The Question was actually “Would you sell a car to someone if you knew it wouldn’t fit their needs” I was the only one out of a training class of 30 people who had answered “No”, Our teacher had pointed this out to the rest of the class, I wished she hadn’t! to me the question was a no brainer, I didn’t have to way up the pros and cons, and I hadn’t hesitated for a second, My way of thinking was that selling someone a car that wasn’t suitable would only cause trouble in the future, I was ridiculed, I always sit at the back in a classroom, as far out of the way as possible so everyone had turned round to see which plonker it was who had given such a ludicrous answer, and it was an uncomfortably long time before the laughing subsided, and that only happened when the female teacher said “Sadly, He’s the only one who answered correctly”
I first met Mr P when he came to our garage to part exchange his Vauxhall Cavalier 3 Dr Sportshatch, his story was that he had been “forced” into buying the car at another garage and he would never go back to them again, he was a nice guy, but I soon realised that he could be easily led, he was the type of person who would “buy in haste and regret at his leisure” his Sportshatch was a lovely car, but it only had 2 doors and a hatchback, He had elderly parents and children, It was obvious that he needed a 4 door car.
If I could find the right car for Mr P it would be a great conquest sale for us, he worked at a very large local firm, and it would do us a lot of good if he were to tell all his friends how good we were and how bad our main competitors had treated him. To say Mr P was hard work was an Understatement, he didn’t know what he wanted and I could see how he had probably ended up with the car that the previous salesmen would make the most commission on. I had qualified him to the ‘N’ th degree so I knew what he wanted even if he didn’t.
I had been with him for ages and he was still undecided, at one point he said he needed to go home because his “Head Hurt” The car that he wanted was an Opel Manta which was another 2 door and although it looked great there was no way he would be able to squeeze the arthritic old bat that he called “Mum” into the back seats, I didn’t use those exact words but I did manage to steer him away from making another error of judgement.
The only decision he had to make now was 1600cc or 2000cc, when a customer finally decides to buy a car, there is a short period afterwards which is referred to as the “Sag Factor” you can see the relief on their face the battle of wits is over and they let their guard down, this is a window of opportunity for the salesman to stick them with a host of accessories and build up their commission, Mats, Mudflaps, Glass Sunroof, Pinstripes, Paint treatment, expensive warranty cover, service contracts, gap insurance protected payments etc, but in this case, it was me who sagged, I was mentally tired, exhausted and hungry, it was me who was glad it was all over, it had taken me all day to close this deal, Mr P, on the other hand, was fine he walked out of the showroom on a high got into his Sportshatch and promptly reversed it straight into the wall on our forecourt.
He’d knocked our wall down and his Sportshatch could no longer be sold as “Out of the Box” but I wasn’t going to lose the deal now. Mr P thought it was our fault for having a brick wall that he hadn’t noticed, but after I pointed out that we hadn’t built it while he had been in the showroom buying his new car, although God knows we’d have had plenty of time, and technically you shouldn’t reverse onto the main road, we negotiated a reduction in the PX price to cover the repair costs and we concluded the deal a few days later.
Almost a year later I was stood at the front of the showroom drinking a cup of tea, I had gone to see what was causing the traffic hold up outside when I saw Mr P exchanging Insurance details with the drivers of the cars that were in front and behind the car that I had sold him, his exchange with the driver of the car behind was quite heated, I could see that the other driver was red in the face, he was pointing his finger and gesticulating he seemed to be indicating that it was Mr P’s fault, but It couldn’t be as he had been turning into our garage when he was rear-ended by a car travelling down the hill, we were at the bottom of a very steep hill which some drivers got carried away on and came down at alarming speeds, there was a lot of accidents outside, and the rule of thumb is if someone runs into the back of you, it’s their fault.
The force of the impact had knocked his car forward and into the vehicle in front, Mr P’s car was an Opel Ascona and they were built like Brick erm Outhouses, the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been but this time he had done the double and I would have to allow for repairs to the front and rear.
Everyone who had been involved in the accident was ok, there was no such thing then as NCAP standards, crumple zones, airbags, or pre tensioning seatbelts and funnily enough whiplash hadn’t been invented either, the Police weren’t called, Mr P didn’t need an Ambulance, an Ambulance Chaser (crash for cash solicitor) a collar, a plaster or even a stiff drink, he was fine he was totally un-phased and he still wanted to buy a new car.
The Opel Ascona he had bought from us was a 2 litre and his requirements this time were something that had 4 or 5 doors, but was more economical, it had to have the same level of luxury and comfort as his Ascona, I thought we had the perfect car for him in stock, it was a Vauxhall Astra 1.3 GL finished in Silver Green Metallic, with Velour Upholstery, he loved the car but was worried that it may not be powerful enough, I knew a test drive would convince him otherwise so I fitted our trade plates to the car and we set off on a test drive.
My test drive route was carefully planned, the roads I used were fairly quiet, there was some bumpy road, a country lane, and a short stretch of dual carriageway, before we joined our road at the bottom of the hill, Mr P loved the car and was very comfortable behind the wheel, within minutes he was driving it as if he’d had it forever, I was relaxed too as he hadn’t carried out any alarming manoeuvres, and I hadn’t felt the need to pull the handbrake on or jump out of the car, until.
We turned left at the bottom of the hill and I had seen a car coming down it rather quickly, Mr P shouldn’t have pulled out, but equally the other car shouldn’t have been going so fast, the driver braked behind us but then to press home his point that we shouldn’t be in front of him he drove about 2 inches from our rear bumper, I could see him in the passenger door mirror he was cursing but Mr P was blissfully unaware, I hoped that the driver wouldn’t decide to follow us on to our forecourt for an argument when we turned left in about 50 yards.
I was still looking into the passenger door mirror when Mr P moved into the centre of the road as if he were about to turn right, the driver behind us took his opportunity to accelerate past us on the near side and make his feelings known by flicking Mr P the “V”s with his 2 finger salute, My face and his were no more than 2 feet apart and I saw his anger turn to “Oh Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit” as Mr P hit the indicator and turned left at the same time, no Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre for Mr P he changed direction when it suited him and like an angry bluebottle, I grabbed for the steering wheel and pushed hard towards the middle of the road but it wasn’t enough, I heard a bang and I saw the corner piece of our bumper fly into the air.
Although I hadn’t witnessed Mr P’s first accident I could guess how it had occurred. In the last 12 months, he’d had 3 accidents all at exactly the same spot, in 3 different cars, 2 of them had been in the last hour, our car would need a new bumper but there was no damage to the other car we had got off lightly, I retrieved the bumper and the front trade plate and when I had finished convincing the other driver not to kill Mr P he went on his way, I turned to Mr P and asked “So have we got a deal?” Mr P answer was “Yes” but then he went a bit further and he was deadly serious when he said “But I don’t want that one now it’s had a bump!
Somewhere in a parallel universe where the Customer isn’t King, and they don’t get sent a Customer Satisfaction Questionnaire from the manufacturer, there would be a Mr P who would now have had 4 accidents in exactly the same place, he would be in desperate need of an Ambulance, and he’d also, be in need of urgent pioneering surgery to cure an ailment that would become known as a “Trade Plate-oscopy ”