Rumor had it that Gen. LeMay's wife had a lot of Boeing stock and therefore Boeing should be building airplanes instead of Generous Dynamics. This was not exactly so. The General didn't like the idea of one man at the controls of a race horse like the Hustler. He favored a side by side arrangement with a copilot, navigator, bombardier, weapons systems operator and several gunners. In other words, lots of people to do his bidding. But I stray.
As luck would have it, my brother in law, Bill McDavid was in dire need of someone to watch his back door, the Service Department. I started as a Service Adviser, working for a Mr. McBride around the middle of April, 1961, and by October 1, that year, I was Service Manager.
One of the first people I met at the dealership was Glen Shadle. Glen was a top notch salesman in the Used Car Department reporting to B. L. Deming, the manager. Glen was the nicest guy you would ever hope to meet. Believe it or not, he had the customers interest at heart. His repeat business alone was good for ten to fifteen cars a month. He did have one little problem, a slight speech impediment. When he answered the phone, it sounded like Gwen Shada. His favorite song came out, " A widdle biddy tear wet me down" and he sang it constantly. I overheard a customer point to a dent on a car he was trying to sell. Glen admitted it had had "widdle wick here an der."
His long suit was checkers. He was the undisputed champ of Fort Worth. People were always coming around to challenge him and he cleaned their plow while the salesmen cleaned up by betting on him. Glen did not drink, smoke or gamble. Would not even bet a coke on the outcome of a game. The only time I ever saw him flustered was the time they ran a ringer in on him.
Pete Deming, B.L.'s brother, was always looking for someone who could best Glen. He finally found a young lady of questionable virtue who could play checkers. When they sat down for the match, she took off her coat and displayed some charms guaranteed to awake King Tut. Glen's first words were, "Good Ward!" and lost two out of three.
The Deming brothers are worth an entire chapter but I have to get this one in. Dick Wells, New Car Sales Manager, was born in Galveston in a house of ill repute his mother ran. He grew up there in his formative years, learned a lot of tricks. (no pun intended) He was at least fifty pounds overweight but light as a feather on his feet. He could handle himself in a fight too. I had first hand knowledge of that on the North Side one night after work. We were at an after hours club, drinking and just having a good time. Dick had danced with a lady and for some reason her boy friend, a big burly bully decided he didn't like it. He should have left well enough alone. Dick tried every trick he knew to avoid a confrontation but the bully would not let it go. Before he knew what hit him, he was on the floor with Dick bending over him offering sage advice, "Better stay down there." Again I stray.
Pontiac had a small flaw in the air conditioning system on 1961 models. The compressor fuse rating was too small and when it blew, was replaced with a larger fuse. Dick was on the showroom floor one afternoon when a very irate and big customer appeared announcing he was going to whip someone over the car. Dick was all smiles and told him, "Mr. B. L. Deming does all our fighting and he is sitting on that bench in front of the Used Car Department." The man got back in his car and drove on the lot and up to the bench where B. L. and two of his salesmen were sitting. One salesman, Cap, only had one leg and hobbled around on a crutch. He didn't have a prosthesis, just pinned the flap of his trousers up. I don't remember the other salesman's name but he was barely five feet, about a hundred and twenty pounds.
The customer got out and announced he was there to whip someone over his air conditioner. Without blinking an eye, B. L. looked to his left and then to his right. Back at the customer and said, "Mr., there ain't nobody here you can whip." The customer's wife, who had been trying to cool her husband down, roared with laughter and told him to tell B. L. what his problem was. That is where I came in. B. L. told him he knew what the problem was with his air conditioner and if he would drive it in the Service Department, ask for me, I would correct the problem. As an after thought, he told the customer, "If he doesn't fix it, then you can whip him!" Thanks B. L.
If you think back, you will remember the expression "If I could would you?" It is a question designed to receive a positive answer. As in, "If I could get you ten thousand dollars (or some other ridiculous offer) for your trade in, would you trade today?" In fact, every question asked by the salesman is designed to get a positive response. "What color would you not take?" is another. He usually asks the wife this question. They are not called "car jockeys," salesmen, or "liners" today. They are called "sales consultants." Another term used in the automobile business is a "liner." This is usually an inexperienced salesman whose sole purpose in life is to settle you on a car, write up a front sheet, make a few trips to the salesmanager's office to have the offer "red penciled." He will be replaced by a "closer" a very experienced type who will usually represent himself as a manager. If all else fails then a real manager will try to put you in the car. This is called desk control and was developed in the fifties by a company called Wayne Management System. There are as many ways to work the system as there are salesmen and that is what it is, a system.
In defense of the automobile business, the dealerships are not nonprofit organizations although some customers would like to think they are. An auto is the second most expensive thing you will ever pay for if you exclude a divorce.
My father in law, Bill McDavid, Sr. used to say, "The showroom is a stage. A customer will let you make two hundred dollars. A hundred profit and a hundred for the act."
More about the car business later.