Matt Harwood

A window into the life of a car dealer

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Actually it goes both ways with an orphan car.  Often the buyer is looking for that Particular car and happy to find it in good shape, usually with not alot of competition.  On the other hand if trying to sell it to the average joe on the street,  that could be difficult.  Try selling a Corvette.  Especially anything performance oriented.

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I wonder if the rude and insulting angle as a buyer has ever worked for anyone. I have always found that being respectful and decent have got me the best deals.

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Glad there are no folks like that to deal with in the restoration business <eyeroll>.  We have turned down more than one potential client because of their attitude.

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2 hours ago, Restorer32 said:

Glad there are no folks like that to deal with in the restoration business <eyeroll>.  We have turned down more than one potential client because of their attitude.

I opened a boat shop to restore wooden boats.  I also did Carpentry but wanted to get back into boats as I liked working in my shop not at other peoples places.  I turned away all (the few that stopped)  the potential customers because every boat they wanted restored was a junk lap strake construction one and needed a complete over haul.  Basically you had to build a new boat using their hardware.   I never had an unhappy customer though :)   It's mighty tough to extract 40 to 60 G from somebody to rebuild a boat that's worth 10G on a good day.  None were family boats.  They were all rotten hulls people had just picked up for a couple grand and found out they all leaked like a siv.  The good stuff Hacker, Chris and Garwood, were already locked up by other shops in the area. 

In the end of my carpentry business (I went a different direction) I got really good at turning down work.   For the most part my current line of business is less stressful. 

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19 hours ago, 60FlatTop said:

Stacks of hundreds across the hood compensates for a lot of personality defects in the buyer

 

Yup, this one found a new home over the weekend.

2018-03-21 2018-03-21 001 001.JPG

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3 hours ago, Restorer32 said:

Glad there are no folks like that to deal with in the restoration business <eyeroll>.  We have turned down more than one potential client because of their attitude.

 

 

We NEVER take a job with a value over 10K without doing an extensive interview with the customer, to be sure they understand what they are getting into. Anything we work on MUST be fixed to our satisfaction in the way we see fit, or we won't do the job. Fortunately there are people who understand craftsmanship and excellence. We have never had a back log of work that wasn't at least 9 months out, currently we have at least 24 months work in front of us, and are not looking for work. (Shop up north that I work with, now only intermittently.) The standard "budget" or "job quote" is parts and labor by the hour, including research and parts location. It's ALWAY going to cost more than you think. 

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It is never easy,

I used to answer questions like the one the potential buyer asked with questions, to stimulate some sort of thought track. 

Is it perfect? 

Perfect........ depending on the application you want to use it for, what are you intending using it for? Are you familiar with National Judging in clubs such as the AACA? 

 

In your case it almost seems like it was a prank call....

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Matt, I have always loved buying cars but always hated selling them. Your website does a great job of presenting the inventory with detailed descriptions and ample well produced photos. Part of the problem with people like the one you describe is that they don't read the details or look at all the photos unless they fit on a single cell phone screen. What percentage of your customers are in the negative extreme like this guy?

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24 minutes ago, edinmass said:

 

 

We NEVER take a job with a value over 10K without doing an extensive interview with the customer, to be sure they understand what they are getting into. Anything we work on MUST be fixed to our satisfaction in the way we see fit, or we won't do the job. Fortunately there are people who understand craftsmanship and excellence. We have never had a back log of work that wasn't at least 9 months out, currently we have at least 24 months work in front of us, and are not looking for work. (Shop up north that I work with, now only intermittently.) The standard "budget" or "job quote" is parts and labor by the hour, including research and parts location. It's ALWAY going to cost more than you think. 

 

We seem to think alike. For the most part though we have had good customers and like you could lock the doors and we would still be working 2 years from now. Some folks we just have to tell, in as nice a way possible, that they cannot afford the quality work we do. We tell folks we do only one quality work and that is the best we can. We bill strictly time and materials. Only way you can stay in business. 

