Every day I do test drives at work.
‘Bums on seats sell cars’ we get told. It does. But there is an element of risk involved whilst taking a person you don’t know, out in a car.
This is a list of the frequent sayings by people on a test drive:
“I couldn’t do your job.”
“How do you deal with really bad drivers?”
“This feels like a driving test”
“Don’t you get stressed being the passenger all the time?”
“Have you ever been stolen?”
Although I laughed at the last one it is something I think about every single day.
Perhaps you have bought a car from a dealership. You might be able to relate to this situation. You are fully focused on the car that you are interested in. You want to know it’s average consumption, the tax band, what colour you can get it in, the price, etc.
The sales lady opposite you is asking you all these questions to make sure that she gets the right car for you. This is called ‘qualifying the customer’. What you don’t realise is that the sales lady is giving you a full assessment.
Your body language indicates if you are relaxed enough. Your answers and ability to pick up jokes determine whether she feels safe in your company. Your decisiveness about what you want to buy reassures her that you are (potentially) a competent driver. She walks you around the showroom to show you brochures, different cars, colour charts, etc, all while assessing your ability to multi-task, attention to detail and spacial awareness.
Throughout this ‘qualifying stage’ you are getting more comfortable with her and she has ticked off her mental check list about whether or not she is safe to get into a car with you, alone.
If you fail this test, the car you were after will be ‘unavailable’ or ‘not here’ or ‘only her colleague is insured to drive this car as she is underage.’
Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone, sometimes we just don’t have the right car for you to drive and she will make an appointment for you another time.
I would rather be over cautious with my safety and risk losing a sale.
I once had a customer who made very inappropriate comments about my appearance. I was not comfortable going anywhere with him outside the showroom as I was convinced he was not interested in the purchase of the car, only me. I spoke to my boss about my feelings and he took him on the test drive. He didn’t buy the car and he never answered any of my calls in the later weeks. I refuse to dwell on his thought process about going on a test drive with a young girl with no intention of buying the car.
There have also been occasions where my assessment was slightly off. Whilst on test drive I realise that I am not comfortable. The customer is so focused on the car, he just listens to my instructions of where to go. People do what you tell them to do — the majority of the time. He is blissfully unaware that we have done the shortest test drive possible and we are back at the dealership in record time.
That situation taught me to trust my initial feeling about someone.
This degree of character assessment is something I now do in several aspects of my life. Like if I’m asked on a date. I’m not afraid to say ‘no’ I’m just discreet with my tactical excuses.
Of course, I meet plenty of wonderful, interesting and weird people on a daily basis but it pays to be aware. To have a ‘get out clause’ if you are uncomfortable in the presence of a particular person don’t put up with it. Speak up, stand up for yourself, trust your gut. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, or if you have body builder sized muscles or not, be safe and you will be more confident for it.