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I orginally wrote this for my blog and titled it And they call used car dealers “crooks”. I would like to post it here as well to get everyone's opinion:
Sometimes, I find myself completely ashamed of the industry that I find myself in. No, not of the used car dealers themselves, but that of various car dealer website providers, dealer management systems (DMS), national used vehicle listing sites, etc. that pollute this industry with their arrogance.
As you all know, we provide websites for used car dealerships. While we do provide a full easy-to-use backend interface for dealers to post their inventory, a number of our customers elect to have their data pulled in directly from their DMS system, saving them from double data entry of their vehicles. Currently, we support pretty much all of the major players in the market and even a number of the smaller systems in the market. Whenever a customer comes to us and says, “Hey I am using ‘ABC DMS Provider’ can you import my vehicle data?” In most cases, we already support the system and are able to get them setup in a few minutes. A few times a week we also get requests from dealers of systems we do not currently support, so our standard answer is “Sure no problem, get us in touch with their tech guy and, we’ll have it up in no time.” We get a handful of these requests to setup a new connection each week, and they are handled usually within a day or two.
Last week, we had two different dealers using two different DMS systems come to us with a similar problem. They, like so many other customers, wanted a feed setup. We, of course, said our usual and figured all would be good. Then, the first dealer called back and said, “My DMS provider wants you [AutoCorner] to pay a $500 connection fee.” The person fielding this call just happened to be one of our Co-Founders, Albert, and knows a great deal about how feeds work. At first, he thought that the dealer might have misunderstood what he was told by the DMS provider and figured he would give them a call and straighten it all out.
Albert called them and was told, “Yes we charge a $500 setup fee to system providers to get a feed setup, and then, we charge the dealer $50 per month for the feed.” He paused for a moment to take in what this guy had told him and asked for clarification to verify he did hear him correctly. Yup, he heard it correctly. This DMS system is going to hold the dealer’s inventory ransom unless a $500 setup fee is paid and a $50 per month service charge is paid. Now, on the surface for non-programmers, this may sound justifiable in that, “Well they are doing custom work to set this up and must be compensated,” but in reality inventory feeds are a standard part of our industry, and any competent provider should be able to setup a new feed in 15-20 mins. Plus think of it this way for a moment, do you think that this DMS provider charged Autotrader or Cars.com that $500 setup fee? Haha, they would’ve been laughed at and hung up on.
After the dealer got on the phone with the DMS provider and threatened to leave them, they said they would “make a one-time exception” and wave the $500, but the monthly fee would go to $75. SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS?? Once the feed is setup, the initial 15-20 mins, everything is on “autopilot,” and the web server spends two or three seconds each night building a data feed file of the inventory and sending it to the correct locations. Once again this is something standard in our industry and is a no brainer to setup.
We thought this was a fluke and that no other businesses could be so stupid and arrogant to do this to their customers, then we were surprised to hear of a second call from a completely different customer using a completely different system also in the same boat. In this case this provider wanted a $300 setup fee and $50 a month to send the feed.
Personally I find this is an appalling way to do business and rank it up along with stealing dealerships domain names.
In the end, we did have the last laugh, both of these customers have contacted our friends at Frazer and are in going to switch to their DMS product. A product that does not hold your inventory hostage and is happy to send to AutoCorner and dozens of other providers without any additional charge.
I find this funny that the two above unnamed providers were so intent on making a few hundred bucks that they lost out on two paying customers. These two customers, prior to today, were completely happy with their current (now previous) DMS providers, but I am sure once they make the switch to Frazer they will be even more happy.