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After the restoration of one of my vehicles was done I would get a LOT of inquiries as to who did the paint and body work. At that point I did a pre-screening interview for the body shop that did my work. During that interview I told the person what they should expect as far as quality of work, cost (ie not cheap) and the expectations the body shop had when it came to a potential customer. If the potential customer got past my pre-screening then they met with the body shop owners to have a more in-depth interview. A very few of these inquiries turned into actual projects for the body shop that all turned out the same. The customer had a HUGE SMILE on their face when they picked up their finished vehicle and the shop had a VERY satisfied customer who always spoke highly about the quality of the work.

 

Charlie

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I would say perhaps 10-15% of my calls are like this. I do not believe it is a crank call, but as someone else said above, probably more a problem with expectations and language. To me "perfect" is a bad word because it's not achievable and if I do say, "Yes, it's perfect," sooner or later someone will call me on it and demand that I pay them something to make it perfect. So I never say it and as with this guy, I won't commit to perfection in a car.

 

And that brings me to my second thought which is that there are definitely guys who will try to back you into a corner and get you to commit to something that they can use against you later, and I'm always wary of that. I won't ever tell someone something that isn't true, good or bad. I won't over-promise on the thought that someone is trying to game the system. I am perhaps fortunate that I don't get a lot of complaints, but that comes from both selling only quality cars and from being straight with people and not letting them maneuver the conversation into a place where I'm saying something I can't back up. There are plenty of people trying that game.


In this particular case, I think it was just that the guy didn't understand that an old car can be something other than perfect. There was more to our conversation. He was a relative newcomer to the hobby, although he  pointed out that he has owned old Porsches in the past (if '80s 944s can be old). I will admit that I don't travel in Porsche circles, but I have to believe there are cars that are something other than perfect at Porsche shows. But in this case, I think he was simply thinking in binary terms--either a car is perfect or it's junk, and there is no in-between. As I said, I probably could have told him it was indeed perfect and he would probably have been delighted with the car, small flaws and all (it's a really nice car). To him, maybe perfect isn't the same as free of any and all defects. Maybe he was really trying to ask if it was a "nice" car the way most of us use that particular word. And yes, it's a very "nice" car that we'd all stop to admire if we saw it at a show. It seems to be terminology problem but since I'm hard-wired to avoid saying "perfect" at all costs, I think I simply said too much for him to process. There are definitely times when too much information is worse than too little. Maybe this was one of them--I was trying to educate him on the difference between a good car and a perfect car, while he was only able to understand perfect vs. project. 

 

Yes, it was a frustrating call, but there was no malice in it--he just didn't get it and I probably said too much. As I said, sometimes you can be too honest and give them too much information and if they don't know how to parse it, it becomes noise.

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In my experience Porsche people are  inclined to obsess about perfection. If that's your thing you will probably fit right in with the Porsche crowd . They often seem to think that the ideal is a 50 + year old car that is brand new. Patina is often seen as something to avoid at all costs. 

 My former supervisor at work was a 911 nut. Grew up in a high ranking European military family . Everything was about a polished like new appearance. Drove his Porsche quite a bit, but always back in the garage and a complete clean up before the next use.  

Pretty much the same at the workplace as well, drove the rest of us nuts fussing over details.

 

Greg in Canada

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 This is all part of the business. Try not to dig too deep into it. Every business has problems, every hobby has problems, every person has problems. Every day, you may encounter problems and that includes difficult people. It's how you cope and how you deal with problems/difficult people that makes your day brighter. Easier said than done right? Yea, we all wish. Although I have a dealer's license, I am not really a car dealer. I have had the dealer license and my dealer plates through my towing business and will continue to renew my dealer tags as I need them for moving cars around. I am a Repo Man by trade so you can only imagine what kind of ticked off people we deal with on a regular basis. I have seen it all just like many of you have when it comes to selling a car. Several very important things I have figured when it comes to selling. First, do not bring strangers to your home, meet them at a nearby public place. If they don't like that, forget them. Never deliver a car unless it's paid for in full, people will try and offer less now that the car is an their driveway, they figure you don't want to drive or tow it back home and they are right. This is all common sense one would think. However, sometimes, you just never know. Being a Repo Man is not easy, you would think anyone can do it but that is not the case unless you want to get attacked on a regular basis. I had professional training in Psychology for a long time for this line of work so I can spot a nutcase a mile away or just by listing to him talk over the phone. Go by what your gut feeling tells you. If something does not feel right, IT IS NOT RIGHT.

