It was my first day as New Car Sales Manager working for a very big player in the car industry, I was already unimpressed with my superiors as the guy who hired me had arranged to meet me and introduce me to my new colleagues, but he was a no show. Alarm bells were already sounding and I was starting to wonder whether I had made a big mistake leaving a job that I liked for this one.
A few months prior I had attended 2 interviews on the same day, I was asked to start immediately at one, and I reported for work the next day they were a great company all the staff was friendly and the product was pretty good too, however, the money wasn’t, as that job I had taken was Sales Executive and the other one was for Sales Manager, which was a lot better pay and a lot more time off.
Being a PLC the interview and subsequent employment procedure had to go through a lot of red tape and 2 months later out of the blue they rang and offered me the job, at the interview they had told me that they would be branching out to America in the near future and as they knew I was pretty I.T savvy and I had a proven record of success they intimated that if I worked as hard for them then I would be able to step up to a Dealer Principles job in the US, I have always wanted to move to a warmer country and this “carrot” proved irresistible and was a more attractive proposition to me than the money.
I broke the news to my Manager and he was genuinely upset to see me go, in fact he was so upset that when my demonstrator from my new job was delivered to the garage on my last day with them, he made sure that I was otherwise engaged while him and the rest of the lads covered it with stickers, that effectively said “Stop Me And Buy One” they didn’t let on it was them that had done it, and when I left for the last time they all came to say goodbye each, in turn, adding that they wouldn’t want a company car like that, I put a brave face on saying that it didn’t bother me but inside I was seething and I had already decided that I wouldn’t be seen dead in it, the next day I arrived at my new place of work, parked in the Sales Managers space and wondered to myself why all the other demo’s weren’t covered with stickers, then the penny dropped.
As I had been instructed I waited for my new boss on the car park but eventually got fed up and went in the showroom where I was ignored I tried to attract someone’s attention but without much success eventually, I was shown to my desk by the odd job man, it would seem that the previous Sales Manager had left suddenly, (for left suddenly substitute been escorted off the premises), there were still pictures of his family and his PC was password protected.
I studied the pictures of him and his wife and decided that he looked very young compared to her, after a while looking at his pictures and cross-referencing them with the model range we were selling I figured that I knew enough about him to have a go at breaking his password, I typed in “Cougar” but it was wrong and the PC still wouldn’t start up, my boredom was interrupted by the phone on my desk ringing and I picked it up eager to impress but before I got time to answer I was shouted down by the caller “You F****** B******”
I was a little taken aback but recovered quickly and replied, how did you come to that conclusion just from “Hello, you must be “Physic”, I said Physic and not Psychic as I had seen Paul Newman say it in a film and it cracked me up, it worked on the caller too and threw him off guard as he obviously thought he had been put through to a moron, and it gave me time to reply.
Now listen mate, I’ve only been here for an hour so if you’d like to tell me the problem, I will do my best to sort it out for you, he calmed down and told me that his daughter had bought a car off us which she was told was brand new, but when the logbook came through it had been pre-registered in the name of the garage, so she was actually shown as the second owner and it had only been taxed for 6 months so a couple of weeks after she had taken delivery it had run out.
I am a pretty honest guy for a Car Dealer and I hate liars and thieves so I asked my Sales Administrator to dig out the file with the original order form, sure enough, it was written up on a new car order form showing 12 months road tax, I couldn’t argue the guy who had done this deal was a F****** B***** but that wasn’t me.
In fairness the car was only delivery mileage, it hadn’t been used by anyone, and they had got a good deal, I offered to pay for a further 12 months road tax if his daughter was willing to accept this as a compromise, I expected that as a ‘Manager’ it would be within my powers to agree to tax the vehicle for 12 months in order to pacify an irate customer, however, I learned later that it wasn’t and I got my first reprimand, this to me was a red rag to a bull, I would like to think that my word is my bond and I told my Boss that I would pay for it myself rather than suffer the embarrassment of ringing back to say the garage wouldn’t, I knew they were a tough company to work for as they had warned me at interview ‘if a Part Exchange was still there after 90 days, I wouldn’t be’ but I didn’t know they would treat customers like this.
I had only been there for a few hours and it looked like It had already cost me £90.00 this wasn’t how it was supposed to work they should be paying me, then I overheard a conversation between the service manager and the other Sales Manager that I wished I hadn’t, the company sold off their old part exchanges to the public under a different name, and a customer had brought one back complaining that it was burning oil. The Service Manager confirmed that the piston rings were knackered on the car and came to report his findings and estimated that a repair would cost in the region of a Thousand pounds, to which the Used Car Sales Manager said “they only get 30 days warranty, fill it as full as you can with oil and by the time the red light comes on again it will be too late for him to bring it back”
A bright spot on the horizon came when one of the Salesman brought an order form for a deal that he was working, I checked the figures with my calculator and although the total was right the VAT and everything else was way off, How did you arrive at these figures? I asked, never thinking for one moment that I would get the answer “I copied them off another Order form”, my normally sunny disposition had been stretched to the limit already and I snapped back “are you some kind of idiot? If you’re going to do that at least copy the figures of a car that’s the same price as the one your selling!”, and with that, I screwed his order form up and slam dunked it into the waste bin as hard as I could. I later began to regret doing this when I learned that he was a bare-knuckle fighter, And I only learned that when I was warned to be careful after I intervened to break up a brawl in the showroom between him and another Salesman they were arguing over a deal and it had turned into ‘Handbags at Ten Paces’, the last time I’d had this much fun was at my Dads funeral.
What had I let myself in for? Surely thing’s couldn’t get any worse but they did when the other Manager turned to me and said: “seen as it’s your first day I’ll do the late-night tonight, if you do tomorrow?” Er what late night is this then? “Were open till 8.00pm every night” he replied by now I’d had enough, “Look you might work till 8 but my contract says 8.30am till 5.30pm, and I’m not married so I look forward to going home occasionally! “ yeah they put that on the contracts so they don’t breach the employment rules, oh by the way we also only get 1 weekend off a month too.
It took me an hour to get to work that morning and I had to set off at 7.30am these hours would mean that I wouldn’t be getting back home till 9.00pm at night, I would never have taken the job if I had known about the real hours, I was still waiting for the guy who gave me the job to come and introduce me to everyone and I had already decided that I couldn’t work for this company. I rang my Boss to tell him but he was on another call so I left an urgent message to ask him to ring me back.
I had left the “Urgent” message on Monday afternoon, things hadn’t got any better on Tuesday and it was now Wednesday morning, I handed my car keys to the other manager and started on my 18 mile walk home wondering to myself if there were any decent people left in the motor trade, 10 years later and I still don’t have the definitive answer.