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I was standing in line at JC Penney, waiting to pay for my half-price bras (good deal) when I overheard the conversation of the three people ahead of me. One couple was discussing a woman's recent experience shopping for a car. What I learned in five minutes was very telling about car salesmanship in general, particularly as it related to two dealerships. Ouch.


The gentleman in the conversation (accompanying his wife in line) asked the second woman about her experience in foreign car showrooms as it compared to domestic cars. She proceeded to tell the story of a local Kia dealer and its hard-sell, harassment sales style.
The woman said she went to the general manager to complain that all she wanted to do was look without salespeople being in her face at every turn. The GM's response? "That's our policy." That's when she walked out. (Talk about not listening to your customers.)
She then told the couple about her experience at a Chrysler dealer, claiming that it was better than Kia, but still, all she wanted to do was look without being bothered - a principle none of their sales people could understand.
The gentleman then piped in to ask about one particular American car dealership that advertises on local TV. He said his experience there was terrible and that once, after purchasing a car, the salesman called to say there was an error in the purchase price and he needed to return to re-negotiate. That's when the woman said she wasn't surprised because the owner's TV ads are so bad.
What does this tell me? First of all, that some car dealers are in La-La Land. Here's a March 2007 post from Consumer Reports Car Blog:
It's a woman's car-buying world out there. Women purchase more than 46 percent of all new vehicles and influence over 80 percent of all automotive sales, according to a recent study by CNW Marketing Research (CNW). That adds up to about $80 billion worth of business, according to a past female buyer study by Road & Travel. Car dealers, hear us roar.
Secondly, although you can't always rely on anecdotal feedback, the truth is - I'm dubious now. I can't help feeling that I got an inside view into these dealerships' sales practices and behaviors, and it's not a pretty picture.
So, when they say that word-of-mouth marketing can be your best friend when it's positive, it can also be sooooooo damaging when it's not.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Elaine Fogel

Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel

Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel