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Poll: Car salesman is least trustworthy profession

Americans trust the people they buy their vehicles from less than members of Congress and stockbrokers.

By Claire_Martin Dec 5, 2012 8:54AM
Car showroom photo by LizzieSince 1977, Gallup has conducted a poll of the most trustworthy professions, and nearly every year, car salespeople have come in last. This year is no different. Just 8 percent of those polled said they believed auto salespeople to be "very trustworthy."

"Car salespeople have been at the bottom of the list every year except 2011, when they tied members of Congress with a 7 percent honesty rating," a Gallup statement read. "Car salespeople's perceived honesty has never climbed out of the single-digit range in the history of the list."

Is this reputation justified? Have car salespeople earned their negative image?

According to car salesman Mark McDonald, his job is a tough one. McDonald details his work life for Motor Trend's Car Salesman Confidential blog. "My average week is somewhere between 50 and 60 hours — and that’s considered 'part time,'" he writes, noting that he's on his feet throughout his shift and that his income is nothing if not spotty.

"If you don’t sell a car, you don’t get paid. Simple as that. Sell or starve," McDonald continues. "You never know for sure what your next paycheck will be. Will it be enough to pay your rent? Cover your child support? Put food on your table for your wife and kids? Pay their medical bills? Put gas in your car so you can get to work the next day?"

Does this "sell or starve" ethos -- standard for sales jobs regardless of the industry -- breed or attract a scrappy image that customers interpret as untrustworthy? Perhaps. Insurance salespeople and advertising practitioners also came in low in Gallup's poll.

In an increasingly competitive market where cultivating any new edge could benefit sales, dealerships may want to think about training their employees better or hiring for trustworthiness. "There are very clear financial reasons why it’s good to have repeat customers, particularly at franchise dealers," Bailey Wood, a representative for the National Automobile Dealers Association, told Exhaust Notes.

"We want them to come back for service, warranties, when it's time to buy a new car. If they have a bad experience, that doesn't happen," Wood said. "There’s so much competition in the marketplace for each individual sale, so it’s important that you build a relationship."

One, presumably, that's built on trust.

[Sources: Gallup, Motor Trend]
Dec 6, 2012 8:29AM

I sold cars for a few years when I was younger.  I consider myself a decent person that is trustworthy... and never told a person buying a car from me anything other than the truth.  Even told a few that they shouldn't buy a car, period (needless to say, I wasn't the best salesman per numbers).  Most of the other salespeople that I grew to know (you end up knowing others than at your dealership) were very upstanding.  A few were liars... but in the extreme minority.  So it's a shame for such a low rating year after year.

Truth be told... consumers were the worst for being untrustworthy.  They lied about things 100x more than a salesmen would.  Just my two cents...

Dec 6, 2012 8:46AM

I have been in the automotive business for over 34 years and I can tell you our reputation did not evolve by accident, it is much deserved.  However it has improved greatly over the years.  There are still some bad apples but they are not the norm among todays sales people.  I can absolutely agree with a previous comment that the overwhelming majority of lies told on a car lot is done so by the consumer not the dealer or their employees.

Dec 6, 2012 10:47AM
What do we lie about?  The prices are there for everyone to see,  interest rates from dealers are usually better than your bank or crdit union, and your trade is worth what the auction tells us it's worth.  It's a very trasparent profession, the customer makes it much more difficult then they have to.  Do your research, pick a car you want, figure out what you can afford, go to the dealer and buy the car.  .  As a business, dealerships are entiltled to a profit.  But trust me, there ain't much. One day the only place you will be able to buy a car will be direct from the manufacturer and online,  good luck getting a deal with that...
Dec 6, 2012 8:41AM
Dec 6, 2012 8:39AM
I think politicians, lawyers the  most untrustworthy, with car salesman can always walk out of negotiations
Dec 6, 2012 11:12AM

I've been selling cars for 15 years, and have a 80% repeat and referral list of clients, you don't get that by being a liar, I'm also very blessed to be working for a dealership that expects nothing but honesty from its whole staff, so from my stand point, that percentage makes me feel terrible.



I've been selling cars for 36+ years.  It's hard work, but a good living; nobody would work this hard for free.  The idea that you don't know what your next pay check is going to be is for amateurs and inexperianced hands.

I have found over the years that "honesty" and some product knowledge are a salesman's best friend.  Customers want to buy from sales staff that they perceive to be truthful--why be anything else?

The most difficult part of the job is over coming the customers initial resistance to be helped.  If I had a dollar for everytime I've heard "I'm just looking..." I'd be a millionaire!  Of course an hour or two later I have to chuckle, because the peaople are in doing their paper work!

The second most difficult part of this type of work is that the customer will always lie or attempt to mislead the salesman during the course of the transaction.  If only the customer understood that the saleman has heard the same lie about a million times, he would skip that part of the deal.  There's a saying among car salemen that goes: "Buyers are liars."

At any rate, this is what I do for work and it's been OK for me.

Dec 6, 2012 10:16AM
A car salesman can cost you several hundred while a politican will definitely cost you several billions. I heard it said very clearly when congress's approval rating was just under 10% that Saddam Husseins's approval rating was around 15% AND THOSE WERE THE PEOPLE THAT HUNG HIM.  Give you any good ideas?? 
Dec 6, 2012 10:24AM
I have to agree that car salespeople have come along way from say 20 years ago.  I remember walking into dealerships and leaving sick to my stomach from the high pressure.  I bought a new car 2 years ago, and the saleman was great.  No high pressure and it was truly a nice experience. He didn't try to sell me something I did not want.  I was waiting for my other car to be serviced, and saw a car on TV that sparked my interest.  I honestly did not walk into that showroom to buy.  I liked what I saw and drive off with a new car.
Dec 6, 2012 10:20AM
I can not believe this article. So biased and one sided. Custumers lie to salesman everyday. It is crazy that they think we are liars when custumers come in and tell you nothing thats true, from there pay off to how much the lsat dealer quoted them its never true. As a car salesman if you ask them enough questions you can trip them up and see that there lieing I do it all the time. Why is it ok fro costumers to lie but us car salesman can be great family man and a good community representitive and we still get called liars. I would like for the coward who wrote this article spend a day with me at my dealership and see how many times I lie. NEVER....
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