This is my story of why we do what we do. In 1987, when I was 33 years old, I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, a non Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and was given an 18 percent chance of survival. During the three months I spent at Vanderbilt Hospital I considered my life past and what my life future might look like if I survived. I wondered if I should leave the automobile business as it was riddled with dishonest and deceptive practices that were accepted, though intensely disliked, by almost everyone. One recent survey revealed that most people would rather have a root canal than have to visit a car dealership to purchase a car.
I decided that if I were to survive cancer and decide to stay in the car business that I would have to do it radically different. I could no longer let people with little negotiating skill and/or no desire to negotiate be taken advantage of. I could not give a good price to the owner of a business because he has influence while making unreasonable and unfair profits on the employees of that same business owner and others like them who, due to inexperience or circumstance, are not able to negotiate a fair deal for themselves.
It is statistically proven that women and minorities pay higher prices than other demographic groups as they are stereotyped as less able to negotiate and therefore are at an unfair disadvantage when shopping alone. The nicer and more trusting the customer, regardless of gender or race, the higher the price they pay. I decided that from that point forward I would set my margins as low as possible, and that no one would get a lower or higher price than anyone else. The bank janitor and the bank president would pay the same low price, which would be the price that only the bank president could get before. In other words, whether we are just offering a great price or are applying all our expertise to provide a solution to a difficult situation to someone who would really like to have a nicer newer car but feels that no one can help them, everyone in the same situation gets the same great value and we don’t make our customers negotiate to get it.
In order to do this, we had to change the way salespeople are paid, and today, over a decade later, we still have the only sales force not paid on commission, instead, our salespeople are paid a salary. This way they have no incentive to raise a customer’s price or try and sell the most expensive vehicles with the highest markup. Instead, they are truly interested in helping our customers find the right car at the right price. Our customers consider us trusted advisors because we do provide solutions where others cannot. We also resisted the temptation to hide additional profit by charging dealer fees and ‘doc’ fees, those customary fees that all dealers charge but are not required and vary from dealer to dealer, but always add hundreds of dollars to the negotiated price and these fees are not disclosed to the customer until it’s time to write the check or sign the contract. There are few practices more deceptive and uncalled for than this one. With the changes we have made, we feel they have helped us accomplish the ‘why’ of what we do, which is to take a purchase experience that has been compared to having a root canal and turn it into a surprisingly pleasant and fun experience, where everything is easy, everything is up front and nothing is hidden, in other words everything is as it should be with no unpleasant surprises. I hope whoever reads my story will understand my sincere desire to make your shopping experience truly extraordinary.