DennisBeaverJune 14, 2014   •  By Dennis Beaver

First, get inside the minds of car dealers.

In survey after survey, buying a new car is consistently viewed as a highly unpleasant experience, even with all the information available online.

“What car buyers find so frustrating and intimidating is feeling that they are going to be taken advantage of but not knowing how it takes place or how to defend themselves,” observes Ray Lopez, a car salesman for more than 30 years. He describes himself as “Your worst nightmare, a real blood-sucker.”

Now a retired car salesman, Lopez has written “Inside the Minds of Car Dealers,” a book which You and the Law absolutely recommends that anyone in the market for a new car reads before stepping onto a dealer’s lot.

 We were impressed by his honesty, desire to educate and protect the public, along with a terrific sense of humor, making this not only a practical, money-saving book, but also an entertaining read.

“Just how practical is the book? Beyond interesting, will it save me money?” you might be thinking.

One of his tips was responsible for a You and the Law staff member saving close to $4,000 on a new car, while another answered the question, “Do I trade-in or sell privately?”

Lopez is well aware that we want to do business with a dealership that isn’t high pressure or all about taking advantage of customers. “So, how does the average car buyer find such a place?” we asked.

“It’s by doing careful research,” he replied, “and knowing what to look for even before you visit the dealership, starting with certain kinds of ads in the Sunday newspaper.”

Look for key words in ads

For car salespeople

Drive by on a weekend

“Most people will do a great deal of research on the cars they are interested in but do not know how to research car dealers, beyond internet postings which are often not an accurate source of information,” he points out. “Start with the Sunday classified of the largest newspaper in your town. Find the ads for car salespeople, and look for key words such as pro, top salesman, only the best-this type of language, or an ad that is all in capitals.

“These types of ads reveal a high pressure place which you must avoid,” he cautions, adding, “But this is just step one in a three-step process to find a customer-friendly dealership.”

“Next, drive by dealerships on a weekend, going slowly enough to observe, but don’t stop yet! Look carefully at the salesmen.  Are they all wearing white, long sleeve shirts with ties?  If so, this is another red flag and means that they are what I call the old blue-suede-shoe type of salesmen, living in the 1950s, extremely high pressure and as deceptive as possible.

“Instead, look for salespeople in Polo shirts or in short sleeve shirts with ties, walking around, not just standing in one position like a statute. If they remain at one place it is because the sales manager has designated key points on the lot where they are to remain until someone drives up.

It is another red flag, denoting a very high pressure dealership as they are ready to pounce on you!

Layout of the showroom indicates pressure.

Use the bathroom

“The physical layout of the showroom is a good indicator of how much pressure you can expect and there are two main indicators,” as Lopez describes:

• The bull pen:  This is any elevated area in the showroom where managers sit. It could be a mezzanine or on the second floor with one-way glass allowing observation of activity in the showroom, enabling managers to pounce on a reluctant customer or a weak salesman.

• Placement of sales desks: Are they walled off — isolated — or in the open?  If isolated, when that door to their office closes you are at risk of a suede-shoe salesman.

But also beware of a long bench where everyone sits, as this invites manipulation and getting caught up in the excitement of “deals” which aren’t really being made.

“So, you park your car, get out and when greeted by a salesperson, just say that you need to use the bathroom which is always located near the showroom. After you exit the bathroom, make a mental note of what you saw, a bull pen, sales offices, and so on.”

Next time: The dealership might be open until late in the evening, but that doesn’t mean you should shop for a car at that time. We’ll tell you why, and answer the question, “Should I just trade-in my old car or sell it myself?”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.