BMW Denies Test Drive Because You Are Not A "Serious Customer"

BMW of Columbia refused to let reader Barry test drive a 135i because he was not a serious customer. The dealership didn’t tell Barry what would make him a serious customer, but they seemed offended when Barry explained that he wasn’t going to buy a car that day.

Barry writes:

Well, I went to test drive a 135i demo at BMW of Columbia in Columbia, SC. The car in question was being pulled in from a test drive as we drove onto the lot. A salesman (note that I refuse to call these particular clowns Client Advisors…no offense to BMW CA’s in general) followed us around as we looked at the car, sat in it, played with controls, etc. He knew virtually nothing about the 135i but that didn’t worry me a lot.

I asked if I could test drive the car and was told yes we could take it out after they took my license info. We went inside the dealership and after waiting a few minutes the salesman came back and said the manager wanted to keep the miles down on the demo, therefore I wouldn’t be able to drive the car unless I demonstrated I was “a serious customer”. I’m not sure what could have indicated that we weren’t serious, and the salesman wasn’t clear on what we needed to do to demonstrate “seriousness”. I politely informed the salesman that I wasn’t going to be buying today but in no case would I buy a car without driving it first. His response was “well, we just need to know that you’re serious…”, again without indicating what would be required to demonstrate this. At that point I simply said “congrats, you just lost a potential customer”. I then found the sales manager and told him the same thing before leaving in a huff. Sorry, I’m a sensitive guy.

Some answers to potential questions about this incident:

  • I was with my wife and 23 year old son, who drove his own BMW onto the lot. Needless to say, we looked like customers that could afford a 1-series…
  • The demo had just returned from a test drive with “serious customers” who subsequently left without buying a car.
  • Neither the salesman or sales manager indicated what their metric for customer “seriousness” was, and I was in no mood to attempt mind-reading. If they’d simply ran our credit score they would have been showing us most anything on the lot…
  • I’ve contacted the dealership and BMWNA about the incident. I don’t expect anything to come of it but if anyone knows how to get their attention please let me know.
  • I do have other satisfactory options for where to buy to the car, but I will not excuse the sleazy behavior of this particular outfit.

Note that I’d already been warned by an enthusiast acquaintance of mine that BMW of Columbia is a low-class leasing mill. My experience seems to bear that out, as we probably didn’t look like we were going lease anything (being “buyers”).

Um, we’re loathe to put it this way, but BMW of Columbia should really take their customers more seriously.

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. DeltaPurser says:

    You know what they say about guys with expensive toys…

  2. Aladdyn says:

    Well, you could have asked them what you would have to do to demonstrate you were serious. Or just conclude your better off not dealing with them.

  3. tedyc03 says:

    I think that the dealership has a right to refuse anyone a test drive it wants. But..that said, they should really do so sparingly and learn tact.

  4. thirdbase says:

    When you walk into a snake pit expect that you’ll have to deal with snakes. Cowboy up bucko. A little toughening of the skin might do you some good.

  5. parad0x360 says:

    Im sorry but i cant feel bad for you. Flaunting your excellent credit score and BMW driving son. You come off like a smug rich guy who didnt get what he wanted. Boo Hoo go to another dealer.

  6. ColdNorth says:

    My wife and I had a similar experience at a local BMW dealership here in Minneapolis. We were “allowed” a test drive (note: the sales rep literally tossed the keys to us). Once we returned, he gave us the perfunctory 20-second sales pitch, but since it was a Saturday, the he was “just too busy” to give us any assistance with running any numbers.

    We said thank you for the test drive, went into our car, and drove to the Audi dealership one mile away. It was equally busy. However, the sales person there not only rode with us on the test drive and gave us the full-length tour of the car, but she was all too happy to “run as many numbers as we liked”.

    We bought the car that same day. No one at the Audi dealership seemed to mind it was a busy Saturday.

  7. ObtuseGoose says:

    Anyone that makes the effort to drive all the way down to the BMW dealership should be thought of as a potential customer. I’m guessing it might have had something to do with the way they were dressed: business attire=serious customer, shorts and t-shirt=wasting our time.

  8. MoCo says:

    You go back and said “I’ll buy it, do the paperwork now”. When the salesman is finished the paperwork, then tell him that he was right after all, you’re not a serious customer, and walk out.

  9. EJXD2 says:

    @parad0x360: Agreed.

    Was the point of this post to brag about being able to afford or a BMW or to discuss sales practices at car dealerships?

    The car salesman is part of a great paradox: They have the worst reputations, but when they don’t live up to those reputations by following you around and kissing your a$$ people get bent out of shape.

  10. zentec says:

    This is hardly surprising. A cousin of mine was going to buy a BMW and spent a lot of time in the dealership and when it came time to seal the deal, these people were just dicks. They had added in all these dealer extras and refused to budge, offering excuse after excuse. They also tried the shame game in that they didn’t think he was serious after wasting all their valuable time.

    A BMW is *truly* a German automobile experience.

  11. BlondeGrlz says:

    @MoCo: Just be careful not to sign anything, or you might end up with a car you didn’t mean to buy, like the people with the Priuses (Priusi?).

  12. @ObtuseGoose: Is it shorts weather anywhere in the US lately?

  13. LDMAN says:

    I believe the dealers’ attitude trickles down from the that of the Manufacturer.
    BMW culture is that of arrogance (one can argue that given the money they make and the volume of cars they sell that it is justified). I have worked with (NOT for) BMW Importers on two continents and their rapport with Customers is the same.
    Maybe it is part of the brand mystique that this is required. Strangely enough I have noticed that this technique works.
    Most often than not customers come back and beg to be let in the BMW owner’s elite club owner once rebuked and just throw more and more money at the salesman to have the “privilege” of driving off the lot and proving by doing so their “worth.”
    The appeal of the BMW badge is stronger than pride.

  14. Fry says:

    @parad0x360: I don’t know cars, so assuming this is a more-expensive-than-average car, here is where you are wrong in your statement:
    -The son driving the BMW? Shows that they are (were) loyal customers wanting to buy another one.
    -Excellent credit score means they wouldn’t have had any problem buying the car. They are not as risky a customer as someone like myself, 21 and a new job.
    -Having a good credit score doesn’t mean you’re rich. It means you are financially responsible.
    -You can’t feel bad, but yet you apologize for not feeling bad? Stop sitting on the fence.

    They went in with the means and ability of buying a car. The dealership made a stupid mistake and lost a sale. Now this guy just wants to let people know to avoid the place because they obviously aren’t serious about selling cars. Nowhere did he come off as whiny to me. Perhaps, sir, it is you that is the whiny one.

  15. homerjay says:

    @parad0x360: Wait a minute, I could understand a smug rich guy walking into a Kia dealership and getting attitude, but smug rich guys is what keeps BMW in business. They should be VERY used to that type.

    @tedyc03: Yes, the dealership does have the right to refuse a test drive. They also have the right to lose a sale, too. Good for them!

  16. Jon Mason says:

    @parad0x360: I don’t always side with the customer – but in this case you’re stretching – he’s making the point about his kid driving a BMW and him having a good credit score to show that he looked like and was a serious customer and the dealer had no reason to assume he wasn’t. It wasn’t like he was some scruffy college kid driving onto the lot in a used Pinto. (Not that the dealership should assume that college kid is not a serious customer).

    I can only assume that one of the managers was getting pissed off at a lot of people taking test drives and not buying and so was giving his sales staff a hard time about it…

  17. laserjobs says:

    Seriously, who does buy a BMW “The Ultimate Leasing Machine”? My european car mechanic said to me “I have never meet a BMW owner who could actually afford one”.

  18. moco: that’s *exactly* what i would have done.
    everone else: he’s not a smug/rich/whatever person. it’s a 1-series. it’s the hyundai of the bmw world.

  19. ratnerstar says:

    @pepe the king prawn: Dude, don’t diss my Hyundai by comparing it to a 1-series.

  20. toddy33 says:

    Wow…the “blame the victim” mentality is thick on the ground today. Truly, the point is that the dealership has a mystifyingly stupid attitude toward customers. There is no excuse for rudeness of this type.

  21. Hobart007 says:

    @DeltaPurser: I fail to see how that comment is at all relevant to this article.

    @parad0x360: And you come off like an envious poor person who believes that people with money somehow didn’t earn it. Or is it that only poor people can complain about garbage service which this obviously was? masonreloaded hit it right on the head: Smug rich guys are their main demographic. Though I must admit that this guy didn’t sound smug at all to me.

    I wish that rampant internet condition that causes people to speak out of the wrong orifice had a cure…

  22. KogeLiz says:

    @ObtuseGoose: OP says “I was with my wife and 23 year old son, who drove his own BMW onto the lot. Needless to say, we looked like customers that could afford a 1-series…”

  23. tts10driver says:

    They should’ve automatically though of you as a “serious customer”. Because, once the warrenty is over, you need serious money for upkeep and need to keep a BMW mechanic(bowelmovementworker) on retainer.

  24. topgun says:

    I’ve always hated the line: “What will it take for you to buy the car today”. Sorry but if I’m spending that kind of money, I want to shop around. Telling them his credit score is not smug. The worst experience I had was shopping for a Jeep with my son. Whenever one of the kids became old enough to drive, we let them “have a say” in what we got. My wife hated going to look at cars because of pushy salespeople. I liked the vehicle they had because it was the only one in the area that had the features I wanted. I got ganged up in the cubicle with the salesman, sales manager and GM. I told them flat out I wasn’t buying that day because I wanted to discuss it with my wife. The sales manager then said: “What’s the matter? Don’t you have the balls to make a decision on your own?”

  25. KogeLiz says:

    I worked at a Lincoln-Mercury Dealership for years…
    Our sales people would even let people who looked on the verge of being homeless . As long as they had a license.

    One of my father’s customers was a middle-aged black man that wore raggedy clothing. He walked to the dealership, asked my father to see a Town Car. My dad answered his questions, went with him on a Demo.
    The man bought the Town Car right afterwards – with all the works.

  26. @parad0x360: Ironically, it’s the smug rich guys whom are BMW’s sale base.

  27. ohiomensch says:

    This treatment is not exclusive to bmw. I had a friend that came into some money and wanted to buy a Ford Windstar. Went to a popular local dealer, who took one look at her and her husband, and refused to let them test drive anything without filling out a credit application. When they explained that they would be paying cash for the car, the sales person all but called them liars and refused to let them drive.

    So they went down the street, and paid cash for a car at a different dealer.

    These dealers only have power over you if you give it to them.

  28. @topgun: Well considering I saw a guy squeeze a Nissan 350Z out the dealership for $19,000… Sometimes, you have to haggle.

  29. Amelie says:

    Well it appears the gang of consumerist clowns are in a bad mood today. I suppose it’s an improvement over their lame jokes, though it didn’t stop delta purser.

    Anyway, the OP’s first guess about it being a place that only wants leases, makes a lot of sense.@

    >zentec: Just because some BMW dealerships are jerks, doesn’t mean Germans or Germany needs to be maligned.

  30. TimSPC says:

    Did you try furrowing your brow? That always make me look a little more serious.

  31. felixgolden says:

    This attitude is not limited to BMW. Had a similar experience at two Toyota dealerships. I was driving a Honda two days later.

