Off The Wall, the VANS

It all started in Milano. The obsession.

We were sock sisters. Sharing the same, mostly free adidas sport socks. They were peaking out over the tops of our shoes.

All the cool kids were wearing hideaway socks and adidas Stan Smiths. Were we even allowed on the street?

Sitting on the curb of Piazza deal Duomo we discussed our sneakers, our unfashionable socks and what we’d buy if we were to replace our well-loved, well-worn kicks. She, Originals, Green trimmed Stan Smiths. Me, VANS all the way baby! It’s all about the 80’s and Penn putting them on the map, forget about the 70’s 😉

That is when it started. The obsession of finding the perfect VANS.
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Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a store, close to home, full of VANS!

I tried on this pair, that pair, the other pair, the sales girl obliged. We talked about Italy, about my age-inappropriateness of shopping for skater shoes and then I bought two pairs, I was feeling lucky.

Back home, I took the garbage down wearing one pair of my new VANS.

Maiden voyage in my new kicks – garbage room. Nice.

That is when I realized perhaps I should have tried on the 1/2 size larger.
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Shoes packed back in their boxes and the next day back to the store I went hoping that a new day meant new staff.

How embarrassing would it be, “Hello I’d like to return one pair of shoes and exchange the other pair for a 1/2 size larger even though you asked me yesterday and I said no.”

Nothing from that dialogue screams, intelligent, well thought through purchase decision!

Turned out, new day, new staff!
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Exciting – one return, one exchanged pair 1/2 size larger.

But the excitement was short lived replaced by disappointment, my ankles were falling out of my shoes.

Back in their box and the next day back to the store for an exchange.

Turns out different day, not always new staff!
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“Hey,” I greet the sales guy, “I am back again!” There is only one way to treat this situation with dignity and that is to play the bouncy, absent-minded, 30-something who has no business buying skater shoes to begin with.

He’s busy behind the cash, uncomfortable with his attempt to dress a male mannequin in board shorts. He makes a comment about it and to distract himself he’s given the mannequin a name. He may be more embarrassed about his work related predicament than I am about returning a 3rd time to the store 3 days in a row.

I crack a joke to get him focused off his awkward mannequin dressing and onto my much more important embarrassment.

“I’m the girl who simply buys things and finds an excuse to come in to the store each and every day.”

He laughs and adds on to the joke, “And instead of actually returning anything, you’ll just keep exchanging between the 8’s and the 8 1/2’s, back to the 8’s…always in the same style!”

His mannequin is no longer a point of embarrassment, he is 100% engrossed in mine!

The Case Of The Clean Underwear

Saturday morning sales meetings, I’d heard of them while sitting in the corporate glass castle but never fully understood what these meetings were really about.

Yes it is a rally call to pump up sales folks before the rush of customers arrive at the dealer for their Saturday shopping; however its more than that. Its a place that funny conversation happens and I admit its not always scholarly, but innocent (?! debatable ?!) and sometimes ridiculous and funny.

Working on a team of sales men or perhaps a better descriptor, boys :), certainly adds a little bit of flavour to a day. Topics of conversation may not exactly be things I am so interested about discussing for hours on end, which takes us back to the Saturday sales meeting.

I am not really sure how the topic of underwear came up but it did and as expected, just like the topics of flatulence and burping at a boys middle school pyjama party (do guys have middle school sleep overs or is that just girls!), this topic was going wildly in the wrong direction until one gentleman said something like this:

“Yes, well my wife reminds me that I should change my underwear everyday.”

Silence.

And with that, I burst out laughing.

As you can imagine, a debate ensued over cleanliness. By the end of the meeting there was a “general consensus that it is always a good idea to wear clean underwear”.

I am not sure how many cars were sold that Saturday, but I am pretty sure there is no more confusion surrounding personal hygiene.

Buying Your Next Vehicle: Understand The Bill of Sale

In Ontario we have the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) legislature and the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) to enforce it. OMVIC is important because it is this council that behaves as a “Better Business Bureau” for the Automotive industry when it comes to selling and advertising.

