Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Golden Skate Award" Part 1

Car sales reality imortalized in print by David Teves. Read on:

On a bright summer morning in 1971, Mike Aahl was rooting around in the trunk of old Buick trade-in along the back fence of Hayward Ford. As his hands moved piles of old newspapers, crumpled cigarette packages, and empty oil bottles his eyes brightened. There in front of him was quite a find. It was an old roller skate.

Mike withdrew his prize, his mind reeling with the possibilities. The skate itself was a scruffy, white leather affair, definitely something worn by a girl. It had old-fashioned steel wheels. Its metal frame was spotted with dust. Mike discovered an equally crusty skate key inside of it. All in all, it was perfect!

The plan for the skate’s resurrection started off simple enough; a quick clean up and a visit to the local hardware store for some gold spray paint. Within a couple of hours it was finished and set to dry along the warm western wall of the parts department. Beside it was the key, also sprayed gold, for it, too, was part of plan.

Things then got a little more complicated. Someone suggested, “Let’s take it to a trophy shop and have it mounted on a nice slab of wood.” It was a great idea, no doubt. By the time it hit the local shop another great idea was hatched and added to the plan.

In a couple of days it was done. Mike went to retreat it, and we all gathered around in his office to admire the results. There it was, a beautiful bright gold, looking like a bronzed baby shoe from hell. It had been mounted on an oak platform befitting its importance. The small gold place on the mountains base said, “The Golden Skate Award.”

It was ready to go, all we had to do was wait for the results.

Skating is a term used by car salesmen to signify, and there’s no polite way of saying this, stealing all or part of a car deal from another salesman.

In the bad old days of the car business salesmen skating each other was almost like a national sport. This was particularly true in big dealerships where there were large crews of guys fighting for survival each month.

There are different levels of skating.

In it’s most common form, another salesman would somehow manage to get on your deal after you had done all the work.

Any old Car Man can tell a story of going out to lunch only to return to discover that their appointment had shown up early. In those days the desk did not hold your customer, and whoever was there to slap the report of sale on the window got half a deal regardless of his previous involvement in the deal.

At least in this situation things managed to even themselves out over time. You couldn’t be there protecting your ass all the time Occasionally lost a half, but occasionally you got a half and the order of the universe was once more restored.

Then there was the out-and-out, you-lost-a-deal skate.

If it’s done correctly many times you never know about it. The guy you sold that 280Z to sends in his buddy to see you on your day off, and another guy sells him a car and doesn’t put your name on it. If you discover the evil deed the usual reply was, “He didn’t ask for you.”

I’ve known salesman to tell customers that the guy they asked for didn’t work there anymore, or “Bill doesn’t sell used cars. I’ll have to be the one to help out with that.” Being the clever bastards we are, there were dozens of lies you could tell a customer to get him away from you.

Management never condoned skating, but there’s not a lot they would do about it. A little skating toughens everyone up, and that’s the way they like it. They prefer to let the salesman work it out (or in some cases duke it out) on their own. The general rule: If he got you, you get him twice. It became a competition among thieves.

Skating is one of those things that The Others could never understand. They mostly live in a world governed by fairness, a place where Car Men only have a marginal acquaintance. That’s why the first rule of our business is, “The Car Business Isn’t Fair.” It is something Car Men have to accept if they are to survive. It’s not something your average schoolteacher or government worker could ever accept.

Getting skated does tend to piss you off.

I remember once a guy telling me with more than a little glee that he had gotten to me dozens of times. This was said with the rancor of, “I hate you ‘cause your brother owns the place.” That’s okay. I got all the spoons.

I’m not a saint, but I’ve never been one to skate people. You see, the third rule of the business is, “What goes around, comes around.” It’s kind of like Car Man Karma. That and my Portuguese/Catholic upbringing always prevented me from being a skater. But I will admit, I have been sorely tempted. Like our former President, Jimmie Carter, I’ve lusted in my heart.

More to come.



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1 comment:

uropatwin said...

thanks for writing this great article David!