Careful how you treat potential customers (or don’t judge a book by its cover) . . .

Here are two lessons about judging a book by its cover taught to us by car dealerships.

Recently a potential customer visited her local Audi dealership in the town in which she lives about 60 kilometers outside Toronto. She was interested in an Audi 5Q.

The salesman did something you’d think even a rookie salesman would know not to do—he judged a book by its cover. Consistent with his generally condescending manner, he asked the lady something he’d probably never ask a man—did she work or was she a “housewife”. He seemed to make the assumption that attractive and blond meant being some man’s trophy wife.

The potential customer, a surgeon, bought an Audi Q5 but from the Audi dealership in the next town 25 kilometers away. It turns out that the first dealership has a reputation for the kind of attitude shown by the salesman. One wonders if management has any idea that some potential customers are willing to go 25 kilometers away rather than deal with them.

This brings to mind a similar incident that took place in Calgary many years ago when the owner of a big graphics shop was interested in a new Acura. He went to the dealership at lunch time in his work clothes which had ink smudges, as one would expect when printing with large screens. The sales staff ignored him (again, judging a book by its cover) and he ended up buying a new Acura from another dealership in the city where he was treated with the courtesy a customer should expect.

Does your shop have a policy about not judging a book by its cover?