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Support for this American life comes from Squarespace providing designer crafted templates, mobile friendly and e-commerce, ready for a free trial of your new Web site. Visit Squarespace dot com, slash American and enter American. Think it, dream it. Make it with Squarespace. Support for this American life comes from Progressive, one of the country's leading providers of auto insurance, with Progressive's name, your price tool. You say what kind of coverage you're looking for and how much you want to pay.

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And Progressive will help you find options that fit within your budget. Use the name your price tool and start an online quote at progressive dot com. Pricing coverage match limited by state law. A quick warning. There are curse words that are unbleached in today's episode of the show, if you prefer a beeped version. You can find that at our Web site. This American life, dawg. Hi, everybody. Eric was here for this Fourth of July weekend, we bring you one of my very favorite episodes of our program, This American Life.

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Sometimes when I meet somebody who has never heard our program and I need to find an episode to recommend to them, this is the episode that I recommend as the first one they should hear. And we thought it would be good for the Fourth of July because this episode is about something that seems so very American and that is going out and buying a car the old fashioned way in a showroom. We first broadcast today's program in the fall of 2013. Hope you like it.

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And happy holiday. Freddy is the general manager of a car dealership these days, but he used to be a car salesman and was a good one. Probably because he got what he calls the gift for the gab. His go to move in that situations is to finish a sentence and then laugh even when the sentence is bad news. Like here he is assessing his chances of making a sales goal for the month.

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I'll give it a 50/50 right now because it's early. Boy, this is him talking about a month when the car dealership did not make it sales call and I'm strictly commission, so I make nothing.

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So when Freddy is not laughing, you know, it's bad in mid-October. Freddy did not laugh much at his weekly meetings with the guys who sell cars for him.

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Good morning. All right. The beginning of the month, I went through the room and I told everybody where they had to be.

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Jason, you have 16 cars out. You need 10 more for the month for 26. I want to see you there. Bob Lunda. Have six out. You need nine more. Scotty, you're at 10 right now. You need to be at 18.

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Last month, they didn't make their sales call. That was September less. First week of school is always bad for car sales in the suburbs. They were supposed to sell 127 cars and trucks. They sold 82.

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So they have to make October. And when I say I have to make this is not some sort of abstract feelgood compete with the dealership down the block just for fun kind of competition.

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The part of Chrysler. And if they sell 129 cars and trucks by the end of October, Chrysler will pay them a bonus. That's pretty much the difference between the dealership being in the black or being in the red for the month. Somewhere between 65 and eighty five thousand dollars, depending on which models they sell, different cars or in different amounts. If they sell 128 cars for just one car short, they get nothing.

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That's worksheet that the Chrysler sends us to show us what money we can earn, buy how many cars we sell.

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And there's a new one every month, every month in the middle of the month.

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The owner of this dealership, sweet faced guy named Mark, Brad, Weeb and Freddie. Show me the document with Chrysler set their October sales goal. Now, now this chain.

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And every month, women at their whim. That's another frustration. We have no idea what the number is going to be and really how they compute it. We've had numbers as high as 159. And we fight and we go crazy.

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It's cockamamy if anyone knows the glasses, because basically they shift around the ground rules on you every month.

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It makes all this tricky is that there are four other Jeep dealerships within 10 miles of market. Freddie Mac says that most customers will shop price of two or three of them. So stay competitive. Mark and Freddie do it. Pretty much everybody else does. They set lower prices, not hundreds of dollars off the price of the cars. Send sell them for less than they pay. Chrysler for them with the hope that they're going to hit their sales goal and get the bonus to make up the difference.

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But there's no guarantee we will hit this number. So the pressure is huge because we have already given away the money to the consumer using that to sell the car.

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So I need a big day today. I need a big day. No bull. I really need a big day today.

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So with 12 days left to go in, the monthly numbers wobbly pretty later on thick during his weekly meeting with the sales team. Take heed. Otomi sees them over the dealership security cams.

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You know, I looked through the video. I watched you guys in there. All on your computers going to different Web sites, chillun do get on high gear. This is no joke. I got to be at that number. I'm telling you, not gonna be a nice guy. So put your nose right to the ground and come out shooting today, everybody. I want balloons and all those apartments. I want the radios down on. Put the convertible tops down all over the place.

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I want tons of balloons in the show. I just don't want one balloon took off. Balloon the whole freakin place. It looks like a circus.

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Make it seem like we're having a monster sale and it's a party cause we got to be at the big number by the thirty first midnight period. No ands, ifs and buts. So everybody grabs balloons. Grown men inflate and tie and decorate. It's a truism in their business. Balloons sell cars and then. Nobody shows up. For an hour, two hours, three hours, four hours, Saturday should be one of their busiest days and it's empty.

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Hey, Freddy, how's it going today so far? Shift really bad. Really slow. Really, really.

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Early afternoon, Freddy told one of our producers, Brian Reed, that it was way slower than usual. I don't know if you can catch us, but try to notice the song that is playing over the radio in the background as they talk. What do you think it is? What's going on? Not a clue. Well, all the advertising is out there and everything else should be swamped.

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Stressing. Stressing is a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it. Note for note. To be happy. Mark, who owns this dealership? Freddy who runs it? I know that most people do not trust car dealers.

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Most people think they're ripping us off during on extra charges, milking us for every dime.

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And they say, if you and I only knew the reality, we would see that, in fact, the dealer is not making a killing off us. In fact, the dealer is often squeaking by with a very thin profit margin. They say it is all very different from what people think. And to prove their point, they let us watch a bunch of us from our radio show.

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We recorded them as they headed towards the end of the month, trying to make their goal, trying to sell 129 cars, which, you know, you would think it would be very straightforward, very business, like, after all, new cars and trucks there for 15 percent of all retail sales.

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But if what we saw was typical, what that means is that hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity and nearly two million jobs exist, thanks only to millions of messy seat of the pants deals, many of which barely come together as salesmen sweat out their end of the month quotas. It is way more chaotic than we expected. And we saw some things it's true. We think will surprise a lot of car buyers from WBC. Chicago, it's this American life.

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Today, one car dealership tries to sell 129 cars. We get to know the resolute men and women who try to pull that off. Stay with us.

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So I wish I could pretend that we got interested in this subject on a radio show because we realized what an important part of the economy. Car sales are. And I wish I could pretend that we did a huge survey to find the most typical dealership out there. But in fact, we got interested in this topic and this particular dealership, town and country, Jeep Chrysler, Dodge Ram is what it's called. In Levittown, New York, on Long Island, one of our co-workers here at the radio show, Robin Semion, but a used car there.

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Here's how it happened. A friend of hers who knows all about cars told her that the only vehicle that she should even consider for her young family is the Honda Pilot. So she went looking online. She saw one listed on cars, dot com. It was at town and country. And she called and she had no intention at all of going to look at the car. But a salesman convinced her. Oh, you know what? You should come out today, right?

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Today, talked her into it, which meant an hour long ride on a train from Brooklyn with her husband and her four year old. And then once she got there. They up Soder to a newer, more expensive vehicle, a Jeep Liberty, which he drove off the lot. 24 hours later, Robin told me the story in the car in question on our first ride out to the dealership. Yeah, I mean, the Honda Pilot, I think is.

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Across the board, like less problems last, longer, better gas mileage. Well, I know, I know. You know, I love this car. You got that. These people are such good salesmen, not only did she pay more. Not only did they put her into a jeep, which meant that since they are a Jeep dealer, they could sell her a warranty, which they also did for a few thousand dollars. She came out of this loving her car and loving them.

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How do they do this? Well, before we go any further, I think I should give you a quick primer on the basic setup and cast of characters at this dealership. New cars are sold at town and country, and we're gonna be spending most of our time with new cars today by seven men and one woman who, by the way, constantly make fun of each other in this raunchy way that we cannot buy you over the radio. Just know that that's happening.