  32. fuzzymuffins says:

    a few years ago i had a friend who had saved up 35K in cash for a new BMW. he brought 10K in bills with him to the dealer….

    and for kicks he arrived in torn jeans and a t-shirt.

    they preceded to pretty much treat him like a peasant. at the end of the ordeal he asked to speak to a manager. they made him wait 10 minutes. the manager came out with a roll of his eyes. he pulled the manager aside showed him the cash and said and said “i think your establishment needs to work on it’s profiling. i was willing to cash and carry a car… and your obnoxious staff blew it.”

    the manager THEN profusely apologized, but the butt kissing came too late. my friend said he was going to notify the BBB about his treatment and even said that he had two friends looking for cars… i’ll never forget the look on the managers face as we walked out.

  33. Aphex242 says:

    @toddy33: Uhm, I’ve seen one reply out of 40 ‘blame the victim’. Perhaps ‘thick on the ground’ means ‘measured and under control’?

    He DOES come across as smug, but then again, it’s mostly to prove the point that he was a potential buyer. You got one commenter that missed that and acted like an ass, yet you’ve got to pontificate about how awfully the community is treating the OP?

    Sorry, that’s tired.

    For the record, I agree with the part of your post that doesn’t attempt to judge the actions of many based on the actions of one, the dealership is completely out to lunch on this one.

  34. Squeezer99 says:

    BMW != BMW Dealer

  35. Squeezer99 says:

    also the same thing happened when my friend wanted to test drive an s2000 when they first came out. dealer told him serious buyers only, so he went to another dealer, drove one, and bought it. and a dealership isn’t a government entity, they can refuse service to just about anyone for just about any reason.

  36. I’ve had similar experiences. Around where my parents live, theres a big luxury dealership that sells Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Rolls and Bentley. They’re all actually separate dealerships, but they’re on the same campus, so you can walk from one building to the other to compare prices, options etc.

    I remember years ago going there to get my first car (my dad had just started to do very well with his business, and this was going to be our first luxury purchase), and I will never, ever forget the difference in attitude between the Mercedes dealer and the BMW dealer.

    My dad is a regular blue-collar looking guy, and probably not (at first glance) the kind of person you’d see perusing luxury cars with the intent to buy on the spot. We even drove there in his Ford Taurus. However, we were welcomed and made to feel valued and at home in the Mercedes dealership. The salespeople patiently answered every question we had, showed us any model we wanted and were just very friendly and accommodating, devoting whatever time was necessary to help us, and doing so cheefully.

    When we walked over to the BMW dealer in an adjacent building, the exact opposite was true. We got dirty looks from the start and we had to hound the sales staff to get any attention. Even then, our questions were answered impatiently. When I wanted to sit down with the salesman to discuss some specifics, he did so grudgingly, as though I was wasting his time that could better be spent with someone more qualified to receive his services. It was really unprofessional and upsetting.

    So needless to say, we walked back to the Mercedes people, left a deposit and signed a lease for a new convertible the very next day. And since then, my parents have bought/leased 6 more cars from that Mercedes dealer, and will probably continue to do so, all stemming from that first positive experience. BMW lost out on a potentially loyal customer, and a half million dollars in business over the last decade based on unnecessarily snooty and insensitive customer service.

  37. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    When I was younger, my father took me out to lunch every Saturday. In the few years between me getting my drivers license and leaving home, when we would go out on Saturday, we would also test drive cars. Audi, BMW, a Mini Cooper, just about everything. My dad has a great job, always dresses nice, and is very knowledgeable about cars. However, he is also very thrifty and would never buy anything nicer than the Honda Civic they drive now. But they could tell he had the money and would let us take anything. We always tried two seaters so the dealer couldn’t come. But if they’d followed us to our car, they would have seen that we pulled up in a 1994 Oldsmobile (it was 2002-2003ish) that Dad always parked a block or so away so they couldn’t see. We weren’t serious buyers. That dealer would have been totally freaked by us.

  38. squikysquiken says:

    @blondegrlz: The official plural of Prius is… Prius (according to Toyota in the early days) or Priuses (in the later days). If you are a devoted Prius owner; you use Prii. If you are a latin major, prioria (prius being the neuter form of prior). Personally, I use Prius just because I like it better.

    Also, my wife and I went to a Lexus dealer about a year ago. Not very well dressed, we just wanted to check out their SUVs. We had no intention of buying anything and we told the salesperson right away. I didn’t want to waste his time and the dealership’s money. (I don’t like dealers, but it’s not a reason to be rude from the start). He still insisted on a test drive and on showing us the car. When we got back to the dealership, he took our info and we left, no pressure. They didn’t get a sale out of me, but I told a few friends how I got taken care of and I bet being nice to me got them a few indirect sales. That’s the way to treat customers.

  39. Beluga says:

    BMW dealers can do whatever they like and still sell more cars than they make. Same goes for Toyota and Honda. I recently settled for my third choice after being given the “well, it’s over there if you want to buy it” treatment from Toyota and Honda dealers.

    I try to stick with cheap cars purchased in private transactions. I take it for granted I’ll have problems, but I like my mechanic more than any dealer I’ve known.

  40. macfoo says:

    That sales attitude is not new. There is a story that my husband tells (that happened to my father in law in the late 1940s). Dad was working as a mechanic at a dealership, farmer walks in. No salesmen approach. Dad waits a few minutes and ends up going to check and see what the gentleman wanted.

    Turns out he’s there to buy a car. After the mechanic (Dad) gives his two cents he pulls in a salesman. Guy agrees to buy the car and whips out the cash to pay for it on the spot.

    Dad got the commission because the farmer was never helped by the actual salesman but by the mechanic in the back who wanted to do the right thing.

    Lesson learned – never judge a book buy its cover.

    I know of a few stores that need to learn that lesson!

  41. egoebelbecker says:

    With any luck we’ll see a letter from BMWNA explaining how this take this issue very seriously.

    @blondegrlz: I heard gas hit $3.25 a gallon in my area. I tend not to worry so much about that since I got a Prius.

  42. sleepydumbdude says:

    Just because someone has a BMW doesn’t mean they have money. My first car was a BMW. Two weeks after I got my license (almost 10 years ago)I bought an 82 BMW for under 1000. It was a POS, I just bought it to say I had a BMW because it was better than saying Buick which was about the only other car I could afford.e

  43. Gorky says:

    A lot of luxury car dealers are like this. I once knew someone who wanted to buy a new Lamborghini and the dealership said even if he had a briefcase of cash that he couldnt buy one because he never owned one previously and they only sell NEW ones to people who already owned one. A lot of other luxury car makers only want people who “look good” in their cars and since apparently there are millions of people who can or want to buy them they can be picky as to who they will allow to buy one. I guess even the “cheap” luxury cars are now sticking up their noses at customers they dont deem worthy of owning one of their cars.

  44. danio3834 says:

    @masonreloaded: “I can only assume that one of the managers was getting pissed off at a lot of people taking test drives and not buying and so was giving his sales staff a hard time about it… “

    Looks like the sales manager was leaning on this salesman to carry out that agenda. Since the 1 series is a new model, there is bound to be flocks of people coming in wanting just to test drive.

    By serious, they mean they wanted the buyer to either put a deposit down or give them some sort of insurance that they were going to purchase a car, otherwise they didnt want to waste their time with them.

    As a goodwill gesture, most salesman will go out of their way to be nice to customers and show them the product anyway, but there are those that know time is money, and wont bother with a customer who just wants a dog and pony show.

    I’m not sure if anyone here has been in car sales, but while that salesman could have been taking 30mins to an hr showing these people the car, pricing it out, etc…he could have sold a buyer a car.

    Sure he comes accross as a dick in the end, but sales is a though gig, you have to weigh your options.

    If it were me, I woulda treated the customer nicer, but if i knew they werent serious, i wouldnt go all out trying to sell to them.

    If they really liked the car, they would have bought it, but they didn’t. Theres something to say to that.

  45. Swervo says:

    I had the exact same thing happen at two places when buying my newest car. I had just cashed out a bunch of stock options from an internet company that was actually doing well at the time, and could have bought any of the cars I wanted to test drive for cash.

    Mitsubishi let me drive an Evo MR, Subaru let me drive an Impreza STI, Honda let me drive an S2000, and Mazda let me drive an MX-5. The first of the two dealerships who would not let me test drive didn’t totally surprise me, Lotus did not want to let me test drive an Elise unless I was sure I would buy it. The idea that I wouldn’t know if I wanted to buy it unless I got a chance to test drive it didn’t seem to get through to them. I still don’t even know if I’d fit (6’2″). Either way, they told me to “come back when I was serious about the car.” They’re still overcharging for a better chassis wrapped around a Celica engine anyway.

    The other one was the one that surprised me, Pontiac refused to let me test drive a Solstice unless I committed to buy one. Meh, the MX-5 has more trunk space anyway, it’s impossible to take a Solstice on a road trip with the top down.

  46. ClayS says:

    I’m hoping you completely made up everything in your post, because that stuff is nuts!

    But I’ve never owned a luxury car, so what do I know.

  47. jonnyobrien says:

    I bought my 330i because the same dealership’s Pontiac salesweasels couldn’t pull their heads out of their asses to sell me a GTO.

    That said, I went to three BMW dealerships in the past two weeks to look at a new 335i so I could give my mom my 330. I have never met a group who collectively have their heads so far up their own ass they could see daylight. The 1 series is almost as expensive as the 3 series.

    Oddly, BMW owns Mini. The Mini salesweasels were charming and quite nice even of the same ownership group.

    In the end, I’m keeping the 330i and bought mom a Mini. Saved myself 20k in the process, so now I feel smug.

  48. danseuse322 says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: completely irrelevant but in central Texas, yeah, it sure is shorts weather. Yuck!

  49. groovyipo says:

    I have noticed that BMW dealers in less urban areas tend to act like that.

    I was considering Z4M, Cayman S, and Elise S for my fun car to reward ourselves for the crazy hours we work, so I wanted my wife test drive them too.

    I went with her to BMW in Des Moines IA, while visiting in-laws. In case you don’t know, all of the cars we were considering are two-seaters. My wife hates dealing with sales people, hence she does not want to have some pimply schmuk next to her talking her ear off. Well, they would not allow us to go out there alone and also managed to question how we could afford a Z4M. Needless to say, I got the name of the GM, the sales person and made sure national, regional, and the owners of the dealership felt my displeasure.
    Oh yeah and I ended up buying the Cayman S and had great pleasure driving over to the BMW dealer and pointing out to him the commission he lost. Porsche dealer had no problem having us test drive every freakin’ demo they had, so I would figure out exactly what options I want. He never even took a copy of my DL. Just made me show him my insurance card and than started handing me the keys. I was wearing racing shoes, jeans, and old t-shirt, have not shaved since Friday – not exactly an image of a Pcar owner. Dealer did not care, he was too busy searching for exactly the option set I told him we want.

    So if you are a sales person and you judge a book by its cover, you are simply a looser. Take some classes in customer profiling!

    And to some of you haters, if you make the money, you deserve to be smug and enjoy it.

  50. Spoondizzle says:

    Four years ago I went to an Infiniti dealership to buy my first “adult” car because Infiniti’s at the time (and the model I was looking at in particular) had cliff faced depreciation that meant you could get a car at 40 – 50% of its original cost and still have three years on the warranty. We specifically took my wife’s car to the dealership, because my wife had a new Audi that cost almost twice what I was going to spend instead of my care which cost about half as much as I was going to spend.

    My entire time at the dealership the salesman tried to convince me that I didn’t have enough money to buy the car I wanted. Needless to say that I didn’t buy an Infiniti, nor will I ever buy a car from that dealership, ever. Good thing, too. The maintenance cost on of those things would’ve broken me ($1200 to replace the headlights!) even though the note would’ve been roughly the same as a loaded Accord.

  51. johnva says:

    Credit score has nothing to do with income. You can have a low income (ie, too low to afford a BMW) and a great credit score as long as you pay your bills reliably.

  52. MattP says:

    That’s too bad, the old ownership of this dealer was very bad with running off potential customers and generally treating customers poorly after the sale. Under the old ownership, I was treated poorly for asking about new BMW’s when I was in there to buy parts for my old (1973) BMW.

  53. MattP says:

    Needless to say, there’s a reason lots of Columbia members of the BMWCCA go to Greenville, Atlanta or Charleston to buy their cars.

  54. Eclectified says:

    I thought the whole idea of a ‘demo’ car was for people to test drive. Otherwise, it’s just eye candy.

    In my opinion, test driving cars should be done with a little more leniency because, people who take test drives, talk about the car to their friends/relatives. It’s free advertising.

    Of course… this article is also free advertising. I’m gonna go to to look at the car right now. :-p

  55. strathmeyer says:

    @egoebelbecker: “I heard gas hit $3.25 a gallon in my area. I tend not to worry so much about that since I got a Prius. “

    Really? And how far do you have to drive it before it makes up for massively overpaying for a car?

  56. mytdawg says:

    I have always shopped for high ticket items dressed in mowing clothes (sometimes after mowing) and I’ve always kept going until somebody took me seriously as I walked in the place. Usually driving the ugliest car I’ve got, and I have a fair selection of ugly cars. On a good day I look like a cross between Barney from the Simpsons and a day laborer.

    I don’t have a lot of money but I spend a disproportionate amount on vehicles. It’s my passion. It’s in your best interest to be nice to scruffy people if you are selling something.

    By far the worst dealer experiences I’ve had were Harley Davidson and Honda cars. Without a doubt, the best has been Saturn. I’ll probably buy another one just based on the dealer service.

  57. ITDEFX says:

    wait a minute…so you wanted to test drive a car and they said NO because they thought you weren’t serious about buying a car? Well these guys make commission for every and the typical customer they spend time with is at least 2 hours or more. The first guy who test drove the car didn’t buy one so they had a suspicion that you weren’t going to do it either, so rather than waste their time and money, they shot you down. I had a friend who use to sell cars and he would report the same thing, people would just come in to test drive a car and not be serious about getting one and always leave with “Let me think about it…” and he would never see them again. To bitch here and dealership and BMWNA is because you want them to call you up, say they are sorry for profiling you and offer you a major discount on the car. That’s your goal for posting here. If this was a situation where if they were racially profiling you saying “Blacks/Asians/Hispanics aren’t serious customers” and you were one of the mentioned races, then fine bring on the pain.

  58. BoC says:

    I wouldn’t worry about it, that BMW probably didn’t have enough eagle in it anyway.

  59. tekkierich says:

    @Swervo: The other one was the one that surprised me, Pontiac refused to let me test drive a Solstice unless I committed to buy one. Meh, the MX-5 has more trunk space anyway, it’s impossible to take a Solstice on a road trip with the top down.

    Pontiac refused me a test drive of a GTO in 2005. I mentioned that I had a bank check good for 35k in my back pocket that they could see if they wanted to. Still a no go. I enjoyed my test drives of the mustang, Prowler, RX8, and G35 coup. I bought the RX8 a week later.

    I guess my money was not green enough for Pontiac.

  60. joellevand says:

    @toddy33: I didn’t see anyone actually blame the victim, so WTF are you on about?

    Also, for the record, not all BMW dealerships are bad. I ordered my 07 Mini from BMW Princeton and they were exceptional in their service, both while I was trying to decide (I walked away initially and came back a week later after taking time to decide between the Mini or a Toyota Prius) and never pressured me to consider their financing or leasing options (I financed through my credit union). Furthermore, when I brought the car back to pick up the registration and have the tags put on, they were quick and friendly. In fact, while I was tending to my Mini, my father (a programmer who bares more than a striking resemblance to Dilbert) was studying some of the BMWs in the show room and was offered a test drive.

    Not that all BMW places are like that, obviously (the OP’s sure wasnt!) but I just wanted to defend the brand a tiny bit, since not all of their dealerships are filled with smug assholes.

  61. mytdawg says:

    @groovyipo: A smug jackass is unlikeable whether they have money or not. If being a jackass is what makes you enjoy your money, you got some screwed up values.

  62. b612markt says:

    I had my first dealer experience last week when I bought a new car for the first time in my life. I was worried about snooty salesmen, but I guess there’s no such thing at a Hyundai dealership. They were just as down to earth as their great cars.

  63. groovyipo says:

    hey, easy now, my taxes are paying for your foodstamps

  64. TeraGram says:

    @Git Em SteveDave:
    (Santa Barbara Weather on Google)

  65. ClayS says:

    I would venture a guess that the amount of attention you get at a dealership and their willingness to give you a test drive has a lot to do with the day of the week and how busy they are.

    If you come in on a Wednesday morning, you are probably more likely to get a test drive than on a Saturday.

  66. This reminds me of when I went to get my first new car 8 years ago. I went to a local Saturn dealership and they refused to even run any numbers at all because “There’s no way you’re going to be able to get a car at your age.”

    I was 20 with a good job and had every intention of also having my dad co-sign for me. But this guy wouldn’t even give me the chance.

    I went to another Saturn dealership and told them what happened to me. They were baffled. And then they sold me a new car.

    All the salespeople at the first Saturn dealership had to be re-trained as a result of their treatment of me.

  67. bravo369 says:

    I think the dealer did a bad job conveying their reasons, i can’t really fault them too much for their policy. You can’t just have any run of the mill person come in and ask to test drive a bmw. maybe all they needed to do was run a credit check. Try walking into a Ferrari dealer or a bentley dealer and ask to test drive, i bet you’d get the same “serious buyer” requirement.

  68. AT203 says:
  69. MissTic says:

    I have experienced almost the same thing. As a result, any time we know we’re going to buy a new car, we make a point to go to the auto show. Usually at the state fair or sometimes at the convention center. All of the car makers have their new models on display and there are no salesmen. You can do everything but actually drive them. Granted, that’s the most important part, but I like “kicking the tires” on different cars before narrowing it down. I also check the internet for reviews on cars. Once that’s all done, we go to the various car lots after hours (usually on Sunday afternoon because some states don’t allow cars to be sold then) and we write down all of the sticker info on the ones we’re interested in. Then we contact the dealer by fax and ask for the best deal contingent upon a satisfactory test drive.

    I realize this seems like a lot of hoops but I think the OP proves how crappy the regular car buying experience can be. Clearly the consumer is getting the shaft.

  70. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    So when are car manufacturers going to just dump their wacked out dealership model? If they cut the middle man out they can reduce costs and the assholery that follows buying a car since talking to the dealer would be the same as talking to the company and they would, with respect to public opinion, “take it seriously.”

  71. spamtasticus says:

    Head to the Mercedes dealership. They are giving amazing leases the last time I stopped by. I walked in to the dealership in Coral Gables (very posh city by Miami) wearing light brown cargo shorts, leather sandals (no sox) and a motorcycle racing t-shirt and was treated with the utmost respect and professionalism. They had no idea who I was and let me test drive 2 cars. I even told them (truthfully), from the get go, that the car was not even for me but I was “toying with the idea” of getting one for my wife.

  72. topgun says:

    As a young man, about 100 years ago, I was working at a dealership that sold boats & motorcycles. One day a guy came in who looked and smelled like a pig farmer. None of the other seasoned veterans wanted to “waste their time on him”. So I approached the guy. He ended up buying a $150,000 boat and paid cash. So much for judging a book by it’s cover.

  73. theslik1 says:

    I’m the “Barry” who submitted the experience. My apologies if this is a double post…I originally had a long-winded response but lost it. Here’s another version:

    I appreciate all the comments, even the snarky ones where I’m a smug rich guy/jackass/douche, etc. It’s an interesting narrative. :-)

    I’m not rich but I can afford the car in question by saving and planning. I’m looking at a lot of cars in the $40K range. Yes, the 135i is pretty pricey for entry-level, which is why I’ll probably end up with a 335i or G37.

    As far my “seriousness”, I don’t buy a car on impulse no matter how much I like it, and certainly not without driving it first. Remember, this is a 1-series, not an M5. :-)

    I don’t expect BMWNA or the dealership to do anything in particular. I will simply take my business elsewhere. I don’t assume all BMW dealers are bad.

    Someone mentioned that BMWCCA members generally steer clear of this dealership. That’s true..I was warned and didn’t listen.

    This was submitted as a heads-up to BMW customers in my local area and to solicit comments to improve my leverage as a buyer.

    Again, I appreciate all of your comments. Keep ’em coming!

  74. spawnofbill says:


    You do realize that BMW has a plant in South Carolina right? As in they make cars and car parts for various models there.

    And as for the chap that called bimmer’s “The Ultimate Leasing Machine,” I don’t know a single BMW owner who has leased his car, and I know quite a few. (My father is an active member of the Peachtree City BMW club, as well as an active driver at Road Atlanta) Really I consider anyone who leases any car an idiot. If you want to save money, buy used cars. A six month old 5-series is going to cost you an arm and leg less than a new one, just because it’s been driven off the lot by an owner. Sure you won’t get all the newest bells and whistles and you lose the customization ability, but you’ll save a hell of a lot of money and if it turns out to be a classic you might even make MORE if you resell it.

    The salesman’s attitude however was inexcusable. Having worked in retail myself I know the value of actually learning about your customers before you make any sort of judgement on what they can or cannot afford. I’ve had people dressed in the shabbiest of clothes spend thousands of dollars (I worked in camera retail) and some of the nicest dressed people turn out to be racist penny-pinching idiots.

    THAT being said, I think the customer could have handled this a little bit better if his skin was a little thicker. All he had to do was ask the salesman what he had to do to prove he was serious. Maybe the salesman hadn’t noticed his son owned a BMW as well. All he had to do was tell him that. Words cost nothing people, so stop being so stingy with them!

  75. JohnnyE says:

    @toddy33: The is a perfect example of story that’s ripe for ‘blaming the victim’; it’s a completely non-substantive “somebody hurt my feelings” post. There was no contract for goods or services violated; the poster wasn’t responding to an illegal bait-and-switch ad promising ‘free test drives for all who come in,’ etc., etc. Basically, this post just someone saying “I felt like I should have been treated like this, but wasn’t.” And, of course, it has any real details of the personal exchange either excluded or presented from only a one-sided perspective.

