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Mad Marv

Finding Pleasantville

His Madness finds himself dreaming of the town of Pleasantville, where deals arrive properly structured and every customer has an 800 credit score.

February 10, 2017

One of my favorite movies is a 1998 flick titled “Pleasantville.” It centers on two siblings who wind up trapped in a 1950s sitcom set in a small Iowa town, where everything and everyone is, well, pleasant. Can you imagine doing F&I in that town?

Every customer would waltz in with 800 credit scores. Deals would be properly structured with loan-to-value guidelines within tolerance. And every document the sales department and customer submitted would be error-free, allowing you to set your watch for that next customer. Oh, how great it would be.

Unfortunately, like the movie, that’s all fantasy. Yeah, out here in the real world, there’s no such thing as a perfectly structured deal. We have to race against the clock to land those 600 credit-score customers on the right cars, hope the paperwork coming out of the sales department is flawless, and then hope the customer was truthful on his or her credit app.

The latter is something I believe a lot of these new-age techies miss when it comes to their solutions, because buyers aren’t always truthful, and they certainly are not always reasonable.

Take the Einstein I met earlier this week. I was about to deliver my menu presentation when he asked, “Is that your buy rate?” Bear in mind, this is after we had met his price and payment requirement on the truck he picked out. And I knew once my head stopped spinning that I was in for a big zero on the deal. In fact, not only did he pass on all the products, he declined my finance offer. And get this: This guy was financing at a 130% loan-to-value ratio and was convinced he could secure a better deal. I wished him luck and prepped for the next customer.

Then there was the college kid who brought his parents along to advise him and to possibly cosign on the loan. Luckily, I was able to secure an approval at a decent rate without the mother’s signature. You’d think thanks were in order, right? Well, just as I was about to present my menu, the mother balked at the rate. I informed her that the rate wouldn’t be much better with her as a cosigner.

“Well, just take him off and put it in my name, because we’re not paying that rate,” she said.

After explaining what a straw purchase is, the mother laid into me before storming out of my office. The confused son apologized while the bewildered father chased her down. And, well, she sat in the corner pouting after the son agreed to the original offer.

Ah, the life of an F&I manager. No matter how long you’ve been in this business, you’re going to get those situations. But you just have to shake it off and move on to the next deal. I usually fit in a nice cigar before I do.

Not many people outside this great industry understand what we F&I pros go through. I can’t tell you how often deals arrive on my desk with missing Social Security numbers and misspelled names. Sometimes I can’t tell whether the customer owns or rents, and don’t get me started on the income section of those credit apps.

If only Sergeant Joe Friday’s “Just the facts, ma’am” was the mantra of every sales manager as they scan those deal documents. Seriously, things like basic math are often missed because they’re so focused on making certain Line 3 has the intended profit dialed in. Unfortunately, the customer is clueless as to what’s causing them to wait. All they know is they’re waiting on F&I, and they say so in those CSI surveys.

So, no, we F&I pros are not overpaid clerks resisting change. In fact, there’s a good reason most dealers continue to rely on trained F&I professionals to manage the most profitable department in their dealerships.

So, to all you techies looking to solve what ails this industry, I suggest you take a second look at where the problems truly lie. What’s really needed is a system that cuts down on mistakes and omissions so that F&I managers can do their jobs better and not be the brunt of customer discontent.

Pleasantville may not truly exist, but a visit there might be in order to understand that, like Vidal Sassoon famously said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at marv.eleazer@bobit.com.

Comments

  1. 1. Dan [ February 13, 2017 @ 03:09PM ]

    Interesting article Marv. Haven't seen Pleasantville in ages.

    Was curious: Did you ever find out why that one customer was so outwardly hostile to you with the whole buy rate and refusal to listen to you? I may never know for sure, but it sounds to me like he had been burned by F&I managers in the past and could have been thinking "I'm not letting this guy do it to me!"

    Admittedly I have been burned before: but rather than become hostile, I decided to educate myself. That's why i read so many articles on here.

  2. 2. Mad Marv [ February 14, 2017 @ 03:03AM ]

    I'd say pride had a lot to do with it because he kept reminding me of his credit score. He obviously struck a better deal elsewhere because we never heard from him again.

  3. 3. Bill [ February 20, 2017 @ 07:31AM ]

    I'm curious. Was it your buy rate? Did you have an idea going in that he was rate sensitive based on your customer interview? I'm sure the sales person was livid at losing a customer out of the finance office in which he had probably invested quite a bit of time and effort. Take this in the spirit in which it's intended, sounds like you took a knee at the five yard line instead of running in for the score.

  4. 4. Mad Marv [ February 22, 2017 @ 08:25AM ]

    Actually it wasn't, Bill. Customer gave no indication that he was rate conscious when we first met and the salesperson was as surprised as was I since he already agreed to the terms. The rest of the story unfolded outside afterward. He wasn't happy with several of the flaws since it was used. Why the customer didn't make this known before F&I, I've no clue. I suspect the reason he asked the question of me was he heard it elsewhere, read an article about abusive dealership staff or was coached by someone. This customer was looking for an APR less than half the "buy rate" and I was simply unable to get close. And no, I'm not 100% every single time. I appreciate your comment and questions.

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Author Bio

Marv Eleazer

Finance Director

Marv is no insider. He’s an actual F&I manager with more than 20 years of experience. Get his from-the-trenches take on the industry every month at fi-magazine.com.

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