Call it the Gift of Gab or being kissed by the Blarney Stone. Whatever you call it, a good car salesman has it. They’re quick witted, good with words, and can hold a conversation with just about anyone on any subject — regardless of race, religion, or creed.
Most people probably expect this kind of personality in sales. But what you may not expect is that car salesmen can also be some of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. Maybe it’s just the long hours spent standing around doing nothing that teaches us how to amuse ourselves, just to alleviate boredom.
Or maybe it’s the stress that goes with the job. Yes, buying a car can be extremely stressful — even for the salesman — and humor is one way we cope with stress.
Take my friend, J.D. First of all, J.D. is completely bald. Imagine a taller, better looking Uncle Fester from The Adams Family and you’re close. So, right off the bat, his appearance lends itself to humor. But J.D. is also a little crazy. One of his favorite things to do, if there are any children in the showroom, is to stretch a balloon over the top of his head, making him look like a giant light bulb. Or, he’ll sneak up behind somebody when they least expect it and stick a finger in their ear. This usually causes them to jump, which gets a laugh — and sometimes a string of expletives.
He also likes to make prank calls. Like calling up the General Manager of the dealership and pretending to be a customer. General Manager: “Hello, this is the General Manager, how can I help you?” J.D.: “Um, yes, I was just calling to see if you had any of the new Henways in yet?” GM: “What’s a Henway?” J.D.: “About five and a half pounds, you idiot!” [HANGS UP] Okay, I didn’t say car salesmen had sophisticated senses of humor, just that they’re funny.
Car salesman humor tends toward the lowbrow and can certainly be in poor taste. Take J.D.’s unique way he introduced a deaf customer to the Finance Manager one day. The customer—we’ll call him Mr. Jones — couldn’t hear a thing. But he could read lips, and as long as you were facing him he had no trouble understanding you. When J.D. led Mr. Jones to the finance office to sign the paperwork for his new car, he made sure to walk a few steps ahead of him so the customer couldn’t see his mouth. As Bob, the F&I manager, rose from his chair to shake Mr. Jones’s hand, JD said: “Hi, Bob. This is Mr. Jones . . . and he’d like to make mad passionate love to you.” The look on the face of the F&I man, who didn’t yet know the customer was deaf, was priceless.
Most of the humor salespeople come up with is situational, and designed to break the ice with customers. For example, when a customer asks me a question about price before we’ve even settled on a vehicle, the conversation might go like this:
CUSTOMER (pointing to window sticker): “You don’t expect me to pay that price, do you?”
ME: “Oh, no sir, of course not… You’ll have to pay taxes and fees on top of that!” Usually, they laugh. If not, I know I have a tough row to hoe. Or, take these little gems:
CUSTOMER: “I’m just looking.”
SALESMAN: “Nice to meet you, Mr. Looking. Do you mind if I call you Just?”
CUSTOMER: “I’m just looking.”
SALESMAN: “Your brother was in here yesterday, wasn’t he? Been Looking?”
CUSTOMER: “I’m just looking.”
SALESMAN: “Well, I’m good looking, so we must be related!” These may cause more groans than laughs, but like I said before, the purpose is to break the ice, not launch a career in stand-up.
Scratch the surface of any car salesman and you’ll find a born practical joker. When I first started in the business one of the older salesmen took me under his wing and did a “walkaround” for me, pointing out the features on a car in the showroom. I didn’t realize it, but he was setting me up. “Get in that back seat and check out the leg room!” he said, kindly opening the back door for me. Like a lamb to the slaughter I slid into the back seat. “Oh, wow! That really is a lot of room,” I remarked. And then he shut the door. What I didn’t know was, he had set the child locks on both back doors beforehand. Now I was locked in the car. Later I found out he did this to all the “green peas” as part of their initiation into the world of car sales. “Let me outta here!” I yelled, pounding on the glass. But everyone ignored me. Finally, I had to crawl over the front seats to get out. Very funny, guys. Very funny.
But that doesn’t come close to what happened to another salesperson I know, a man I’ll call Jerry. Jerry was a great guy, but he was always having trouble with his ex-wife, and whenever a Police officer showed up at the dealership, Jerry would pull a vanishing act, fearful that the cop was there for him. So, one day, a Police car pulled up out front and Jerry panicked, running down the hallway. One of Jerry’s “friends” quickly opened the door to a small room that held some air conditioning equipment at the end of the hall , motioning him inside. “Jerry! In here! Quick!” the helpful salesman said. “I’ll let you know the minute the cop is gone!” “Thanks, buddy,” came the voice from inside the closet. After picking up some parts from the Parts Department the Police officer quickly left. But, of course, no one informed Jerry. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. Every half hour a different salesman would stop by the closet door to check on their comrade inside. “Hey Jerry?” they’d whisper. “Yeah?” “He’s still here, man! He’s looking all over the place! Just stay where you are and don’t make a sound!!” They kept Jerry in that closet for four hours. The plan was to lock him up in the building overnight and go home, but the GM nixed that plan and ordered Jerry’s immediate release. With buddies like those, who needs enemies?
Just the other night I sold a van to a senior couple who traded in their ten-year-old convertible. The woman, who was in her 70’s, still had most of her wits about her. But her husband, who was a few years older, had clearly lost it. During the test drive, he asked me what kind of vehicle we were driving . . . four separate times. After they had completed paperwork and were waiting for their van to come up from Detail, he started loading things from their trade into the wrong car. When I asked him what he was doing he said “Isn’t this our car?” Everyone in the dealership could see the trouble he was having, and we all felt sorry for the guy. But as soon as the customers left the wisecracks began. “Can you imagine them tomorrow morning?” I asked. “Waking up and looking out the window at the van in their driveway?” Without missing a beat the other salespeople picked up the ball and ran. “Whose van is that, dear?” “What happened to our convertible??” “Call the Police!”
If any of you have had a funny experience buying or selling a car, please share them here!