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Plus, there are two guys in the finance department and then overseeing all of them. There are the general manager, Freddy, who you already met. And then out on the Schomer for all day, every day are two managers who you're gonna be hearing from a lot over the course of this hour. These are Mike Perez and Sal and Salada of the two.

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Sal is the more complicated figure, balding with a gray goatee. He's got this vibe that is halfway between Ben Kingsley in Gandhi and the laconic hit man Mike from Breaking Bad. When Sal gets up to speak at the weekly sales meetings, the meeting, by the way, is in the middle of the showroom. He paces around a red convertible as he talks, reminding everybody of the basic tenants of car sales.

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Customer says they're not ready to buy a car. They're all not ready to buy a car. Let's go over it again. They're in a car dealership. They got in their car, drove through hell to get here, looked for a parking spot for 10 minutes, parked, got out of the car and walked into a car dealer. Not because the coffee's good. We went over this because the coffee here is not good. They came here because we sell cars and they want to buy one.

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Nothing's changed in 100 years of selling cars. He tells them at one meeting the customer wants to pay as little as possible. We want to make as much as we can.

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You guys know the job, right? No, I've done it before. Be aggressive. Be aggressive. ABC Bob. Was ABC always be closing. Always be closing.

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Because these guys, managers, Sal and Mike, sit near the front door of the showroom at this elevated platform that everybody calls the podium or the desk, and they oversee all the terms about deals and OK, if you've ever bought a car, maybe you've wondered what really happens. You know, when the salesman leaves you and they go back and they talk to their manager. They talk the boss. Look at what do they do? What would they do?

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As we were told? They go the reps. Who's ready? We tell them what to say to the customer and we load their lips. Send it back to the customer and see where we can commit. So, for instance, when one of the salesmen wants to get a woman to bring her husband in today to test drive the car that she's chosen, they huddle at the desk, a bunch of them, and Freddie starts to improve some lines for the salesman to say, listen, if you can take this car by Monday, what happens if I can?

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I'm not sure if I can do it. I have money for the weekend that I'm given away from Chrysler. As long as you purchase it by tomorrow and pick it up by Monday, you'll win. He's totally making this up.

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There's no weekend money like this money over the weekend through Chrysler. I want to use it. I want to give it to you.

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Your husband with that salesman heads off. That's lowed lips.

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You're just saying it lodin your lips before the managers can go to their lips.

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They have to figure out what price they're going to ask for in the terms of the deal and all that. And this works differently, I think, than the way that most of us imagine is happening when we buy a car. We assume that the managers and the salesmen are a unified team and it's, you know, us versus them. But in fact, managers and salespeople are often at odds with each other and they spin information and they lie to each other.

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Here's Peter Process, a very experienced salesman who at the time of this recording was three cars shy of the 18 that he was supposed to sell in October.

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And what he's doing here is he's asking a couple what they want their monthly payments to be on a new car.

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What if I can get you the same payment? You're right now. 199 for thirty more and something like that. Okay, here, that one hundred ninety nine a month. Then Peter marches over to talk to the managers at the desk and listen to the number that he tells Sal. The customer wants.

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She wants to be about 150 bucks a month. 150. Sixty one hundred ninety nine. Souness Sal is out of earshot. Peter turns to the reporter who's trailing him. Short call. You see what it did.

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So soon? Well, you saw what she. She told me she wants to be at one ninety nine and one. I'm telling him 150. I got to work him too with the same time. You're going lower with him.

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Why do this? Well, later, when the negotiations get tough, the manager, Sal, may ask Peter to squeeze the customers, her lower number on their trade in maybe a higher price for the car, something it might be hard to talk the customer into.

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But Peter now has wiggle room. He knows he can push the couple up to one Endi nine month in payments because they already said yes to it. He can make up the difference there.

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In fact, as the deal proceeds, it runs into a problem. The desk, the couple and the salesman cannot come to an agreement about how much the dealership should pay the couple for their trade. In S says it is worth one price. The customer say that another Jeep dealer offered them a lot more than that for the trade end. But of course, that may be a lie. There's a saying in the business. Buyers are liars. Or maybe the other dealership is lying to the customers.

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Maybe the other dealership told them an unrealistically high price that they never intend to pay.

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That happens to everyone is playing. Everyone out at the desk tells Peter, the salesman, that the customer cannot beginning that trade in price from the competitor. It can't be true.

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It's not believing what the customers tell us. One that caused the 16 five at the auction. There's no way to pay him 20 grand on a court.

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They could sell at auction for 16. But then I guess he's a better negotiator than just a better lie on your mind. That's the difference. So to summarize, the managers and the salespeople were playing each other, customers playing them both.

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Each dealership is playing the other dealerships and the manufacturer is playing all the dealerships. It's quota's and it's incentives. Chrysler sold 140000, 83 cars and trucks in October.

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This is what it took to sell one of them. Like I said earlier, several of us came and recorded at this dealership and each of us chose different sales people to follow. Robyn Semion chose Bobby Tan Telo, 22 listeners. Somebody uses a word in an offensive way in her story. We're going to weave that in because we're trying to document what really happened. Robert Tantillo, Bobby T. around the dealership is in last place. He doesn't like talking about it.

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How many cars have you sold?

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I can't keep track. I know someone here is keeping track. Well, then you'd have to ask them. I didn't have to ask them. Freddie makes it clear in that weekly speech he gives every Saturday. Remember that meeting? He goes over everyone's individual sales, gives them new goals.

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You need nine more Bobs there that morning to you can't be. Freddie is keeping track.

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Bob t. You're right. Three. Thanks for stopping by. Bob doesn't flinch.

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Got to look. He sits poker faced in a chair. Couple of guys look down or stare at their hands.

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I'm like fifteen bob. Twelve more. Bobby T's new here before this. He was in the wholesale food business for three decades, became a car salesman a few years ago after he retired. Bob says last month the other most sales for a couple weeks last month was last month. Freddy needs this month.

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Bob says the issue is there's just so much about selling cars that's out of his control. He says his biggest problem this month is a lack of leads. One way sales Mangat leads is from the Internet. Town and country lists all the cars it has online. When people see one they like, they usually call before they come in to make sure the cars are really there. But those calls go to guys in the back. In the Internet department. Then when the customers show up at the store, they meet whoever they talk to on the phone.

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And one of the bosses at the desk hands them over to a real salesperson like Bob, except the Bob says he's never been handed one of those leads.

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They got a give it to a guy that they know is, you know, that's been here and they see him the deal. That's pretty much how it works to really be tight with the desk. Yeah, Bob's not tight with the desk, but Freddy, in an attempt to help out, gives Bob exactly what he wants. His first Internet lead, he tells Bob. Go on back. Get Dan. Dan works in the Internet office.

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So these words go get Dan. That's the signal for taking over an Internet lead.

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Freddy raises his eyebrows at Bob and nods his head slowly like you got that Bob misunderstands the cue. He gets Dan from the Internet office who comes up to the desk to greet the customers and hand them off to Bob, who is suddenly disappeared.

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No one knows where he went. So Freddy gives the customers to another salesman. A bewildered Freddy calls over to Dan.

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And I said, Bob over there to get your whatever and then come back. Where do you go? I was busy. Come on. He kept going to the office just like we time. He told me. I know I can come right back. Bob walks up minutes later.

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The whole idea was to get David come back and then take over the sale. That's what they wanted me to get. That's what the hand does. He comes in. He gets the sale. And then he gives it to the salesman. So it's no man he got. Yeah. Exactly. Three calls out. I would. It's hard to watch someone with a lot of experience berate someone with much less experience for not knowing better. There's a line from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

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You never open your mouth to, you know, what the shot is when you don't know the shot. It's not like you don't want another shot. Bob does another shot, but he's trying it.

