This Is The Part I Hate

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My job is to charm the customers into comfort. Instantly become their friend. Lure them to a false sense of safety. Smile and nod my way into their hearts. Once they have firmly established me as credible and trustworthy, I am then supposed to pounce.

Shred them. Pack their payments full of products that are debatable as to their needs and quality. Soothe them into a higher payment. Maintain eye contact and help them remain calm. Assure them this is the best decision for them.

For me every day is a moral conflict.

Used to, I felt like a liar because I would watch customers walk into payments that were higher than they could honestly afford. I see their income, their outgoing and their debt. I can easily see what is too much. When I asked my manager if he ever felt slight twinges of guilt for encouraging customers into unwise financial decisions, he shrugged and told me "if they don't buy here. They'll buy elsewhere. We're not the ones who are MAKING them buy it. If they can't afford it, the shouldn't be here."

That helped me--for awhile.

I watched as a woman was encouraged not to call her fiance regarding this major purchase. "It's your money, you earn it, why are you calling him?" They goaded her and tried to tug at the deeply rooted feminist mantras to which she must surely relate. She sat across from me at my desk. Confused. Should she? Shouldn't she? What if it wasn't here? What if she bought a lemon?

I didn't say a word. They tag teamed her. Peppering her with reasons why she should buy now. In my mind I screamed "SWEET MOTHER OF MARY! Leave the poor woman alone! DO YOU NOT KNOW WHAT THE WORD NO MEANS?!"

She stood resolute. She said they were a couple, they were going to make decisions as a couple. They were building a life together, she wanted to consult him. When she couldn't reach him on the phone, despite their fervent reasonings, beggings and pleadings, she walked out and said if she really wanted it, she would come back.

They were furious. I was silently cheering her on. Go you! My sales closing skills were berated. I refrained from comment. However, I did cite a rule of sales as my defense. Shouldn't the salesperson have made sure all the decision makers were present before getting this far along in the process? I satiated them--temporarily. If only because she did come back. If she hadn't? Who knows what would have happened.

I know. This is sales. This is what we do. (I only share in the we because I have to.)

Yesterday I saw a couple with troubled credit. They had gotten themselves in over their heads before. When they saw their high payment, they balked. I reasoned. They backpedaled. I explained. They asked if this was a wise decision. I avoided answering the question by re-explaining the rules of credit establishment. The husband said to me several times "I just want to make a wise decision. I don't want get in over my head. I want to do the right thing."

I ached. Watching someone who so desperately wanted to make a decision for the better and the only external wisdom he had guiding him was a fast-talking salesman. When I got to the point where I couldn't splice words any longer, I called another manager to reason with them. They were given the song and dance. The pony and cart was trotted out for them. The white rabbit. The whole nine yards.

In a lull in the little show, when the magicians had gone out for their nip at the bottle and restock themselves with shiny trinkets and baubles, the customer looked me in the eye and said "As a professional, do you honestly think this is a wise decision?"

A moment of panic washed over me. I did not want to lie to this man, but, if I didn't, I could very easily be out of a job. Every time a customer walks out of my office without purchasing the vehicle, it is a huge black mark against me. Whether or not it was my fault. I had to think quickly. Ah. There was my out--as a professional. "Sir. I am not a professional credit advisor. I have explained the rules of credit re-establishment and what you can do. I am not in a professional compacity to advise you in that decision."

What am I going to say when they ask me--as another consumer? As a person? What happens when someone words a question in such a manner that I can't wiggle out?

Who told me empathy was a good thing?

You may be thinking "Yo! CRAZY WOMAN! Your making a killing. You have a job that most people twice your age would kill for. YOU SCREWING YOURSELF OVER WITH YOUR GUILT." This isn't unreasonable, I tell you. Most people in this business admit it's shady, but they have gotten addicted to the money, which is why they stay in.

Money has always been a odd subject for me. Growing up, money was tight. I have a father who has pulled himself up by his bootstraps and become incredibly sucessful. But he did that because he made wise decisions. He didn't spend money if we didn't have it. To my mother who was raised in a affluent home, this was sometimes embarassing and irritating. Even though she could stretch a dollar father than anyone else I know (she fed a family of 7 on $50 a week for years) she and my father often fought about money. How it should be spent, how much we didn't have and how she wanted more.

It was probably a self-imposed childhood embrassament. But, I always felt like we were compensating. Covering up. Distracting from it. I see that shift in the chair, the break of eye contact and the quick lowering of the head when I start pressing for more funds or a higher payment. Imperceptible to some. The cost of business to others. A painful point of empathy for me. I see them calculating in their heads. Sacrifice now? Splurge now? Walk away? Admit me don't have enough? Bite back on pride?

