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Hunter Swift

Hunter Swift Manager of Market Development

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My Car Buying Experience

One of my first jobs out of high school was selling cars and I have worked as a vendor with a CRM company in the industry for 7 years.  I enjoy working in the auto industry and take pride in helping dealerships be more successful either through the products I sell or through the processes I teach from my experience.

About every three years, I find myself as a customer in the market for a new vehicle.  Recently, that time had come and I was looking for a new vehicle.  I am not loyal to a particular dealership, but I usually buy my cars from the dealership that has the vehicle I want, and at the best price.  Since I am only in this situation every so often I thought it would be wise to document my experience, with the hope that dealers and industry specialists could use it to improve their processes.

I sold my car to a private party and needed to buy a vehicle within the next day or two.  In deciding my next vehicle, I did my entire search online.  I looked at manufacture websites, read reviews from Car & Driver and other respected publications.  I searched videos on YouTube and jumped on vehicle-specific online forums where I could read what owners of the vehicle had to say, both positive and negative.

Once I knew the vehicle I wanted I went back to the manufacture’s website and built that exact vehicle.   An inventory search showed that five dealerships within a 50 mile radius had the exact vehicle (model, features, packages, MSRP).

The Phone Up

I began calling these dealerships, asking if I could get some numbers.  I knew that they would have to work on the numbers so I gave them my cell phone number and told them to call me back.  I was surprised by the following:

Dealership 1: Called me back two hours later.
Dealership 2: Called me back in twenty minutes.
Dealership 3: Called me back an hour later, only to ask what vehicle I was looking for again.
Dealership 4: Gave me my numbers over the phone.
Dealership 5: Never called me back with an offer!!!

It just amazes me that there are salespeople who don’t call customers like me back! What also makes me concerned is that not one dealership that gave me pricing has called me back since to follow up.

One dealership I called answered with an automated service, telling me that “the call might be recorded for quality assurance”, only to ring to another automated service “call is being recorded” two more times! By the time I got someone on the phone I was pretty sure I wasn’t talking with anyone at the dealership, but to someone at a call center.  I gave my information to them, only to be transferred to the actual dealership where I had to give all of my info again.

The Deal

I ultimately went with the dealership that offered me the best price, which happened to be located an hour away from my home.  An hour before I got off work, I told the salesperson at the dealership that I was going to come up that night.  He told me that he was leaving early but to talk to his counterpart in the internet department.  When I got off work I called and told him that I was planning on driving up and that I would have my two kids with me (3 year old and 8 month old).  I asked if I could give my credit info over the phone to get all of the paper work started, so my wife and I didn’t have to spend all night there with our kids.  I told him to also make sure I qualified (credit) and everything was good before we drove up.

We got the kids all ready and waited for the call.  An hour and 15 minutes later he called me to ask if I own a similar make product: No.  If I am currently leasing a vehicle: No.  If I am active Duty Military: No.  Then he says to me that the original salesperson misquoted me and included all of those rebates in my price he gave me.  Now my lease payment would be $120+tax more a month! This was higher than two other dealer’s quotes I had received.

I understand mistakes happen but I think the lesson I learned is about managing customer expectations.  If he originally told me a fair payment I would have been happy with it.  Instead, he quoted me a very low price and got me to expect a low payment just to get me in the store, and then at the last minute the price changed.  Now this may have been a mistake, but it also sounds like it could have been a dirty business tactic.  I was shocked to say the least.  I was sure glad I called ahead of time instead of driving all the way there with my kids only to find that the deal was too good to be true.

I ultimately had to call the manager at the dealership.  I felt uncomfortable by putting the dealer in this position but it seemed as though the dealer could honor the misquoted price and have a happy customer or not honor it and have an unhappy customer.  Unfortunately, it was only after a heated discussion, that the manager was willing to work with me.  We eventually meet at a price we both felt comfortable with and I picked up the car.

Looking back, it was an interesting experience. One I hope that by sharing others can improve their processes. I still am surprised, it’s been 5 days and I still haven’t received a follow up call from the dealership.



Hunter Swift is the Business Analyst at DealerSocket and specializes in Automotive/Dealership processes that help dealerships become more effective by maximizing their opportunity to improve all aspects of the sales cycle, including: driving traffic, marketing, proper sales, and demonstration techniques. He also specializes in helping dealerships increase their customer satisfaction, reduce their web-lead response times and to improve accountability. Follow Me: @HunterSwift
Lindsey Auguste
I'm totally torn. As new to the industry, I've lived the entirety of my life on the consumer side and this is the exact replica of everything I thought a car buying experience was like. I even worked (briefly) in a car dealership and the sales people I was surrounded by did not do much to battle that perception. Now, being involved in our DrivingSales community, my perception is different. There are so many progressive dealers and dealership people who are pushing the boundaries and actively working to change the car buying experience to a better one. Because of this, where my initial reaction a year ago would've been, "Well, what do you expect?" my reaction now is more along the lines of frustration for all of the dealers out there who are stepping up to change the game, but have to fight against their own kind who aren't making it easy. Thanks for sharing -- it's a huge reminder that, even with as far as we've come, there's so much more ground to cover.
Chris Costner
Hunter this is, unfortunately, a classic example of a shopping/buying experience that happens all to often. It shows that transparency and being of service to the client is the furthest from those dealer's minds. It truly is the "just get them in" syndrome and dealers who continue to practice it will remove themselves slowly from consideration. I just don't get it. Although you ultimately made your deal, I am reading a truly negative experience. Now I hear so much about dealers looking to increase loyalty, it seems in this case by not following up on your experience or even a "thank you", their opportunity to build any loyalty is gone. That is just lazy. What are your thoughts?
Bryan Armstrong
Sad to say, but many dealers follow that exact pattern. I even know some that quote the price BEFORE destination and then spring that when they get the customer in. You, like most, still bought from that Dealer thus proving their theory that"ya have to hook em and take them out of the market". I wish it was different, and yes I know legitimate mistakes can occur, but until buyers are willing to walk out and call in the next day to inform the Owner that they purchased elsewhere and why, it won't change. Sorry to hear about your experience. Sadly, you probably won't get a OEM survey due to an"accidental"mistake webring you're email. Thanks for sharing!
Mark Kolon
Although you think by publishing this article you are doing the industry a favor in reality by buying from this dealership all you have done is solidify the fact in heir minds they did it right. I work at the best dealership in America and compete against dealers like his one everyday, we are not the biggest yet but we will get there by treating customers right. By completing your purchase with this dishonest dealer you have done nohing to help he public. The first salesman did not make a mistake, you were hooked, turned and closed. This type of bad behavior has been going on for 50 years and those of us who do it the right way are disgusted. The fact you claim no allegiance with any dealer and will buy from the one with the lowest price just perpetuates what goes on at most dealerships. It amazes me when people don't appreciate the service a caring dealership can provide you with such a big purchase, you don't get good at Walmart but you get a cheap price.
Hunter Swift
Mark I understand. I honestly thought initially that this dealer was offering the best service by the price. I would normally have left, and gone to another dealership, but the fact that I was without a vehicle I needed to get a car that night, and since they already ran my credit I tried to make it work. I wish my experience was better. I would have still written about my experience.

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