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My Experience Working at a Dealership

Let it be known that this is my experience working at a dealership and I sure hope it's not the norm.

In the spring of 2011 the owner of a local Honda dealership contacted me offering me a job. Previous to this, I had never known the owner but he knew me because of a Facebook group that I created and moderate and because of my efforts to promote various motorcycle related events in Utah.

A few days after he contacted me, I met with him for an interview and to discuss the position. He talked about how much he wanted me because I was a biker. I actually rode (unlike most of the sales guys) and could relate with the customers-making me feel all good and warm inside. I made it clear that although I loved the motorcycle industry I would only be interested in the position if it could support my family. I told him I needed to make $3k monthly, or 36K annually. I was not unemployed, but was looking for better employment.

The owner offered me this (on a sticky note, nonetheless):

Salary = $1500/month
Commission =
1-15 sales/month-$0
16-20 sales/month- $35 each
21 sales/month-$500
22+ sales/month -$100 each
(this is NOT retroactive)

It seemed rather low to me, so I expressed my concerns and was assured that 21+ sales was easily doable. That being said, I still was hesitant so the owner offered me an additional $200 salary per month and said that if there were still concerns we could make changes.

I accepted and during the next few months, I sold very, very well. In fact, both the sales manager and the owner commented to me how well I was doing. I sold 26 units the first month and 27 the second.

Within the first two weeks I had sold my first 15 (non-commission) units and was excited that I would be making commission for all the additional sales of that month. The owner was apparently not quite as excited. He tried to dupe me--buttering me up by congratulating me on almost making a commission in my very first pay period! He was trying to make me think our agreement was 15 sales per pay period rather than per month! I, without hesitation, corrected him and told him that if that was his understanding, I wouldn't be finishing the day. An hour later he came to me and told me I was correct, pretending he had just made a mistake. I'm convinced he was just testing me to see if I'd slip.

While selling as well as I did, I still did not make the $3K per month that I expected. This was even during the best selling months! As summer went on, I noticed the number of sales decrease and started trying to determine how many sales they would have in the winter. There was no way that the pay scale I was given was going to work. With this in my mind I started to think of a better pay-scale that I could approach the owner about.

I didn't expect to leave or bring up my pay when I did, but I asked for a couple of days off to go to attend a family event and was told that I was not allowed time off (sick, personal, etc.) without docking my salary. I had been required to work 5+ hours a week of overtime, with no compensation. I had never questioned this because I was on salary, but when I asked for a couple of days off, I was treated like an hourly employee and had my pay cut and prorated. Having put more hours in overtime in the last month than I was even asking off, I couldn't believe this! I was told that, after a year, I could have 3 paid days off.

With this being brought up when it was, it segued into my concerns about the winter months. The owner told me not to worry about the winter, that they had never sold fewer than 50 units a month. He must have forgotten that in the back room we keep track of our sales and, even during the peak July 2010 month, and with three salespeople, they only sold 48 units. I pointed this out to him and he quickly said it was a slow month and moved onto another topic, expecting me to accept his excuse with no hesitations. I also told him I didn't feel like it was fair that he could require me to work as much as he wanted as a salary employee, but I was not given any (or accumulating any) paid time off. I told him that if that was how it was going to be, I was not interest in being a salary employee and that hourly would be better, because that way I'd be getting compensated for the overtime.

Now it needs to understood that the owner is extremely clever and charismatic. He has been lying to people for years and is very good at it. Most people are probably so excited about getting that nice new motorcycle that they don't even question the things he said.

So, he tells me that he needs the sleep on a solution and that tomorrow we'll discuss it. The next day he hands me a hand written note with the following on it:

Base = $10.50 hourly
Commission =
0-7 sales/bi-weekly -$0
8-11 sales/bi-weekly-$35
12 sales/bi-weekly-$250
(Again, NOT retroactive)

If you do math you'll see that his solution, the one he had to sleep on, was to take my pay scale and divide it in half (probably so the numbers looked more achievable). Many aspects (e.g. 24 sales in 4 weeks rather than 21 sales in a full month to make the $500 bonus, hourly wage of $10.50 rather than the equivalent of $10.63, etc.) were worse. Perhaps he thinks I'm stupid(?) Perhaps he forgot that I've studied, and have a degree in, Business Administration(?)

