Last month I went to a local Ford dealership to buy a new F-150 for our truck fleet.
I am the majority shareholder in a real estate investment and development firm with a valuation nearing $100M, and I take a very active hand in day-to-day operations.
I had just gotten to the dealership, still in work clothes. It had been a day of drywall finishing and HVAC installation in a large convenience store we were rehabbing, and I looked a bit like I had been rolled in flour. I had called my wife and asked her to meet me at the dealership to look at the new trucks we had picked out on their online inventory. Nothing spectacular, but lower end, current-year model, work trucks in the $25K range.
I begin walking around, and a salesman immediately comes out to meet me. You know, the race to you before another salesperson gets to you semi-walk, semi-trot. I guess I wasn’t too aware that I looked like crap rolled in flour, and I could tell as he neared me and slowed down, he had already assessed my net worth at around $50.00.
He handed me his card and shook my hand like he was pulling something out of the trash. I introduced myself, and told him I was looking for a new work truck. He apparently didn't see that I had driven into the lot in a somewhat dirty, but still new looking, 2016 model.
For some reason, as we chatted and he asked what I needed, he steered me to their POS line. You know the one, all of the old trucks that were a day away from going to the wholesale auction. I looked at them for a few seconds, and then told him I was wanting something a bit higher up the ladder — something new.
He responded by saying that they didn’t have anything less than $25K on the lot that was new, but they had this great 2004 with only 190K on the odometer for only $7,995 with easy financing.
I suppose, I had yet to understand that he believed I was not a customer for a new truck, and he kept pushing me at the wonderful, worn out, bargains. Around the same time that I told him again that I wanted a new truck, and reached for my wallet to hand him one of my business cards, my wife pulled onto the lot and headed right toward us.
She drives a black 2018 Mercedes S Class. The salesman was still talking to me about 10-year-old trucks as she stopped and climbed out of the car. She took one look at me and laughed because of the way I looked. The salesman, on the other hand, kept looking back and forth between us, and at that moment he may have deduced that he was missing something critical. I looked at my wife as I handed him my card, and said that I was having a little trouble getting to see the three trucks we had picked out.
Suddenly, in the salesman’s mind, the red lights began to go off. He looked at my business card, blinked a few times and wordlessly pointed to his right, at the new work trucks. He then quietly suggested we go look at them. Before we started to walk, my wife began to brush and slap the remaining drywall dust off of my back and shoulders, and commented how I looked like a ghost.
We looked at the trucks, and picked one out. No test drive, no real discussion, just a nice white 2018 Ford F-150 with no whistles or bells to add to the seven trucks we already have. We finished the paperwork in just a half hour, wrote a check for significantly less than the sticker price, made arrangements to pick up the truck the next morning, and then got ready to leave.
The salesman was standing quietly by the door to the sales manager’s office as I walked out. I shook his hand again and said, “One word of advice: never take anything at face value. It might cost you.”
He got his commission, we got our new truck, and later that week, he sent us a nice thank-you note.
The day ended well.
I was in a bar restaurant enjoying a soda and a nice meal. A very nasty manager came to my table and told me I had to get out. He decided I was under age and this establishment served alcohol, so I was not allowed there, plus he needed my table for paying customers who would consume alcohol. I said no and ignored this guy. He called me an ignorant, uneducated slob who probably did not have two cents to rub together. He called for a couple of bouncers to throw me out and both said no, they did not want to risk throwing out one of their professors. That idiot then tried to grab me and cried out loudly from a hurt arm and shoulder. The senior floor manager and the owner of the place came to our table to see what all the commotion was about.
The owner asked what was going on. His managers started talking and the owner said shut up and instead asked me what happened. I said I was quietly eating and this fellow told me to get out so he could have my table for paying customers, meaning those who drank alcohol. Then he tried to assault me and I hurt him just enough to know that I would not move. The bouncers had much more going on than was shared. They knew me as I taught classes plus worked out in the gym at the same time as most of them. They also knew I was a regular who had never caused any trouble, but once I did quickly end a rather serious bar fight that put a couple people in the hospital. The owner then asked me if I wanted this new manager fired. I said no, but he should have to pay if he wanted to stay. The owner gave the manager a choice between quitting or losing a week’s pay. The bouncers and managers were all stunned. They knew me as a regular who often ate lunch or dinner there, but had no clue why the owner deferred to me. We did not tell them that I was the majority owner of that place.