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Evan Barnett

Olivia Rines
March 28, 2015
Discourse in Dealerships
When I was asked to consider a group for my Micro-ethnography, I was a little hesitant
on which group to choose. As I continued to think about it however, I soon realized that I
participate in a rich discourse community 40 hours a week. I work at a dealership, and between
all the departments and their goals, it would be hard to find a better community that exemplifies
Swales 6 concepts. As part of my observations, I walked around the lot on a busy day, in
attempt to see how the salesman and customer really interact. I interacted with the salesman as
well afterwards, to gain perspective on what I heard. When dealing with a dealership, you have
to keep one thing in mind. I mainly focused on the sales department and my own due to time
constraints. However, due to my unique position within this community, I am able to provide
insight into most other departments as well.
The primary goal of a dealership is to make money. Within each department are sub
goals in which most of them are designed to bring in money in one way or another. My
department being the exception. Technically, our goal is to improve and sustain customer
relations through presentation (clean, orderly lot) and effort (attempting to fix miscellaneous
stains or scratches in cars).

Now the Car Sales, Service, Finance and Body Shop departments all rely on convincing
the customer to buy something that they may or may not need. Their goal is an attempt to sell
their wares in whatever way possible. Car Salesman may push financing through the dealership
(delayed income but higher interest rates) while Service Writers may get the customer to
purchase a large number of services for their car. Finance representatives attempt to sell the
customer on extended warranties and extras such as window tinting or body side moldings. Now
the body shop is a little different. They dont necessarily have to try to sell the customer, unless
they are looking to have an entire paint job redone. Where theres cars, there are crashes. And
where there are crashes, there will be body shops. Finally,
The Business Development Center is essentially a call center that make contact with old,
new and prospective customers. Their job is to intrigue and capture the persons attention with
promises such as low finance rates and guaranteed trade in prices among other things. Their
primary goal is to hit a certain number of calls each day, while at the same time drumming up
new business for the dealership. You see, all they have to do is plant that seed into someones
head. They may see through the promises, but in the back of their head they are now
subconsciously thinking about a Toyota. They just might come to our dealership when they
decided they need a new car.
So you have all these departments, with somewhat different but similar goals. How do
you make them mesh? Well, as most businesses do, the phone lines are the most important tool
for intercommunication among departments. Maybe were out of chemicals or compounds for
washing cars. We can simply call up parts and place an order. If a Sales employee accidentally
dents or scratches a car, a call to the body shop is made. Accompanying the effervescent phone
lines is the PA system. It routes through nearly every building and floor of the dealership. This

allows the higher ups to communicate with their employees on a busy day when nobodys inside.
A common message that is heard is Doyle, Sales Desk, or Finance, you have a call on 3000.
For us, this method of communication is extremely important. The message we listen for is
Toyota of North Charlotte would like to congratulate This signifies that a car has been sold,
and we need to be prepared for when it is delivered.
I would consider all that Outer-Departmental Communication. Now the interdepartmental communication is pretty straightforward. Like most businesses, we have memos
that are distributed from the top down, as well as notifications of events are changes that are
posted on frequently traveled doors and hallways. The sales department has the most interesting
form of communication however. At the start of the day and near closing, they are called into the
sales tower. In the mornings, they are discussing the goals for the day, objectives, who needs
to sell what, etc. The evening roll call is mainly for deciding who gets to go home, and who is
responsible for locking up. Mine and most other departments have the usual meetings.
During these meetings, it is most common for the managers to provide feedback from
customers, their superiors and the employees performance in general. Many departments rely
on word of mouth and surveys from the customers to provide feedback on their performance. It
differs for my department and the sales department however. If we do something wrong or make
a bad decision, the consequences are felt pretty quickly. We all participate in this discourse
community, so we all become responsible. A good example of these concepts would be when
one of my coworkers was caught smoking inside the new bay. He was at work, and there for
participating in our discourse community. Whoever saw him relayed their information to our
manager using the phone lines. After, it was passed down to us that nobody (including other
departments) could smoke in or around the new bay, and had to smoke elsewhere. So you have

the goal of making the bay smoke free, employees at work participating and interacting, and
inter/outer-departmental communication.
With all these departments that have separate goals and employees, it is to be expected
that the genres utilized in the communicative furtherance of their respective aims are numerous.
Our department, for instance, uses the Media genre to appeal to prospective customers. Once a
month, we setup for a commercial that is shot on the dealers premises. Furthermore, the detail
genre is used in keeping the cars clean and attractive. The sales department is in on this as well,
posting special prices on the internet to entice customers. The aim of these genres are of course,
to appeal to the consumer and get them to buy cars.
Some other examples would be the genre of the sales process. The customer goes to the
Product Specialist, who reports to the Sales Specialist who reports to the manager. Then it all
happens again in reverse, until the customer accepts or declines the deal. The Customer
Relations genre is a huge part of what makes a dealership successful. We have been asked to
detail many cars that are friends of the managers. The owner has thrown in free floor mats, tanks
of gas and other accessories as a sign of goodwill. Finally, and perhaps one of the largest ones is
the genre of building design. From August of 2014 to January of 2015, the dealership was under
massive renovations to not only modernize their building, but to increase amenities (caf, larger
and more comfortable lounge) as well as increasing customer attraction level to the dealership.
Basically, it was made a lot nicer.
Like most distinct discourse communities, there has become an accepted and widely used
lexicon as time has passed. Newcomers to the community might be at a loss at first, but they too
learn the nomenclature used, how to respond to queries and effectively understand the
Inter/Outer-Departmental communication. Some are obvious, such as Lot (Car lot, where cars