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Say there's a customer here. Take care of a customer. He said, go get Dan. So I went got Dan. I was supposed to know what he's thinking. It's hard.

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You get bullied, you get pushed around. But if you let it go, move on. It's a tough job, Nimsoft, for everybody. I told you that, you know, you had to be thick skinned. You had to be able to take a lot, absorb a lot. He's well, now, I gave it to the other guy, OK. I want to say. So there actually is a place, a town, a country where they keep score of who has sold what is in Freddy's office, the general manager's office, it's a whiteboard with each person, sales for the month to date on it.

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Every car or truck that they've sold is represented by a little magnetic rectangle. That's roughly the size of a nine volt battery. Everybody calls these chips and the different colors of the chip stand for different models of cars and trucks. And they're at the day a salesman come and they hover around the whiteboard seeing where everybody stands. And generally, everybody is shooting for at least 15 sales a month at 15 sales. Your commission for the next month, jobs from 20 percent to 30 percent.

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There's also a bonus of six hundred dollars when you hit 10 cars, 250 dollars if you sell seven cars in the first two weeks of the month. There's money you get directly from Chrysler and they could be anywhere between 50 and 250 dollars per car. Mid-level salesmen here at town and country make around sixty thousand dollars a year. Top performers are closer to 100000. Most of that is commissions and bonuses. The number one salesman in town and country is always the same.

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Someone's he has twice as many sales as whoever is in second place.

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I've been doing this 28 years. This guy is like one of the best I've ever seen.

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This has been Peter Posa standing at the board. It's the middle of the month. He's gonna run to 15 to pending 17 cause. Unbelievable. This guy's a born a born salesperson.

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All the veteran sales guys at town and country say these things about this guy. He also happens to be the youngest salesman of dealership 28. Jason Márcia reporter Sean Cole. Follow him around.

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Jason stands out from everybody else on the sales floor and pretty much every way he's taller than everybody else. And way more focused on his appearance. Always a full suit and tie. Double wins or not gelled hair. He's handsome, and he isn't just the best seller at town and country. He's one of the best sellers of Jeeps, Chryslers, Dodges and Rams in America.

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So I'm going to go on my I'm going to go on my oh my log-in you. And then, boom, he showed me this internal Chrysler company Web site that ranks all the salespeople talking thousands of BBC, his national number. There is twenty nine thousand salespeople in the whole entire country. And you were on one oh, wait. One hundred eight out of twenty nine thousand.

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You have a shocked look on your face, because I look at it, I say, that's friggin crazy. And I'm saying you would think a guidance in this business for 15 to 20 years should be doing that stuff. Jason's barely been in this business for four years. When I met him in the last weekend of October, he had already outsold everybody for the month, including a guy who's been doing this since Jason was a toddler. But he says he's not competing with the others.

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He's competing with himself, you know, trying to excel at my own goals that nobody would even know about. You know what I mean? So, like, I just I'm like my own little celebrity in my own little body.

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And we're sitting there talking. He pulls out a piece of paper and starts writing down everything he's saying as he says it. He always does this. I have 10 pages of notes from this interview. His notes. So most of the salespeople at town and country are shooting for 15 to 20 sales in a month. That's considered a solid performance. And Jason is not satisfied with a solid performance.

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There's a there's a number that I really want to hit. He writes down that number in circles it and then moves on.

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And I would love to just a child. I've achieved 30 cause several times. Writes down 30, underlined several. That is 30 cars a month.

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All right. So I've done that enough to say I could do it. You know, now I'm trickle in, writes down 30 plus sign, you know, 30 plus for October, hoping to finish the month in the mid 30s somewhere. But Jason's own personal Olympic goal say what this number is that you wrote.

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This is 40. Is a big number. You know, I mean, if you can hit 40, cause that's more than a call per day, that's sick. That's crazy. Especially when you selling cars. You know what I mean is I like I'm selling suits.

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What took me a while to understand is how Jason sell so many cars or what he's doing differently than everybody else. And we asked pretty much everybody else this question, but their answers were kind of generic. He's a good looking kid. Good personality. Got the gift of the gab. Even Jason sort of defaults to truisms when you ask him what his secret is, says he treats every customer like he would want to be treated. But as much as you can figure out anybody in less than a week, I think Jason's success is due to three basic attributes, three characteristics he has that have propelled him to the top.

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So I'll go through those now. Number one, constructive delusion. Now, Jason knows that a certain percentage of customers, depending on the month, will walk away from him without buying a car. Of course, that happens. And yet, paradoxically, he enters every negotiation full in the knowledge that it will not happen as we're sitting there.

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He drew a picture of a very lopsided hourglass with a line across the skinny part.

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You know, you're looking at it half empty or half full. You know what I mean? Are you optimistic or you know. And was still the word pessimist's in this book to Jason. The glass is not half empty and it is not half full.

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You know me. I'm always at 100. It is 100 percent full. It's full.

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Like, what the hell? No, it's not. There's only half of the water there. No, no, no, no.

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It's full. But for someone who barely possesses the word pessimistic in his vocabulary, that's not always how he seems on the sales floor. More than any of the other sellers. Jason's anxious and crazy.

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Bite my nails, my nails off. Biting his nails.

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Hovering around the manager's desk. It's like the dealership making its quota is personal to him. Jason. And this is number two on our list of attributes. Jason doesn't just want to sell cars. Jason needs to sell cars. Case in point, I watched him work this one deal. The lease on a Jeep Liberty. He played it totally cool at first. But when the haggling started, it was like someone had clamped a set of jumper cables to his ankle in between three.

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Seventy five and three. Twenty nine is forty six times thirty nine is another 17. But you got to put the value point on it.

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You now have a sunroof and you have the guy insists for an hour that he can't leave a deposit without talking to his wife without that. And then he leaves a deposit.

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Jason wins. Anthony, I really like you. I really do.

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He runs outside to chat with another customer and he's already closed. We're getting there. And at this point, he's completely dosed up on adrenaline jabbering like a speed freak.

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I just I just. I just. I just closed one. I just closed one that I didn't think I was gonna close. The guy was like you on the fence. He's like my wife, my wife, my wife, my wife, my wife. I get like I threw something at him and he was like, and, you know, those intense moments where you're like like because we're gonna do it again. And we did it. So exciting.

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Does it matter how many cars you do? It's like the first deal in your life.

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Two hours later, he's already crashed. It's like that deal never happened.

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Struggling to get these deals out, really strapped. Feel like I totally am back on that feeling. I'm back on the grind again. I feel like I need another 10 guys.

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The high is fleeting. In high school, ready for the next. You're ready for the next one.

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So that's two. And then the third and final attribute that I think has led Jason to being the top seller at town and country. ABC always be calling your girlfriend to say, baby, I just have a couple more things to take care of and then I'll be home. He got into an argument about it last night. Hey, this is Jason's girlfriend, Gina. She stopped by to say hi to him at the shop. One of the days we were there, the night before that, he had come home too late and screwed up their dinner plans.

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Gina says they're always running into a store five minutes before it closes. She's imposed a no work talk over dinner rule. But Jason always has just one last thing to tell her about something that happened at work.

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And they've only been together a year, so they can both still laugh about it, at least with me. But of course, working long hours can threaten everything else in your life. And the entire business of selling cars is built on working long hours, working weekends when more customers come in, coming in on your day off, when the store needs to meet its quota and the damage that can do is all around. Jason, the sales guy in the cubicle next to him.

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Peter Process told me managing a sales team at a dealership in Florida is what led to his divorce. Yeah, of course it did. I was never home. I missed all functions and stuff because, you know, like I married my job.

