The Worst Dealership I’ve Ever Seen, Is It You?

sad-suitHave you ever walked into a place and got the vibe that nobody wanted to be there? Not the customers or even the employees? That's how I felt the first time I walked into this dealership, and each time afterwards. First, I noticed that there was no music playing, then I noticed only scowls, no smiling faces.The vibe was all wrong.

Everybody, employees included, had their arms crossed in front of their chests, their body language saying, "Don't approach me, I'm standoffish!" Even the expressions on their faces said I didn't want to be there, there was contempt written all over the faces of the salespeople, anger and fear on the customers. Is this your dealership?

Just walking in the front door, past the unsmiling, unwelcoming receptionist was enough to put me in a bad mood. I didn't WANT to be there, after 60 seconds I was ready to leave. What vibe is your dealership putting off?

The decor was all off as well, plastic plants trying to lend to a home like look came off as fake and slightly annoying. No pictures of family, or even happy customers for that matter (probably because they're aren't any), adorned offices or desks. The first salesperson I saw I walked up to him, put my hand out and said, "My name is David, and you are?"

I received a limp fish of a handshake in turn, a slight frown and then, "Are you here to buy a car?" There was no emotion behind the words, his gaze somewhere behind me, it was all I can do not to turn around to see what he was looking at.

"No," I said. "I'm here to to help you, and the rest of the salespeople generate your own leads. How's you're day going?"

"So you're not here to buy a car," he said, his gaze still behind me. " That's how my day is going." No smile, no nothing.

"I know how that is! What's your name by the way?"

For the first time he looked at me and seamed to see me for the first time, he said "Mark?" Almost as if he wasn't sure that was his own name, almost as if it were a question instead of a definitive statement. His gaze shifting, once again, to behind me.

"Well, I gotta run Mark. It was a pleasure. I'll talk to you later."

"Mmmhmm," was all I got in return.

To one degree or another this is how everybody acted, as if they didn't want to be there. I didn't either. They sold plenty of cars but had horrible online reviews, no repeat traffic and hardly any referrals. In effect they had reduced car shopping into a commodity, where they raced to the bottom, sacrificed profit, and concentrated on units sold instead of gross.

Bottom line? People came because they were the cheapest. They sold below invoice, were completely void of any customer service, and hated the fact that they were alive. At least it seemed that way.

The morning meeting was more of a whipping session. A don't do this or your fired session, one devoid of any direction or motivation. Yes, even the manager hated his job. Do you?

Is your dealership throwing off the don't buy from me signals like this one was? Are you curious as to the name of this dealership? I'll give it to you if you ask nicely? The answer? It's your dealership. Take a closer look and you will see that I'm right. If not, tell me what makes your dealership different in the comment section below. I don't mind being wrong. So, is it you?


  1. Big Rich on February 2, 2012 at 8:20 am

    You can't fix the scenario you described, unless you can replace the management team and owner. And you can't do that. The store you described will stay in business, even thrive. The automobile is the most popular product in the history of mankind and, by law, you can only buy one from a franchised dealer. I've been in countless stores like the one you've described. Thirty years ago I used to predict that such stores would never last. WRONG! These stores not only lasted, they made people wealthy. Whether it's a publicly held store, privately held, city, or country store; if ownership creates a miserable environment, miserable managers will be spawned and they in turn attract or create miserable sales people. But, not to worry, ownership will make money. The sales people won't last and the customers will continue to marvel at how f—- up the retail car business is. And there is nothing any consultant, factory rep, trainer, or guru can do about it. I don't know what percentage of stores are like you described, but only in the retail automobile business could they survive.

    • DavidJohn_son on February 2, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Well said Big Rich, isn't it amazing that any business can survive under these circumstances? Like you said, only in the retail automobile industry! This dealership is making money, they sell plenty of cars, but only because the way they act is expected. The auto industry has the consumer trained in the way we do business, sad but true.

      As I like to say, if this is the way of things it wont take much to stand apart from the crowd. It's time to screw business as usual and let the real customer-loving dealerships stand up.