are parked), Showroom, Service Area, Break room, Delivery Pad, etc. Others have found their
own intrinsic names, sometimes applied with affection or even disdain. The small room encased
in glass towards the middle of the dealership is called The Tower by us veterans. Mainly
because it is raised above ground level, and all the managers sit higher even when you are
standing. Towards the back of the dealership, there Is a small, fenced in lot that is referred to as
the Bull Pen. In this area, Lease Turn-Ins, Trade-Ins, overstock and miscellaneous cars are
parked. The space is also occasionally used by Vendors the dealer hires. As you can tell, that
just opened up a whole new can of words used. Superior Interiors, AutoUplink and DentWizard
are just a few of the vendors that are used. Other groups such as Auction (Speedway) are
important to know as well. If a customer is looking for a car that you know is on the lot, but you
cant find it, its either been sold, in the Bull Pen being worked on by a vendor, or it was taken to
auction. Within my department, terms commonly used are Brake R, Solvent, Cherry Wax, Swirl
Be Gone, AP, Driver, Back corner and much more. If you went into each department, you would
learn of a whole host of dealership-specific lexis that are used.
If you have worked a sales job, you know it can be a high pressure situation. As I
mentioned before, all the departments rely on each other in some way, and a large amount of
them deal with sales. This creates a recipe for high stress levels between employees and more of
a possibility of a negative attitude. With such a potential for a hostile environment, it is common
for there to be a high turnover rate. It also creates a demand for specialized skills. At a
dealership, there is a threshold level for all departments. For sales, it must be high
communicative skills since they deal with all types of customers with different needs. They then
must relay those needs to their superiors. They must be experts at knowing what a customer
wants and what he may be willing to go for. For our department, the best skill to have is to be

able to learn quickly and move fast. We can teach you how to detail, but its up to you to provide
the effort.
Its not a mystery as to what happens if you cant meet that threshold level. A prime
example is we just hired two new people recently. One has very poor communication skills and
does not seem to want to put the effort in. These community members are kicked out (fired)
relatively quickly. This community requires people who know what they are doing. If someone
hasnt learned in a certain amount of time, then they become a liability and increase the risk of
losing money to the dealership. The departments with the highest turnover rates are Sales, Detail
and the Business Development Center. A common trait of all these departments is
communication and working well with others. So lets take a look at what all goes on in this
Many people seem afraid of buying a car these days, and its hard to blame them. In my
observations, I noticed how the entire dealership is constructed as a channel. That is, in the sense
that everything is designed to push the customers into the front door of the dealership. They
have Product Specialists posted in strategic areas in the front of the dealership to immediately
greet customers as soon as they get out of their cars. Their next step is to get them inside and sit
them down. In between introductions and small talk, the Product Specialist try to get their
information so if they dont buy today, other departments can utilize their information to conduct
numerous emails and calls to get them to come in and start the whole process again. They dont
like it when customers circumvent the norm- Such as driving around to the employee parking
and into the new car lot to look at cars, without leaving their vehicle. Or just plain ignoring the
dealership and walking through the bushes lining the side of the lot just so they can see the cars
without having to deal with salesman. They are usually caught pretty quickly, however. A lone

salesman is dispatched to confront them and assist them, by asking if they would like to come in
and discuss what they are looking for.
I saw several salesmen that were just standing idly near the side of the dealership, and
when asked what they were up to, they said My customer told me I can just stand over here
while they look and theyll call me if they need me. That says a lot about preconceived notions
of customers. This most commonly stems from the fear of a salesman trying to push certain cars
on them, a general rush attitude, or it could just be the customers want to look on their own,
without someone trying to sell them a car.
Most often, you will hear the salesman touting the safety features, gas mileage and
roominess of a certain car. However it can become immediately clear just how much knowledge
he is lacking when it comes to used cars. I have overheard a salesman attempting to identify a
well-known car, and failing. Or they relay the wrong engine information. This lack of
knowledge is definitely not limited to the salesman. The customer will be silent most of the
time, occasionally asking questions. Most people care about gas mileage and safety, and thats it.
The process used by salesmen to show a car is as follows: They pull the car out of the
parking spot 70% of the way, then proceed to open up all the doors, trunk and hood. After, they
walk in a circle around the car, talking about various features with the customer as they come to
it. Once they are finished, they sit down in the car to see how it feels and talk about the interior
features. Finally, they are allowed to take a test drive. The test drive consists of a short loop of
the surrounding roads from the dealership. Once they get back, its time to talk numbers.
When I tried to observe this part, it was not feasible for me to be very close. I could not
hear the specifics of their conversation. However in my time working here, Ive heard a fair

