Long ago and far away, back when I was working as an automotive sales consultant, we had a saying at the dealership that it wasn’t sold until it was burning gas and busting bugs. That meant that the customer had signed on the dotted line. And driven it off the lot.
I learned a valuable lesson, the hard way of course, about the fickleness of the American consumer in that job. One instance that stands out vividly in my mind involved a brand new, fire engine red, Volkswagen van. It was a beautiful machine. Luxurious and very functional. And it looked a little like a mini fire truck rolling down the street.
Great vehicle at a great price. And I was convinced I had a great buyer. Nice woman with her family looking for a van. They spotted that and went right to it. We took it for a ride and I did my job and talked it up. Which was pretty easy because I liked it myself. Back at the dealership things went well but something, and I can’t remember what now, prevented this lady from taking it with her right then. Could have been a thousand things.
But I was so sure of this sale that I had the detailing department wash it and vacuum it out and I parked it, gleaming in the sun, right at the front door in a spot marked “sold vehicles.” I felt great. And I waited.
The sales manager asked me about it a couple of times. Oh, she’ll be back later this afternoon I kept telling him. I heard the whispering.
Late in the day I finally called to find out what her schedule was for picking up the van. I ended up speaking to her son who told me that she liked the van but was concerned because she had suddenly realized that it was an import. The name Volkswagen hadn’t registered as a foreign make in her mind.
So she never came back and rumor has it that she ended up with an older model Chevy van. But the damage was done. My name at the dealership was Dumkopf for quite some time.
So I learned that you can’t believe what customers tell you. Until they lay their money on the table. And that’s the same thing I’ve found in selling antiques. In the shop people will say things like “let me think about that,” or “I need to talk to my spouse,” or “I need to take some measurements.” If they don’t take it while they are there, most likely they won’t be back for it. And I get it. Its human nature to not want to hurt the seller’s feelings.
At least for some people. Others will just say stuff like its too ugly, or too expensive, or it’s just a piece of junk and why would anyone want it in the first place? Sometimes they’ll fool you and come back. That always gives me a good feeling about humanity.
Selling online can be even worse. I’m not sure if it’s the platform. Or the customers. You see some real doozies. People will respond to your advertisement by asking if the item is still available. When told yes, they vanish into thin air. I guess they were just checking to see if I was running legitimate ads about furniture for sale. Or they will make crazy lowball offers on things. Will you give me a seventy five percent discount just because I asked? Well, nice customer, no I won’t is my actual response. But I’m thinking something like if your employer told you they were going to cut your salary by seventy five percent, but still expect the same work, you’d be ok with that. Right? But I get it. Everyone wants a good deal. And in antique shopping people bargain.
I’ve even had people agree to a price and a date for pickup. Then not show and not respond to any inquiries. It’s ok to change your mind. Just tell me.
But online it’s easy to be rude because you don’t see anybody face to face. It’s just some nameless, faceless person on the other end of the internet. Or is it? It may not occur to people, but with some platforms buyers and sellers can identify each other in many ways. So it is a little more personal.
We all know that this inter-human disconnect is great for those among us who are less scrupulous. Scammers. They’ll tell you they are going to send a certified check and even add a little extra for you to arrange the shipping. You get a check and ship the thing off to Timbuktu and then the bank tells you the check was no good. Oh darn. That’s never happened to me. That is, I’ve never fallen for that. With me it’s face to face, cash. Non-sequentially numbered bills with nothing larger than a twenty.
Retail is tough anyway. Long hours, lousy pay. Customers. But if that’s your business you deal with it. And I get it all because I’m a consumer too. I’ll bend the truth to avoid making a purchase. But I’ll never say “it’s a deal” and leave you hanging. That’s just me. And the world would be a lot less interesting to me if everyone were like me. More pleasant maybe, but less interesting. In the end, the sins of the buyer are absolved upon receipt of payment.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours?