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Story by Jack Baruth
You’re a special snowflake. Your parents always told you so, and you believed them, and it turned out to be true. You’re such a special snowflake that you deserve to drive cars for free, to enjoy them at no cost and without any interference. But how can this be accomplished? Read on to find out, as I share my car sales and joyriding experience with you. Since the fateful day when the State of Ohio made the mistake of handing me a drivers’ license, nearly twenty years ago, I’ve driven everything from Sentras to Spykers, often without having a dollar in my pocket. You can do it too; follow along as I show you how.
The dealership has two goals in life. One is to sell you a car. The other is to sell somebody else a car. Test drives can accomplish the first goal, but they always harm the second goal. The reason is that, as my old boss at the Ford shop so charmingly said, “Everybody wants to marry a virgin, but everybody wants to **** on the first date.” Nobody wants to buy a new car with 400 miles on it, but everybody expects a ten-mile test drive. Therefore, test drives must be handed out with care, to appropriate buyers.
The question you are about to ask is, “Can I test drive anything?” Within reason, yes. There is almost always a test drive available to a truly qualified buyer. Porsche? Yes. Ferrari? Yes. Bentley? Yes. There are very few exceptions – those exceptions being cars which absolutely MUST be delivered to their new owner with no mileage, such as an Enzo.
My system breaks down into five easy steps. This will be an “extreme” example, but the steps are applicable anywhere. Follow along as Mike, a twentysomething lamer with an old Accord, snags a free test drive of a new 911 from the snootiest dealership in town.
Step One: Lay The Groundwork.
(phone rings) Hello, Dewey Cheatam Porsche, this is Bob, how may I help you?
“Hi Bob. This is Mike Smith. Do you have a white 911 Carrera S?”
Sorry, Bob, we don’t, but we do have a couple on hand in other colors.
“I was looking for a white one with full leather interior. At least that’s what I think I want, ha ha. How long would it take you to come up with one?”
We could do it pretty quick.
“Listen, I’ll be back in town Tuesday morning. I’ll stop by and take a look at what you have, and we can talk. Are you in Tuesday morning?”
It’s my day off, but I’ll come in.
“Sounds great. I’ll be in at ten. See you then.”
Successful people almost always introduce themselves and give their names quickly, and they are usually on a schedule. Joyriding losers, by contrast, never give their names and are available any time. So be the former. Successful people are also usually specific about what they want. We’ve put the salesman on the defensive here, because he doesn’t have what we “want”. And we’ve set the time ourselves, because our time is valuable.
Step Two: Arrival
At ten AM, Mike Smith arrives at the dealership in a 1997 Accord. He is dressed casually, in a Tommy Bahama shirt and worn-looking shorts. He gets out of the car and slowly tries to lock it, using the wrong key twice. After locking it, he pulls the doorhandle to check, and the door still opens. He visibly gives up as Bob walks out.
“Bob, I presume? I’m Mike. Hey, do you know how to lock this thing up? There’s no remote and the key doesn’t seem to work. Ah, forget it. That’s what I get.”
Get for what, Mike?
“Well, I put my car up for sale in Panorama last month. You know they put the listings online first, and some guy called me three days later… So now I have no car. I thought it would take two months to sell it. So now I’m on a loaner program from my charitable little sister. Lucky for me I’m flying most of the month. Anyway, you find my white Carrera?”
Oh… I hadn’t looked yet, I, uh… Well, let’s go in and talk.
“Sounds good. Hey, I want to apologize in advance. I have to be downtown in ninety minutes, so if I look at my watch and run like hell, it isn’t anything you said, ha ha.”
Downtown? What line of business are you in?
“I’m a go-fer, that’s what it feels like sometimes! I just started with Frick, Frack, and Associates. I’m supposed to be on their M&A team but in practice I run papers cross-country all the time. Guess that’s what you get for being the new guy. So, what do you have?”
We have a blue Carrera and a silver Carrera S?
“What do I get with the S?”
“Okay, I read that, I think. I’m a little concerned about the extra cost.”
I think it’s worth it.
“I’d been thinking we would sit down with the order book and just order one. But I’ll look at what you have.”
Mike drives a crapwagon Accord. But successful people often find themselves borrowing other people’s cars. Mike’s also in a bit of a hurry. And he knows what he wants, but a good salesman might be able to convince him to take a car off the lot. So we’ll hang that bait.
A word on appearance. Successful people in America have two modes of dress: business and casual. A sharp high-end salesman can see cheap shoes, nonfunctional button holes, and a lousy shirt from space, so forget about showing up in your “work outfit”. Furthermore, leave the Fubu crap and the licensed sports apparel at home. That’s loser clothing, worn by poor people and people who grew up poor – or so the conventional sales wisdom goes. Instead, wear pressed shorts and a casual collared shirt with a pair of “deck shoes” or fisherman’s sandals, no socks. For some reason, silver-buckled-and-tipped belts are in fashion as of late around lazy rich people, so try getting one cheap from Sierra Trading Post or a similar outlet.
Serious buyers also have a budget. Express mild concern about cost, giving the salesman a chance to sell you.
Time to close this deal.
Step Three: Drive The Car, Alone
“Wow, this silver car is really sharp! Let me look at the sticker here… They haven’t gotten any cheaper! Eighty-nine thousand. I was thinking closer to high seventies… (looks thoughtful for a moment as Bob watches him) …ten thousand… Maybe I’d better order the cheap one.”
The “S” has that extra power, you know.
“Compared to my ninety-nine, I think they’d all be fast. Have you driven one of these S cars?”
Yes. They’re fantastic. You should try it.
“I’d love to drive the car… (checks watch) I don’t think I have time. I have to be out of here in an hour. I guess I could come back at the end of next week… dammit, I want to get this done. (Smiling) Bob, I’m confused. I want one of these cars. I don’t have a car right now, which is causing me problems. I’m just concerned that this is past my budget, and I don’t want to be irresponsible, you know. Let’s look at the numbers. I just wish I could decide on the ‘S’ or not.”
Why don’t you take the “S” out while I do some numbers for you.
“I guess I could run around the block, I don’t want to be late. What the hell. Grab the keys, let’s go.”
I don’t need to come along.
“Okay. See what you can do on 48-month purchase with… um… ten thousand down.”
I’ll get the keys.
We want to create a reason to drive the car. Let your salesman convince you to drive the car by creating what I call “productive indecision”. Note that Mike is still concerned about budget, which is a buying signal to a car salesman.
Step Four: Drive The Car
Not too much explanation needed for this. Ask three questions about the car, and don’t be visibly eager to get in and go. Wait until you are out of earshot and visual range to drive it hard. One clear buying signal you can send: When you are given the keys, open the trunk and look around as if estimating space.
Step Five: Get Out Alive
(The 911 returns, twenty minutes later. Mike gets out, moves the passenger seat forward, and practices sitting in the back. When Bob comes out, Mike has the owners manual out and is flipping through it.)
What do you think, Mike?
“It’s a lot nicer than my old one… but it might be too much, I don’t know. Let’s go in and see your numbers.”
As you can see, Mike, we are looking at about eighteen hundred a month, tax and title included, for the “S”.
“That’s not as bad as I thought. (Checks watch) Bob, I have to run, I apologize. Could you do me a favor? Would you spec out a white one, not an “S”, with the same wheels this car has, and run the same numbers? This afternoon I’ll call you and maybe you can fax it down. I think this silver one might be the right way to go, I just need to convince myself.”
Sure, be glad to do it.
“I’m really sorry to run like this. I’ll ring you this afternoon… How much of a deposit would I want to give you to secure the car if I like the numbers?”
No deposit necessary. I’ll hold the car if you want it.
“Sounds great. Good talking to you.”
Why do we even bother to continue the charade when we have already driven the car? There are a couple of reasons. We might want to drive other cars in the future. Also, you can bet that your salesperson has spoken with his manager in your absence. Since this fellow has done you a favor, albeit unknowingly, you should do him one and continue to work the story when you return. That way, he doesn’t get in trouble for sending a lamer out in dealership property.
Let’s review some important points:
- Make the appointment and establish your image.
- Dress and act the part.
- Create a test drive opportunity.
- Enjoy yourself in the car!
- Make a clean exit.
If you do this correctly, you will have dealerships asking YOU to drive their cars. Good luck – and if you get caught, you never read this, right?
Thanks to the mysterious “Four Speed Fox”, who provided the source material for this post.