I hate buying a car at a used car lot even more than getting a root canal. The shameless come-ons and manipulation drive me crazy. Alas, my 12-year-old convertible was nearing the end of its days, so I went to a dealer that featured just the car I was looking for. I called and spoke to a salesman who assured me it was there and to come on down. By the time I got there (well you know the rest of the story), that specific car had just been sold, apparently while we were talking on the phone. I had to control the urge to throttle him.
My entrepreneurial son told me to check out buying a car on eBay. He had bought a boat, house trailer and a limo online. He told me there were pictures of the vehicle, they’d send me a car-fax with an accurate history of the car, and I could check out the dealer by seeing what customers said about them. I found an on-line dealer who had my car, and he had 800 customers who filed an e-mail evaluation, not a single one with anything bad to say. I made a bid on-line and then called the dealer. He told me he wouldn’t sell it until a minimum reserve bid was made. I asked him what that was and he quoted me a great price, so I said I’d like to come over and see it. “Come on down,” he said and I gave a cynical chortle reciting my recent “bait and switch” experience. He assured me he’d keep it for me, so I went later that afternoon.
When I get to the lot, Jan the salesman, is a tough-looking, muscular, middle-aged, balding guy with a diamond stud in his ear. I say I’m the guy who just called about the convertible, and he says, “The car isn’t here.” I’m ready to explode in an apoplectic frenzy, and he sees me beginning to foam at the mouth. Smiling at me, he says he’s having the grill changed because there was a scratch on it; but instead of covering it up, he decided to replace the whole grill. Then he tells me I needed to have more faith, because this is going to be a good experience for me. We talk, I am taken by this guy, and buy the car sight unseen. He says he’ll deliver it to my house the next day and bring all the paper work then. He did and the whole transaction was a pleasure.
That night I had this dream. I was a used car salesman and people were coming to buy cars from me, but I couldn’t make a sale. I tried to convince them I was trustworthy, caring, that I identified with them, but nobody believed me. Musing about it over morning coffee, I was revolted by that unsavory image. I know I fall short in many ways, but an image of myself as a disreputable used car salesman, made me shudder.
Then it occurs to me that I am in the middle of writing a book proposal. Part of a book proposal is a “market analysis,” whose purpose is to convince a publisher that there is a need for your book, an audience who is dying to hear you and a story only you can tell. I say my credibility and experience are staggeringly unique, and that nobody else has ever told this story quite this way. It is an exaggerated piece of used car salesman puffery and excess, but I’m doing it.
Then I thought about the diamond-studded weightlifter, who just taught me that even a used car salesman can deal and sell a good product and it made me feel a little less pimpish.