    At any rate, by his own admission, when post left the dealer in a huff, he described himself only as a ‘lost potential customer’, rather than an actual ‘lost customer’. If there were other non-committal vibes in the personal exchange, it might explain why the salesperson wrote him off as a waste of his time and test drive resources.

    If I were interested in the car and got that from a salesperson, I would have 1) acknowledged his legitimate concern to keep the miles down on the demo, and 2) done something like asked if he had a program where I could pay to, say, rent the car for a day or weekend to see if I’d be happy with e.g. the power and size in the long term.

    A contract or business exchange is a mutual exchange of consideration — not just “someone needs to kiss my ass for my ‘potential’ business.” Those kind of customers are probably for the most part better off sent out the door because, even if they do ultimately make a purchase, their expectation level of what they want for that purchase may ultimately prove unprofitable.

  76. mytdawg says:

    Actually your taxes are going directly back to other smug jackasses. I’m not on corporate welfare.

  77. If the manager was getting pissy about extra miles on their test drive car, then they should LIMIT the test drive miles, not LIMIT the customers.

    Manager: Too many test drives!! Make sure the customer is a serious buyer before tossin them the keys!
    Sales Staff: How do we determine that??

    Manager: Refer to Best Buy’s profiling training.

  78. spawnofbill says:


    If you want to make the trip, Global Imports in Atlanta is a superb dealership. Since moving to Atlanta a number of years ago my family has bought a 5 series from them and had a wonderful experience.

  79. GearheadGeek says:

    @tekkierich: If you ended up buying an RX8, you probably didn’t miss anything by being denied a test-drive in the fat pig GTO. I’m 5’8″ and found a Corvette to offer easier ingress/egress, and the GTO felt ponderous and ill-balanced. They were available for a steal eventually, because no one really wanted a thirsty car with poor handling at the initial offering price of the GTO. I’m hoping GM gets it right with this newest Aussie import, the G8.

  80. CarMatchPro says:

    Being an Auto consultant I see this kind of thing happening all the time and usually it’s with premium vehicles. Unfortunately, there is only one location in that area…so the supply and demand comes into play. I’ve experienced this happening with Audi and Porsche, in smaller towns.
    There could’ve been some things that the consumer could have have done to “fit” the part. Conversely, that’s the game that is played. Meaning, if you look the part…dressing up like you have money it could be detrimental on the negotiations, however, if you don’t they won’t let you test drive.
    There are several websites that have these tips:
    Books on negotiations/cars, etc.

    Having said that, there is a theme here-German Manufacturers. When I’ve dealt with them on a
    manufacturing basis there is definitely an air of arrogance and they don’t apologize for it either, whereas with the Domestic manufacturers they welcome pretty much anything, but we all know why that is.

    Here in L.A. where there are plenty of Dealerships these things happen, but not as much. Further, because it is L.A. you really don’t know who these people are…they could look like a “dude” or be in tattered clothes, and be a son of producer and just drop a credit card. So, do a little research and this will resolve itself; and to be honest with you I’ve had to drop a few names and “things” get resolved VERY quickly; and if they don’t just move on as it will be a reflection on how they do business.
    This happened to me recently and within 3 months the dealership went under. Somebody is always willing to get your business.

  81. redkamel says:

    first of all to anyone who is telling stories about lambos and ferraris, you *cant* just walk in and buy one. There are waiting lists for those cars..sometimes even for the used one. And yes, they wont sell you a new one unless youve owned previously, which means used. t=Those companies are low volume..they can, and do, target people who collect expensive cars. Look at it from his point of view..why sell this car to some guy, when a known customer might want it or refer a friend for it…and you cant lose that know customer…hes got money and buys a new car every year! which is what its like for a lot of these guys. either that or they are just serious car nuts know to the dealership. Point being places like that have a rep among the rich they need to keep up.

    BMW sure as hell doesnt. While a nice car, is not an exotic…its something for people who live very comfortably. Those dealers should be letting people test drive them..because it is attainable by people who dont always dress to the nines. And also, I live in pretty affluent area (not that affluent myself, but Ive spent my fair share on camera gear etc). I never dress up to buy anything expensive! and I would NEVER dress up to buy a car (or even a home). Granted I am not a slob. But If I got the cash and am looking to buy, the salesman works for me. Why should one shave and wear a button up to test drive a car, and possibbly fork over a bunch of money? These dealership guys sound like morons.

    I’d also like to add that the OP did not come off smug in anyway. A good credit score? a son with his own bmw (which means maybe HE bought it, cause, y know, hes smart/has a good job)? sound more like a family that is fortunate and has their stuff together, not a smug rich dude. some of the posters here are whack.

  82. lonewolf333 says:

    Go cry me a river, oh boo hoo you didn’t get a test drive. You jerk

  83. HawkWolf says:

    why is buying a car unlike buying, say, a toaster?

  84. JamesEnsor says:

    @Git Em SteveDave:

    I know at least here in SC it has been lately (I live just outside of Gaston, which is just outside of Columbia). But I’m with ObtuseGoose on this one, in terms of impressions put forth by appearances.

    If you wear crappy clothes, you are pre-judged to be “not serious”. However, if you dress little nicer, you may get more respect.

    However, being a 5’7″ 30 year old man, I like to dress younger, on occasion. I like to think it throws the salesmen off their game a little bit.

  85. theslik1 says:


    Thanks. I’ve received many good tips since posting this on BMW forums.

    I hear you about “mutual consideration”, but the simple fact is that their need to sell is substantially greater than my need to buy. Knowing that, it’s up to them to take a risk to determine my seriousness. It would be foolish for me to give them unearned power in that circumstance.


  86. GearheadGeek says:

    Car dealerships offer only one thing, service. Both mechanical service from the service department, and the service of keeping some cars around that they essentially rent untitled from the manufacturer to make it more convenient for you to buy one. They make their money by either making customers happy or by cheating them, and the difference between the 2 kinds of dealers is critical. Car dealers don’t MAKE anything. The only advantage the local car dealer has over one in the next town or 100 miles away is convenience for local customers, and if they make it inconvenient or unpleasant for prospects who walk into the dealership, smart customers will go elsewhere.

    A colleague of mine drives an Audi A4 Avant in part because when he went to the BMW Center of San Antonio, they had no interest in ordering a 3-series Wagon for him, they only wanted to sell him what was on the lot (which included no wagons.) He went to the Audi dealer (which also had no wagons in stock) where they were happy to take an order from him, and he’s been very pleased with his A4. His wife drives a MINI Cooper S Convertible they had previously bought at the same BMW dealer, and if he needs anything for the MINI he always drives over there in the Audi just for spite.

  87. littlemoose says:

    I don’t think this kind of treatment (making assumptions about a customer’s ability to pay based on appearance) is anything new. My dad is a car guy, has been his whole life, and says he and my mom have been treated poorly at dealerships before because they dress casually while out looking. He also says that, now that he has gray hair, he gets treated a lot better at dealerships and gets to take test drives a lot more easily.

  88. corrosive says:

    @Git Em SteveDave

    Well, its a 90 degree Easter here in SoCal

  89. thisisjacked says:

    I went to the hyundai place and was walking around (getting my santa fe fixed), and I casually mentioned to the one of the sales people that I was getting ready to trade it in for a new hyundai, since a)i loved the santa fe and b) i wanted a *car* with more mpg and less of a monthly payment. He said something to the effect of “well, I may not be able to get you *less* of a monthly payment, but I can get you a test drive in one of our sonatas — it’s one of our high-end cars, and if you end up buying one today, I can drop the price 4k in addition to the equity you have on your santa fe.” he tossed the keys for one to me, and I drove it straight to my grandmother’s house (she typically co-signs with me on my new cars), and we went for a drive, and she liked it so much, she sent my grandfather with me to haggle the price. We ended up getting the car (sticker price 24,500) for 15,500 after the 7,500 equity I’d built on the santa fe and my grandfather’s master haggling skills. Plus, he talked them into covering the TTL for me. My payment isn’t much less, but i don’t have to pay on it for much more than 3 1/2 years. I like the hyundai guys.

  90. BoC says:

    @spawnofbill: I think you misunderstood my comment; it’s a reference to an episode of Futurama, where one particular car was so luxurious it contained actual eagles. If I remember correctly, its dashboard was “inlaid with the beaks of a thousand eagles. Also, there are some eagles under the seats.”

  91. GearheadGeek says:

    regarding ones attire when car shopping… For some people this is part of “the game.” It’s such a cliche that they even had an episode of Cosby in which he “dressed down” to go car shopping so the salesman wouldn’t think he had money.

    I generally go car shopping in my “business attire.” For me, business attire is cargo pants, sneakers and a t-shirt or a polo. for my oldest friend, “business attire” is a technician’s uniform from the Mercedes dealership. It varies from person to person, but the point is that it’s helpful to ferret out the stinker salesmen if they ignore you because you’re casually dressed. You weren’t going to enjoy the process with a stuck-up asshole anyway, a salesman should be professional and polite in return for the commission he or she is going to make off your purchase.

    If car dealers want to keep the stranglehold they have on the market, they’d best strive to piss off fewer people, because at some point the “will of the people” can override the “dollars of the lobbyist.”

  92. JohnnyE says:

    @theslik1: None of those are ‘facts’ (objective empirical data points), much less simple ones. Those are all your subjective beliefs and expectations. Being unable to distinguish between your subjective beliefs and objective facts likely puts you at a disadvantage when working out mutually accommodating arrangements with others — and may go far to explain why some people offer you the ‘highway’ rather than ‘your way’.

  93. When I went to buy my first car after college, my parents sent me off to look on the lots and do some test-driving before coming back with dad in tow to help me make the purchase. I knew I wanted a small, safe, high-mileage starter car, so I went to Saturn. Where they refused to show me the car and refused to let me test-drive because they only deal with “serious customers.”

    Bought a Ford Focus, all cash, two days later. Still driving it 8 years later. Sorry your dealerships suck, Saturn! Not my fault that at 22 I looked 17!

  94. Nick1693 says:

    Now sounds like the right time for an EECB…

  95. ironchef says:

    BTW, oil changes at a BMW dealership runs $300.

    If that isn’t a tip off that the car is a ripoff…I don’t know what is.

  96. Consumer007 says:

    I just want to say “shut thy face” to all those critical of the OP here. A car dealership can NEVER afford to act this way, regardless of how client is dressed. If they are expressing interest, they are serious, because the salesman never knows how much is in their bank account, or if they have a millionaire uncle. I love how the OP made sure to tell the manager the worthless-ass sales person lost business.

    On another slightly related note, after or during the test drive, when you want to put the sales-sleazeperson on the defensive, ask these questions because they NEVER know the answer to them:

    1. What is the insurance industry crash-test safety rating on this car? (Well, why should I buy this car if you can’t verify it’s safe to drive?)

    2. What is the 5- or 10-year projected cost of ownership on this vehicle / how much will it cost me to own it? (Well if you can’t even provide basic cost information on this car, why should I buy it from you?)

    3. What is the total bottom line price of this car without financing? (No, I’m not interested in you screwing me with your dealer financing tricks, thanks.)

  97. dualityshift says:

    @Gorky: Complete fiction.

