Put that coffee down! Why? Because coffee is for closers. We all remember Stella Liebeck, right? The Albuquerque woman who spilled a cup of hot coffee on herself and then sued McDonalds. She put the coffee down and then set a precedence that we all need to go out of our way to make sure everyone is warned that the contents might be hot. I am shaking my head and have my hand across my face – picture the emoji.
We won’t ever change the consumer, but if we better understand their behavior, we can better prepare ourselves for some of the pitfalls of dealing with the general public.
In all seriousness, though, I have been thinking a lot lately about personal accountability. That is the belief that you are fully responsible for your own actions and consequences. It’s a choice, a mindset, and an expression of integrity.
I had a service writer stop by my office a few weeks ago, and he had a stack of papers in his hands. He saw my desk covered in paperwork and forms, as I was preparing a deal that was coming in shortly. He said, “Boy, you look busy, but I know you can do seven things at once.” I told him, “Lay it on me.” Long story short, we have a customer who purchased a 2011 Buick Enclave and also purchased a service contract six years ago, and he ended up needing a new engine five years ago. He forgot he had the service contract and went to a different repair facility and paid cash for the repair. He was wondering how we can make a claim, or if one could be made so he could get paid back. I explained to him that because of the requirement to have authorization first, and the amount of time that had passed, there was unfortunately nothing we were going to be able to do about this. I did tell him to remind the customer that he still has some coverage left, and that anything in the future, we would be happy to offer assistance.
Another customer who recently bought a vehicle from us co-signed for his son. They both live in California, but the son goes to school here in Colorado. The entire deal was done using the information provided by both customers, but using the California address. It was on all the papers they filled out, and they also have California driver’s licenses and insurance. We do the whole deal and send the paperwork to the father. He signs and then his son signs. The deal gets funded. A few weeks afterwards, the father is upset because he finds out the car has to have an inspection and VIN verification, and apparently this can only be done in California, where he lives. He tried to spin this around and make it somehow “our fault” for not asking more questions. As if we are mind readers or we are “living in his world.” How about the fact that you half listened when we explained the deal to you, and now we have somehow done this injustice, because your attention span has diminished?
There are a lot of people in this world that live with a mindset of “live in my world.” They do not pay attention when backing out of a parking space. They are oblivious when walking through a grocery store. They are the people having loud conversations on a cell phone in a public area or while sitting on an airplane. This is the person who accidentally slams into your shoulder when you’re holding a cocktail in a bar downtown, and they might apologize as they continue walking by, leaving your hand covered in whatever sticky beverage you were about to enjoy. This is the guy who is texting at the red light and after the grace period gets the horn because we like on-time stuff.
Actions have consequences. Everything we think, say, and do has consequences for ourselves and for others. Like ripples on a pond, our actions spread out and affect others because everything is interconnected. This applies inside the dealership more now than ever before. You can have all the forms in the world, signed and disclosed in a car deal. However, you will never be able to eliminate the growing lack of attention to detail that exists in the world today. Knowing that people want what they want when they want it, and that most of the time they are only giving you a part of their small attention, makes it even more important to try to outrun the contributory negligence of the consumer.
Everyone wants power and freedom, yet no one wants accountability. We won’t ever change the consumer, but if we better understand their behavior, we can better prepare ourselves for some of the pitfalls of dealing with the general public. Remember, contents may be hot.
Justin B Gasman is the financial services director at McCaddon Cadillac Buick GMC, Inc.