I have lost people recently. Neither family nor even friends in the traditional sense. Just random people I had contact with because of a vehicle.
In July 2020 I booked a new Ford Bronco. Not the little Bronco Sport you’ve seen in town, but one of the big ones – a six-gen, four-wheel-drive, all-terrain, chassis-bodied Bronco. Coming from a Suzuki SX4 hatchback, it was a big step forward for me, but considering all the trail driving I do to get to the hiking trails, it made sense. So on July 13 of last year I logged into Ford’s website and waited. At 6 p.m. the reservation page opened and immediately crashed. After about 15 minutes – and a lot of refreshment – I got my name on the list for a 2021 Bronco.
The next step was to find a dealer. With demand so high for the Bronco, I was wary of ADMs – additional markups from dealers. The way Ford set it up, once you had an order (not a reservation, but an order) at a dealership, you could only buy it from that one place. I was afraid the sales departments would jerk me off. I don’t put salespeople down here – I’ve worked in sales for years myself – but I’m not naive either. I know the deal. If a seller locks you into an order without giving you a written price first, you lose all your leverage. They can charge as much as they want, and if you don’t want to pay it, they can sell the vehicle to someone else. I’ve seen this play out in many ugly ways: from car dealerships âstealingâ people’s reservations and selling them to their best customers; or add $ 5,000, $ 10,000, $ 20,000, even $ 50,000 on top of the MSRP to the cost and then, if the person who booked the Bronco didn’t want to pay for it, sell it to the highest bidder.
I didn’t want to be in this situation anyway, so I called dealers statewide. I just wanted to know one thing: if I order from you, will you charge me the MSRP – the price listed on Ford’s website when I made my reservation – or will you add a markup? After dozens of conversations and no clear answers, I finally landed on a salesperson who said he was not adding a markup. Not only that, but his dealership was also currently running a special offer: $ 1,000 less than the invoice, or about $ 4,000 less than the MSRP. Could I have it in writing? Yes. And so the deal was concluded.
Albert, the salesman, was no ordinary salesperson. If I emailed him at 5am telling him I was thinking of changing my trim from Base to Big Bend, or from Big Bend to Outer Banks, he would call me. In fact, he was calling me on the phone to discuss the differences: what I would lose, what I would gain, and what it would cost. âDid it make sense to have the 4A, in addition to the 2H, 4H and 4L? ” I will ask. âYeah,â he said, âin Colorado you’d be crazy not to. “
âWith the high demand, how can I get my Bronco sooner? ” I asked. âUpgrade to a 4-door Big Bend,â he said, âthe 2-door, which has a hardtop, is going to be delayed.â (He was right on both counts – adding the 4A was the right choice, and my 2-door was delayed until 2022.)
Albert loved the Broncos and he loved Colorado. He spoke at length about his mountain towns and his favorite trails. And he knew the Bronco inside and out: the details of every trim, drivetrain, tire and engine. Honestly, I’ve never been happier to get a call from a salesperson than on the mornings when my phone rings and the caller ID says “Albert”. Over time, I have met other Albert clients online. They all shared experiences similar to mine: long chats with our favorite car salesman on Colorado towns and trails and on the Bronco.
One thing Albert didn’t talk about was his health. But we all felt it: he wasn’t doing well, and probably wasn’t going to get better. The calls were shorter because he had to rest his voice. Then he was working from home and eventually we were communicating online and by email. Still, it came as a shock last month when the dealership owner reached out to Albert’s customers to let us know he had passed away.
None of us were family, or even family friends, yet we had to do something to honor this man. He had brought together hundreds of Bronco enthusiasts from across the country, who shared one more thing in common: an appreciation for this man and his optimistic attitude, his indomitable spirit and his willingness to do well for his customers. One person raised money for the flowers, and another guy picked them out and made sure they went to the memorial. There was so much money left – around $ 4,500 – that another client found out that Albert’s favorite charity was a fire and rescue operation in a small town in Iowa, and the funds went been donated.
Another Albert client, Jon, designed patches, stickers, t-shirts and tote bags and sold them with the proceeds going to the same charity. I couldn’t believe how much people did to honor this man who had made such an impression on all of our lives. I ordered stickers, magnet and patch. Jon sent them to me with a nice note, and I held out my hand to thank him for his great work. I mean, who does this for their car salesman?
A few days ago I was informed by Jon’s wife that he, too, had passed away. It happened suddenly – a heart attack. I could not believe it. I had just spoken to him online a few days ago. She wanted to make sure I didn’t have any pending orders that Jon hadn’t shipped. She wanted to take care of the orders and donate the profits to the charity honoring Albert.
Last night I sewed the patch on my denim jacket. And I thought about friendships and people, and how a person’s attitude and actions can have such a profound impact on the lives of so many other people. And how you don’t have to be a celebrity, or a politician, or a CEO, or a church leader, to bring people together and show them what it means to be treated well. So that so many other people want to be better people too. You can be a guy who designs stickers and patches to raise money for charity. You can be a car salesman. You can be like Jon and Albert.
Susan Joy Paul is a freelance writer, editor and writer. She has lived on the northwest side of Colorado Springs for over 20 years. Contact Suzanne at [email protected].