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Manny, who sits next to Peter, is separated from his wife, partly due to the business to recent finance at her job caused her divorce. Sal, one of the managers you heard from before, says the job was a factor in both of his divorces. Still, Jason and Gina wouldn't even be together if it weren't for the job. They met at the dealership when she was buying from another salesperson. And now here they are both driving the exact same kind of car.

[00:30:32]

You know, it's funny. We both got white jeeps we love. She has a twelve. I got a 14. And we just we have a good time. And they're great trucks. They've got everything you need, all the luxury, the right size, and they last forever. It's like you're trying to sell me now. And if you've ever been. Yeah. You're going to go out by call for the end of the night. They're going to be like I wrote.

[00:30:51]

I wrote. You know what? I'll be back at the office in about two hours. I'm picking up my new jeep. All right. I mean, this product is like on fire.

[00:31:08]

In the second half of October at town and country sales stay slow going into the last two days of the month, they still have so many cars to sell. When Freddy sees me arrive in the morning on the next to last day of the month, knowing what it is that I'm about to ask him, he starts laughing. Oh, boy. Here we go.

[00:31:27]

We're behind 16 cars for the month so far, and that's not good. That means I need 16 cars between today and tomorrow.

[00:31:35]

Here's how hard that number is. Freddy tells me that he only expects 15 or 16 customers to show up in the store each day, which means that to get to his number, he's going to have to sell a car to every other person who walks in the door. And when my fellow radio producers and an eyewitness over the next two days, OK, some deals do go through, but it's almost a catalog of all the ways that a car deal can fall apart.

[00:31:56]

There are the obvious ways a young woman doesn't get approved for her car loan. A father and son promise to come back tomorrow to sign the papers and take the car. They never come back, but they turn out to be all sorts of other ways that a car deal can implode that we had never imagined or conceived. For instance, Bob T.. Bob, you remember Bob T., the salesman with the lowest sales of anybody this month.

[00:32:18]

Okay. A deal of his starts to unravel after the paperwork assigned after the deposit is paid. Basically, what happens is he told a couple that their new car is 2000 hours cheaper than it actually is. They found out the truth while talking to Rich, the finance manager, and kind of hit the roof.

[00:32:35]

Why am I thinking I'm getting screwed? One day, Bob. He was also surprised. He himself thought it was two thousand dollars cheaper. The finance manager, Rich, tells Bob T. the Bob t shirt. It's okay first. Better understood which rebates the couples qualify for. That's where the mistake was. And second, he should've explained it to the couple.

[00:32:55]

He left the middle out. He left the meat of the sandwich out.

[00:32:58]

That wasn't told to me. It was. It was. It was that we were going to give him the same discount.

[00:33:05]

That's why I'm only going by the numbers that were given to me. And I gave him the numbers and he signed it. We start with 2089, which manages to save this deal barely. Then around 7:00 at night, on the next to last day of the month, one of the salesman, Scott Frohlich, gets some weird news about one of his sales. He doesn't have our producers, Jonathan Mann. He buy that some customers that he had just sold a car to.

[00:33:32]

Now coming back to the dealership, but not to pick up their new car and take it home. No, no, no. They have to pick out another car because the other car was sold and nobody marked it.

[00:33:43]

It was sold. Yeah, that's right. They accidentally sold the same car twice to two different customers. Here's how it happened. Scott had sold a red Jeep Grand Cherokee to this customer. This guy who came in with his dad drove the deposit. But another salesman, Mike Lester, everybody calls him Michael had already sold that same car the day before.

[00:34:06]

The customer hadn't picked up the car yet.

[00:34:07]

And the little magnetic chip that they used to keep track of the sales, the one for this car, nobody had put it on the whiteboard in Freddie's office. The board that keeps track of who sold what. Scott is not happy.

[00:34:20]

Want a drink? You're welcome to come over for a fucking drink. Or maybe this does a better job capturing his mood.

[00:34:27]

Gonna want to shoot myself right now.

[00:34:30]

A later customer customers back on the lot with his dad. Scott walks up to him. And maybe this is the time to tell you that Scott moonlights as a mortician, which means he's used to handling all kinds of situations with customers. And so even though he did absolutely nothing wrong, here's why.

[00:34:47]

He says, I fucked up and I sold this old car. I'll admit it broke my heart infertile, broke my heart because the customer's godfather reference there.

[00:34:57]

Scott tells me that if the other sale falls through, the car's his. But the other deal does not fall through. So Scott and the guy go wandering around the lot in the dark looking for another Grand Cherokee red. The guy is set on red and they find one. What is this for? Yes, it is another red Grand Cherokee. Scott writes down the stock number, runs to the desk to check it out, and it has also been sold.

[00:35:24]

Scott's only hope is that that deal will fall apart and he can sell the car to this customer who he sends home.

[00:35:30]

Fingers crossed. And that, however, is still not over in around quarter to eight that night, something happens at the desk that really, really ticks off the manager.

[00:35:47]

So the amount of stupidity that just happened far exceeds anything I have ever experienced in the car business.

[00:35:57]

Okay, here's a short version. Steven Brown, a computer engineer from New Jersey, has come coming to finalize a deal on a new Dodge Challenger coupe. Its algorithm. Hey, Don. All right, Steven, is Lori's customer, the one woman on the sales team. But Lori is out sick. Steven, tell Sal that she texted him that somebody else is going to be taking care of the deal.

[00:36:17]

She'll you know, she just text messaged about thanking me for a few minutes if you want privacy in a waiting area.

[00:36:22]

But it Stephens, it sound sockets worry on the phone. I have a customer of yours here says someone else's supposed take care of who's supposed to. KARA Good. Mike Less has gone for the night. So now what do I do? Well, he's gone to salvage just Scotty, but he's not around Peters around, but he's working another deal.

[00:36:41]

Then you know how in every shop of every kind, everywhere, there's that one team playing late, staying extra. Go get her, kid. You can turn to who always helped clean up whatever weirdo mess just erupted one hour before closing. Yeah. In this case, that would happen to be Jason. What are you doing right now? Jason comes over to the podium.

[00:37:01]

Sean Cole, who is trailing Jason, picks up the story from here.

[00:37:04]

So Jason comes over to the desk and Sal explains what's going on.

[00:37:08]

Here's the rundown. You ready to go? This is Lori's customer. A customer came in to see Lori. Lori is not here today. So she set it up with Mike Lester. Mike Lester went home. Mike Perez knew about the deal. Mike Perez went home. T.K. is a finance manager on a deal. He's off today. So now I'm supposed to piece this together.

[00:37:23]

What are we doing? I'm not quite clear. Is the dig build out? I'm not quite clear.

[00:37:28]

OK. So what am I doing right now? It's not quite clear. It's not quite clear. I know the call was ready last. How are you doing, sir?

[00:37:36]

Now, this isn't a situation where Steven just needs to sign some papers and pick up the keys to his new car.

[00:37:42]

There are still a lot of steps to march through until he finds the folder and learns that Steven and Lori never got to a final final offer for his trade in. In order to do that, the car has to go up on the lift for a full inspection in the service department, which is inexplicably closed on this the second to last day of the month when they need absolutely every sale they can get.

[00:38:05]

Nobody. They didn't call me, see if they could leave. We're going to lose this deal with no inspection.

[00:38:11]

There's no trade in. And with no trade in, there's no deal. Somebody finally does a cursory inspection on the car without the lift in the dark. All the while, Steven is getting more and more anxious that no one seems to know what's going on. Jason tries to get him in with the finance guy to work out the terms of the deal. But the finance guy's busy. Jason explains this to Sal, which set sail off again.

[00:38:35]

He needs to sit with that customer. OK, this is it. Don't get excited.

[00:38:40]

Don't get excited about ready. What the fuck out. No, I don't like no bullshit. No, don't get excited. I've never been in a store as fuck up in my life. Don't get excited. Get excited. I want you just Minko.

