It’s been an interesting week at the car lot. On Tuesday we had an older couple come in to shop cars. They had recently totaled their Buick in an accident and needed to replace it. The couple’s names were Al and Bernice. Both of them are 75 years old.
Al and Bernice came into the shop after lunch on Tuesday and spent the afternoon sitting in the different cars on the lot and test driving them. They were there most of the afternoon. When they were ready to leave they had narrowed their choices down to either a Buick LaCrosse or Buick Lucerne.
Wednesday afternoon they came back and asked if they could try some other cars on the lot. I asked which one they would like to try and they said the Chevy Impala but not one of the ones with the shifter on the floor, they wanted a bench seat and a column shifter. We had four Impala’s on the lot but only one had a bench seat with a column shifter so I brought that around and parked it next to the Buick LaCrosse so they could compare. They sat in both cars and test drove both cars and decided that they really liked the Chevy better. They said they would be back between 10-11 am on Friday to pick up the car.
Yesterday which was Thursday, Al and Bernice stopped back in to sit in the Chevy just one more time before Friday and to tell us to make sure we kept the car inside overnight where it would be nice and warm. Also we needed to wash it and fill it with gas before they picked it up on Friday.
Washing and filling the car with gas is something we already do for each car we sell but we don’t generally keep them inside overnight before pickup but we did last evening. I asked Bernice how she liked shopping for cars while her husband was talking numbers with my husband. Her unexpected response was “It’s a god damn pain in the ass”. I didn’t know whether she was referring to the car buying experience in general or the car buying experience with Al. She looked exhausted.
Today we were busy with many jobs we needed to finish up on warranty items for customers before the weekend. Ten o’clock, Eleven o’clock, Twelve o’clock all came and went and no Al and Bernice. My husband and I left and went home for a quick-lunch. It wasn’t long after we got home that we got a phone call to say the state inspector was there to look at all of my car sales paperwork. This is an annual inspection but always a surprise inspection. We headed back to the shop and I worked with the inspector through my paperwork but in the middle of it in walked Al and Bernice to do their paperwork for the car.
Inspector Dan sat at my husband’s desk while I did the paperwork for the car sale with Al and Bernice. I tried to hurry through the paperwork as quickly as I could but Al was up for some visiting while we did the paperwork. Dan waited patiently but I was constantly aware of his presence knowing he was waiting for me to finish and listening to every word I told my customers. I wanted to get it right with him listening, he knows the rules and expects that I should know them too.
Finally it was time for Al and Bernice to head down the road with their new car when Al said “You need to come outside to the new car and explain all those new fangled gadgets on that car.” I tried to find someone else to explain the car instrument panel to Al and Bernice but no one was available.
I headed outside with the two of them.
Al said “I will sit in the driver’s seat and you can slide on in next to me and Ma can sit next to you. That way all of us have a good spot to sit.”
At first the three of us sat in the front seat with me stuck in the middle but left the car doors open. It started to get colder so they shut the doors. I was definitely squeezed in now. Al said “It’s just like the old days, you get the girl sitting close to you in the middle and your arm would reach back behind her and draw her in closer.” I tried to imagine Al and Bernice as a young couple dating. I’m sure he was a handful for Bernice.
I began to explain each part of the instrument panel in the car. When I finally thought that we were finished, remembering Dan inside waiting, Al started to ask questions about the very first parts that I had explained. I ended up re-explaining the entire instrument panel all over again.
After my last explanation of the panel Al said that if they had any more questions they would stop by or wait until their first oil change. I got out of the car and headed inside after they departed. Dan was still waiting patiently for me inside. He and my husband were laughing about something when I came back inside the office. I was wondering if it was the picture of me stuck in the middle between Al and Bernice with his arm wrapped around the backside of my neck.
January 29, 2011 at 10:53 am
Reminds me of an old song, “Stuck in the Middle With You.”
January 29, 2011 at 11:10 am
That song didn’t enter my mind at the time but its exactly how I felt. I went back and changed the title of the post after reading your comment.
January 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm
I thought you were going to say that Al and Bernice were the Bonnie and Clyde of Minnesota, and that’s why Dan was there.
They sounded like an interesting couple to be stuck in the middle of, Jeanne!
January 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm
Al and Bernice were not anything like Bonnie and Clyde. Just a nice old couple trying to get comfortable with new technology.
January 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm
I didn’t think they sounded like anything other than a nice old couple – the presence of Dan set me off on another trail! 🙂
January 29, 2011 at 7:48 pm
Dan, the inspector, is strictly for checking up on me and my paperwork not the customer. But I could see where I may have lead you down a different path.
January 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Good for Al and Bernice . . . willing to adapt to this new-fangled technology.
And good for you (and Dan) . . . such patience. 🙂
January 29, 2011 at 7:51 pm
The customers that have the hardest time deciding on a vehicle are the ones who were least mentally ready for a change. They were in an accident and thought the car they were presently driving would be their last car purchase. They hadn’t even thought of what kind of vehicle they would like.
January 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm
How new could this car have been to have the shifter on the column? I just had to laugh when you said new fangled gadgets!
January 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm
The car was a 2007 Chevy Impala LT with 36,000 miles. You can get cars equipped with bench seats and column shift or bucket seats with the console shift.
Most cars have the central console shift inbetween the two front seats but some still get ordered with the column shift. Some of our older customers prefer the column shift because it is familiar to them. One less thing to learn.
January 30, 2011 at 5:53 am
LOL – Al and Bernice (and the image of the 2 them driving down the road with her in the middle with his arm around her) brought back memories of my grandma and grandpa – and he was a “handfull” for her too! 🙂 When I was a kid I was always the one “stuck in the middle” on the bench seat – squished between the 2 of them! LOL. Great memories!
Glad they found a car that they were happy with, and had such a patient and wonderful “salesperson” as you! Most salespeople now days aren’t interested in helping the customers, just making the sale, and the customers (esp. the older ones) really notice that. That fact alone will make them go to another car lot to find someone who actually “cares” about them, and the fact that you took the time to help them out so much is probably the biggest factor in them choosing to buy the car from you! Kudos!!
January 30, 2011 at 9:47 am
Thanks Shady for the kind words. What motivates me to do a better job is I’ve got older relatives in other states and cities and I imagine them going somewhere to do business and I try to treat my customers as one of my “own” hoping that someone will do the same for my family in other places. Same with the young kids just starting out. I don’t want them to make made financial decisions early in life that will affect them for a long time. We try to give them good advice like not buying something that will take all flexibility out of their budget. There needs to be something left for emergencies and it shouldn’t be just put it on the credit card.