Some important things to know:

a) Dealers cannot sell a vehicle for more than the listed Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) – this can be found on all Manufacturer’s websites

b) The Selling price of the vehicle is the MSRP plus added Options off the base vehicle, plus Freight, plus Air Tax of $100. All four are found on Manufacturer’s websites.

c) After the Selling price on all contracts will be the Dealer Administration Fee, License Fee, Gas Fee, Tire Tax, Trade-In etc., this is part of the business and Dealers are highly unlikely to negotiate on these fees. It’s here that you’ll add in up to $2,000 on top of the Selling Price. Also, any extended warranties (I know they aren’t cheap usually start around $2,000, but they make good financial sense in the long run if you plan on keeping your vehicle longer than the manufacturer warranty) or other products that are sold in the business office. Each item must be called out on the bill of sale on it’s own line. These “miscellaneous” items plus HST gets us to the total to Finance.

d) The monthly payment is calculated off the total amount to finance and there will be a line under the total amount to finance that will show you how much interest on the loan that you are paying for the duration of the loan. Most finance contracts are open loans that mean you can pay them off early, saving on interest payments.

e) The Selling price (b) is important because the higher it is the more content you are getting in your vehicle so it’s good to know your model and know the price of the vehicle you actually are interested in buying.

Like any good business model, selling in-stock inventory is preferred where possible over factory ordering. Why? Because the longer a vehicle sits on a dealership lot the more money is being paid to the bank in interest for the line of credit. I am going to try to explain something without sounding sleazy and my apologies if I do.

One of my first customers who purchased a vehicle from me was mostly interested in colour and a few other options off of a mid-range model. I found a vehicle in inventory that suited them exactly, no extra features. I gave them payments and they agreed to the terms and there was very little negotiation on payment or price which is a bad thing for both the Seller and the Buyer. It’s bad for the Buyer because I am sure after a few days of taking possession of the vehicle they were thinking “I could have negotiated this price down.” And the Seller (I admit I did think this because I realized it was true but unethical) “I could have sold them a higher priced vehicle and made more money and they wouldn’t even have had a clue. They were more focused on colour and the monthly payment didn’t matter, an extra $2,000 on the Selling price with a better equipped model would have been $4/month more on their payment, they wouldn’t have noticed.”

So selling price is important, understand what you are buying; understand what content is in the vehicle that gets you to the price. Be comfortable and confident with what you are buying.

It’s not about negotiating the Selling price, it’s about understanding it and agreeing that you have made the right choice for you. It is not shrouded in secrecy; the Bill of Sale must show the model, option and MSRP as the Selling price along with all the added costs and fees. If there is something you disagree with, bring it up before signing the Bill of Sale.

As a consumer you can confirm the price and the model by going onto the Manufacturer website and double checking everything adds up. If something is off ask the Dealership to explain it and if they can’t explain the discrepancy use the tools available to you, contact OMVIC.

f) Once the Bill of sale is signed you are liable to meet the obligations of the contract unless otherwise stipulated on the bill of sale. Example of a stipulation: Subject to finance approval etc. Make sure you understand the Bill of sale before signing.

Buying a car should be a stress-free experience and as a customer you should feel informed on what you are buying and why. Understand that there are fees involved and that no matter how much you might not like the fees it is part of the business. One of the sales people I used to work with who I liked to call the “Al Pacino” impersonator (he should have really worn tweed and a bow tie) was never out to eat your dinner. Most of my coworkers were down to earth, hockey fans who had a hard time telling a lie and have severe Negotiaphobia (don’t tell them I said that! :))

Ok so this post has gone way off the rails from what I was intending – I became a little passionate about that “Bill of sale” and the “Selling price” but they are my two pet-peeves 🙂

If you are in the market for a car and have a question, ask away and I’ll do my best to answer.

The Frye Boot Update

So far this winter my Frye boots have spent quite a number of hours outdoors, how many exactly, I can’t quite compute but a rather large number based on the rules that revolve around wearing them outdoors.

After buying my fancy, out of budget boots and subsequently falling in love with them, it was brought to my attention that being leather soles they would not be suitable for Salt, Snow or Rain. Why I didn’t think about this to begin with is beyond me. I was focused on finding the correct fitting/looking boot, not weather appropriate, that was what my Uggs were for!

But since they became mine at the beginning of winter with so many restrictions, I wasn’t very hopeful on how often they would be useful footwear. Turns out they have made it out of my condo on average 4 out of 7 days.

So tonight as I was preparing to come sit at the coffee shop to blog, I decided I must post an update about my boots. The update isn’t about how often I’ve worn them this year but rather how I get them on my feet.

I’ve been genetically blessed with “athletic” calves. My parents, I am 100% sure, started dating and later married due to their athleticism to which they produced children with athletic calves. Growing up I was persuaded that not I, but one of my siblings had the most “athletic” calves. This was a very important topic during our childhood. “Athletic” calves were deplorable and it was made clear that mine, unfortunately, no matter how disdainful it was to be the winner in this anatomy challenge, didn’t take the prize in our family.