[00:38:52]

This is actually the third time Stevens made the trek out here from New Jersey. It's a two hour drive. He does not want to make again.

[00:38:59]

I love the car, but I don't get it. You're gonna have to get it right. They can not lose this deal. They're still 10 cars short of their monthly goal. When Steven does sit down with the finance manager, he can't get the interest rate he wanted. Three point three percent. They finally resolved that. But then he doesn't have insurance for the new vehicle. He hasn't called Geico to transfer the policy from his old car. He takes care of that, too.

[00:39:23]

But then as he's transferring his stuff from the trunk of his old car into the new one, the billing office notices a glitch. Something's wrong with the new insurance card from Geico. Stevens addresses it on it and the date on it says October thirty first. Even though it's October 30th, that means Steven won't be able to legally drive the car until the following day.

[00:39:44]

Tiffany. Good. Good evening. This is Jason on the sales representative at Town and Country Jeep.

[00:39:48]

Jason gets on the phone with Geico, thinking maybe it'll be an easy fix. It won't be. We all stand around and watch him work this thing.

[00:39:56]

I'm sitting with a client of yours and he's purchasing a vehicle, picking it up tonight. I have the I.D. card and the kids quarter past ten at this point, but it's not like he's opening up a new policy. Then it's 10, 26. We've got to try to make an exception, if you can. He's us who lives where you can.

[00:40:12]

Finally, Tiffany comes through. Oh, my God. Geico says it'll email a new insurance card. Jason keeps Tiffany, the operator, on the line until everything is squared away with the billing office.

[00:40:23]

How long you been working for Guy? You sound like you really got a lot of billing. Gives the all clear. We all follow Steven out to the parking lot. It's about 11. At this point, Jason giddily watches him tear out of the parking lot and hangar, right? Judge sees that way. He went East, Joses West. Coming up, Kartal continues. It feels really weird to say, but it's true. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

[00:41:10]

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[00:41:43]

Squarespace. Think it. Dream it. Make it. Support for this American life comes from progressive, progressive has you covered when it comes to car insurance, starting with built in savings like discounts for being a safe driver, and you can also save when you start your, quote, online or have multiple vehicles on your policy. In fact, drivers who switch and save with progressive save 750 dollars on average, start a quote online and see all the discounts for yourself at progressive dot com national annual average auto insurance savings by new customers surveyed in 2019.

[00:42:18]

Potential savings may vary, discounts vary and are not available in all states and situations. This American Life, I'm IRA Glass. For this Fourth of July weekend, we are rerunning a program about something that feels very American, even though it happens all over the world, of course. And that is selling cars. Today's show is a rerun. We did other reporting for Today show in October 2013, a month when car sales were strong. One point two million new vehicles sold that month.

[00:42:45]

But that doesn't mean that every dealership in every town had an easy time of it. And today in our program, we watch one dealership, just one on Long Island, town and country, Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge Ram is what it's called. As you try to make their sales goal of one hundred twenty nine cars for the month. If they sell 129 cars, Chrysler is going to have a big bonus and they need that money to be in the black for the month.

[00:43:07]

If they just sell 128 PopChips.

[00:43:11]

So it's a 915 in the morning on the thirty first. How many cars you got to get? Nine. That's Freddy, the general manager here. Nine more. And we have to Scibetta. God help us.

[00:43:27]

God help us. It's gonna be it's gonna be hard. I'm a good man. He would start the last day with just two or three cars to sell. Nine. That's crazy. And it's Halloween, which means that lots of potential customers are gonna be out with their kids today.

[00:43:45]

Everybody's so tense that it's not even 10:00 in the morning. And a customer walks out without buying a car.

[00:43:51]

We're done. Sorry, I came in to make a deal. And that's not. Thank you.

[00:43:56]

And one of the managers, Sal, has this edgy little conversation with the salesman who let him walk out.

[00:44:03]

Take a walk. You got to stop doing Avro. I stopped doing it. You don't help me. You don't even come up here. How am I supposed to help? Where's my crystal ball? In the shop. Do it again. You following him? Get back up. Go. He doesn't go fucking real. The money is still young when I find Freddie and his office selling a car to himself, a loaner car for the maintenance department to lend out to customers who are getting their cars repaired.

[00:44:36]

He's got to count that in a sales total.

[00:44:39]

So now I only need eight more seats on the come together. By mid afternoon, he'll buy a second Vono car for the dealership back in February. Very bought a Durango for his wife to make the number that month requesting a car that he had just bought a year before for her for the same reason.

[00:45:04]

Joe, what's the story with you, cause Freddie is calling Joe Monty, one of the guys who runs the used car side of the business at town and country. Joe has got his own goal to hit for the month that is separate from the new cargo, 70 used cars. That's the number Freddie set for him.

[00:45:20]

Is anyone going out yet? What do we do? OK, but how come none was even delivered? I'm still sitting at six.

[00:45:26]

You're delivering the Chevy Trailblazer. Hold on.

[00:45:29]

While we were at town and country, we asked everybody what it would mean for him or her personally if the team did not make it sales call. I was actually this guy, Joe Mantee, over in cars who gave us the best picture that Sarah Canning hung out with him for a while. Joe's particularly stressed out this month, half the time I'm with him. It feels like he's fighting even with customers.

[00:45:50]

Nobody's giving you a runaround, Jessica. Okay. Yelling and screaming and being rude and threatening is not going to get you anywhere. The car, the car, the car is a great car.

[00:46:01]

Next fight, he calls a woman in the back office who he thinks ratted to Freddie about a deal she didn't like.

[00:46:07]

Theresa, what can you pick up the phone? Nails can get them late. Why did you run? Why did you run to Freddie? Why'd you run to Freddie and tell Freddie about a Chrysler 300? Well, whose conversation? Why were you talking to Eddie? First of all, if a manager. Right.

[00:46:25]

Saw a funny deal and signs it all, she's fine. She hung up the phone.

[00:46:31]

I'm sort of surprised anyone would have the balls to fight with Joe. He's a big man, 350 pounds large and in charge. The day I meet him, he's wearing a gray tracksuit. But what I quickly find out is that he's wearing a tracksuit because it's his day off. He's supposed to be at his son Mike's football game against Malvern. He hasn't been able to catch an away game all season. And he took this one Sunday off to do.

[00:46:53]

It was important to him for so many years. He wasn't around enough for his kids. He's working all the time. Joe knows Mike will be looking for him in the stands right about now. He's not gonna be there because he's here with the Kalighat.

[00:47:06]

We're a little shorthanded, so I got to be here, which is not a problem. Listen, I'm making money. Making money. Just a catch 22. Missing a game. But that's that's the core business. That's the core business. I'll make it up to them later.

[00:47:23]

Yesterday, Joe was late to his mother in law's surprise 17th birthday party. Last week, he was late for his own mother's sixtieth. The used car side of town and country is supposed to sell 70 cars by the end of the month. That's Joe's version of the 129 on the new side. When I first met, Joe used was at 35. At stake is Joe's big year end bonus. Joe wouldn't tell me the amount of the bonus, but he made it clear it's very, very nice.

[00:47:47]

Down payment on a house. Nice. Since he felt so behind the last couple months, this month Tober is make or break for Joe. He's got to get to at least 70 cars if he wants any hope of reaching that bonus by the end of the year. It's not looking good. Twenty years in the business, Joe's never seen a stretch this slow for this long.

[00:48:06]

Joe blames it mostly on Hurricane Sandy a year ago. Tens of thousands of people lost their cars all at once, and they got new ones all at once. So now, a year later, tens of thousands of people are out of the used car market who normally would be buying and selling right now.