To me, this was quite insulting. I had spoken with him in person about my concerns, had listened to him lie to me about sales volume, and then his solution was to offer me less.

I spoke with my department manager and explained my frustrations. He agreed, but didn't know what advice to offer me. During my lunch break, the department manager called me and told me that he had the impressions that the owner was "just starting." That he wanted to bargain back and forth about my pay until we could strike up some sort of deal. The department manager told me this because he thought it would relieve some of my frustration, but it honestly did the contrary. It made me recognize that the owner didn't really value my time in any way whatsoever. He just wanted to get as much out of me as he could for as little as possible, with no intention of actually resolving my concerns.

After discussing it with my wife, we decided it wasn't a company that I wanted to be associated with and I sent the owner the following letter:

[Owner Name],

After much thought, I have decided that [Dealership] is not the right place for me. Please accept this letter as my resignation.

I feel like I expressed some of my concerns to you, including the need for a better financial situation. In return, it seems like I was given an offer that was manipulated in such a way as to make it look better at first glance, but, after crunching the numbers, it was obvious that it was an even lower offer than what I was already making. I know you said you just threw it together and that you were willing to talk about it, but you also had already taken the whole night to think it over, so I question the sincerity of that statement and of the offer.

I also feel like it is unreasonable for a salaried position not to include any vacation time or sick leave, because these are customary in any other company. This is especially true when you add the amount of overtime I've been required to work without compensation.

In our very first interview I expressed my need to make $3000 a month. I have not made that even during the peak months of the year. I love the motorcycle industry and have really enjoyed the sales aspect of this position, but I feel like there is not much room for growth in the position and that the negative aspects outweigh the benefits.

I'm not interested in striking a deal or bargaining back and forth about how much I should get paid. I was hoping you would make an offer of how much you felt the position was worth and then that I could decide if I felt the same way or not. Bargaining makes me feel like I am a customer trying to get the best deal (and, perhaps, an unfair deal). I just wanted to be treated fairly, and wanted you to be happy with the amount as well.

I would be willing to give you two weeks, but, because I am already scheduled to take next week off, it doesn't really seem practical. However, let me know if you would like me to.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to work at [Dealership] and I did learn some valuable things. I hope you are able to find someone great to fill the position.

-Jared Gant

After emailing him my resignation letter I let him know that I had sent it and asked him to let me know, after he read it, if he would like me to come into work the next day. He later sent me a text asking me to come into work so I got ready and started on my way there. I was just getting in the car when he sent another text that said, "received letter. sorry you feel that way. Never mind about coming in today afterall. Thanks for your honesty."

That sounds grand and all. He even said "Thanks," but my department manager, who I had read the letter previous to sending it in, called me and told me that the owner told all the other employees that I just didn't show up. What a loser!

Not only did I feel mistreated myself, but I often felt like the customers were being taken advantage of too. For example, I was told to add multiple "taxes" such as the "Carbon Footprint Factor" or the "Environmental Protection Factor" to customer orders. I heard the owner tell customers on multiple occasions, "you can thank Uncle Sam for that one." But these fees, along with several others, were completely fake. The amount wasn't even set; it would change depending on how deep a customer's pockets looked! Just another way for the owner to trick people. Who can argue with Uncle Sam, right?

Also, the service department charges $78/hour. Well that doesn't sound too bad, until you know that no one officially sets how long it should take to do something. There's no official book rate or documentation. They just charge whatever they want. They don't even clock their time on projects. For example, they usually charge 1 hour just to install a backrest. I can't imagine how it would even be possible to take a full hour to install a backrest. This is just one simple example, but it's all too often just that extreme. If you are unfortunate enough to get the new guy, plan on paying even more for less!

Although I loved talking with people on a daily bases who shared my same passion for motorcycles, I am glad that I have severed my ties with such a corrupt company.

Jared M. Gant


  1. Very interesting red mate. You have to stand up for your selves at times. Does USA have a law about minimum wage etc? We do in NZ.

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