The group of ten or so used car salesmen who were huddled around the receptionist’s desk failed to hear their newest salesman as they swapped war stories and drank tepid coffee from sad 8oz Styrofoam cups usually reserved for customers. Thanks to the torrential downpour that had swept through in the last hour, it was doubtful there would be any more customers to offer the cheap brew to for the rest of the evening. People generally don’t like to shop for a car in the pouring rain.
“Hey everyone, it’s Jessica Simpson!” the new guy, Darnell, shouted, trying a new tactic to get the group’s attention.
Darnell took the abrupt silence in the expansive showroom as confirmation his tactic had worked. With every senior salesman’s attention now directed wholly on Darnell, a sudden reticence seeped into his veins as if the rain from outside had somehow found its way from the beveled roof into his bloodstream. “Um, ha that was a joke guys… just trying to get your attention because-“ he had lost them again, the minute he intimated Jessica Simpson was not in fact on the property the entire group returned to their interrupted conversations and coffee, turning their back on Darnell in an almost synchronized movement.
He would have to try something else- something a little more dramatic. An idea popped into his head and without giving his common sense time to reject it, Darnell sprang into action. Pushing his way through, Darnell squeezed in past two of the salesmen at the back of the circle and jumped up onto the receptionist desk. Now, standing several feet over everyone Darnell once again attempted to command the room. “Guys, I’ve been trying to tell you, there are customers out on the lot… they’ve been circling the beamers and look serious. Someone needs to get out there!”
Ten pairs of eyes immediately swung from Darnell and strained to see beyond the rain-smeared glass of the showroom out into the lot. Sure enough, a middle-aged couple was peering into one of the 700 class BMWs, seeming oblivious to the weather and their completely drenched condition. “Well, I’ll be damned…” one of older salesman cursed, Darnell couldn’t tell who. Assuming his duty was done, it was after all, the senior sales team members’ responsibility to decide who would serve the next customer, Darnell hopped down from the desk and was about to return to his desk where he had been instructed to review the sales training manual when a hand on his shoulder stopped him from taking more than few steps.
“And where do you think you’re going?” a snarky voice said from over Darnell’s shoulder. Bruce Daxter, a senior sales team member and a man who epitomized the ‘used car salesman’ persona smiled crookedly at Darnell and chewed absently on the toothpick desperately trying to escape in the corner of his mouth.
“Well, Mr. Daxter, sir, I was just going back to my desk…” Darnell began to answer before Bruce held up his catchers’ mitt of a hand to stop him.
“Oh no son, you’re up,” Bruce said in his syrupy voice and pointed past the group of snickering salesmen to the couple in the rain who were still looking at the 700 class.
“But, I thought the senior team was up, I mean… you really think I’m ready?” Darnell felt like an icy hand had seized the back of his neck long enough for a phantom punt-kicker to take a shot at his bowels. Shaking off the panic as best he could, Darnell swelled with a quiet pride, the team obviously thought he was ready. Nodding to Bruce, Darnell cocked his chin in the air and strode towards the glass doors that led to the lot. Pushing the doors open with a shove, he snapped open the large umbrella he had thought to grab at the last minute and rushed into the downpour.
Watching the rookie run into the rain towards the couple, Bruce rejoined his colleagues and getting a few pats on the back laughingly said, “Did he really think one of the senior sales members was going to go out in that?!? What a joke!” The group all shared a long laugh at Darnell’s expense before returning to their previous conversation.
The minute Darnell’s shoes hit the flooded pavement he knew he had been tricked. The guys probably set him up from the start, paying some buddies of theirs to walk around in the rain so they could get a kick out of watching the new guy get drenched for no reason. Arriving at the side of the couple, Darnell attempted pleasantries and held out the umbrella so the two ‘customers’ could benefit from its temporary shelter. “So…” Darnell almost had to shout over the sporadic drumbeat of the rain on the umbrella overhead, “…what brings you folks out on this beautiful day? I’m guessing it’s our killer deals, right? Just couldn’t wait another day, am I right?” he felt completely ridiculous but refused to let these people see that.
“Well hello there!” the gentleman said, managing to come off dignified despite the desperate condition of his clothes and sodden hair, “I don’t believe I know you, son. Are you new here?” Darnell explained that it was still his first week, but despite his apparently lack of experience he was sure he could get the gentleman the best possible deal on the classy 700 he noticed the pair were still hovering over. The gentleman allowed Darnell to go through his entire pitch, from start to finish and appeared completely enraptured with each word.
When Darnell realized these folks might actually be legitimate customers, he offered to escort them inside out of the rain to continue the conversation, “After all, I have the specs of this model at the click of a mouse if we need more visual assistance” he assured them as he gestured towards the warm light of the showroom. Taking him up on the offer, the three of them picked their way carefully through the lake-sized puddles and finally into the warm and dry showroom. Leaving the two at the door for a second to return the umbrella to its stand, Darnell returned to find the entire sales staff staring gaped-mouthed at the two visitors. Confused by the lack in manners of his co-workers, Darnell quickly interceded and offered them both some coffee.
“Thank you, son. That won’t be necessary. I don’t believe I’ve properly introduced myself. I’m Earl Beckett… as in Beckett Autos, and this is my lovely wife Dorothy Beckett. I must tell you, Darnell. We are both very much impressed with you. Running into the rain, just to assist us when every other member of the sales team huddled comfortably inside, no doubt laughing at what they would consider your green enthusiasm. We were having a bit of fun, I’m afraid, you see Dorothy and I get a kick from going to each of our dealerships when it rains to see who among our ‘valued’ sales team is willing to soil their suit for the sake of the sale. Sometimes no one comes, and we leave unhelped, but on a few rare occasions someone like you shows the real grit I’m looking for from my staff. When that happens, I like to reward that person, just like I’m going to reward you tonight, Darnell,” pausing to pull something from his jacket pocket, Earl Beckett the most successful used cars dealership owners in the country took the item he had removed and handed it to Darnell.
“Go ahead son, open it,” Earl urged after a few seconds, seeing the young man was going to need a bit of encouragement.
Darnell tried to breathe normally as he peeled the somewhat damp slip of rectangular paper open. What he saw immediately eradicated any ability for normal inhalation. “Mr. Beckett, sir… I don’t… I don’t know what to say!” Darnell almost whispered.
“Well you can start out by telling me your last name Darnell,” Earl Beckett said good-naturedly as he took out a pen and taking the check for $50,000 waited with a smile for Darnell to give him his full name.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Well that went on a lot longer than I anticipated. This story sprung from a ½ second observation as we drove to our diner for dinner this evening. Staring out the car widow through the rain I noticed that beyond the empty Lexus car lot, ten or so suited salesmen were all huddled around one reception area. The idea popped into my head to ‘punk’ one of them by showing up in the rain to look at a car-therefore extracting at least one of them from the comfy digs of the showroom into the rainy misery beyond. Yeah, somehow I got over 1300 words from that…
Love & Squirrels.