    My family has owned several different luxury cars, and never has that even come into question. Money talks and if you have the $285K for a new Diablo, no one will refuse your money.

    You should really stop drinking the mouthwash.

  98. tosser says:

    A few of the folks commenting on this story have recounted stories about how dealers have profiled them because of their unkempt appearance(torn clothes, three day scruff, etc). While any experienced luxury car salesperson would be able to tell you that a lot of well to do people are super slobs on their off time, a novice might be more quick to stereotype.

    I’m not going to justify such stereotyping, but If I were going to a high end dealership with the expectation of a solo test drive, I would definitely shave, bathe, and put on clean clothes beforehand.

  99. rlee says:

    When I last bought, a few years ago, I stopped by a Datsun dealership to look at the latest Z car. More out of curiosity than anything, as it was more $$ than I intended to spend. I told the salesman as much, but he insisted on a test drive anyway. He looked to be in his 20s, and I have a sneaking suspicion he was just happy to grab any excuse to get in the car.

  100. TexasScout says:

    What’s the difference between a Cactus and a BMW?

    In a BMW, the “pricks” are on the inside.

  101. TexasScout says:

    Wat’s the difference between a BMW and a Cactus?

    With the BMW, the “pricks” are on the inside….

  102. Sifl says:

    At my work [not a dealership], we get a lot of folks who come in dressed like they rose fresh from the grave [overexaggerated, but you get the point] and I had this one gentlemen come in like that and I gave him the same good service I gave everyone else, while my erstwhile coworkers didn’t the next day. Needless to say, the day after that incident he came back in when we were all working and the Manager was in the office and he was dressed like the CEO he was of a local company. The looks on my coworkers faces was incredible shock, while mine was.. well a bit smug as I knew what was coming. He approached me, asked if he could talk to the Manager, and after a few minutes of polite chat, smiled at me and left. My coworkers? Well… needless to say it was hard not to be smug after they got reamed out for a good 30 minutes for judging a book by its cover and then hearing them beg to be fired. Me? I got a raise.

    The big thing here, dealership or not.. it’s an irrelevant issue. It all comes down to the simple morales and lessons of our childhood, this one being, never judge a book by its cover.

    It’s just sad to think of how many of us forget these simple lessons when we grow up. :(

  103. GearheadGeek says:

    @dualityshift: While I’m sure there was lots of fantasy or fiction in the account, the “grain of truth” is probably that it’s very rare for such dealerships (Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc) to have new cars on hand available for purchase. They’re high-dollar, highly-customizable vehicles and dealerships don’t keep much in new inventory. Buyers typically order one to their specs, with custom colors, leather, etc. and wait for delivery, so you can’t buy one “right now” whether or not you’ve owned on in the past, because the car(s) they have in stock are waiting for delivery.

    And if you can find a “new” Diablo, you should skip it… Lamborghini hasn’t made the Diablo for several years, it’s Murcielago or Gallardo these days.

  104. bohemian says:

    The local VW & Audi dealership gave me the similar routine. We were looking initially to try to weed out what VW model were not going to work for us and what one would. We made it pretty clear we wanted to buy a VW, just not sure what model. The main reason being my hubby is 6’5 so he has to actually fit in the car comfortably.
    The sales guy was rather a dick and acted like we couldn’t possibly afford to buy a new VW. So we didn’t even though we could have handled payments on either a new one (longer loan) or a used one (shorter loan) through our credit union.

    So instead we went to a used dealship, we knew the guy who ran it from some business dealings. No hassles, no attitude. We had the entire test drive and deal done in less than two hours including the test drive.

    This same luxury game gets played with other products like certain clothing & jewelry items. Retailers purposely make people feel unworthy because it makes the customer insecure. This seems to make many people then feel they have to prove their worth and be even more inclined to buy the product.

  105. Uncle Bo says:


    I hear you about “mutual consideration”, but the simple fact is that their need to sell is substantially greater than my need to buy. Knowing that, it’s up to them to take a risk to determine my seriousness. It would be foolish for me to give them unearned power in that circumstance.

    In general, I agree but not in this context. The 1-series is the hottest car in America right now. As a BMW enthusiast, you know this. Every rat racer and avid internet forum poster is trying to get behind the wheel of one of these things. Can’t blame the dealer for wanting to weed out the buyer from the strokers.

    With any high demand, high interest item, sometimes buyers need to communicate their intentions to be taken seriously. Since you feel this is “unearned power”, your tactic backfired on you. In the end, BMW and this dealer will sell every single 1-series they can get their hands on, same as every other model they sell. Next time consider employing a different tactic if you desire a different result.

  106. rjhiggins says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Wow, you bought a Ford Focus with “all cash?” I’m sure that Saturn dealership is just kicking itself.

    By the way, dealerships are not impressed with paying with cash. They would much prefer that you use their financing, which is one of the places they make a killing. I’ve heard big talkers at dealerships before talking about how “I can pay cash today,” as if the dealer will be impressed and offer some kind of discount. In fact, the opposite is true.

  107. buddha753 says:

    go but anything but a BMW……vote with your cash and don’t forget to tell all your friends how well you got treated…I’m a General Manager at a major cra dealership and if one of my sales staff treated you like this guy did he’d be unemployed…

  108. Uncle Bo says:


    Your “mess with the salesman” tricks are immature. Yeah, there are some lousy salesman who don’t know these things but most have easy access to all this info.

    Crash safety is one of the top concerns of car buyers and IIHS and/or EuroNCAP ratings are well known to everyone in the car biz. Hell, most automakers use their scores in national TV advertising.

    Vehicle ownership costs are also widely available but not too accurate in these times of rising prices. A half decent salesman can shoot anyone some basic “cost per mile” numbers and places like can provide more info.

    Anyone who can operate a calculator can tell you an out-the-door price. Sticker price+sales tax+fees+registration & title = your price w/o financing. Do you really need a salesman to show you how to add?

  109. RDProgrammer says:

    Wow, regardless of how the dealership treated you, you sound like an arrogant ass. Why does your 23 year old son drive a BMW? Have some logic and realize that sometimes life doesn’t always go the way you or your credit score want.

  110. @rjhiggins: I don’t care what the dealship’s impressed with cash-wise. Ford sold me a car. Saturn didn’t. I was willing and able to buy a car at either place (the point of the all-cash comment). I needed a car. Saturn wouldn’t sell me one because they didn’t think I looked like a buyer.

    And duh, I didn’t tell them how I was paying until we settled on a price. I’m not STUPID.

  111. egoebelbecker says:

    @strathmeyer: Looks to me like the car is doing a better job of paying for itself every week.

    And based on the sticker price of the POS this person was trying to buy, what are exactly are you talking about?

  112. TPS Reporter says:

    When a buddy and I were in our early 20’s we both worked 2nd shift and we would go out and test drive nice cars during the day. They checked our licenses and that was it. We probably could have bought the cars (about a 1/3 of them) but we had no plans to. Just having fun. When my wife and I buy now we are preapproved thru our bank and I just walk on the lot and pick out what I want and get it for what I want.

  113. theslik1 says:


    Again, your approach is fine when the seller & buyer are on somewhat equal footing. In this case we aren’t (and you know that, of course). A new car dealer, particularly a premium dealer, has to realize that their need to sell far outweighs most customers need to buy that particular make. This can always be modified by emotion and supply vs. demand for a hot seller. In my case, the 135i is a nice but not special car and ultimately just one of several nice cars I’m looking at. There’s no special consideration or leverage I need to give away in order to get what I want…there are other dealers (including BMW) that will take the risk inherent in their bargaining position to gain me as a customer.

    And for the record, my “beliefs” have served me quite well for 25 years.

  114. theslik1 says:


    There will be 135’s sitting unsold on lots this fall once the initial hoopla dies down.

  115. The dealer has the right to refuse a test drive. But they need to tread lightly. Their criteria for refusal of a test drive should be spelled out clearly. It’s very dangerous for any merchant to start prejudging their clients by manner of dress: if they can do that, why not refuse someone because of their skin color or religion?

  116. abrakadabra says:

    Not long ago, I saw a beautiful new BMW crashed in front of a dealership.

    I think BMW has a right to know if a person knows how to drive an ultimate machine, and refuse a test drive if your previous history of car owning shows only boring automatics.

  117. Beluga says:

    I wonder what would happen if someone found out that none of the “serious shoppers” happened to be black . . . . hmmm . . . ????

  118. Nick986 says:

    I was thinking about applying for a job at that dealer since my family has owned BMWs for the past 20 years and I live here in Columbia. I think I’ll skip over them now.

  119. zsvdkhnorc says:

    Now that’s bad cotomer servis

  120. litewerk says:

    I had a similar experience at a Nissan dealership about 12 years ago. I had a letter from Nissan inviting me to come in for a test drive. I was of course gainfully employed and could have afforded a new car, but a test drive was in order. The arrogant salesman prodded me with plenty of questions, known as pre-qualifying, and proceeded to deny me a test drive of a model that was not even an expensive car. I think he understood that I was not likely to close the deal on a new car the moment I completed the test drive. I failed to let Nissan of North America know how a sales rep had run off a customer.

  121. JustAGuy2 says:


    Your reaction is interesting – I much prefer it if the salesman gives (or even tosses) me the keys, and doesn’t ride along. He doesn’t add anything to the test drive experience.

  122. rlee says:

    @rlee: I meant a Nissan dealership, of course; it wasn’t that long ago! My first car was a Datsun 200SX, hence my name confusion…

  123. GearheadGeek says:

    @abrakadabra: What an absolute unrealistic joke of an attitude… their “ultimate driving machines” are almost exclusively automatics in the US. BMW still sells a higher fraction of manual transmissions than most manufacturers, but selling to the great American horde they move a LOT of automatics. For any normal test drive, any half-competent driver can handle a BMW just fine, it’s hardly a tail-happy Viper that might easily “get away from you.” If you think the average driver needs to go to BMW driving school before they’re capable of taking a test drive on public roads in a 3-series or the lead-lined joke 1-series, you’re living in a fantasy world.

  124. MrMold says:

    Having been a shopper of cars for years, I can vouch for most salespeople’s customer skills. They make their livelihood off appraising folks and would not let any cash walk out the door. However, lookies that waste their time are given the “bums’ rush”.
    I drove BMW from a dealer that had a reputation that was less than stellar. Treating the salesperson with respect negated any issues I may have encountered had I been rude or “entitled”. It isn’tjust the clothes that give away the icky customers, it’s also the body language. Walk into a dealership with attitude and they’ll add cost for the insolence you brought.

  125. GearheadGeek says:


  126. UpsetPanda says:

    The last time my parents bought a new car, they walked into the Mercedes dealership where they purchased their last Mercedes and were welcomed and recognized as loyal customers. They drove up in a minivan and the dealership still knew who they were. That kind of treatment is what keeps people going back. The kind of treatment the OP received is poor for business – judging a book by its cover is such a bad never know who has the money, and who doesn’t. I have seen plenty of people dress expensively, only to find out they spent half their paycheck on one expensive coat and can’t afford another one.

