Seductive

Easy money.  Sort of.  At various times of my life, I have run back to the car business to get myself out of a financial jam.  I have literally arrived in a new town, knowing not a single soul, and in the span of 48 hours secured a job, wheels, and what is known in the business as the three Ds:  Desk, Draw, Day off..  Recently, a friend of mine was forced out of his gig as a window installer, (homes, not computers) by a chronic hernia, probably a result of lifting those heavy vinyl windows up ladders.  I helped him on a few jobs, until one of them involved working in a dark  pitch-black attic, in 100 degree heat, as hundreds of wasps dived bombed me.   Unsettling, to say the least.  I’ll take on a 100 lb dog armed with just a stick, but wasps send me running away, screaming.

Ok, so anyway, my friend is recently married, has three kids to feed and clothe, and is carrying significant debt.  His High School diploma qualifies him to do almost nothing in this job market, except sales.  He could not hope to climb out of his current financial hole with a salary.  So, like many of us drawn to commissioned sales, he is driven to make a lot of money…fast.  He was lucky enough to position himself well for this economy, because his specialty is secondary car sales.  What is that?  If you are a secondary car customer, we lovingly refer to you by many names; my two favorites are bogue (a derivitive of bogus) and roach.  In the past, a salesman would spend a couple of hours with you, until you land on a particular vehicle.  Then he has to deal with the inevitable trade-in, which is almost never worth what is owed on it, and then negotiate price and trade in value with you.  After all that, he pulls your credit, only to find out that you are not qualified for regular financing.  For a salesperson, this is maddening.  It wasn’t that long ago that car dealerships had no mechanism in place to secure financing for you.  Boy, has that changed.

There are a group of lending institutions that target the sub-prime buyer.  They run ads on late night television, beckoning you to call an 800 number.  If you do, you will be deluged with phone calls from dealerships, all trying to get your personal info.  They will run your credit, verify your income, and plug the numbers into the software and hope and pray that one or more of the lending institutions approves you.  Woe unto you if they succeed.  Sure, you’ll be driving a car instead of walking, but you will pay dearly for years to come.  I have, in the past, avoided this area of the car business, because I find it so distasteful,  but I cannot judge those that make a living doing it.  It is predatory beyond belief.  It is profitable beyond belief.

If I get comments asking me to further explain the process of secondary car buying, I’ll elaborate, but I really just wanted to vent a little about my friend, who, like I have in the past, worked the system to improve his place in the world.  He is succeeding, his debt is much smaller now, and if he can keep up his current pace, he’s on track to be debt free in just a few years.  Of course, many other people will be financing his lifestyle, and salesmen are seldom confronted by the results of their actions on people’s lives.

What made me post this today is that I went to visit him at work yesterday,  and I immediately saw his head was not in a good place.  He was manic, unusually so, and could hardly carry on a conversation, so consumed as he was by his flickering computer screen and the dry erase board behind him, where deals made and deals pending get posted.  He was alternately switching from looking at his deals, to his personal budget sheet on top of his desk.  Even his breathing seemed labored.  I did my best to “talk him down”, just to make sure he didn’t have a stroke right there in the office.

I don’t know, I left there feeling bad. I get it, I really do, but if ever this phrase fit:  “There but for the grace of God.”

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Seductive

  1. democommie

    Mack:

    Worst job I ever had in my life was being a 411 operator. Talking to 1,200 to 1,500 people a day–most of them already pissed, before you told them the number was unavailable. It sucked, starting pay was $ 7.57/hr (ramped up to $21.00+ in 3 years). That was worse than shoveling shit (from a blown sewer line).

    The job you describe makes either of those sound like being a mattress tester. Your friend sounds like he’s in trouble. I’ve never bought a car from anyone in the business. New, or used, auto sales people give me the willies.

  2. Its funny, Demo, because many of the guys i know from the business are decent people. The nature of the business makes them predatory, and somewhat callous. I always had to step away for awhile, but the lure is strong. You can make a living doing it right, but eventually, your job is on the line if you don’t produce.

  3. democommie

    Mack:

    You’re right. I know lots of folks that are good parents, honest in their dealings with tradespeople, conscientious about obeying the law and would never take advantage of someone until they walk into the office.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the bones of some of the studies they’ve done re: how far people will go, in obedience to perceived benign authority, in harming another human being (it’s not a purely academic exercise, even here, these days). I think a lot of the same drivers work where commerce is concerned. I’ve often bought a product that was on sale, steeply discounted, only to find out that it was not at all what it was supposed to be in quality, functionality or durability. Sometimes it’s MY greed that blinds me. So, I can certainly see how it happens to folks in the business of selling product. This is, supposedly, one of the reasons Saturn doesn’t (or, at least, didn’t) pay commssion to their sales force.

  4. Wishing your friend well. Reminds me of the Springsteen line, “I got debts that no honest man can pay.”

    I delivered auto parts for a big dealership for a while. Although the salespeople made a lot more money than me, I wouldn’t have traded jobs for anything. It seemed that they were always smoking, always gulping down coffee, and always on edge.

    I bought a car from one of them after I left and even though she was very nice and really did give me a good, honest deal, I could never shake the uncomfortable feeling that she was lying the whole time.

  5. Need car site. So much to offer. Need car site. So much to offer. Need car site. So much to offer.

    In the hopes that was inspiring. ;)

  6. Sarcastro is selling used cars now?

    Seriously, though, I kinda feel for these people, but it does remind me in a sad sort of way of how animals will eat their own in order to survive. Most of the people making money off those desperate enough to secure subprime funding for a used car are in little better financial shape themselves.

    I worked for a (mercifully short) time in the banking industry and it was no better. I am not a fan of any debt-churning business because they seem inherently sad.

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