A bit far away, but Pam's Dad lives there so I emailed the dealer. He was up front about the doc fee - and other aspects of the car. I sent Pam's dad over to look at, and he reported it was in good shape, hadn't been smoked in, etc. So far, so good.
When I connected with Paul Matsas, he immediately mentioned he had grown up in Wayland. (He knew from the zip code on my lead form that we live there now. The usual, "where did you live, who do you know" thing started (HISTORY - Chapter 8).
Turns out his brother, Steve, is our autobody guy. Four teenagers later, we know Steve as well as we know the nurses at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital ER. And, that also means that Paul's niece cuts all our boy's hair at Sommerby's Salon. And he has a connection to their elementary school teacher, and, and, and...well, hell, we are practically family.
Talk about understanding and building on relationships! Paul used digital technology to find me, learn about my needs, to figure out that he better be up front with me, and to convince himself that I was ready to buy a car if he could win me over with trust, authenticity, and helpfulness. Then he bridged digital to human interaction and won me over in 10 minutes. I felt comfortable enough to push him on the doc fee thing - calling him out that it was nothing more than added dealer profit. He laughed and said, "Hey, call it what you want, we charge it, so add it on to the price you expect to pay me for the car." Then he surprised me, and gave me a price over the phone (including the damn doc fee) that was irrefutable. It was fair. (And only slightly higher than what I agree to pay our old pal, Ali for an older, smoked in car with more miles!)
Shoot, what was I supposed to do?
What I did do is give Paul my credit card over the phone, put down a hefty down payment, and arranged to wire him the balance. All sight unseen. All because I had finally found the one thing I really wanted more than the car. I wanted to do business with - no, I was on a mission to find - an honest car salesman. Paul seemed to get that from the get-go. He won not only my business, but this column and a heap of online recommendations to follow. And, of course, he gets a signed copy of Recommend This!
Well played, O'Hara's.