Selling Your Wares in Another Man’s Business

A Lesson From My Dad in a Volkswagen Dealership

I needed cash, I needed it quickly, and I had a plan.

Out of college for over a year at twenty-four, I now had a good job that provided me stable income. My little Volkswagen Karman Ghia that had gotten me through many trips in my college days was on its last miles. My job required me to have dependable transportation and I longed to have a new car. I had my sights set on a brand new silver Toyota Celica!

As good fortune would have it, a football teammate from my high-school days was now selling Toyota’s at the dealership in Birmingham. With his help, I found the perfect car…but it sold for a whopping $3,900 and I didn’t have that kind of money. No worries he told me, we can fix you up with a loan. That sounded like a great idea to me! I now had stable monthly income, I needed to establish a credit record, and I definitely wanted that car! There was one unresolved issue, though. To secure the loan, I needed to put down a small down payment. I didn’t have enough readily available cash, and to prove my independence I didn’t want to borrow from my friends or family.

My plan was to take the Karman Ghia to the nearby Volkswagen dealer in hopes they would buy the car outright. That would give me enough cash to pay the down payment on my shiny new silver Toyota dream car. As this was all new territory for me, I convinced my Dad to go along with me for emotional support and advice.

Mr. Hoagland, owner of the dealership, was kind enough to speak with us personally and assured me that he thought we could do business after his mechanic checked out the car. I had already explained to Mr. Hoagland that the car needed some work. His mechanic quickly observed and reported (as I already knew) that the car needed new transaxles…a pretty costly repair. Mr. Hoagland took a few minutes to discuss this privately with his mechanic, and then he promptly presented his cash offer to me of $550. I needed a little time to think on the offer, so my Dad and I found a secluded corner of the showroom to talk.

No sooner had we begun to talk than another high school friend from my small hometown (and also a football teammate) walked into the dealership showroom. We immediately stuck up a conversation.

“What are you up to here?” he asked.

“Just trying to sell my Karman Ghia to get some cash”, I replied.

At this, my friend seemed interested. “How much they offering you?”

“They’re willing to pay me $550 in cash”, I replied with a bit of reluctance in my voice.

“Oh man! I’ll give you $600 for it right now!” was his quick reply.

His sudden reply caught me off guard and I intentionally shifted the conversation to something else as I considered his offer in my mind. My Dad had said nothing during this entire exchange…he had just been observing. Dad quietly got my attention and suggested we talk a bit between ourselves before making a decision. Out of the corner of my eye I also noticed that Mr. Hoagland was observing this chance meeting with my friend.

My Dad was not a ‘directive’ kind of person. Instead, he would give you background information and discuss possibilities in such a way as to gently guide you into making a rational decision yourself. He used that same approach here.

“Jim, let’s think about this situation for just a moment. We came into this man’s place of business and asked to do business with him. He’s provided the building and facilities to attract customers who wish to buy or sell a car and he’s given you an offer. He has invested a lot of money to build up this business, advertise to attract customers, and offer his services to people like you.”

By this point in the discussion, I already understood where Dad was headed with his line of thought. Mr. Hoagland’s dealership (that he had invested in and built from the ground up) was the only reason my friend was able to see me and give me his offer. If I accepted my friend’s offer, he and I would undeservedly benefit at the expense of Mr. Hoagland’s efforts and financial investment. That seemed unfair and was obviously disrespectful to Mr. Hoagland. If I had wanted to sell my car privately, I could have easily done numerous things on my own (e.g. spread the word to my friends, placed a classified ad in our local paper, listed it on the bulletin board at a local grocery store, etc.).

But, the decision to sell (or not to sell) the car to my friend was still up to me. There was no law or rule that said I couldn’t…I had every right to sell if I wanted. But it came down to respect. It would be disrespectful of me to take advantage of Mr. Hoagland here in his own place of business. It would be unfair for me to come into Mr. Hoagland’s dealership and sell my own ‘wares’ to one of his customers for my benefit, and possibly knock him out of his own sale.

Growing up in a small rural farm town with few neighbors, I had been taught to respect each of our neighbors. We all needed each other from time to time and made it a point to maintain good relationships. I had also been taught by my Dad that you couldn’t earn respect for yourself by disrespecting another.

You’re probably wondering what this long story has to do with anything of relevance now. Well, what if I applied this simple lesson to the professional athletes of today who are using someone else’s platform to ‘sell’ their personal views and messages?

Just as I had every right to sell my car there at Mr. Hoagland’s dealership, these athletes have every right to voice their opinions through their words or deeds in the stadium or on the court. But, isn’t it disrespectful for them to do that in another’s place of business? Not only are they disrespecting the team owners, they are disrespecting the fans who provide them financial support as well. I fully support any pro athlete running a paid full-page ad in ‘USA Today’, the ‘New York Times’, or any other widely circulated publication. They are totally free to advertise their views all over their own social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) with no backlash nor disrespect to another. That’s the beauty of living in this free country. These athletes have ample finances and resources to get their message out to the general public by multiple means freely and personally available to them. Many of them have millions of followers. They don’t need to hijack someone else’s platform and steal customers.

Perhaps I was just raised differently, but taking advantage of another man’s platform/place of business (although legal) just seems morally wrong and very disrespectful. In a further related action being exhibited by some athletes, they demonstrate even more disrespect when they refuse to honor the symbolism behind our flag, by not standing during the anthem. The flag is a very precious and personal symbol to millions of Americans who have sacrificed “blood, sweat, and tears” to secure the price of freedom that all (even these athletes) now enjoy. For some, that sacrifice meant giving their very last breath of life for the freedom that flag represents.

In looking back at my life, I can see that the lessons my Dad taught me did not exist in isolation on our small farm. His lessons have been reinforced and validated by countless other respected influencers and mentors in my over sixty years of diverse life experience. To express these relevant lessons in the simplest of terms today, I believe they can be condensed to two simple core lessons:

  • Strive to place honor above desire.
  • One never earns respect by disrespecting another.

Oh, how I wish these athletes could have known my Dad!

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