Used Cars For Sale
I sauntered onto the CarMax lot. My navy-blue shirt was neatly tucked into my Polo pants. It was one of my favorite pairs that I had bought at Macy’s when I worked as a branding executive a few months before. I used to wear them with a nice button down shirt or maybe with my red pullover sweater. The bottom edges were now frayed, a grease stain smeared across the left pant leg, probably from accidentally leaning against one of the used cars I would show daily to customers.
A young couple in their thirties trailed behind me. They wanted to see a hybrid, something with “low mileage but fairly new.” That’s why people look at used cars. To find a needle in a haystack vehicle that had ten miles on it, but also marked down 30% from what they would normally pay at a dealership.
I escorted them to a white 2016 Chevy Volt nestled between two Prius’.
“I love the Volt. It’s the best kept secret in my opinion.”
“How many years does the battery last?”
“Seven.” I said confidently.
I had no idea. In fact, if you’re reading this you probably know more than me about cars. But I knew how to sell, and the one thing I learned is to exude confidence and not show any signs of weakness or customers will have doubt and not buy. I already sold five cars the first week into the month and had no intention of letting up. Besides, I could always look up the information later and let them know.
Sal, an Armenian CarMax employee, hollered from the next row of sedans.
“Hi Tarun! You need any help?!”
He proudly wore a pin that read “Presidents Club,” which meant he was one of the top sales associates, moving twenty cars or more a month.
“Nah, I’m good.” I reply.
The Armenian salesmen at CarMax are gangsters. I worked in a talent agency mailroom, surrounded by rich, Ivy league school white kids who were supposedly being trained to sell. These Armenians had a fifth of the opportunity and education but could out-hustle any of my ex-colleagues. They could seduce you to shell out 20K for a ten-year-old Sonata for just a low six year, 25% APR.
We got into the Volt and cruised down the street. The route was simple - right on Flower, straight for five minutes and double back at the cul-de-sac. It was an unusually hot day. I sweltered in the backseat as the husband driver fidgeted with the AC.
“This car is like a rocket ship!”
“All of the electronics are covered by our extended service plan, which I can tell you more about later.”
I was trained like a monkey to say that. It’s called seed-planting. Meanwhile, his wife in the passenger seat pulled out a list from her purse. It was more like a scroll, scribbled with names of other cars she wanted to test drive.
“I also really want to drive a Fusion. Oh, does KIA make hybrids?!!”
God dammit. She made a list like she was going grocery shopping. I had been with customers like her many times before. They suck your whole day, test driving endless cars and when you finally run finance on them, they can’t afford a dinner at Applebee’s let alone $500 for a down payment.
I took a deep breath and monitored my exhale. I did it many times a day. A small trick in attempt to be present and not get sucked into a thought maelstrom.
“We can test drive two cars. After that, we have to set an appointment.”
That wasn’t true, but I wasn’t going to let this woman kill my day. It was Saturday, after all. Most customers visited the store on weekends, and I had the best opportunity to bank money.
I flashed back to my job interview two months ago. I was precariously low on funds and sent my resume online. I got a call the next day to come in. I sat in a little conference room, wearing my collared shirt and tie, at a conference table with ten other CarMax hopefuls. The manager, a clean-cut family man with his hair neatly combed to the side, took us one at a time to be interviewed.
I spent the last year selling brand deals for social media “influencers.” I made money for my clients, I could sell used hunks of metal.
I blabbered about how I graduated from a stellar university, worked in entertainment for almost a decade but realized selling cars was my true passion. I was seeking a home where I could build a long-term business and apply my amazing sales skills. This was a natural fit.
The manager curiously eyed me. I, myself, could barely believe the words spewing from my mouth, and how full of shit I was.
I wasn't planning on taking the job, but then I thought if I could just last three months. I’m not afraid. Who cares what anybody thinks? Life is an adventure. That’s how I’ve always done it. Don’t mentally label every situation. IT JUST IS. Besides, everyone at CarMax was so nice, a sharp contrast to the dickhead millennials that flooded L.A.
Once I started, I realized that it’s the customers who are the problem. People don’t value your time. Little things drove me crazy like customers setting appointments and not showing up. Blowing up my phone with texts at odd hours of the night and asking me to research cars. Throwing temper tantrums when I tell them we are “haggle free,” and I feasibly can’t lower the price of the car.
And then sometimes after spending a full day with a customer, they decide that they’ve had enough and stroll out those giant glass doors with a sly smile and say that they’ll “sleep on it” but will “call you soon." It’s like watching someone step into a blackhole. Little did they know that I was happy to be erased from their existence.
We get back to the lot. I’m nauseous. The Volt has one of the smoothest rides, and yet the driver’s sudden accelerations and stops were comparable to a sixteen-year old’s first day of Drivers’ Ed.
I switch back behind the wheel (customers are not allowed to drive vehicles on the lot), and I park the car.
“What do you think?”
“Meh.” The husband says. “Not feeling it. I noticed that brown BMW Mini we passed on our way out. Can we test drive that one?”
“Sorry. It got put on hold this morning. Let’s go inside and see what’s available on the computer.”
I had no idea if the car was on hold. I did know that it was ten-thousand dollars above their price range, and a waste of our time.
“You’re a good salesman.” The girl chirped. “I’m going to refer you to my friend who’s looking to buy a SUV.”
“Thanks. I’ll give you my card before you leave”
I smile as authentically as I can, and hold the door for them as they go inside.