      • Big Rich on February 2, 2012 at 8:38 am

        David, well put, couldn't agree more… have fun in Vegas!

        • DavidJohn_son on February 2, 2012 at 8:45 am

          Will do, in fact I need to start heading that way. Thank you for commenting Steve, I'm honored that you did!

  2. Rick on February 2, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Powerful post! The time for change is right!

    • DavidJohn_son on February 2, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Amen to that! The shift to a more customer-driven economy is proof enough but Big Rich is right, only in the auto industry!

  3. Tom on February 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Thanks David. How many times have I heard salespeople say, "That guy doesn't want to buy a car"? They expect obeisance from the customer. Talk about prima donnas! They seem oblivious to the fact that they are supposed to "assist" the customer with his purchase. Of course the customer does buy a car… from someone else. It would be sickening if it wasn't laughable.

    • DavidJohn_son on February 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Thank you for the comment Tom. You're right, of course, how can you "sell" a car if you don't want to be there? Of course, as you said, they still buy, but they buy the car as a commodity because that's what the dealership has reduced it to being. I'm pushing for change… you with me?

  4. Tom on February 6, 2012 at 8:22 am

    I have been in te Car business for 23yrs and I can attest to what you are saying.I have been out of the car business and now own my own Powersports business. The bad vibe starts right @ the top and trickles downward all the way to the lot guy. If you dont have a happy managment staff you are dead in the water.

    • David Johnson on February 6, 2012 at 8:19 am

      At this particular store when I met the GM I understood why, then when I met the owner, I understood even more. Environment is important to a productive dealership. Create the environment and they will come! LOL

    • DavidJohn_son on February 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      Employee happiness is every bit as important as customer happiness. Thank you for the comment Tom!

  5. Bharat on February 17, 2012 at 2:43 am

    unsatisfied employees leads to misearies and further leads to unhappy cutomers.

    • DavidJohn_son on February 17, 2012 at 7:33 am

      Very true! Thank you for the comment!

  6. Frank on February 29, 2012 at 3:48 am

    To run a successful dealership, requires building a positive culture &attitude from the top down. Its starts with the DP or GM running the dealership. Selling cars is a state of mind and if you have the ability to connect with your staff they will bring you the results you want with a smile every time.

    • DavidJohn_son on February 29, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Well said Frank and I agree! Attitude and Culture comes from the top and works it's way down. Thank you for the comment!

  7. […] and of AutoMax Recruiting and Training, David Johnson, wrote a real eye-opener of a post called, The Worst Dealership I’ve Ever Seen, Is It You? I suggest you read […]

  8. Craig Darling on February 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Excellent David… How did I miss it the first time it was posted. We see this all of the time. In fact when ever I see a store like this I think… wow, if I worked here I would be all alone at the top of the board. Grant Cardone, I believe said, “Be so optimistic that everyone wonders just who you are…”

    If my reception can’t smile when a customer enters the store, she does not last very long after a little chat… If sales people can’t smile and have a good time, I am not doing something well at all.

    • David Johnson on February 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      I appreciate you stopping by Craig and you are right, this store would be a perfect place to really clean up if you have the right attitude when everybody else around you is acting the way I described in the post.

  9. Gerald on January 10, 2014 at 8:59 am

    The law of attraction states you attract who you ARE, not who you want. In other words, ownership has attracted dispassionate unprofessional managers whom have attracted people of a similar ilk. One thing I have learned in this business is managers are terrified of anyone better than mediocre. This also points to the law of the lid. If an owner is a 5 on a scale of 1-10, they won’t attract a 7 or 8 manager. Worse, being a 5, they will probably seek a leader who’s a 3, maybe a 4. Those managers will then hire 1’s or 2’s because they are so weak as leaders. Big Rich is right, until ownership changes, there will be impact there.

    You might also want to reconsider even working with such an apathetic dealership. Could be a bad referral down the road.

    • David Johnson on January 10, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Very true, I no longer work with them. I did try though, it just didn’t work out, they couldn’t pay me enough to feel like that. I’m a happy person and that’s the way I shall remain. No thanks to this dealership.