He was a master salesman and the general manager of a used car lot that proved time and again he was an ethically challenged individual. I witnessed a couple that was in search of an economy car leave in a Cadillac Fleetwood. And a young couple in search of a family car began by looking at a Ford LTD and left in a Pacer. Then there was his practice of buying regrooved tires, spray painting floor carpets, using salvage yard batteries that had been given a quick coat of paint, and using Loctite on broken bolts.
A key component in his ability to avoid the always looming lawsuit or even jail time was the customers. It was an example of the old adage that ignorance is bliss. A surprising number of them were actually happy with their purchase, especially the ones who didn’t yet know that in many instances he was essentially selling diamond and platinum cufflinks made of pewter and cubic zirconium.
He had a sympathetic ear when the custormer had issues. And this is where his incredible talent as a slight of hand grifter shined. As an example, he would apology profusely about the dead battery that had left them stranded, and give them another salvage yard battery that looked shiny and new.
And he counted on the fact that many customers were reluctant and embarrassed to admit that they had been suckered. So, instead they would blame problems on a garage that had made needed repairs, on defective parts, and on poor quality from the manufacturer. And they would talk about what a good deal they had gotten, and that resulted in even more customers.
Then when the proverbial dog doo was about to hit the fan, the GM would reach out to customers with a syrupy sweet letter about how much he valued their business, and wanted to make sure that their car or truck was still meeting their needs. And that would be followed by a reminder that he was always available to meet their automotive needs from sales to service. Mixed in would be a subtle request for a review. And then the positive reviews linked with his support of the local Little League team, the school football team and other community projects made it easy for him to paint anyone that complained or filed a lawsuit as a disgruntled customer. On occassion he would go so far as to offer them another vehicle, if they would simply pay the difference in value.
I hadn’t given this silver tongued grifter a thought in years. When I stormed out of his office after a disagreement, I remember wondering what would happen if he ever decided to pursue a political carreer. But a few days ago, on the morning walkabout, after thumbing through the news, he popped into my thoughts. That long ago question had been answered, now I know what would have happened if he had become a politician.
A lot of years have passed since I slammed the door of his office. Walking out on that job was an easy decision. More than a few made since then left me wondering if the right choice had been made.
But one decision that I never regret was encouraged by my dearest friend. She gently nudged me toward transforming a childhood dream into a reality.
That first published article was the cornerstone. It was the catalyst for the endeavor that became Jim HInckley’s America.
We never stop working on this endeavor. Sharing and inspiring adventures is our passion. And so we work on new books, improving the website, developing informative and fun podcasts, creating interesting and thought provoking presentations, and writing articles and blogs for clients. And we work to ensure that sponsors get a bang for their advertising dollar and that our followers have assurance that these businesses and communities come with our recommendation.
And lessons learned working at that car lot so long ago, linked with an unexplainable adiction to derelict vehicles, are being manifest in the next chapter for Jim Hinckley’s America – The Beast. Coutless delays, defective parts, and an array of issues have put the project way behind schedule but the 1951 Chevy panel truck that will be a rolling studio for Jim Hinckley’s America programs, book store and Route 66 info center will be on the road soon. And it will be a focal point in our efforts to foster awareness about the fast approaching Route 66 centennial, and to get people excited about this milestone event.