Monday, January 10, 2011


So once again I’ve been asked to write another car lot story. This is a “spiff” story. The term goes back to the late 1800’s and refers to monies paid for specific performances. An example would be for selling a car in inventory too long, the first sale of the day, three sales in a day, etc. This is paid above and beyond the regular compensation.

In the late 80’s to early 90’s My employer was a large Ford store selling 1200 cars a month with fifty or so salesmen. A productive salesperson, selling 180 to 200 cars a year, could make over $10,000 in spiffs alone. The competition was fierce. I’ve seen NBA and NFL alumni who couldn’t take the pressure.
The General Manager had a series of fines, called “stop spiffs”, for various infractions. If levied against you, you paid taxes on the earnings but the spiff went to charity. Don’t like it or think it is fair? Work at “down the road motors”.

About every six weeks, the GM went over the stop spiffs for the benefit of new hires. $25 for parking your car on the lot. $50 for missing a meeting, etc. He also had three, called Substantial ($200), Major ($500) and Legendary ($1,000). Threats to coworkers might be a Substantial. A fist fight might be a Major. After he went over the program, he would announce, “And in the room today, we have two double Legends, Pritchmeyer and the Tank”. John and I would then stand up to be cheered/jeered, etc.

There was no stop spiff for theft of any kind. Immediate termination, end of story.

Some may be curious as to how the Legends attainted their status. In the case of the Tank, it was for informing insufferable tools the precise nature of their tooldom, on two separate occasions. For the Pritchmeyer, the first was parking a full sized Bronco on it’s roof in the adjacent bus transit parking lot.
The second was for selective editing credit reports faxed to a bank too cheap and lazy to pull their own.

Of fifty salespeople, seven made 40% of the total salespeople earnings. John and I were in that group.

The car business has lost the warrior spirit. Depending on your point of view, that is good or bad. In my years in the business, I met exactly one car company “Suit” I would have hired for my team. The rest wasted my time.
You want stupid? One training seminar they brought in Jane Fonda as a motivational speaker. When a dozen or so of us walked out, the factory men went nuts. One man, not me - too slow, told them, “We will be at the bar until the bitch is gone”. Nothing happened at my store. The owner was an ex Flying Tiger.

So there you are, my anonymous friend, another car lot story.


Old NFO said...

Good story, but what, er.... how... on the ROOF??? :-)

suz said...

I always hated the car-buying process, the script sucked! Then I sold Fords for a few months - that was by far the most toxic environment in which I have ever worked. The money wasn't worth it, but the education sure was! I can handle whatever BS they throw at me (I'm the one handing out favors here) but I'm glad the industry is changing. Being forced to stay honest by informed consumers, means car salesmen have to work harder for their money. That's OK; competition is what made this country great, and we've collectively lost our edge.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

NFO Several managers wanted to know how the Bronco was parked that way. The local police also had inquiring minds. Best guess? Can a full sized Bronco pull a one G turn on flat pavement?

suz Toxic is the word. Feeding your family?