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It’s What’s Under the Hood That Matters



Big promises are great for getting people interested.  But if you can’t fulfill them, you’d be better off keeping expectations low.


of INDESIGN Magazine and Contributing Editor of INSTORE.

ig promises are great for getting people interested. But if you can’t fulfill them, you’d be better off keeping expectations low.


This weekend, I had the (dis)pleasure of shopping for a used car.  My wife and I saw couple of vehicles advertised online by a major local auto dealership that looked like they could fit the bill.  When we arrived, we were greeted by a young salesperson with his shirt untucked and a baseball cap.  Seemed a little sloppy, but whatever – as long as he was good at his job, I didn’t really care what he looked like.  When we asked about the car we had seen online, he told us he didn’t know where it was, but he could take us out back to look for it.  We hopped on a golf cart that would take us to our destination – only to discover that its battery was dead.  We were going to have to walk.

We don’t mind exercise, so that was no big deal, either.  We circled the lot for about 15 minutes and couldn’t find the car.  Finally, after conferring with several other salespeople, we spotted the car.  The young salesman handed me the key and I opened the door, cranked the ignition and… nothing.  The starter wouldn’t turn over.  “I can give it a jump-start so you can drive it,” the salesperson said helpfully.  Um, no – I’m gonna need a car that will start without a jump-start.

We asked about the other car we’d seen online, and he took us over to it.  “It hasn’t been detailed yet,” he said.  We had actually figured this out already based on the old tortilla sitting in the back seat, the dog hair throughout and the stains all over the seats and floors.  I asked him how many miles per gallon the car got, and the young man said, “Well, it’s a sedan, so probably 20 or 25 or so.”  Wow, really?  And here I actually expected him to know more about this car than I did.

Needless to say, we left the dealership without buying.  It occurred to me later that this dealership is prominent in media, they use slick advertising and seem like a major player.  They have a gleaming showroom with glass walls and steel beams and a nice waiting room and big television set.  But when it came to customer service and product knowledge, they fell woefully short of our expectations.

Selling out of a palace is a start.  But if you can’t deliver on the human element, you’ll never be a very successful business.  A truly cool store is one that promises the world … and delivers it.  



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