been doing this for enough years that he can spot a on a mile away, knew that the son knew the truth. What he didn't know yet was if the father was truly mistaken, or whether he was being played.
The manager of the dealership groaned when my husband explained the situation. "If we sell them that truck at the price you say you quoted, we aren't going to make a single penny on this deal."
"I know," my husband said quietly, mindful of listening ears in the showroom"But what do you want me to do? Which is better? To 'sell' this truck and make no money, or to not sell the truck and have him leave saying that we cheated him?"
In the end, they decided to change the numbers to the price the father claimed his son was originally quoted.
"I'm sorry for the misunderstanding..." my husband began as he came back to his desk.
"Misunderstanding?" snorted the father. "There's no misunderstanding here. You changed the numbers, that's all."
My husband just held his tongue.
As the dad and the young man were getting ready to leave in the new truck, the father made a smirking sort of comment to my husband, the kind that salesmen learn to roll off like ducks shed water, but would have me shaking his hand and then kneeing him in the goodies. Bye! Be sure not to come back when you're ready to trade that baby in, y'hear?
The son lingered outside for a moment as his father complacently settled himself in the passenger seat. "Listen," he said to my husband. "I know my dad was way off in there. Thanks for being patient with him, dude."
And my husband stood there and watched them roll of the lot, taking in the fact that -- as he suspected -- the son knew all along that his father didn't know what he was talking about, but instead of doing the honorable thing and correcting his dad, allowed his father to sit there and accuse my husband of cheating them. And then, there is the part about how, in order to protect the good name of the dealership, the manager and my husband re-worked the whole deal so that the customer was satisfied, even though not a penny was earned from the transaction.
In other words, my husband spent about three hours selling this truck to a client and he didn't make a single penny in commission. So much for getting almost all the way caught up on our bills.
I know this isn't a very postive way to start the new year, but sitting here and typing this out has taken some of the load off my chest. If I didn't know that my mom would beat me about the neck and shoulders with a Bible, it would have been much more colorfully worded: As an English major, I really enjoy those robust, full-bodied Anglo-Saxon epithets. It's a pleasure putting them to use, in homage to my mother tongue.
But anyhoo, I want to point out that people think car salesmen are the cheats and liars out there, yet they themselves are capable of being the biggest cheating shady-dealing swindlers you've ever heard of.
The other day, my husband had a deal completely written up with a customer. The financing was done; all the client had to do was sign the paperwork and take delivery of the vehicle. He came to his appointment, and before signing, he asked my husband for an add-0n that was valued at about $730.
"Oh, man," my husband told me he said. "I'm sorry. I must have missed that you wanted that on your truck package. I can have the body shop take care of that in a couple of hours, and I'll have to write the deal up again..."
"Oh, no, I don't want to buy it," said the client in surprise. "I just want you to throw it in, you know, like for free."
For once, my husband said, he was completely dumbfounded and just sat there looking at the man who honestly thought the dealership was going to hand out a $730 freebie. Coffee mugs, yes. Nice little vanity plates with the dealership's name on them, yes. 2008 calendars, yes. At trick-or-treat time, they even gave out free pumpkin carving kits to the kiddies who came in with their parents. But give-aways totaling $730? Uhmmm, no. But thanks for asking, you freak.
"I can't do that," my husband said firmly.
"Oh, come on," the customer said, giving my husband a jocular nudge. "Why don't you just take it out of your check?"
Why don't you just take it out of your check?
My husband thought of a number of things to say, beginning, of course, with:
"I'll take it out of my check if you'll explain to my children why we won't be able to buy groceries for the next three weeks."
Hot on the heels of:
"Why don't you take your *[expletive deleted, used as an adjective]* *[expletive deleted, used as a noun]* out of this building before I decide to kill you with my bare hands, my friend?"
Oh, it's not like I'm bitter or anything. Just another day in the life of a car salesman and his family. Happy New Year. Hee!
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