  127. MrMold says:

    Most modern dealers don’t discriminate on race so much as class. Blacks are notoriously loyal, once they buy. They are the golden customers, for the most part. Was in a Nissan dealership when the large, large, large woman who was demanding free labor from the mechanics was told to remove her vehicle and never return. But, with that odd artifact an outlier, the other dealers loved AfAm business.
    So, I’d guess that there was some giveaway that said that this person was a waste of tiem.

  128. SOhp101 says:

    This isn’t exclusive to BMW; this is typical luxury-goods novice salesman behavior. The good ones know that rich people like to dress like slobs when shopping around, too.

    That’s one thing I love about living in Southern California–if you don’t like the dealership, go to another one or the other five that are probably within a 20 mile radius. Real estate, on the other hand…

  129. rjhiggins says:

    Be sure not to judge an entire dealership by one jerk of a salesman. The good ones would know how to take the manager’s marching orders (since we don’t know exactly what the manager said) and not make a potential customer feel like they’re being judged. He/she knows how to deal with the crowds on a busy Saturday, and how to make each person feel important.

    I know nothing about this dealership, so I’m not speaking directly to this case. But in general it pays to get personal recommendations not only for a dealership but a specific salesman. Plenty of them are jerks, but there are decent ones.

  130. cmdr.sass says:

    BMW – overpriced, underperforming, and driven by idiots

  131. jhuang says:

    @egoebelbecker: I saw $4.19 the other day. ):

  132. Amy Alkon000 says:


    “I heard gas hit $3.25 a gallon in my area. I tend not to worry so much about that since I got a Prius. “

    Really? And how far do you have to drive it before it makes up for massively overpaying for a car?

    I have a Honda Insight. I spent $228 on gas. Last year. The entire year. And I only spent that much was driving back and forth across Los Angeles twice a week to stay with a sick friend. And I got a $2000 tax rebate on my car (for being an early adopter). And I can drive in the car pool lane with just me in the car, and parking at meters in Santa Monica and Los Angeles is free for me with my state hybrid/SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) sticker. And I’m not one to buy new things when old things work, so I anticipate keeping this car for probably 10 years, probably more…and my battery is warranteed for 10 years anyway. The only problem I ever have with it is that I forget to put the gas cap back on because I get gas so rarely that I’m always kinda rusty at it.


  133. Trick says:

    There is a reason why the BMW salespeople can be smarmy jerks… for everyone person they piss off and chase off the lot, for whatever reason, there are five other people willing to sell their soul to buy that badge.

    The OP was right to walk out. He expected better treatment and didn’t get it.

    But the same smarmy salesjerk who wouldn’t cooperate with him and his wife probably sold a BMW later that day anyway. To someone even more desperate for a BMW.

    So why should BMW change?

    It is just like Best Buy. Sure some people know how much of a scummy company it is. But most don’t and are more than willing to hand over their money to Best Buy.

    That is why Best Buy is still around…

  134. mentir says:

    Get over it. For those of you who aren’t enthusiasts, the particular model/engine variant in question is lower volume and is currently fairly sought after, not having been for sale for more than a month or two. If this guy rolled in 6 months from now, he’d get his test drive and a nice pat on the back for coming in.

  135. jcain says:

    I must be in the minority here, but the only time any dealer has refused me a test drive was when I was 19 and their insurance supposedly didn’t cover anyone under 21. I was trying to drive a 335i at Santa Monica BMW, which I’ve since driven at a couple other dealerships.

    In my experience, salespeople at BMW/Mercedes/Audi/etc. dealerships are a lot more attentive and knowledgeable than at lower-end car dealerships. There’s also much less “buy today” pressure.

    When I went to test drive the new Audi TT, the dealer INSISTED that I also drive a new Porsche Cayman, despite my having just turned 20 and stating very clearly that I would not be buying a new Porsche.

  136. halajenn says:

    @b612markt: I bought my first new car ever in November, a sweet little Nissan. My friend and I were dressed very casually and joked around and made snarky remarks the whole time. Never once were we treated with anything other than with the highest regard, even while looking at the cheapest cars on the lot! I am so happy with my Sentra that my friend and her boyfriend both went back to that dealer and got themselves new Sentras. Not exactly high end cars, but a sale is a sale. I love my Nissan dealer!

  137. @danio3834: I’ve never worked in car sales, but I did sleep at a super 8 motel. So I think that qualifies me to be

    Maybe BMW’d sell more cars with a blue genie humping them. And I think the plural of Prius should be Priiiiiii.

  138. jimda says:

    1st, it makes no difference to the dealer if you buy or lease, either way he sells the car, either to you or the leaseing company. 2nd, if you told them you were not ready to buy, why should they let you drive their car? my guess is you got ‘booted’, which is common when its busy and you aren’t buying.

  139. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    I agree…no need to cast aspersions at germans. I happen to drive a 1996 Benz C220. As a proud half pollock I have to say the germans put together a pretty decent ride. As long as you take care of your benz and do all the maintenance work you’ll do fine. And I only had one bad dealership experience and that’s because it was’nt a licensed benz dealership I went to. I’m a pretty spooky looking big guy and some people tend to think I’m a borderline autistic savant yet I’ve been treated very kindly at benz dealerships from austin to houston and san antonio, TX.

  140. humphrmi says:

    In the old days (pre 9/11) I used to love going into a car lot dressed up all grungie, but carrying a suitcase with enough cash to buy a car outright. One time when a car dealer told me I wasn’t a serious buyer, I took out a wrapped stack of 50’s. and flipped through the bills with my thumb in front of his nose.

    He excused himself, stepped away, and the manager came back and apologized and asked what they needed to do in order for me to drive the car off the lot that night.

    I considered demanding a clown show from them, but I did want the car, so I just haggled.

  141. humphrmi says:


    When I last bought, a few years ago, I stopped by a Datsun dealership

    Wow that really was quite a few years ago! The Datsun nameplate was retired by Nissan in 1986…

  142. Scuba Steve says:

    People still bother with dealerships? Sheesh.

  143. TechnoDestructo says:

    “Anyone who can operate a calculator can tell you an out-the-door price. Sticker price+sales tax+fees+registration & title = your price w/o financing. Do you really need a salesman to show you how to add?”

    Oh god, the salesmen probably spontaneously ejaculate the moment they see YOU walking in the door.

  144. TechnoDestructo says:

    “As a proud half pollock I have to say”

    You’re half fish?




  145. alice_bunnie says:


    I had an opposite experience at Global Imports, at least with their Mini dealership. My husband was interested in getting a Mini. However, when they tried to screw us on the trade, we decided not to deal with them. I mean we expected some screwing on the trade, but when they say the transmission is slipping, and we take it back to our mechanic who hooks it up to their compute and it’s not. We decided to keep our old car and drive it for 40K more miles, that’s fraud.

  146. @jcain:

    “In my experience, salespeople at BMW/Mercedes/Audi/etc. dealerships are a lot more attentive and knowledgeable than at lower-end car dealerships.”

    Not in my experience. I enjoy sitting in the Audi dealership and listening to the shit they spew and laugh silently. One salesman told a lady the VW has a superior rear suspension over the Audi.

    And on a side note, this same dealership denied me a test drive of a A6 4.2 while I was getting my ’02 Passat ECM reflashed. He said something about the manager gets nervous having such “expensive” cars taken out. So the salesman took me on a magical carpet ride with him in a car that had a fucked up front end shudder(known audi issue that can’t seem to be solved). Pretty embarrasing when you’re driving 60 and it feels like the enterprise shaking itself apart at warp speed.

    And he had the balls to say some “older” gentleman was coming back to possibly buy it. 2 weeks later it was still sitting on the lot.

    Few months later I rolled in driving a A6 2.7T. Needless to say that dealership lost my business forever. I drive 50 miles out of my way to goto the Porsche/Audi dealership for parts or maint. And needless to say, this car is much more fun over the 4.2.

  147. GearheadGeek says:

    @mentir: For those of us who aren’t specifically BMW enthusiasts, you mean? Because those of us who are driving/automotive enthusiasts for the most part think the 1series is overweight for its size and has very little to offer over the 3series. It’s not a particular bargain, has very similar power-to-weight as the 3series, and people who don’t know any better are lining up to buy them… sounds like a good case for opting for a 3series to me.

  148. ClayS says:

    Lol, that was good.

  149. bozoerrebbe says:

    It appears that this isn’t the only less than stellar BMW dealer. BMW of Lincoln Nebraska put a M3 up on eBay with an opening bid of $60K. During the auction, they changed the Buy It Now price at least twice. When someone successfully won the auction at the opening bid price, the dealer refused to complete the transaction because the price was “a mistake”, and then told the bidder that they were a “billion dollar company” so eBay would listen to them, not the bidder.

    Apparently, BMW of Lincoln thinks it’s good business to renege on a deal and then get portrayed around the world on the internet as chiseling slimebuckets.

    Here’s the story courtesy of the bidder:

  150. bozoerrebbe says:

    Also, I used to drive a 20 year old Jaguar XJ. The paint was completely sunbleached and the car looked well used. It was a decent runner, having been bought from the son of the president of the Jaguar Club of North America, but it was not in the best cosmetic shape.

    At the NAIAS in Detroit, the local dealers sometimes have reps at the auto show, and during the press preview I mentioned to one of the guys from Jaguar of Troy (I think it used to be owned by the Falvey family) how impressed I was with the customer relations at their dealership, that I’d drive up in a beat up car, wearing work clothes, and they’d treat me respect. He told me that once a couple of Chaldean guys came in with their elderly mom. The guys were not dressed particularly well and proceeded to buy mama a Vanden Plas XJ for about $80K in cash. He said that in his business he can’t afford to make prejudgments about customers’ ability to pay.

  151. LJKelley says:

    I will have to say that BMW Dealerships in general are to smug. Before my current car I had a Mini which was bought from Global Imports Atlanta a BMW/Mini dealership. While the sales was decent, all future (free included service) was a real pain since I had a Mini not a BMW and those people deserved to be put first despite me always booking exact appointments, not getting a curtesy car and wanting a quick turn around for an oil change and expressing this.

    Needless to say the attitude has made me not consider BMW or products again. I now have a Mercedes and have been treated much better as is my friend as well who always test drives wearing T-shirts and shorts.

  152. parad0x360 says:

    My point wasnt that he didnt get proper service. My point is there was no reason to give us that extra information. With the extra information he just sounds like he is bragging. Who cares if his son drives a bmw? Who cares about his credit?

    Knowing he has good credit doesnt effect the situation as the dealer didnt know his credit. if they had run it and still refused a test drive then fine mention but to me the way it was posted just stinks of the guy bragging about how well off he is.

  153. elephantattack says:

    A similar thing happened to me but at least with me it kind of made sense at the time (me being only 21). I went down to a Honda dealer to test drive an Acura TL. They would only let me sit in it. I wasn’t too ha
    ppy about it so I went home and did research on the car. When I discovered that I had to use premium fuel I jumped on my second choice which was a 2005 Legacy I had seen used online. Went to the dealer, expecting similar results but was surprised when I mentioned I was interested, they had my license copied and me in the car within 3 minutes of walking in the door. I told them I’d think about it. Bought it the next day because it’s a SWEET car!

  154. ChuckECheese says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: The weather here in El Paso has been sunny with temps in the 70s to 80s for the past couple weeks.

