Sunday, May 26, 2024

Car Salesmen: Here Come the Vultures!
by Craig Kimmel
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, visit

Craig Kimmel


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 target?

Scott Bilker

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.

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