[00:48:21]

We had two weekends in a row. We sold one car for two Saturdays and two Sundays, and we sold one car between the whole weekend. Oh, we can hold two weekends.

[00:48:31]

We sold one car. Those days we can see a customer. Joe goes outside to do an appraisal on a Nissan Quest. This also gives him a chance to have a cigarette. One of about 40 parliaments he'll smoke today. His wife and kids get on him about the smoking. He's got six kids, six kids to her grown. Four of them still at home. Joe's the only breadwinner in the family, always has been. So it's all on him.

[00:48:57]

Even in the best of times, Joe's a worrier like his grandmother. He's 42 years old, but he looks older in the past year. He's gained about 80 pounds in the parking lot. Joe throws away a half smoked cigarette and then looks over the Nissan Quest. Tires are so so need some detailing. It's got a cracked tail light and a bad Carfax report, meaning it's been in an accident. Two thousand dollars is fair for this car, Joe says.

[00:49:20]

It's what these are going for at auction. He tells me the customers are going to want at least twenty five hundred, but there's no way he can do that. Twenty five hundred is just too much. He heads back inside.

[00:49:31]

Twenty five hundred dollars. That's everything. Instantly caves. That's what I will do. He needs the deal. They shake on it. Joe's about 22 when he started in the car business.

[00:49:41]

Hit a baby at 18. His son Joseph. And then four more kids. Dean, Chris, Michael and Adriana. Plus his stepson, Lewis. Joe himself was one of five kids.

[00:49:51]

His mom raised them by herself. No dad around. No money. He moved around a lot with his own kids. He's the uptight parent, the one who doesn't laugh enough. The one who hammers them about consequences. He wants his kids to fear his wrath, but also to know he loves them. Sometimes it's tricky for him to balance that or even to talk about it.

[00:50:11]

I have I have a good relationship with my children. That is, I didn't have a father. So I it's hard to to do something when you don't know how to do it. Sometimes you don't know how to do. I'm like a manly man. So I love them very much, but I don't know how to sometimes show it to them. I kiss them. I hug them. But, you know, I'm saying you don't some that I have to adapt to that.

[00:50:38]

That's it. They good they good kids. Joe wants his kids to have more stability than he had growing up and a better standard of living. For 16 years, they all lived in a big house in Smithtown, in a fairly wealthy neighborhood. And Joe says there was pressure there. Some other kids at school had fancy clothes and extravagant vacations, blow outs, sweet 16 parties. He didn't want his kids to feel less than. So he made sure within reason that they had with the other kids had.

[00:51:07]

But three years ago, he left town and country for another job at a Toyota dealer, and it didn't go well at all.

[00:51:14]

He lost while he says he lost everything. But in any case, it was a lot of money. They sold their big house in Smithtown and moved to a smaller house in Levittown about five minutes from the dealership. And in a lot of ways, Joe's glad about that. It's made them closer as a family, he says. But he's also trying to work his way back up. He'd like to be able to buy them all a bigger house, give everyone a little more room.

[00:51:35]

That's why he's so worried about this bad stretch of business and about getting that bonus. Toward the end of the day, his son Mike calls.

[00:51:43]

Joe's already spoken to the coach about how the football game went to Saxon to tackle. That's great.

[00:51:50]

Well, guess what? Oh. Oh, definitely.

[00:51:59]

Yeah. All right. I'll be home in probably like hopefully like 20 minutes and I'll give you money to go out to.

[00:52:07]

Right.

[00:52:09]

Every one of them. And it's hard to say no. Did you try your best. Can you're doing well. It's no big deal. And you can take care of them. And then there's just doing well where you're making you're making it by.

[00:52:27]

What is it? Today's October. What's going to happen in a couple of months when my sons get ready, leave for college? Am I going to have the money? It's mid-afternoon on the new car side of town and country. So what do you do all day? On the last day of the month when you need to sell everything you possibly can? When instead of waiting for customers to come into the store, you call up any weed you have and try to close deals right over the phone if you can.

[00:53:06]

One of the salespeople, Lori, does this with previous customer. Jason also sells to a guy he knows over the phone. Peter gets a lead from a cop upstate that he sold a Durango truck to. The lead is a friend of the cops, also a cop who wants the same deal as Frank got. Peter, get some on the phone and says we'll give him the deal for two reasons.

[00:53:24]

One of them, you were referred and the other one is you're an officer of the law. Respect that over here. Big time, just so you know. All right.

[00:53:32]

Chris leaves out the third and main reason for the great deal that he's getting. They need eight more sales by 9:00. And the cop ends up buying his Durango for 22 hundred fourteen dollars less than the dealership paid for it. Even if the finance charges and hold back and all the other ways they make money, they still lost on this one. Ditto this guy, Richard Massata.

[00:53:51]

He was going to get an oil change this morning and stepped in on a whim. And they showed him numbers way lower than any other dealer that he'd been to. Richard called up his wife to let her know, hey, surprise, we're getting a new truck on his test drive. He still seemed amazed at what was happening. Who would've thought Halloween buying a truck? Never thought it would happen. His payment will be for 25 a month. The salesman says later that it should have been five twenty five, but it's the end of the month.

[00:54:20]

Turns out, yes, it is true that you do get a better deal at the end of the month at town and country, at least any month that they're struggling to make their goal. When you actually look at the numbers, the cars that they sell in the last two days, the average deal actually loses money versus the deals that they make at the beginning of the month where they made about nine hundred dollars per car. OK, for car people, I'm not going to say these words.

[00:54:43]

I am factoring in everything they made on financing and warranties and extras and hold back and the one percent they get from Chrysler and every car when they make that statement, I am not factoring in any money that they would get if they hit their number and get their bonus from Chrysler. That would add about five hundred dollars per car, which still does not give them a huge profit per car. It used to be a lot higher. But today, because people research prices on the Internet, profit margins on new cars are lower than what they used to be.

[00:55:10]

Not just here at this dealership, but everywhere in the car business. The in our town and country told me that he used to make five hundred dollars more per car and each salesman made more per car. Now they'll have to make it up in volume. So it's more of a grind, a harder job with tighter deals and less reward.

[00:55:28]

And if you're wondering, car dealerships make less profit than other businesses. A recent study by an outfit called Sageworks found that car dealers end up with less than three cents on every dollar they make as profit, which is less profit than furniture stores, office supply stores, restaurants lower than pretty much everything. But grocery stores on car dealers say that they are not making a killing on average. It's true. At some point doing this last day of the month, one of the deals they had been counting on falls through My Questors sale of a red Grand Cherokee.

[00:56:04]

But turns out that's no problem for the dealership because Scott has a customer who wants that exact same truck. You remember that deal the day before where two salesmen sold the same car to two different customers? The mortician. It's that salesman and that customer and the salesman. Scott is very, very happy. And the only bad news about all this is what it does to Mike Lester's sales total for the month. That drops me down to 14, 14 sucks because like I said earlier, 15 is the magic number.

[00:56:34]

15 is where the serious bonuses and commissions kick in. Most of the guys count on getting those could add up to big money. But then Scott, his customer, is now going to get the red Grand Cherokee. Scott realizes what this means for Mike and says to Mike is at your 15th car.

[00:56:51]

You take the chip, give them the chip, switch it around and split it with me. OK. Now, Mike will get the credit for the sale. He's at 14 again. I love you, Scott. Scott kisses Mike on the cheek. Pretty sure Brian Reed witnesses all this. You're a 15 now. Yes. Did he know, you wonder? No. But we always help each other out, especially on the last day of the month.

[00:57:18]

How do you feel? Excited. So amidst anxious salesmen and salesmen literally running to the desk or to finance. There is one salesman who is a model of calm. Even his cubicle is different from everybody else's.