To my sheer amazement and surprise, my Frye boots have produced the truth.

It is I who has the most “athletic” calves, a card carrying member and I now have to make up over 30 years of re-payment due for this new reality!

I should have known.

As all of you who are part of the “athletic” calf club, the more one works out the more difficult it becomes to put on knee high boots. It’s not necessarily that as you work out the calf gets larger, it’s that it gets solid, less squishy and not as easy to stuff into the boot. The trick to getting a 14 ¾” width boot zipped up is to unflex the leg by raising it above the thigh while in the sitting position.

So while trying on my Frye boots at the store over 3 months ago, I became quite irritated with the sales lady who was forcefully telling me how to try on the boots, “Keep your feet flat on the floor, use the little pull tabs on the inside of the boot, it only works that way.” Well for me it didn’t work, I wasn’t in the mood to argue, so I only zipped them up half-way.

Now each time I put on my Frye boots I sit down on a chair, raise my calf up past my thigh, zip up my boot and with satisfaction argue with the sales girl in my head “See skinny calf girl, your method only works for people like YOU!!”

And with that, I march out of my house!

2 down, 63 to go

2 down, 63 to go

That’s my sales goal for the year, 65. I have successfully put down two sales. I am told my first one was the most difficult I’ll ever encounter, in fact it was the most difficult that the store had seen since it opened in 1968. There were a few moments that I didn’t want to keep going, where the benefit of succeeding felt out-weighed by the need for sanity!

It is so different waking up in the morning and remembering that it’s not about putting on the best suit and a confident face; it’s about being approachable and meeting a very real target. The toolbox I pick from in morning is a little different, I convince myself if Frank Abagnale Jr. could pass himself off as a pilot, doctor and legal prosecutor, the impossible is possible if I just throw-out both the rule book and type-cast. I pick passion and enthusiasm, without these I might as well just crawl back in bed.

Today I am thankful for my mentor who would spend hours coaching and giving me direction. The part that resounds with me today is creating personal brand and preparing mentally for whatever is going to happen the minute I step outside my door; personal brand being the characteristics that distinguish my abilities to deliver over my competitors. I must admit, there were days it was difficult to dig inside and be the better person and work on building personal brand. It was easier to focus on the details at hand and ignore the bigger picture.

My sales target forces me to work on personal brand in increments of 10 minutes or less. Unlike the world I knew, sales is much less forgiving and brand becomes extremely important. The politic is being able to demonstrate to your customers in a short time that you are qualified, will respect them more than anyone else in the business and will not let them down throughout the entire process.

Perched in my corporate tree house, sales seemed like murky water with no beginning or end. I don’t kid myself, I realize I sold every day in my job; I was selling ideas and solutions to business problems that cost little in resource and time. I could scuttle off on my own and find a way to make something happen that seemed impossible. It was targeted and specific; I worked hard at understanding systems, programs, and wait for it…..Microsoft Excel! It is true; it can be powerful and useful in the right context. The very thing I wanted to escape after graduating as a programmer I was holding on to.

So here I am, doing something that doesn’t require me to be good at Excel, or systems or programs. In fact the only technical skill needed to make a sale is a pencil and piece of paper!

This gets me back to my mentor and his consistent, patient prodding to build brand.

My first customer came into the store looking for something used and left with something new. A car is a highly emotional purchase, the second biggest transaction most of us will make behind purchasing a home. At the end of it all, the constant thread that kept the transaction going and tempers even, turned out to be constant communication, all part of the brand. There can be no room for fuzzy chance, it either is or it isn’t. If there are shades of grey, the grey must be outlined in black or white.

Drawing the line was important for my customer and it took everything in me to be consistent in tone and energy from the start of the sale to the very end. It was staying true to the brand that my customer had become accustomed to, the one they respected and trusted that had my customer leaving with a smile.

It will take time to perfect my personal brand but all in all, it is sure to be a rewarding experience.

Women in Business

Inspiring story of two sisters, running Chevrolet`s oldest family run business in its sixth generation.

The story begins in 1847, before the first American car manufacturing company existed in 1893, when Wesley Hare started building carriages. By 1912, his son had evolved the family business into mostly building automobile’s for a handful of brands including Cadillac and eventually becoming an exclusive Chevrolet franchise in 1921.

Farewell and Hello

The time came to say farewell, since joining Nissan Canada in 2003 time has flown by – 8 years feels like a moment in time.

I thank everyone I met and worked with for making my time at Nissan special and memorable.

My new chapter starts tomorrow, one more link in a chain that I expect to be filled with more adventure stories!