Regrets, I’ve had a few

By J.R. Zirkelbach, New Leaf Service Contracts

In Part I of “Jail Time with Juan,” I shared my experience of buying a new Toyota Tacoma and contending with the dealership’s finance manager.

A brief recap: My wife Holly and I spent hours with our wonderful salesman, Will. He proved to be an expert on the truck, built tremendous rapport with us, took a personal interest and learned everything he could about how we intended to use the vehicle.  

When a deal was finally reached, Will turned us over to Juan, his finance manager, to handle all the paperwork. Juan’s office was about the size of a jail cell, thus the title of this article, and he soon set about doing what virtually every auto dealer “finance manager” does: pressuring us into buying additional coverage with a protection plan.

In the end, we bought nothing from Juan. Why? Because I wasn’t listening to anything he said. By now it was 11 p.m., we’d spent hours at the dealership and I just wanted out of the jail cell. Also, who was Juan to recommend anything to us?  He didn’t know us. He didn’t know how we were going to use the truck. No, Juan. No. 

Now let’s pick up where we left off:

Holly and I drove our beautiful new lunar rock Tacoma (it’s that really cool grey-green color you’ve probably see around town) from Dallas to Morgantown, W.V., to visit our daughter Emily at school.  Eighteen hours there and 18 hours back (sorry American Airlines, you’re not getting $800 for a plane ticket). 

As you may know, the Dallas metroplex is rapidly expanding. There’s construction everywhere. We were 45 minutes from home, heading down Highway 75 northeast of Dallas, when a big truck that had been on a muddy construction site merged onto the highway ahead of us. Big clumps of dirt, mud, rocks and whatever else was stuck to that truck were falling off and bouncing down the road, and we were driving into it at 80 miles per hour. It was like flying through shrapnel in a B-29 over Germany.  We slowed down and changed lanes, but it was too late.

We got home and closely inspected the truck. We found three chips in the windshield and a deep gouge on the front bumper. Holly’s truck, which we had worked so hard to find and negotiated so hard to get a great deal, was now damaged. It was heartbreaking. And then I vaguely remembered something Juan had said while we were in his cell. Something about a protection plan that would cover incidents such as this. And I declined it. Why did I decline it? Because I was tired and grouchy and just wanted to go home.

But what if we had first had the following conversation with Will, our wonderful salesman?

Will: “Have you ever driven behind one of those big trucks on the freeway with all the dirt and crud falling off and bouncing down the road?”  

Us: “Yes, of course.” 

Will: “Well, because that’s a real possibility, I recommend a protection plan that will repair damage to your Tacoma if it ever happens to you, with no out-of-pocket expense. Juan will talk to you more about that in a bit.”  

Us: “OK, sounds good.”

If that discussion had actually taken place we probably would have bought the coverage.  And instead of being upset about the shrapnel wounds on Holly’s beautiful new truck, we would be relieved that we bought the coverage and were getting it repaired.

Now think about your customers. You can probably recall some, if not many, who declined a protection plan. Not because they wouldn’t have benefited from it, but because of when and how it was offered to them. Present the option of additional coverage during the sale, and use customers’ real-life experiences to demonstrate their need for the protection plan. A previous product failure, the cost of the repair, the frequency of usage, where the appliance is installed and the limitations of the manufacturer warranty are all reasons that may apply to your customer.

This approach allows you to simply confirm their need for a protection plan and to include it when you write the order. And if the day ever comes when the product has failed, the customer will be thankful and relieved that they purchased the extra coverage.

J.R. Zirkelbach is a business development executive at New Leaf Service Contracts with 30 years’ experience in retail. New Leaf-administered service contracts can provide an enhanced customer experience, earnings opportunities for salespeople and increased profitability for BrandSource members. Contact J.R. at

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