[00:57:35]

There's no swag. There's no pictures of family there. No good luck charms. It's bare. The salesman, his name is Manny Rosales, says he doesn't like the distractions. One of our producers, Brian, who just heard got to known many as 58, born in Peru.

[00:57:50]

He has gray hair and glasses. One morning at the showroom, he gestured cryptically for me to come over to his desk as if he had a secret to tell me. Turn that off, he said, pointing to my tape recorder. I explained that I was a radio reporter and I needed to record whatever he was going to tell me for it to be useful.

[00:58:06]

But he wasn't having it. He seemed unimpressed by our little radio story. He said, My colleagues and I were like fishermen who had no idea what we were angling for. We had no focus. We were just casting blindly. Manny, I soon learned, is a man of many metaphor's. I put down my recorder. The thing you need to be paying attention to, he said, is the negotiation. The salesman is the tiger and the customer is the deer.

[00:58:32]

The tiger has to eat and you can't eat if you don't kill that deer. He moved his right hand up and then clamped his fingers around his own neck. You have to go for the neck, he said. But if you try to kill him too early. The deer will wake up and run away. As the day went on, I keep trying to get Manny to let me record him, but he wouldn't. Instead, he'd come up to me while I was interviewing someone else, point to his head very deliberately, presumably to his brain.

[00:59:02]

Give me a knowing look and then walk away.

[00:59:06]

At one point, we found ourselves facing each other at his desk. He asked me if I had read the greatest book ever written about car sales. I don't think so. I told him. What is it? The Art of War.

[00:59:16]

He said by Son Xu. Son Xu, as you maybe know, was a military general and strategist in ancient China.

[00:59:24]

The Art of War is his magnum opus, where he lays out his tactics for how to succeed in conflict and those sons who was writing about actual war. The book has become well-known in business and sales circles.

[00:59:35]

It's kind of like the seven habits of highly effective people.

[00:59:38]

If that had been written in the fifth century B.C. on individual strips of bamboo.

[00:59:43]

So I went to the bookstore and bought a copy and then headed back to town and country many. How are you, sir? Can I show you the homework I've been doing?

[00:59:52]

I handed in my copy of The Art of War, which I'd marked up with notes about its relevance to car sales. I could see why many felt that it spoke to his profession. Lines like draw them in with the prospect of gain, take them by confusion seemed especially on point. How far you are. I finished it. You finish it. Okay. I want to ask the question whether you left. What have I learned? Well, I'm here to learn some more.

[01:00:19]

And I was in for two days, man. He took me under his wing with my recorder running and became my sales sensei.

[01:00:26]

I mean, he's kind of an unusual car salesman because he has no affection for cars at all.

[01:00:32]

If a customer asks him how much horsepower a car has or how quickly it can go from zero to 60, usually he has to look up the answer.

[01:00:38]

Go ask a co-worker. He has no interest in that stuff. So instead, many developed the way to sell the customer using a different approach.

[01:00:46]

This ecology. How you penetrate his brain. His sons says warfare is deception. To help me understand this, how to penetrate the brain of one's opponent. Many showed me a couple of movies on YouTube.

[01:01:03]

One was a reenactment of the second Punic War in the third century B.C., Hannibal's campaign against the Romans. Manning wanted me to pay attention to one battle in particular from that war.

[01:01:14]

The battle of Conni, one of the bloodiest ever fought. Can I Hannibal's troops were vastly outnumbered. I got to get about 40000 men for this versus Rome's army, which had roughly 85000. The Romans will have the confidence that comes only with greater numbers will present them with the unexpected. And watch them for. That this is a secret. The percentage that unexpected forces will be arranged like this. The details of Hannibal's strategy are big complicated to go into here.

[01:01:45]

Many had to draw me a diagram to help me get it. But let's just say it involves an unusual troop formation that made the Romans think they were gaining ground when really they were at Hannibal's whim. At this point. The Romans will think they have won. Let them taste victory. Well, watching us remember on a laptop on the showroom floor. Customers are milling about, checking out the new cars as Hannibal's mercenaries and cavalry and circle the Romans and trap them for good.

[01:02:17]

And now the killing started. So how does many use this to sell Dodge Chargers? Well, just like Hannibal would. He presents the customer with the unexpected. What they expect is for the salesmen to be pushy and try to coerce them into buying a car at a certain price. So Manny does the opposite. He says if he doesn't want to sell the car, he agrees with the customer, uses a similar tone, repeats words. The customer says if someone comes in and says he's just there to browse, not to buy.

[01:02:49]

That's totally fine. Manual's say, and I'll back off.

[01:02:52]

The idea is to make them believe that he's doing everything from his point of view. So he's thinking he's playing his game. But he's really not. Absolutely not. What game is he playing in reality?

[01:03:04]

Make it simple. Sample. Many gave me an example of this that he'd executed a few days earlier with a customer named Julio who was looking for a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Julio runs warehouses for a living and negotiates for his company. So many knew he'd be a formidable opponent.

[01:03:29]

Julio told me later that he'd already visited seven other Jeep dealerships by the time he got to town and country and was calling and texting with another three when he sat down across from Manny, Pouliot made the first offer. Thirty six thousand dollars. The Jeep was listed at forty five thousand dollars.

[01:03:46]

So Coolio's offer was absurdly low. Julio knew was unrealistic. He expected man to say no way, that he could never give it to him for that price. But then listen to what Manny did instead. I say, all right, if I can say that to 36. Are you ready to do right now? Show me the man who was a great guy. Where's the credit card? Many says this was the key move. The unexpected move?

[01:04:08]

Because I never thought I would say yes. Suddenly they didn't know what to do or what to say. They get confused. He cannot back up because that's what he say to me. You give me thirty six thousand by this point.

[01:04:24]

The Romans will think they have won. Let them taste. Victor. He pulled his credit card out photo desk, he gave it to me and I said, all right, let me take the offer to my manager, even though I knew that we can do it. After days of negotiation, many ended up scoring this deal. Puleo paid forty thousand dollars for the Jeep, which was low. The dealership lost money on the car, but after it was all over, Julio told me that this move when Manny pretended to take his low offer seriously.

[01:04:55]

He said without that he would have walked out of town a country immediately, which would have meant no sale, nothing towards the monthly quota. By 4:00 p.m., hustling in the showroom is paying off. Chips are going up on the board and Freddy's office, even one of the guys in the backrooms is pitching in. Finance guy Terrence Kelly, t.K, he's reaching for the phone.

[01:05:23]

So basically, the numbers are down. They need all the deals. Made me call my niece in Las Vegas. Believe it or not, she's been trying to buy a car anyway.

[01:05:38]

Hello. Hi, Katie. Hey, how are you? I have you on the speakerphone. OK.

[01:05:45]

Takase got 34 nieces and nephews. Katie is his goddaughter though. So he keeps a special eye out for her. At the time that this was recorded, the rest, the family didn't know that she was pregnant, though he did, even though he did not know until he picked up the receiver and started filling out the forms for the carcel her fiance's last name.

[01:06:04]

Charles. Parker getting married to some of the glass naver Parker Oh Bach. Are they related to Bob at all. Or what does he do. By the way, I never asked you. Oh. AJ H.V., AC Co. Nice. I like that. He's happy you're in the right area for air conditioning and yes, the dealership is selling the card.

[01:06:37]

Katie below cost a nine hundred dollar loss. A ticket is going to end up spending twelve hundred dollars of his own money to ship the car out to her in Las Vegas. And this this is the sale that puts him over the top. This is the one hundred twenty nine sale of the month. Just a few minutes before 5:00.

[01:06:54]

And if this happens, I stopped by Fred, the general manager's office. Nobody is running into high five. There's not even a staff announcement on the P.A. saying they made it.

[01:07:03]

I can't say it's weirdly anticlimactic. There's no Harrar.