  155. dweebster says:

    Well, from the horror stories of BMW dealer antics here, is it safe to assume the reason so many pricks drive BMWs is because they like dealing with their “own kind?”

    @Sifl: If I was loaded with money out the butt I’d still be dressing casually as long as I didn’t need the costume. And when investigating a car dealership’s service, I would want to know how they treated PEOPLE and not the costume. After all, I might not want to get all dressed up to take my car in for an oil change – so if the salespeople treat you like garbage then you can bet the rest of the company won’t be much better.

  156. goodkitty says:

    I had the exact same experience at a BMW dealer. I wanted to buy *that day* and I literally could not get anyone to care. I could have gotten into any of their cars, taken a nap, gone to the bathroom, whatever. I practically begged someone to help me and they gave me a card and then decided it was closing time. The next day was some kind of national ‘BMW’ holiday where every dealership was closed (I was willing to go to the next nearest one). Well gee, I guess they don’t want to sell cars.

    Yes, I was dressed as if I had just ‘risen from the grave’, but nobody else gave me that kind of treatment. Certainly not the Audi and Acura dealers who were more than willing to help me find something I was happy with (unfortunately neither of them had what I wanted in stock, and I needed a car soonish).

    I will never again consider BMW, and anyone who is considering BMW will get an earful of my disdain for them. I could understand if it was a Ferrari dealership, but come on… it’s freaking BMW. They’re not THAT exclusive.

    I can’t believe how hard it has become in our society to actually GIVE people money.

  157. Maymar says:

    Did the “victim” ask to speak to the manager who issued the limited test drive rule? Talk about some serious intent to buy a car in the near future (ability to buy isn’t the same as intent)? Talked numbers regarding the pricing? Those all seem like simple ways to resolve the issue if the “victim” weren’t so “sensitive.”

    It may be a terrible dealership, but this is a weak story.

  158. tartis says:

    The dealer was a total ass and did not deserve your money. DO NOT WASTE ONE PENNY IN THIS JACKASS OF A DEALERSHIP. I have money and dress like a slob sometimes. If they will not wait on me, then I would but another brand from a differnt dealership. Times are hard (even for BMW dealers), and they cannot aford to be stupid.

  159. cegerer says:

    The 1 Series is hideous looking … the salesman did you a favor.

  160. Alger says:

    @ColdNorth: Sort of the point of what a “busy Saturday” is all about: selling cars! But how can you do that if you blow off the actual customers?

  161. Dobernala says:

    @Beluga: Race card!!!

  162. Alger says:


    “… but there are those that know time is money, and wont bother with a customer who just wants a dog and pony show.”

    But what about my time? My time, too, is money, and if I’m investing time in looking at a car, I’m a serious buyer.

    “I’m not sure if anyone here has been in car sales, but while that salesman could have been taking 30mins to an hr showing these people the car, pricing it out, etc…he could have sold a buyer a car.”

    That’s the catch! How do you distinguish the “buyers” from other people? We have, here, a case where the salesman labelled a “buyer” as a “non-buyer”. Which is a self-fulfilling prophecy, no?

  163. ktek01 says:


    OEMs have tried and still have some factory owned dealerships. IIRC Chrysler called them “pilot dealerships”, regardless they found out they were worse at selling cars than most of the franchise dealerships. A few states dont even allow factory owned dealerships, but in the end it is the local management that sets the tone no matter who owns it.

  164. unklegwar says:

    I got the same basic treatment from an Sussman Acura in South Jersey back in 1994. I was 2 years out of college and had saved up my money to buy my first ever new car. I wanted to check out an Integra.

    Well, I rolled into the lot in my green 74 Dodge Dart (custom!). They salesman didn’t even move his feet off the desk. I walked around the lot, even went into the showroom. No attention. I finally asked if anyone there was a salesman. the guy barely looked up from his desk and asked what I wanted. I told him I wanted to let him know he just lost a sale, and what he could do with his cars.

    I guess a 23 year old guy in an old dodge couldn’t possibly afford an Acura, right?

  165. EmmK says:

    In 2000, the local Volvo dealer refused to allow my husband to test-drive one of their convertible models, ostensibly because it was raining – though I’m sure his standard jeans-and-t-shirt wardrobe had something to do with it. We live in Seattle, and won’t buy anything we can’t test-drive in the rain, convertible or not.

    So he went off to the Saab dealership, where they were more than happy to let him drive anything he wanted. I’m still driving a Saab. We are unlikely to be purchasing or leasing a Volvo anytime in the near future.

    My brother runs a Hyundai dealership; unless you’re obviously high or have a suspended license, he’ll let you test drive just about anything – because he knows that looking like a slob (like my husband) doesn’t mean you don’t have bank (like my husband).

    In other words: the dealership here was run by morons.

  166. holdemm says:

    When the Chrysler 300 first came out and they were selling them like hotcakes I was thinking about getting one. I went to the dealer to do a test drive and he gave me the same line that I wasn’t a serious buyer. They lost a customer for life. I went over to the local Mercedes dealer got myself a “loss” leader and have leased two more Benz’s since then. Was funny when Mercedes “bought” Chrysler, but am happy they split.

    Always reminds me of Pretty Woman and Julia Roberts getting turned away from that store by what she was wearing and looking like a ho. Loved the part when she went back in and flaunted it their face with all her purchases.

  167. Nylo says:

    Its obvious you are not worthy of this fine piece of machinery…. And who are you to get so indignant. You have not only shamed your self, but others a well, regarding your despicable post.

    Why are losers so blind to the truth of their own reality!


  168. mentir says:

    @GearheadGeek: I didn’t necessarily mean bmw enthusiast so much as general automobile enthusiast. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the merits of this particular car in question, the original poster needed to recognize that, currently, this car is in demand. The original poster, in my opinion, mistook the dealer’s attempt at limiting the test drive mileage on the car (likely one of their first allocations) as a personal attack on his ability to afford the car.
    Maybe I’m just projecting, but I’m currently in the process of trying to find a just-released model from another brand, and am appreciative of the fact that a car will have 50 miles or less on it instead of 300+ hard driven miles from test drives.

  169. I know Im late to this party, but here is my two cents.

    He wanted to run your credit. He wanted to get the application in so he could have loan numbers worked up by either the F&I guy or their automated system by the time you came back. IVe run into this a bit over the years, especially on high end vehicles/anything sporty. I sold cars a long time ago and go with friends to shop these days. A BMW dealer probably gets a lot of people who just want to try out the car for something to do on the weekend(dont ask me why, but Ive seen it), so he wanted to make sure you could afford the car before bothering to test drive it. Its wrong, and most manufacturers/dealers forbid the practice. This is for a number of reasons, the most practical is it avoids members of certain groups from being discriminated against (say, telling primarily black or hispanic couples they must have a credit check first)

    Now, the reason he just didnt suggest the credit run at this point is a mystery to me though, since he was implying it. My guess, he wanted you to suggest it to get around any rules about asking.

    The best trick for a dealer to get the app is actually honesty. Tell the customer that it will take a few minutes to run and then you can drive the car while he “works up some options”. Most customers are happy with that, and it scares away the deadbeats sometimes.

    Simpler solution, get a preapproval from your Credit Union or bank to take into the dealer with you. Their financing is usually better and you can still get rebates. Walk in with that letter and the dealing will kiss your ass.

  170. @mentir:

    a car will have 50 miles or less on it instead of 300+ hard driven miles from test drives.

    And really it should have less than even 50. Because you know they’re going to dog on it, like I did with a demo Passat W8 that had 500 mi on it. And modern engines should be broken in slowly and properly. My Passat had 15 miles on it. Fresh off the boat, and nothing but 0w40 oil.

    This car being a demo, they should expect people to skip on purchasing it to begin with, especially for the high price tag.

  171. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Scuba Steve:

    Can you buy a new car without going through a dealership? (Yes, I know about the fax method, but you’re still dealing with dealers)

  172. dfwguy says:

    Isn’t BMW a flipped acronym for Wanted Mercedes Benz?

  173. radio1 says:

    Why is this on Consumerist?

    I mean I can understand with OP about being upset about not getting a test drive. But this does not ring true.

    Frankly, I do not think the OP was serious about buying a vehicle until he went to the Audi dealership.

    From my vantage point, this guy goes in with wife and son in an older BMW and asks for a test drive. They are probably looking but are not really serious about it, hence the OP asking about what constitutes ‘seriousness’. He gets pissed off, drives down to the Audi dealership and buys a car there because he is pissed off.

    I think seriousness constitutes a few things:
    1) Intent
    2) Truthfulness
    3) Appearance
    4) Demeanor

    I would gather you need (2) of the above for any type of big ticket purchase anywhere.

    All the OP would have had to do is say:
    “Hello sir. I would like test drive a 1 series, I am not sure if I will be buying today but; I will be visiting other local luxury dealerships today.”

    If the CA says no, then leave and go to another dealership and STFU about it. No posting to the internet or nothing. I find it interesting that the OP did not post what car he bought at the Audi dealership.

    Unfortunately, BMWs are always in demand, so their reps can be more ‘choosy’ than say a Kia, Dodge or maybe even an Audi dealership.

  174. gamin says:

    well that is actually a sales technique, they tell that o a customert o see if he bites and buys out of spite

  175. winstonthorne says:

    Apologies if another ex-industry person already posted this:

    The key to understanding this situation is in realizing the car is a DEMO, which is basically a used car that’s sold as new because it was never registered. In addition to the no registration requirement, each state has a mileage limit that can be on a car sold as a “demo” rather than “used.” The BMW demo was close to that mileage limit, so the management wanted reassurance that the customer wasn’t just “playing around” and that he would at least consider purchasing the car that day, since every mile driven brings the car closer to the point where the dealer must take an enormous loss and sell it as used.

    The salesman could have been more polite about the situation, but to resolve this the customer could easily have test driven another new car with similar equipment for the initial drive, then done his research/comparison shopping, and then returned and driven the exact demo model before purchase (once he had assured himself that he was getting a good deal).

  176. Juggernaut says:

    @Hobart007: wow! pot/kettle

  177. The Porkchop Express says:

    @ObtuseGoose: that’s always a big mistake. My friend’s dad has bought expensive homes/properties that he went to look at while barefoot and wearing an open floral shirt. of course that isn’t the norm, but people with money often won’t dress like it.

    I do still agree with those that are saying to buck up and go elsewhere. Not buying the car there is a big enough show of disapproval.

  178. EDogII says:

    BMWs suck anyway

  179. UX4themasses says:

    @Amy Alkon: I don’t think your numbers quite match reality. Either you only drive approximately 3300 miles a year or your math is wrong somewhere.

    Honda Insight (using 2006 numbers from Fuel Economy GOV) holds 10.6 gallons and gets approximately 496 gallons per tank. At 3.25 a gallon, you would pay around 34 USD for a fill up. Dividing your 228 annual cost by the 34 dollars leads me to believe you have filled up 6.6 times in a single year. 6.6 X 496 is the total mileage you would have driven in a year..or roughly 3300 miles.

