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Saker: Social distancing made collecting a new car surreal

Jim Saker

Some businesses don’t deserve to survive post COVID-19, maybe they didn’t deserve to do so in the pre-virus environment. 

Let me paint a scenario.

I had a PCP on a car that was due to run out in March.

From around October I was expecting some contact from the dealership to up sell me, down sell me or just to enquire what my thinking was about the future. 

I had bought the car from them and had a three-year service contract.

Nothing came, then on January 19 I received a text from the finance company offering me three options, did I want to keep the car, return it or part-exchange in with the dealer?

I thought that if they couldn’t be bothered to call, email or even send a letter, I would ignore the text and give the dealer a little longer to make contact. 

Again, nothing from the dealer, then in February the finance company appeared to panic, and I started to receive letters every two days.

I decided to return the car and it was dutifully picked up.

To this day I have not had any contact from the dealership apart from a text reminding me that there is some routine work that needs to be done on a car that I no longer have in my possession.

I was a nobody in the relationship.

Stage two was then how to buy a new car while supporting the local economy?

I thought that this would be socially beneficial rather than selfishly exploiting the contacts I have in the sector.

I visited the showroom a couple of times. It was basic but friendly and the staff remembered my name and made me feel welcome. 

The process of actually buying the car was farcical, the finance company’s system was clunky, and the sales guy was typing into the computer with one finger but, actually, I didn’t care.

They had made me feel as if I mattered and there was no hard sell.

Owing to the slowness of the process I got to know all about everyone’s lives, and they got to find out about me.

The highlight was the handover in the COVID-19 lockdown environment.

It was in the early days when there was some ambiguity in the Government guidelines, so a discussion ensued over whether a car was a necessity or not and should I go and collect it.  

I’m pleased I went; the whole experience was surreal.

I was issued with mask and gloves and the process was transacted six feet apart.

We happily moved around the computer in what to an outsider would have seemed a weirdly choreographed dance.

The explanation of the controls on the car was again done with much pointing and shouting at a distance.

I managed to get the car home and, thanks to COVID-19, at the time of writing that is where it has sat ever since.

When reflecting on the experience I realised that people and relationships really do matter and the coronavirus has reinforced that across not only our industry but also society.

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  • andyturbefield - 16/06/2020 19:00

    This is certainly a new world Jim, and one we are slowly adapting to. But it will be a continual evolution as we learn how to deal with this virus until we have a vaccine. In the meantime isn't it great to be build new relationships with people at a time when we need to more than at any other.