I see the spouse who steels themself in anger when they think they won't be getting what they've been coveting. I see the tired and beaten look in the eyes of the spouse who feels they can't afford it and it denying the other what they want. I acutely feel the tension between them. I can envision the long nights of screaming and throwing things as they volley the blame of a financial decision of this magnitude between each other.

Some of the customers don't even realize they are headed down that road to financial ruin. I can forsee the signs of what will be pretty quickly. They eagerly sign the papers. They came in on a whim and are now buying. They're getting what they want--instantly. I see they are in over there heads. They don't. It isn't my job to tell them. The saving and budgeting that was drilled into me is now leaping to my lips, begging to fall.

I don't tell them what will be. I can't tell them I empathize. It isn't my place. Never will be my place.

I don't think every person who buys a car is unwise. Far from it. But the tangles of childhood, work, guilt, money and life all culminate on my desk--daily.

People wonder why I hate my job. That's why.

9 Responses to “This Is The Part I Hate”

  1. Anonymous Porkchop 

    I realize this makes little sense. But it wasn't for you, it was for me. I understand that I cannot keep people from making bad decisions. But it's hard to watch.

    It's just part of growing up--I know.

  2. Anonymous joy 

    Yes, you totally need to come work with us. I rather adore that my job centers around making people's money work for them. That when we leave messages, clients eagerly return calls. That clients enjoy visiting the office and don't want to leave, if only so they can drink more perfectly brewed coffee. That we can call clients out-of-the blue and tell them we noticed a couple ways they could get better returns.

    For what it's worth, we are eagerly counting down until you can come work for us. Yesterday, as I recounted your coffee enema story and pot smoking story to a very appreciative audience, there was general sighing and wishing you were working with us already. So, keep the faith! It's not too much longer!

  3. Anonymous Vulgar Wizard 

    I've always felt that politicians and salesmen should be grouped together. Neither career is one for a person with a conscience.

  4. Anonymous Joy K 

    My husband has just recently become a car salesman, and is balking at the way his manager wants him to push people into buying. I'm sure he would agree with what you've said's gotta be hard to do.

  5. Anonymous Porkchop 

    Joy-- I'm excited to. Must. Get. Ducks. In. Row.

    Vulgar-- Funny. I wanted to go into politics...

    JoyK-- It isn't just hard it's AWFUL. Sometimes there are honest dealerships, or so I here. I just haven't seen them. All I can say is tell your husband to get out now! While he can!

  6. Anonymous colanderman 

    This is why I respect you and admire you. Of all the tenants of Christain Faith, Christ said the law and prophets hang upon these two commandments. to love God with your whole soul and whole heart and whole mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. This love of course is a principled love.Unlike the rich man in the story, you do not have to ask who your neighbor is. To be able to see beyond yourself and see the needs of others whether they can see them or not is a quality you must not squelch. The Bible says to take in an interest in the needs of others.
    However, your manager does have a point. Suppose you actually told people what they needed to hear from your perspective.? Its my guess that huffiness and foolish pride would ensue and they would leave and buy elsewhre just to prove that smarty pants cute girl wrong.

  7. Anonymous schmims 

    I would not be able to refrain from telling them they couldn't afford it. I'd be fired before I ever sold my first car.

    I think too many people put too much emphasis on stuff. After all, there's always going to be more. A more expensive car, a bigger house, etc. People need to learn to be happy with what they have, as difficult as that can be in this society.

  8. Anonymous Jon37 

    Yeah- I can't do that stuff either. Give me a product I believe in and I'll sell the heck out of it- but I have a hard time taking advantage of people.

    when I bought my last car I recall the women in your position. I drove her nuts by saying no to everything she suggested. No, No, No. She finally caved. I refrained from making comments like- "how much does ADP cost for this car?"

    Then again- making cookies is a good way to clense your soul.

  9. Anonymous steelcowboy 

    The thing is... can you look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day?

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This odd narrative is my life. I ended up in Pittsburgh, of all places--from the beach. I have no hobbies, other than cooking excessively and eating microwave popcorn. I enjoy shopping, the Food network, hiding the remote so the Food network cannot be turned off, find ethnic food stores and restaurants and reading voraciously. My life is decidedly pedestrian.

I worked in the car business where I was required to be ruthless and soul-less wench, which is when I started this project. Since then, I've kept it up because secretly, I've always wanted to join the military. Every male in my mother's family has joined and I quietly entertain thoughts of joining. I haven't yet and don't know if I ever will, but sending the troops cookies keeps me sane. it makes me think I still have a shred of human kindness left in my withering soul. it's a small way for me to salute the men and women who are brave enough to fight for freedom. And makes me feel like I'm contributing toward troop morale--even if I'm not. So if you want to help, send me addresses of troops you know stationed overseas. you may also contribute toward the cost of chocolate chips, but don't feel obligated, that link is here only by request.

the past


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