[01:07:06]

There's no balloons falling from the ceiling. We did our job. Everybody earned their paycheck. That's the bottom line. And then the clock starts ticking, like tomorrow morning on next month.

[01:07:17]

You're all a bunch of losers. Tomorrow morning, you start all over again. All right. That's how it goes. Oh, God. Don't get married. We're fighting because they told us, she says to me, what time you get home? All time. Do you get to meet them? Whenever I get home. What do you want to time call. What am I am punching in.

[01:07:41]

So when I get home, I get home and I hung up on her. So now she's pissed and she's taxing. Okay. So why do you have to bite my head off.

[01:07:49]

You should've married a plumber. Nine to five. Weekends off.

[01:07:54]

He takes her back. This fight actually continues for the next few hours. And we text message. Then at 657, two hours before closing, one of the managers, Mike Perez and Jason, start huddling. The D'Escoto freaked out. Mike walks to Freddy's office to explain the problem. Freddy, the counter is wrong. They're not at 129 because there's an extra chip on the board.

[01:08:14]

There was a chip, of course, was pulled off. We were down one. Yeah. This was up. That should have been off of there because the customer switched cars. But so put the new chip up. But then to take the old chip or some sort 128.

[01:08:26]

But he does know that at this moment there is another deal being negotiated that could possibly get them back up to 129. Peter is the salesman for that one. The deal is stuck over the price of the customer's trade in what they should pay for it.

[01:08:39]

Go make that deal right now. Whatever it is, just make the fucking deal.

[01:08:42]

But that deal is not too easy to settle. And while they're waiting, more bad news. You remember that red Grand Cherokee that Scott and Mike Lester each had sold different people. And then my customs guy dropped out. And Scott got the deal and there was the kiss. Now Scott's guy also drops out. He does want to buy tonight because he wants his mom to see the car tomorrow. Freddy overhears Scott saying this to one of the managers. Well, you have a problem.

[01:09:08]

What's the matter with it? What's the matter with Scott?

[01:09:10]

The guy wants to show his mom tomorrow. The car originally. What do you mean this isn't the deal?

[01:09:16]

I thought it was, but are you fucking kidding me? You have insurance on this point, everything. I don't even. He didn't even send it into the bank because we don't have his prior.

[01:09:29]

We all went into the bank today. I shoot all the calls, have insurance and wanted to the bank. You're going to be fucking kidding me.

[01:09:37]

Scotsdale is dead. There are 127, which is two hours left before closing.

[01:09:43]

I just saw Scott. I thought so.

[01:09:47]

Now they scramble to figure out. Okay. There was Mike Lester's customer for that red Grand Cherokee. Could they possibly give him better terms that would bring him back to the table? Freddy orders one of the managers, Mike Perez, to make that happen. Just do it.

[01:10:00]

It's going to be too late. You're going to wait a half hour longer. It's getting later and later. I'd rather have a sure thing than not.

[01:10:06]

Just how much is that loose?

[01:10:10]

Yeah. The only question is, how much does the deal lose? Not whether it loses. So Mike Perry's cousin Richie and finance, Richie tells me, is in luck. The guy actually called back saying that he would agree to the terms. But okay, here's the catch. He just wants 24 hours to think about this. My prayers s. OK, if we sweeten the terms. Can we get him to decide right now?

[01:10:29]

Rich doesn't think so.

[01:10:30]

It's not going to change anything. I don't. For me to pull down my fence. You don't need to be afraid. He's telling me to literally. He's telling me this. I need to just whatever you need to do.

[01:10:42]

But but I'm telling you, if I told him it was free and the same, you're gonna get simians renewing 20 grams.

[01:10:56]

And then in just six minutes, they turn it round, which offers a better deal to that guy on the big Grand Cherokee after all. And yes, he takes it. And Peter's deal that was stuck over the price of the tradin gets unstuck when the managers suck it up and pay fifteen hundred dollars more for the trading than they think it's worth. Back to 129. Everybody seems a little stunned by what just happened. When it's done, Freddy and Sal look out of the showroom from the desk like old sailors on the deck of a 19th century ship that just got thrashed around by a hurricane.

[01:11:31]

And also a murderous white whale believes it should sell. I feel like I. Back in fucking infinity. Oh, my God. This is ridiculous. This month. Oh, my God.

[01:11:44]

This is just dope.

[01:11:47]

The month wasn't bad enough. We got to suffer a little more delay state. Fucking believable.

[01:11:51]

All right. For me, Freddie's found, of course, doesn't stop with the text messages through all this.

[01:12:01]

The wife.

[01:12:01]

Who else? I don't know when she's even filing for.

[01:12:11]

They get their bonus from Chrysler. Sixty eight thousand dollars. Because what? The dealership ends up in the black, not the red for the month. Jason finishes the month. Twenty nine cars. Almost twice anyone else, as usual. Manny has 10. My girl. Fifteen, Scott, 18. The used car side Jamadi side did not meet its goal. They were hoping for 70. They got 57. Meaning Jamadi probably will not be getting his year end bonus this year.

[01:12:37]

And Bob T., the salesman at the bottom of the board with the lease sales this month. Well, the night isn't over. Bob.

[01:12:45]

Would you put the key? Would you put the car? I got the key was the car.

[01:12:50]

Not long after they reach 129, a couple walks in wanting to buy a Dodge Dart for their 19 year old son, Bob T. rushes them through the test drive as the husband sit at his computer and use his phone. Did he call the insurance company and then runs literally runs to get their new car prepped and inspected in the garage?

[01:13:10]

So bring it right over the service. But is it going or is it a car? I don't know if it's going, I'll go. Who the fuck wants to take a call home at 10:00 o'clock at night? These guys say what they want this old time. Nobody works as fast as me here. You notice that it's an no.

[01:13:35]

And with that, Bob T. Lands Town, a country's last sale of the month, number 130, one car past the goal of 129 or anyway, that's what they thought that night. The next morning, when anybody comes in, they look at Chrysler's official count on the computer. And according to Chrysler, no, their count was wrong. One of their sales should not have been counted in October, which means that they did not have 130 cars like they thought they had only 129.

[01:14:03]

Exactly 129, which means, yes, it was Bob T. and his very last cell of the month that took them across the finish line. Bob T saved the day.

[01:14:27]

Special thanks to Mark Bradley and the entire staff at town and country, Jeep Chrysler, Dodge Ram in Levittown. In the seven years since we first broadcast today's show, lots of staff moved on.

[01:14:36]

Bob T Worry and Freddie are still there. Most everybody else is gone. Jason is a manager these days at one town of countries competitors. Mike, the owner, told me that they shut down for a while for Corona virus, but reopened in the middle of May. You have to wear a mask. Practice safe social distance in the showroom, of course, when they reopened, he said. Business exploded. That was the word he used. Exploded.

[01:14:58]

People are buying cars. So many cars that his biggest problem is he does not have enough inventory. His car plants were shut down in June. He sold 190 vehicles. Mike told me during the pandemic, Chrysler got rid of the quotas. Today show was produced by Robyn Semien and myself with Alex Blumberg Minkow parents, Sarah Caning, Making Meet Jonathan and Chebaa. Brian Riedl was the ship, and Nancy Updike, our senior producer for this episode, was Julie Snyder.

[01:15:23]

Matt Tunisa Technical Director, production help for this rerun from Nora Gale and St. Nelson, our Web site. This American Life dot org. This American Life is to give it to public radio stations by PR X, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks as always for Brigham's co-founder, Mr. Tremblant, here on a vacation this month in Rome. He stood in line for three hours, three hours at the Coliseum, gave up, went back to his hotel.

[01:15:47]

At this point, it's the Romans will think they have one. Let them taste victory. Don't worry. He'll be back. I'm IRA Glass. We also will be back next week with more stories of this American life.