The Monet was stunning and brought tears to my eyes. The picture of sailboat in a small inlet was the very essence of tranquility, and the blues and greens of the impressionist painting were soothing. The framed picture was hanging over the fireplace as I walked into my new and very empty apartment. I was going through a rough time and things seemed especially bleak, but a friend’s consideration made all the difference. She remembered I liked Monet, bought the print, and asked the property manager for the key so she could hang the picture to surprise me.
The picture itself wasn’t valuable, but the impact it made on my mental health and overall outlook was tremendous. My friend’s consideration made me feel special, but it was more about the thought than the actual gift that made the difference.
My first class in law school was on contracts, and we learned the definition of a contract was “offer, plus acceptance, for consideration.” Most of us in the non-lawyer world would think that accepting an offer makes a contract and that “consideration” was either someone thinking long and hard about the decision or the polite “after you, no after you” exchange. In actuality, consideration is something of value that’s exchanged which makes the contract binding.
The car business is full of contracts. We have purchase agreements, retail installment sales contracts (RISC), service contracts, and product enrollment forms. Any of those contracts would be accepted by the customer after we offered them, but what makes them truly a contract is the consideration. The purchase agreement/buyers order is a contract between the dealership and the customer where we promise to provide the vehicle in exchange for the customer paying for it. The RISC is the agreement between the customer and the finance source for the customer to repay the money used to pay the dealership for the vehicle. Whatever the reason for the contract, consideration is important.
The most common form of consideration is money. Those of us who’ve been in the car business any length of time soon come to believe that cash is king. We tend to be monetarily motivated, and many will sell their mother’s souls for a $20 spif. Like so many other topics, we often think that everyone else thinks the same way and everything comes down to money. Studies have shown that isn’t true.
Customers want a good value for their money, but that isn’t the main reason why most customers purchase a product. They choose a product because of the features and benefits, but they purchase the product from a location based on how they were treated. Many people will bypass a place that has a lower price because of the poor customer service.
Just like in the legal sense, consideration should mean more than money — it’s anything of value. Understanding what’s important to someone else is critical. If a customer has an appointment, be considerate enough to be ready. If you show him his time is valuable, he’s more likely to purchase from you. Offering a cold bottle of water on a hot day or a cup of coffee on a cold day shows you care about the other person’s well-being. If a customer says they would like to think about something before making a decision, treat their decision time with respect.
My friend made my world a better place with the Monet. It wasn’t about the money, it was about the feeling that someone valued me and wanted me to be happy. What Monet can you give someone today?
Lori Church is an experienced F&I manager, a graduate of the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, and director of compliance for Holman Automotive.