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Round numbers:

-80% of customers are OK to work with, no big issues, do a deal and move on. 

-10% of customers, you sort of enjoy working with, because they sort of know what's what, and it's just fairly easy sailing. 

-5% of your customers are fantastic, they've done they're homework, they know what the deal is, they know as much as you do about the merchandise, and it's a pleasure doing business with them. 

- Oh, and then there's the last 5%, the pain in the arses.  Those are the ones who tell you that you're trying to rip them off, they can get a better deal at the other guy's store, and when you offer to give them directions to the other guy's store, they get pissed off.  THOSE are the ones that make life miserable.

Trimacar you are correct, you just described a bell curve which anyone who deals with the public knows their customers follow a bell curve.  You got the real good, the real bad, and the vast majority in between. 

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8 hours ago, 1912Staver said:

Porsche people are  inclined to obsess about perfection

Matt, you explained a lot when you said the call came from a Porsche collector.

 

Not to beat up on any class of collector, but I've owned one Porsche in my life, and I'll tell you what happened when I went to sell it.

 

It was a 1985 cabriolet, beautiful car with low miles.  My boss at the time owned it, I'd driven it and he said he wanted $16K for it.  I wasn't interested.  Time went by.  We were passing in the hall one day, he asked when are you going to buy the Porsche?  I said now, for $11K.  He said yes.

 

Car drove like a dream, it was white with black top and interior, near perfect.  Had a lot of fun with it.

 

Came time to sell, I advertised, for around 15K.  A fellow called, then came to see it with his mechanic in tow.  I was at work, so left them with the car.  He showed me a piece of metal, and explained that it was a gage, that every Porsche had such and such millimeter clearance on door and trunk and hood seams, and this would tell him how good the car was.  Hmmmmm....really?

 

He came back into my office, had a legal pad, two pages filled out.  He said OK, this is wrong, that's $100 off, this is not right, that's $200 off, and about the third item I said whoa, that's not how this works.  I have my asking price, you can make an offer, but we're not going item by item with discounts.

 

He finally made a lowball offer, and I said goodbye.  The car sold soon after to a fellow who wasn't quite as anal.   So, now I understand the "perfect" questions.....

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Trimacar. There’s that word again “perfect”. Gets you into trouble every time!

 

dave s 

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Tex: I resemble your remark. Personally hate to sell anything, in recent years have given away more than I have sold (or bought). Has nothing to do with attachment (though do like my current herd (down to five) and feel each has a specific purpose & "a keeper". Had the Reatta Coupe out today. 30 years old and rides better than my '01 roadster. Easy to read digital gauges including the touchscreen and built in diagnostics. 3800 starts on a touch of the key. Cold AC for a 90+ day. Roof vent when parked. Can see out the back without a camera.

 

Life in a no-rust target-rich environment is nice. Have kind of a vague longing for a DOHC retractable with a five speed manual since both of my droptops are automagic. Not many made in the last century but are a few and mostly depreciated out.

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I have a great deal of difficulty in trying to wrap what's left of my 'brane' around the concept of "perfection".  I don't think that I've ever encountered the embodiment of "perfection" except in the case of perfect "ash-wholes".  Of course, I'll never admit in writing that, on occasion, I've been one of those A-Ws.  The truth sometimes hurts, but it often is the route to understanding ...

 

Cheers,

Grog

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11 hours ago, trimacar said:

He finally made a lowball offer, and I said goodbye.  The car sold soon after to a fellow who wasn't quite as anal.   So, now I understand the "perfect" questions.....

 

As a semi-retired auto,truck, motorcycle dealer; I look back on some of the crazy things, some customers tried to pull. 

 

Just a a few years ago a customer had approached us in trying to find a 1970's certain classic Japanese motorcycle. The bike is currently one of the hottest, affordable, collectible, being sought out.  We had one in storage, a nice, low mile, original bike.  Had been in storage for several years; so it needed a thorough going over, even to be a really nice driver. 

 

He say's he has this certain  amount of $ to buy one.  OK, we have your bike; showed him pictures and then the actual bike.  Got it out of storage, and  put a battery in it; and a few other checks and the bike was running and driving. Ran nice too, and looked even better.   Here is your bike! 

