Confessions of a lot boy at a large automotive dealership

The following is a recollection of my memories of working for a car dealership for several summers in a row starting in 1991:

For a 16 year old car junkie, could there possibly be any better job? I was hired at the local Buick / Oldsmobile / GMC dealership for the summer of 1991 to be the “lot boy”, and I couldn’t have been happier. It was going to be my job to keep the inventory of new cars clean and organized, along with any other shit job that the managers or sales personnel would happen to have for me (which, as a matter of fact, happened to be quite a bit).

Cars had been my entire life up until that point. “Clinical obsession” would be a more appropriate way to describe my interest in the automobile, and having just received my driver’s license, a job at the local car dealership was the only logical choice for employment. Being naturally shy seemed as if it would have been an obstacle between myself and that goal, but no matter. Two or three shaky cold-calls to the local dealerships later, I had easily become part of the national workforce.

Now, I’m not going to lie – it wasn’t as glamourous as I thought it was going to be. It was honest hard work, and I came home more than once physically in pain from all the crap they had me do during the day. I took a lot of abuse from the sales team, as I was pretty much their slave for the  entire time I was on the clock. Someone needed lunch? I was the guy to get it for them. The undercoating pit was dirty? I was the guy to clean it. Someone needed their home driveway scrubbed? Yep, that’s right…that was my job. But hey – I was happy to be employed, and more importantly, I was absolutely thrilled that I was being paid to drive brand new cars around all day.

This job turned into a four-year relationship with that particular dealership, and I returned for the next three summers in a row for more fun (and abuse). It sure sucked at times, but overall, it was a good experience. With that, I’d like to highlight a few of my most memorable moments – including some things that might seem shocking to those who don’t know what goes on behind closed doors at professional dealerships:

  • Sales people do ridicule customers behind their backs – especially ones that are difficult and waste their time. I had led a pretty sheltered life up until that point, and I didn’t even make it until the end of my first day before I had heard all sorts of new and colorful language used to insult people. Shocking (and quite eye-opening) for a young lad such as myself…
  • Dealership employees don’t care at all about the cars on the lot, and they are abused quite heavily. Speeding, spinning tires, throwing the transmission into park or reverse before coming to a complete stop, etc were common. I felt bad for the people who bought certain cars from us, knowing what kind of life they had led up until that point.
  • For a lowly lot boy such as myself, denting brand new (unslold) cars is not automatic grounds for termination. I personally smashed up two cars while employed there, and they were simply fixed and sold as new. Yes, I had my wrists slapped of course, and the damage in both cases wasn’t major, but I didn’t get fired. Scary times though – I thought for sure I was going to be taken out back and shot execution-style.
  • I learned to drive a manual transmission on one of the new base-model GMC Sonoma’s we had on the lot. I still think of that truck to this day, and I truly feel sorry for the guy who bought it. At the very least, I’d like to buy him a beer to make up for it…
  • Those GMC Syclones and Typhoons were fast. Don’t ask me how I know this.
  • I think I may have been the first “civilian” to drive the newly redesigned 1994 GMC Sonoma in my part of the state. We were one of the first dealerships to get one, and I (along with some other sales people) took it for a drive the moment it came off the truck. I was the first to drive it before handing it over to someone else.
  • I’m not a truck guy at all, but somewhere out there is a bright red full-size 1994 GMC extended cab 4×4 pickup with a short bed that I considered my baby while it was on the lot. It was a 5-speed manual with very few options, but it just felt so badass…and as such, I put a lot of miles on it during it’s time on the lot. Sometimes when I was bored I would grab the keys and cruise around the lot “pretending” to be cleaning it or moving it to a different spot. I had quit before it was ever sold.
  • Full size conversion vans were the worst. I hated them with a passion, and our dealership had a LOT of them in stock. I could never figure out why people bought those abominations on wheels. Each and every one was a total pain in the ass to park and clean. I hated them!

As a first job, I couldn’t have done any better. Between all the hard work and rude sales people, it was actually a very rewarding experience. If anything, it reaffirmed my dedication to school and eduction to ensure that I wouldn’t have to do manual labor like that for the rest of my life. Good times for sure, but I wouldn’t go back and do it again for anything in the world.