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Confessions of an RV Salesman (How to Avoid a Rip-Off)

I have had a great deal of experience both buying and selling RVs and think people should understand the mechanics of doing these things.

Learn about the manipulative techniques salesman use to goad you into buying a recreational vehicle.

Learn about the manipulative techniques salesman use to goad you into buying a recreational vehicle.

Good morning. My name is Mac. I’m an RV salesman who wants to confess to potential buyers what I really do when I see you walking in the door of my boss’s showroom.

I’m telling you these things without using my real name (of course) so you’ll wise up to the manipulative methods I use to sell you a camper, trailer or motor home. I'll cover the follow steps of the process:

  1. The Introduction
  2. The Probe
  3. The Squeeze
  4. The Deal
  5. The Negotiation
  6. The Close

If you’re smart, you’ll pay attention to what I say here and use the information to avoid being victimized. If not, good luck the next time you try to buy a recreational vehicle from a dealer.

1. The Introduction (Building Trust)

I always make it a point to look clean and crisp, but more importantly, I want you to think that I, too, am an RV enthusiast. The truth is that I probably don’t know much more about these vehicles than you do and have never owned one!

You won’t see me wearing a suit, but you also won’t see me running around in shorts.

I’ll look like the guy next door and will always greet you by introducing myself and giving you a big smile and handshake.

There are two reasons why I do this. The first is to make you comfortable, and the second is to create trust.

By shaking your hand I’m making physical contact. It has been proven that even the lightest of touches between people creates a bond that makes people “feel better”.

Another thing I’ll do is to look you straight in the eye. People who lie have difficulty doing that, so creating direct eye contact makes you assume that I’m not a liar.

All of these behaviors will make you think that I’m a good guy who is likeable and who you can trust to help you with your purchase.

2. The Probe (Assessing Your Finances)

I’ve already achieved my first goal, so now it’s time to find out how serious you are about buying and if you can even afford to make a purchase.

The whole time I’ve been talking to you, I’ve been sizing you up. Are your shoes in good condition? Do your teeth show that they’ve been well cared for? Are you wearing cheap clothes or expensive ones? Is your jewelry fake or real?

I’ll also ask you whether you live in the local area, whether you own or rent, what you do for a living and whether you have children who still might be traveling with you.

You think I’m showing interest, but I’m really trying to qualify you to see whether you’re a tire kicker or a serious buyer.

The final questions are the ones I’m really after: “How much do you want to spend to buy an RV?” and “Do you want to buy new or used?”

I’ll also ask you if you have a coach to trade and, if so, why you want to trade and how much you expect to get for it if we can make a deal today.

You’re always going to give me a figure that is far higher than any amount I would possibly offer, but I won’t tell you this. I’ll simply nod my head in agreement, smile and say, “OK, let’s see what we can do”.

RV salesmen want you to tell them the type of RV you want so they can ascertain your price range.

RV salesmen want you to tell them the type of RV you want so they can ascertain your price range.

2. The Squeeze (Buy Now!)

If I think you’re just a tire kicker, I’ll open the door, show you where the RVs are parked and tell you to go look around. I’ll give you my cell phone number and tell you that if you find something you think you like you can call me.

I’m not going to waste my time driving people around to see coaches when I’m pretty sure they’re suspects instead of prospects!

On the other hand, if your appearance and answers lead me to believe that I have a chance of selling you something, I’ll drive you out onto the lot and show you the worst coach I have.

It will be dirty, stinky, have body damage and other flaws, but will still have a high price posted on its window. You’ll absolutely hate it! Then I’ll take you over to the one I expect you to buy.

It will be beautiful, have lots of amenities and be free of any major visible flaws. It will cost more than the first unit, but will be what you are looking for.

You’ll balk at the price, but I’ll shrug my shoulders and say “Well, you get what you pay for”. Then I’ll go into my spiel about how we have a great financing plan that will make purchasing easy and affordable.

I’ll paint a beautiful picture about how great it would feel to be driving down the road in this beauty and enjoying all of its comforts when camping in it. In fact, I’ll offer a free year of camping if you’ll buy it today, which would save you a ton of money.

I’ll make sure to spend a lot of time doing these things so that you’ll start to tire out. People who are tired are more likely to buy just to be done with all of the burdensome details and walking.

I'll make sure to show you a third RV that is way beyond your price range, just to make you think you've seen everything that is available.

Then I’ll ask you which coach you liked the most and will tell you not to pay attention to the sticker price because I can get a better deal for you if you buy it today!

Notice that throughout our conversation, I keep pushing you to buy now if you want to save money. The truth is that no matter when you buy, you’ll get the same deal!

I offer to take you for a test drive, and you accept. Once we’ve done that, I pretty much have sealed the deal because now you are feeling very comfortable with the coach you already like and are envisioning wonderful vacations in it.