amount of tactics and words used. When the salesmen sits down with the customer, he tries to
get them to tell him their budget, if they want to lease, finance or purchase, if they have a trade
in, etc. Heres where it starts to get tricky. The salesman eventually leaves their customers, and
a sales specialist takes over. He essentially acts as a mediator between the customer and the sales
manager. Interestingly, he plays the role of the friend. Often, he will pretend to do the
customers favors and act like he is on their side. The whole time, he is bouncing back and
forth between the customer and the sales managers. The customers want X price, and the sales
managers say they can do Y price, but for Z amount of months, or W amount for their trade. This
is called haggling. Their goal is to get as much money out of each sale as possible.
Unfortunately, there are less-informed individuals that do get taken advantage of in this process.
So you have the sales process. However, the sales process leans on essentially every
department for a plethora of activities. It starts with the Detail/Lot Attendant Department. I
work in this department, I know that we are responsible for maintaining lot cleanliness and
orderliness. This means the removal of trash and parking cars in aesthetically pleasing but
logical ways. A good example would be the used car section. The first 2 rows are all Used
Toyotas. They are ordered from smallest in the front, to largest in the back. The dealership
would prefer customers to see the Toyotas first. If they buy one, great. The dealership makes lots
of money off of used car deals- more than new cars, in fact. This also increases their chances of
returning in the future to buy a new Toyota. Secondly, used cars can be used as a stepping stone.
Many people are on the fence on buying used cars. If the salesman is good, they can pick up on
this, and suggest they look at a newer version of that model.
For many people, cars are seen as appliances that are to be used to get from point A to
Point B. As such, they do not place much emphasis on learning things about every model and

the differences between them. The dealership counts on that, in a way. Our only guidelines for
parking are that the lines are straight, the colors are differentiated (no 2 same colors next to each
other if we can avoid it) and like models parked next to each other. We still follow the rule of
smallest at the front, largest at the back. However, there is nothing that says park the lower
tier models (base models) all together, middle tier and higher tier together. If you looked at the
lot right now, you would see 3 rows of Camrys of all kinds in no particular order.
But what If I want to compare two Camry Le models? you might ask. Well thats the
beauty of it. Once again, the duty of the salesman comes in to play. They are meant to be your
escort throughout the lot. They will tell you what you want to know, and will assist you in
finding it. A main part of their job is to build a relationship with you. Once that is done, the
customer feels more relaxed and open, trusting that the salesman is a friend and has their best
interests at heart. The secondary reason for not being so meticulous in the order of cars is that
the sheer volume we have, coupled with many other duties we are responsible for would make
such a task unfeasible. That is, at least, until we get multiple complaints that the lot is
confusing. Then, that might change.
Our secondary job, Detailing, is considered one of the most important. Buying a car is a
huge experience. After dealing with the salesman, sales specialist, managers and finance
representatives, the customer wants to see how it all paid off. And what better way to do that
than with their car being ready on the delivery pad, shiny and spotless? Alas, it does not go this
smoothly most of the time. The key factors that influence detailing are time to delivery, worker
morale and fatigue, type of car, size of car and how busy that day is.
It breaks down like this: Once the customer and sales specialist agree on a deal, it is
announced over the loud speaker that they bought the car (A congratulatory message). Its

important to note that this is our only way of knowing if a car is sold or not. We have many
other duties, so we must hurry to finish those, or stop what we are doing to wait for the sold car.
At this point, the salesman takes the car to get gas at the BP station less that n a mile down the
road. It should take at most, 20 minutes. But it doesnt most of the time. The current range of
time is 20 minutes to an hour at most.
During this time, The Product Specialist might decide to go get dinner. Not incredibly
damning, but they are driving a customers car, and wasting time. On a busy day, it is extremely
common for customers to blitz through finance, and left sitting, wondering where their car is.
This is when the finance representative comes back and asks Wheres my damn Corolla?! It
hasnt even come back yet. So you can see the problems this creates. A full detail on that can be
finished in less than 15 minutes if everyone is moving smartly. However, that time is
exponentially increased when you introduce larger vehicles or specialty color cars. The larger a
car is, the more surface area there is to cover, inside and out. More windows, dirtier carpet,
larger wheels, etc. If the color is a specialty color, it must be hand washed. These colors have a
high propensity for needing to be waxed as well (considered mandatory if black). All these
minor details that lead to major hiccups throughout the system. So it is required to working as
fast as possible all the time to prevent getting yelled at by people who dont understand what our
job entails.
As I said before, a dealership is a rich, diverse discourse community. There are numerous
uses of genre, from media such as commercials to relationships with customers. Many practices
exemplify a true discourse community, like different departments relaying information and
simultaneously working on the same goal. A dealership is a magnificent machine that requires
all cogs to be working together in harmony, with proper discourse being practiced.