In 2008, while enroute to a family gathering, we stopped at a Walmart. We needed to pick up a few things for the evening meal. As we left the parking lot, directly across from the red light where we sat, was a Ford dealership. While we waited for the light to change, we both felt the urge to look at a new vehicle. We looked at each other and said, “That’s kind of weird.” One, we didn’t really have time because it didn’t fit into our schedule. Two, we were not necessarily in the market for another vehicle. Instead of turning left and in the direction of our family meeting, we drove straight across the intersection and into the Ford dealership. What happened next, I remember well, for various reasons.
I will start by saying that my wife had just convinced me to try contact lenses. She told me how much I would love them once I got used to them. We had just returned from another God-assignment at the Texas coast where I had a heck of a time getting my glasses and ocean water to mix. I fell for it, even though I was still reticent about sticking my finger in my eye. My finger-in-the-eye phobia was to the point that my wife had to put my contact lenses in for me.
Here we are at the Ford dealership, and I am wearing my new contacts for the first time in public. As we walked around the dealership, a salesman approached. We met him and told him that we didn’t really know why we were there, except that we felt the urge to look at vehicles. We weren’t really planning on buying a vehicle. So, we wanted to save both him and us the agony of him trying to sell us one. In true salesman fashion, he responded, “I understand. Since you’re here, would you like to test drive anything?” My wife said, “I kind of like the looks of that one.” The salesman said, “I’ll be right back with the keys.” Off we go. My wife in the driver’s seat. Salesman in the back seat. Me in the front passenger seat.
Before leaving the parking lot, I experienced a visual emergency. One of my contact lenses popped out and landed in my lap. I said, “What do I do?” My wife is not one to mince words. “Put it back in,” she said, as she pulled over. I said, “I can’t. And it might be dirty.” Haplessly, we had not brought any contact solution with us. The salesman in the back seat chuckled. I explained that this was my first day to wear contacts and I just couldn’t get used to the idea of sticking my finger in my eye. He said he agreed with me and that there was no way he could wear them. As I was sitting here trying to figure out my dilemma, my wife says, “Give me the contact.” She spits on it, rubs it around in her hand and says, “Lean over here.” Before I even knew what hit me, the contact was reinstalled. I verbalized through a tearful squint, “That burns like fire!” The salesman’s chuckle had turned into a full sized laughing fit where he was bent over, red in the face, and eyes watering. He says, “I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing with you.” Let’s just say, two of the three occupants of the vehicle were laughing. As my vision cleared, the ice was definitely broken between us and the salesman. It was as if we had known each other for quite some time. His name was Ron. As we drove, he opened up some about his life and problems therein. He said he really needed that laugh today. It had been a hard week. We discussed some of the things in our life, and I told him that I had worked as a salesman at a Ford dealership in years past.
As we drove back into the dealership, we saw an F-150 that was not there when we left. It jumped out to both of us. Ron said, “We just traded for that one yesterday. They just brought it out after clean up.” He said, “It’s kind of interesting. It only has 1,043 miles but is two years old.” We said, “Can we look at it?” As he went to get the keys, my wife and I knew that was the vehicle we were going home with. After a quick test drive, we decided we wanted the truck. He had relayed to us the asking price. I told him, “I know how all this is supposed to work. Let’s just cut through it and give me a fair price. No games.” As he went to talk to his sales manager, an amount to pay for the truck came to both of my wife’s and my mind. If we could get close to that number, it would be a fair deal, as far as we were concerned. Ron returned and said, “How does X sound?” The number he said was slightly below what we had determined was a fair price for the truck. My wife and I looked at each other. We knew each other’s thoughts, and we said, “We’ll take it.”
Ron looked up at me and said, “Really? That easy?” I said, “Even though I said that I didn’t want any games, you are still not going to give me your best offer first. If this is your first offer, you expect me to counter offer, etc. But, while you were gone, a number came to our minds that was fair. And you came in just a little below that number. So, maybe we are leaving money on the table, but this is what we are supposed to pay for the truck.” Stunned, Ron said, “Let’s go talk to the sales manager.” His name was Jerry.
Jerry said, “I heard you were at one time a salesman at a Ford dealership.” I replied, “Yes, I was.” He said, “You agreed to our first offer. You know how this works.” We stated, “All we wanted was a fair price for the vehicle. A number had come into our head that we were willing to pay. And your first offer was slightly below that. We were treated well, and I think when it all plays out, we might not be surprised to find out that it’s not really about the truck at all.” He chuckled and said, “Let me tell you a story.”
He stated that only a few months back, he had been a regional sales manager for five dealerships. The dealerships sold, and the new management had a new business style. More cutthroat. Get every dollar you can. As he worked in that atmosphere, he had gradually changed. He knew it. But, what really got him was when his daughter came home from college at Thanksgiving and told him, “Dad, you’ve changed, and I don’t like the new you. You used to care about people. Now it’s the dollar.” He replied, “Honey, that dollar is what is putting you through college.” She said, “I don’t care. Quit. I would rather have the old you.” She said, “We’ll get by.”
He said that those words stabbed him like a knife. He knew she was right. He said that he quit the next day. His boss said, “Don’t be so hasty. Think about it. Be sure before you quit. Your daughter will get over it.” The boss’s words confirmed to Jerry that he was making the right decision. He turned in his keys and he left, without an employment destination. Shortly after, an ad jumped out to him, much like the dealership had jumped out to us. It was for a sales manager at a family owned Ford dealership in a small, west Texas town. As he inquired about the job, they stated that they wanted someone who operated more on family values than bottom line. They were a close-knit community and weren’t out to gouge each other. After relaying his story to the owner there, he was hired immediately. He had only been at this dealership a couple of weeks, just settling in. As his daughter had confirmed that he should leave the last dealership, our interaction with him that day confirmed to him that he was in the right place.
We all chuckled, and someone said, “It’s funny how God works sometimes.” By us following through on God’s leading, we were used in both the salesman and the sales manager’s lives. Something that seems so simple can have an impact. Listen to what God is telling you to do. Step out and see where He takes it.