 

But wait, he goes down the street to a new OEM dealer and wants them to do an estimate on getting it "show ready".  They knew we had this bike and concurred it is a nice one. But he wanted an estimate for new tires, not just a tune-up but an engine check to include any disassembly needed, some new cables, and a little chrome and paint work.  Of course they were trying to judge is level of "show ready", and the potential cost.   Remember this is a pretty nice bike.

 

Fast forward ahead:   He gets his estimate and says, " I will buy this bike at your price minus the "show ready" estimate.  we say: The bike is still for sale at our offered price, (even though we screwed around with him for 2 weeks).  He seemed not to understand and got upset.  Conversation Over, Don't come Back

 

intimeold 

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I understand the Porsche buyer thing.  I came into one that I was buying from/ selling for an older gentleman.  Nice guy.  He eventually said you need to buy my Porsche.  It was 2 years ago and was a '09 boxster.  Nice care,  but had an altercation in a parking lot and had paint work done.  The outside looked good.  I wish they had done a little better work in the door jambs.  It wasn't terrible but a paitn guy could tell it had had paint work.  It was a rust free car that took a couple of hours to detail and showed no wear inside at all.  He gave me a price I couldn't refuse.  I told him I didn't have the money in hand but could give him a very nice down payment and pay it off over the next 6 to 8 months.  He was more than happy because I believe he was in a bit of a financial bind.  I had it for a couple of months and paid off a portion of it,  but really knew they could use more money,  so I told him I would market it and if i could sell it sooner for him,  I would.   It was early winter so not a good time to sell one,  but I put it out there. I had a few bites and one guy actually came and looked it all over.  Not quite as anal as your guy but he was picking everything (which other than the paint wasn't much) other than one tire had some sidewall damage,  I had an exact replacement (those are special tires on them) and would have it taken care of.  He called me back after a day and really tried to lowball me.  I said,  look I have it at a very good price,  about 4 grand cheaper than any of the the other ones in the area with higher miles (it only had around 21,000) on it.  I really wouldn't have minded keeping it besides.  Anyways when I told X and that's it,  it took him about a day to come around.   This car had never seen snow or salt.  The day he came for it was our first snow storm.  I told him I would flatbed it to keep it out of the salt.  He could leave it in my heated shop until he got a nice day to move it.  Nope he headed out in the 2 inches of slop on the roads,  with those summer street slick type tires.  I believe he made it home OK.  I never heard from him again.  He's all worried about condition then takes it right out in the salt.  Not even dry salt,  but wet slush, then down the interstate 10 miles.  I guess maybe condition wasn't as important as he thought. 

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Who knows the chocolate ice cream joke? How do you spell the p-e-r in perfect?

 

When you recognize your customer, it is "perfectly" OK to tell him.

Bernie

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Matt, the Ford convert was NOT "PERFECT" when it left the factory.

People are more demanding these days, with FAT check books and SLIM knowledge and NO respect for one another..

To sum it up Matt, as my Father always told me ....... there are more horses asses out there than horses.

Edited by bobg1951chevy (see edit history)
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50 minutes ago, bobg1951chevy said:

as my Father always told me ....... there are more horses asses out there than horses.

 

My dad always said there is an ass for every seat. Growing up in a family of Car Salesmen, Sales Managers, General Managers and New Car Dealerships, I think I've heard about every (avoiding the more colorful terms) tire kicker story that can be told. As I read Matt's posting I expected to find favorite ( more colorful term ) phone call question. "what's the least you will take?

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5 minutes ago, Digger914 said:

 

My dad always said there is an ass for every seat. Growing up in a family of Car Salesmen, Sales Managers, General Managers and New Car Dealerships, I think I've heard about every (avoiding the more colorful terms) tire kicker story that can be told. As I read Matt's posting I expected to find favorite ( more colorful term ) phone call question. "what's the least you will take?

 

I get that question a lot, but I have to say responding with, "What's the most you'll pay?" (which is an equally fair question, IMHO) never goes over well so I don't do it. Although I'm intrinsically a smart-alec to the core and sarcasm is my native tongue, I have learned to bite my tongue to be in this business.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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