  180. noorct says:

    I think what people forget is that the 1 series is in its first model year, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to sell out its initial product run. Therefore they can pretty much afford not to let everyone test drive the car and have a customer leave in a huff because, at least for now, the supply is much less than the demand (like when the mustang sold for 10k over sticker in 2003, and people bought it).
    I’ve been to the dealership the poster refers to, and I can vouch for the fact that the service there is terrible, and the sales people there act condescending and like they are doing the customer a favor. It’s one of the hazards of shopping for a luxury car in Columbia. On the other hand, the dealership doesn’t seem to be hurting for money, so I imagine they sell enough cars acting the way they do that they’re not too concerned about it. I ended up buying the car in Atlanta, by the way, since I was only in Columbia visiting friends for a weekend. GI was a night and day difference, and their service department has always been great about loaner cars etc… Definitely check them out !

  181. This reminds me of when I was shopping for cars and wanted to sit in a Nissan 300Z. I guess my uber casual cargo shorts and sneakers ruled me out as a potential buyer. The stupid sales guys wouldn’t even open the car for me. I then went and bought a loaded VW shortly after.

  182. Mary says:

    @strathmeyer: When I was looking at Honda Civics, my husband actually ran the numbers on what I’d need to do to make getting the Civic Hybrid more reasonable than a regular Civic.

    Let’s just say I don’t drive nearly enough to manage to make up for the difference. I can’t remember the exact numbers but it basically meant I’d have the car five years before it actually worked out better.

    As for the main story here, I just have to say I’m glad that I bought my car from a friend. It made it so much easier to do everything, but I did some test drives at local dealerships to see what type of car I wanted, and I was very clear that I wasn’t serious so the sales people wouldn’t waste too much of their time on me. I never ran into this, but if I had I would have been livid and walked out too.

  183. RAREBREED says:

    How odd. A friend of mine works at BMW in sales, and she gets a commission for every person she takes on a test drive, then more if they come back, and even a slightly higher sales commission if that person buys after multiple visits! She even asks friends of hers to come in to test drive cars during slow weeks!

  184. cerbie says:

    @HawkWolf: I know, I know! Buying a toaster usually doesn’t involve MBA. What do I win? What do I win?

  185. seth1066 says:

    This happened to me when I was 18. The old man gave me a downpayment and cosigned a loan for a graduation present. I went to the Chevy dealer to order a L78 Camaro and the salesman, probably no more than five years older, refused to talk to me without my father there and practically escorted me out of the showroom. I did get his card.

    I went to the next Chevy dealer expecting the same, but an older and wiser sales guy took me in his office took out the order form and we went through all the options. I took the sales order to the old man, got the deposit and placed the order.


    When the car came in I drove it straight to the first Chevy dealer, found the salesman, who conveniently was standing with a bunch of his sales pals, pointed to the car parked in front of the showroom, pulled out the bill of sale and proceeded to tear him a new asshole.

  186. sean77 says:

    I’m not surprised. BMW sells an image, they don’t need to kowtow to the customer. They probably kick out 50% of their walkins just to keep up the image of being “exclusive”.

  187. Consumer007 says:

    @CarMatchPro: Thanks for the tips, but why on earth should any consumer have to audition to buy a car?

    @lonewolf333: Don’t you have anything better to do than snipe at other consumers on a pro-consumer website? Get lost…

    @JohnnyE: Um, actually, no you’re wrong, dealerships and anyone else in retail knows that YES, in a bad economy, you pretty much DO have to kiss the customer’s ass, but of course if you had actually worked in retail yourself, you would know that…yes some customers are a-holes, but that gives you nor any car dealership either the right, privilege or luxury to treat them so, and by the way, just so you are aware, this is a PRO consumer website and it has been posted that you are NOT supposed to “blame the victim” here. Look it up. Finally, who said there was anything wrong with consumers on here saying they didn’t like how they were treated? and a myriad of other review sites are based on the very same premise…get several clues.

    @Spoondizzle: I would have asked the jerk sales-ass what he drives…and then asked him where the vehicle was…and then how much is in HIS bank account? I can’t stand cheap sales people with false-superior attitudes – YEAH, that’s a REAL good way to make sales – NOT!

    @Beluga: Sounds like those salespeople used to work at Circuit City or Best Buy lol

    @parad0x360: And why should we feel sorry for you then when you will get dissed and boohoo on here? Life is a circle. If you kick other people when they are down and need sympathy just wait until YOU fall bud…

  188. LeopardSeal says:

    @strathmeyer: He won’t get there for 7 – 10 years.

  189. STiBrian says:

    Its all about attitude with these guys. I first wanted to trade up out of my first beater car (’81 brown Celica 5sp in excellent condition) to the WRX when it first came out. I drove the Celica it to dealerships while looking at cars. They seriously wouldnt even talk to me sometimes. I ended up buying a 4 month old ’02 WRX trade in at the Nissan dealership I was working for. I drove it back to one of the more rude dealerships I had visited before and they were practically throwing keys at me. I explained why they lost the sale and left.

    I was recently having my windows tinted near the dealerships so I decided to check out all the new models. I was on foot. This is my experience with them:

    Honda: This was the first dealership I came to. I was able to secure a test drive with a beautiful GranPrix white S2000. I explained to the guy that I was just having my car worked on up the street and was not buying at all. He asked if I wanted to drive it but I declined.

    Audi: There was only one salesperson in sight at the Audi/Mazda dealership. I used to work with her when I was at Nissan 4 1/2 years ago. She saw me looking over the spec sheet of a new A4; she came rushing over to help. I pretended not to see her and stepped back over the grass to the sidewalk. She turned around to return to her post by the soda machine. I walked back over the grass to a tasty black S4. She started back over and I again walked back to the street. I did this three more times to her and she finally went into the showroom. She was an ass to work with BTW.

    Nissan: They should change the sign outside to say “Altima Coupe”, not “Nissan”. There was a stunning Nismo 350Z in Redline lost amongst the sea of Altima coupes on display, (#100 of 1000 in fact). I never saw a salesperson except for one who appeared to be sleeping in a yellow SER SpecV sentra. The used car manager popped his head out of the showroom to ask if I had any questions.I asked him if he was interested in the new Maxima, judging his expression I don’t think he knew what I was talking about.

    BMW: They had 4 new M3’s on the lot and a 5th in the showroom. I was checking out a white one when the manager came over. I commented on the number of unsold M3’s on the lot. He said that they get more than almost any other dealership. I could have gotten a drive in the demo they had on hand but I didnt push for it, the guy was cool about answering my questions and I didnt want to waste his time. The new M3 looks gorgeous in white IMO.

  190. ViperBorg says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Las Vegas.

  191. Geneva101 says:

    I worked for a high end dealership for several years. More than once did a poorly dressed man come in with a case of cash to buy a new 80K car off the lot. Never ever Never judge a book by the cover. In the business of sales treat every customer like a gift! BMW should have treated you better regardless of your look. As a customer you are interviewing THEM to determine if you want to form a lasting relationship with this car company and dealership.

  192. YouCanEatMe says:

    I ran into this kind of douchbagery 2 years ago when I bought my Porsche. Now granted, I don’t exactly dress the part, I own a recording studio so jeans and an old t-shirt is standard issue for me day to day. Nonetheless I could indeed afford the car I’d been lusting after for decades. That magical day when I would make the pigrimage to the Porsche dealership came and I walked in with my wife, started looking at the model we wanted until after 15 minutes of standing around some bright spark walks up and says this little gem…
    “Ummm, excuse me, are you lost or something?”
    My jaw hit the ground. I said “Pardon me?”
    and he repeated it. I informed him that I was there to purchase a car and was not in fact lost. He then says “sure, how ’bout you don’t waste our time. You’re obviously out of your league.” I snapped, layed into this little shit with an unabashed torrent of verbal abuse which made the manager come running. I explained the situation to him and after a long back and forth about customer relations he offered to “check my credit to see if I really could afford the car if it makes me feel better.”
    I told him to go pound sand up his ass and left in disgust. Him doubt thinking that he’d sent some tire kicker packing.

    Went by 6 weeks later with the shiny new Carrera 4 from an out of town dealership who bent over backward to please me BTW, and a copy of the nastygram that i sent to Porsche on this asshole and his “staff’s” behalf.

    I’m guessing that dealership has new staff by now.

    To the one’s who say it’s whining, grow up. It’s about having some POS who couldn’t afford to RENT a porsche, judging me because he doesn’t think I look like I can afford it.

  193. undercoveragent says:

    I AM AN EMPLOYEE OF BMW OF COLUMBIA. I will not reveal my identity so they can’t fire me for telling the truth, trust me they would. To give you the inside view of our dealership, we are under new ownership for the third time in the past year. Every employee, with the exception of maybe two people, can not stand our new general manager nor the new changes to our dealership in any way, shape, form or fashion! The new manager is a his way or the highway type of guy who is sure he knows it all and creates a bad attitude across the entire dealership. It is agreed across the entire staff that he is rude, full of lame humor, and not fit for his position. He knows nothing about the cars we sell, the people we deal with, nor the concepts of respect or interacting with human beings. We are not claiming to be America’s top dealership but the majority of us feel our new ownership has done more harm that good. To add to the fire, we are also a Volkswagen dealership. You don’t know this because they choose not to put money into increasing the store’s business. Since the takeover by Group 1 Automotive in December, BMW business has greatly decreased and VW business is virtually gone in both sales and service. I could go on and on complaining but my point is that its not the employees, it’s the leadership. We are at the mercy of our new leaders who’s ways really make manyof us wonder. A few of us have parted ways with the dealership while the majority of us remain, cherishing our good relationships with one another and holding on to a dying hope that things will get better. Call this the voice of a mad employee or whatever you want, I’m more than sure i don’t stand out of place nor exagerate and I have at least 30 people who agree with my every word. Several of them contributed to what you see here…

  194. bbagdan says:

    When I sold Mercedes, damn right we didn’t let many people, wealthy-looking or not, take six-figure cars out for test drives. First of all, we don’t want to put miles on the vehicle, which will make it hard to sell, especially a super-premium vehicle. Secondly, we don’t want to get chips on the paint or windshield, or other wear and tear. Lastly, we don’t want to have to wash the vehicle again.

    If the salesperson wouldn’t let the customer take a demo car out, that is a different matter. But if it was a brand-new, expensive, and/or rare model I don’t blame him.

  195. theslik1 says:


    The 135i is not exotic although it is somewhat scarce right now. The car is a hot seller due to enthusiasts but oddly enough there are already a handful of customers getting discounts from MSRP. Once the faithful have washed through then BMW will have to start dealing…an optioned 135i is pricey enough to steer less dedicated customers elsewhere regardless of the performance.

    The car in question was a demo and had just come back from a test drive with “serious customers” who quickly left without buying anything…

  196. sport says:

    It’s too bad you had an unpleasant experience at the BMW in Cola, but I bought a BMW there and the entire experience was very nice. We traveled over 50 miles to look at BMWs. The salesman was a younger guy who worked hard to get me the car I wanted. He was friendly, eager to satisfy my requests, and was just plain nice to work with! If it happened as you described, I too would be unhappy, but my experience there was very different from yours. I think it’s the only BMW sales in Columbia.

  197. mariospants says:

    “low-class leasing mill”, that’s the best line I’ve heard all day. Love it.