However, if you balk, I'll call in a closer who will show you a fourth costly coach. He will already know what you've seen and said.

He is a person with many years of selling experience who knows exactly what to say to manipulate people into buying. Once he shows up, I step into the background and let him close the deal.

4. The Deal (Or Should I Say Set-Up?)

I take you back to the office and offer you a cup of coffee or a soft drink. I know that while I’ve gone to get your refreshments, you’re going to decide whether you want to buy the coach or not.

While I’m gone, a different salesman is going to stick his head in the door. He says he’s looking for me to see if I’ve sold that coach yet because he has a cash buyer on the phone who wants it.

You tell him I’ll be back in a few minutes. He leaves. Now you’re in a panic. We have set you up with a false time limitation that makes you feel that if you do not buy this coach right now, you’ll lose it to the other buyer.

You can’t wait for me to get back to the office.

You don’t tell me about the other salesman, but you do indicate to me that you are interested in buying if the price is right.

5. The Negotiation (Pressure's On)

I pull out a sales application, and we fill it out together.

If you have a trade, I take your keys and tell you that our sales manager will have to look at your unit to decide how much we’ll give you for it. Usually it will be about half of the NADA wholesale price. This amount is going to be far less than what you expected to get for it.

In the meantime, I tell you that the other salesman had approached me, but since we’re in the middle of a deal, he can’t ethically sell the coach out from under you as long as you lock in your deal by giving me a totally refundable deposit of at least $500.

You give me your credit card, I accept the deposit and give you a receipt that shows you’ve locked in the deal.

Now I’ve got you.

The reason I’ve got you is that you won’t really believe that you’ll get your deposit back if you renege on the deal, even though I know that by law, I’m required to return the money to you if the deal falls through.

The Sales Manger returns with your keys and hands me some paperwork. I tell you what he says he’ll give you for your RV, and I also tell you how much your RV is going to cost.

You almost have a heart attack, but I remind you that I can get a better deal, and I do. Usually I’ll knock a few thousand dollars off to make it look good.

You gratefully accept the deal because by now you’re exhausted and somewhat confused, but you have been goaded into thinking you want and must have this travel unit.

6. The Close (No Need to Read That Contract!)

I don’t give you time to read the contract and, frankly, by this time, you normally don’t want to do so. How to Protect Yourself from RV Contract and Warranty Problems explains why you should read it, but you still probably will avoid doing so.

We’ve already established that I’m a great guy, you trust me and I’ve given you a good deal.

You might even not take the time to read the sales cover sheet which shows that I’ve added about $600 for prep fees.

What you’re looking at is the final figure.

You likely won’t be able to afford to pay cash, so I take you over to our finance department.

There you set up a payment plan that you think will work for you, even though you get a bit of a shock when you hear how much it will cost to register your coach with the state. This is an amount that usually adds up to thousands of dollars. I neglected to tell you about this added cost on purpose, of course.

No worry, though, because all of the costs will be included in the financial contracts, so all you’ll have to do is figure out how you’ll be able to pay your monthly bill.

The Bottom Line

If some of what I’ve discussed here seems a bit shady, that’s because it is.

However, many of the techniques I use to manipulate people into buying recreational vehicles are those used by just about every sales person in the business.

We work on commission. The more I get you to pay, the more I earn.

You may think I’m an RV guy, but generally I’m nothing more than a regular salesman trying to earn a buck.

I am not a nice guy, I am not your friend, and I don’t care about where you live or where you work. I only care about filling my pockets with your cash.

You’ll buy from me because I’m good at what I do, and you like and trust me and won’t want to hurt my feelings by refusing to make a purchase.

I’m an RV salesman confessing these things to you because I’m ashamed of the things I have to do to get people to buy from me.

If you understand anything about what I’ve said here, you need to use this information the next time you start shopping for RVs.

Buy what you want. Buy at a fair price. Trade for a fair price. Read the small print. Don’t fall prey to manipulative RV sales techniques.

If you do these things, you’ll save a great deal of money and will get exactly the unit you want to own.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: In your opinion, how reliable do you sense reviews are for the dealerships and or salesperson of these organizations. I understand there are company's that will post positive reviews, however, I find it somewhat confusing to weed out the undesirables?

Answer: Some reviews may be reliable, but if you go to "Pissed Off Consumer" and check complaints about a particular dealership or check with the Better Business Bureau, you'll get a better idea about reliability. Your best bet is to go to a dealership and get a feel for how you are treated there and then compare prices with NADA values. Also, talk to other RV owners personally to find out what their experiences have been. Bad sellers stick out like sore thumbs very quickly if you do these things.

© 2018 Sondra Rochelle