|Ask Craig your
question! Craig Thor Kimmel is a nationally recognized automotive
consumer advocate and managing partner of Kimmel & Silverman, P.C., the nation's
largest lemon law firm. For more information on automotive consumer issues,
Whenever I go shopping for a car,
the salesmen are always on top of me like vultures! How do I handle
the first contact with these salesman so I don't look like an easy
This is an excellent question. The
overwhelming practice in the car sales business is for dealers to
use different "programs" or tactics meant to control and
manipulate the consumer from start to finish. Most of these focus on
controlling people by asking question after question until you are
weary, or disarming the consumer by appearing overly friendly and
interested, or the dreaded tactic of subtly directing the consumers
actions. For example, a customer who is approached by a salesman and
finds himself following the salesman around the showroom or parking
lot, usually at a fast pace, can consider himself under the
influence of a program. It can be extremely subtle at first, but
before you know it, Mr. Salesman has all the information about you
he needs to separate you and your money!
The best suggestion I can make is to
go with at least two, not one but two, people when looking for a new
car. It is even better if these people are all close in age to you
and are friends rather than relatives. I say this because peers tend
to support each other and are more prepared to walk away from
something that appears to be shady or rushed than a family member may be.
The dealer will try to separate the group and will even engage their
fellow salespeople to help do so, all to get you alone.
Consumers should also be aware of
tactics such as taking customer keys, disappearing to "see
their manager" for long periods of time, and other unethical
sales practices. An increasing number of dealers actually put a
hidden microphone near where the customers sit, to listen to their
conversations prior to returning. I also suggest that consumers
never remain at a dealership if the salesperson leaves your presence
for any reason. If not, you become an unwilling victim of a program technique
calculated to wear you down. If approached, tell the salesman you
are not interested in his help and you will call for him if you
change your mind. That keeps you in control and sets the tone.
The bottom line: stay in control of
the situation and be an overly suspicious consumer until you leave.
Salesmen have a job to do, and they do it well. You must be prepared
to walk if any of these situations arise, and remember that until
you sign or spend your money, you are in control of the situation,
not the salesman.