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Due to an ongoing divorce, I am taking a break from the whole blogging thing for a while. Need to concentrate on how to make life for my son a little better. Be back soon!

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Cash For Clunkers?

I actually had a My Car Buddy client this week who just about qualified for this (interesting) new program. Here’s the details: His trade in was a 2001 Dodge Durango with 92,000 miles. Easily qualifies as a gas guzzling behemoth and falls well within the mpg limits. I managed to get him $3900 and with the tax savings it almost was a wash and not worth the extra paperwork. My question is… Is this really gonna stimulate car sales? Even if all it does is getting people to talk about it, I think it will help. I have had people ask about this program but after looking into it, the parameters are very limited. I think they should have gotten a little more creative with it and actually,because it is a government program, you knew it would not be very well thought out. On a side note… Infiniti announced 0% APR and lease deals on their entire line up (minus the new G37 convertible – hot!). Not only do I think this will stimulate some sales, but I will be promoting it to my clients. Great cars and awesome deals! That is how you stimulate the economy! Unfortunately, this is all because their sales are down. Meanwhile, according to my old contacts at Audi, sales are up and my old dealership is running out of cars to sell. What the heck is happening here? Is the economy on the up tick? Only time will tell.

Seriously… ! Let me start by saying that I enjoy Twitter. I signed up a few months ago and this new “time vampire” has me intrigued. Where else can you go to find out what Danica Patrick had for lunch, see pictures that Rob Dyrdek took at his fantasy factory or the latest funny one liner from Shaq? You can also follow your favorite businesses and find out about special promotions, give aways or just general up to the minute news. Pretty neat huh? And its all free on top of it! If you happen to follow me, you can find out that I love golf, stay up waaayyy tooo late, and that I also use it to promote my business by blasting out a few tweets on the advantages of Pitch Perfect in between my tweets of golf score updates and what my children have done today. It has also been a major form of communication in some third world countries to let the rest of us know what is going on when all other means of contact are shut off. Awesome!
So by now, I am somewhat of a veteran at this tweeting stuff and thru trial and error have found ways to get followers. But as of late, all of my followers are promoting none other than a get rich quick and easy scam just by tweeting. I mean seriously… It seems that whenever there is any new kind of technology, there is a new kind of scam right behind it. This is a classic case of convincing people that you can make easy money by doing little or no work. In the end, the only ones making any money are the people who start this and con others to giving them money in return for showing them how to do it themselves. Another one to stick in the “Things that make you go Hmmmmm….” file. Wanna follow me? http://twitter.com/rickbalas

Christmas is coming early to Lebron, the Cavs and the city of Cleveland. The trade of Shaq to the Cavs for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic and a second round pick in the Draft is almost exciting as the lottery pick when we first got Lebron. Everyone here in Cleveland has been buzzing about this since the rumors started last February. Besides the fact that he is a future hall of famer, the link we needed to get past Boston and Orlando, Shaq is one hell of an entertaining individual. I can’t wait to see more quality quotes from the man himself. In celebration, I offer you Shaq’s top ten quotes –

The seven habits of highly incapable technotards

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Introducing Pitch Perfect. This is revolutionary new technology and designed to grab the attention of your web visitors, keep their attention longer, and convert them to clients like nothing else on the market. You standard web page is basically electronic articles that you hope people click. With Pitch Perfect, you engage the browser in a way that has never before been available. Actually, after seeing this technology on our designed web sites then going to a regular website, it is like using a push button phone and then going back to a rotary dial phone. It is affordable and it is the wave of the future. Check out our demo here. Comment back to me and let me know what you think. Feedback is greatly appreciated. Feel free to pass this along to anyone you know who has a website that really needs to get the attention of it’s visitors and would like some more information.

The car business has been the lead story of the news for quite some time now. All of the bailouts, restructuring and reorganizing that is at the manufacturer level, but more of the problems with the car business still rest with the business at the dealership level. You know, the part that consumers interact with on a daily basis! Since all of this change is eminent, why not go all out and fix what has become common place, but ridiculous and really needs to change. What I’m talking about is the dealer experience and the car salesman.

Let me start by saying that I was a car salesman for many years, and finished my time in the business as a finance manager. I have been there, done that, I get it and I know what goes on. Over time though, I took some things for granted and forgot how the things we did affected the people who gave us our pay check – the customer. Here’s my take on what the problem is:

You can go into just about any retail establishment like Walmart, a sporting goods store, a clothing store, shoe store, cell phone store etc… and 9 out of ten times you will get a salesperson who is fair, helpful and above all, at least somewhat professional. Now there is also a chance that you will run into someone who is having a bad day, it happens. Go into a car dealership, and those odds are out the window! I will conservatively say that you have a 50/50 chance of running into a salesperson who is for starters professional, much less helpful and not rude.

After all of those years on the inside of the business, now I am on the other side working for the consumer as a personal auto shopper. I spend a lot of time calling and emailing dealerships and salespeople but more than just the ones I know and have a relationship with. My oh my, what an eye opening experience this has been! How is it possible that you can go to a car dealership and be treated rudely, unprofessionally and even blown off? It has happened to me more than once lately and at more than one dealership. Are they selling so many cars that they don’t need basic customer service skills? I don’t think so. The system is flawed and change really needs to happen. I am gonna pick on another business to make a point. Take real estate professionals for instance. Basically, they are almost the same type of salespeople but are regarded as more professional than the other and is looked at in a (somewhat) different way. To be a real estate professional, you need to be sponsored and have to take classes, pass a test and become licensed. There is some form of regulation and consistent training here. To become a car salesman, you need nothing! No education, no training, no monitoring, no real regulation of any kind. Basically, anyone can walk in and get hired and you need no qualifications or experience. You can also make a good amount of money, which breeds a less than desirable employee. Car dealerships hire and fire car salespeople regularly as they are low cost employees and are easily replaced. Only the better dealerships retain salespeople for long periods of time (looking for a good dealer, find one that has long time salespeople). I was pretty successful at my time in sales but not because I am God’s gift to sales. I just did what a normal, average hard working person would do to provide basic good customer service and I acted professionally and courteously to each and every perspective client I met. Ironically, that allowed me achieve lofty sales goals and was nationally recognized for great customer service. By putting forth just a little bit of effort, I was by far superior than most of the come and go salespeople I worked with. It worked out for me, but what about the customers who were not my clients?

That’s what I think is wrong. How do we change it? Does anybody really care if it changes at this point? How can a business survive year after year treating clients this way? Any other type of business would surely have failed long ago had they modeled their business plan after the way car dealerships do. Knowing reputations of specific dealers from people who worked there and constant input from customers over the years, it marvels me that some places even have customers. Oh, but they do…

There really needs to be some sort of training process, schooling, regulation and licensing that is very consistent, at least on a statewide basis to establish a new, higher bar for the professional salesperson in the automotive business. This would help weed out some of the bad seeds early on and over time, bring some professionalism that every other business provides to the general car buying public. Just like what is going on with the manufacturers – you knew it was coming, it had to happen, it will be painful at first but it will be better in the end. The dealership experience and the car salesman will have to change and it only seems that this is the next step and only makes sense. We let too many things continue even though we know it’s wrong. The sooner it is fixed, the better off we will be. Wish I had the time and the money to change it but all we can do is wait for it to happen. In the meantime, I will continue to help clients beat the salesperson and try to make the car buying process painless, one client at a time.