I enjoy reading business books, articles about psychology, theories on economics, about the way societies and people work, and about how life works in general. I’ve taken a multitude of business training seminars, attended many lectures on the ethics of business, decision theory, and even listened to many experts speak about what “makes people tick.” Of all my experiences, of all my research, the most insightful was a report that I selected on the sole basis that it would be an enjoyable read, well, interesting at the least. It was. I didn’t put it down until I read it all. I devoured it. Back in the summer of 2005, when I worked in D.C. for one of the federal agencies, I had the good fortune to read Mr. Chandler Philips’ article on edmunds.com, “Confessions of a Car Salesman.” It’s an article written by an Edmunds.com writer, Mr. Chandler Philips,’ who goes into the wild world of auto sales in order to reveal what really goes on behind the scenes. Now, I initially started reading this thinking I would learn more about the crazy world of car sales, as I was in the market for a car at the time, however, little did I know that this would be a read much more beneficial than the objective I had originally intended.
There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly….and it does get ugly. After diving into the article,—and I say ‘diving’ because once you start, you really just get enveloped by the read—you realize that the car sales world is a gigantic ocean of adventure, with perils lurking at every turn, and safety, only to be found once you leave the water.
So, the good. There’s not much to say about the good, except that, you know what you’re dealing with—most of the time. People who are trying to sell you a very expensive product, so they can get a higher cut…many times making you pay thousands more, so they can earn an extra $100, or less! But again, at least you know you’re about to go swimming.
The Bad. They have an agenda, and you have an agenda. You want to buy a car that meets your requirements at the lowest reasonable price. We can talk about “reasonable” vs “lowest” at a later post, but just let it be known that no one ever buys anything at a price “unreasonable,”—or else, they wouldn’t purchase it. Knowing this, and their past history with other clientele, the salesman’s job is to start strong at a ridiculous price, until after much wear and tear, it starts looking rather reasonable to you, the buyer. Philips’ article goes into the strategies, tactics, and plotting that goes into this, and it gets rather elaborate, if you so care to read about it. The ideal is not a win-win, but rather a dealer-win and consumer-lose mentality. Now sales is a soft art, and not all dealerships nor salespeople are the same, but the article gives much insight into the economics and psychology of the common sales trade.
The Ugly. Everyone is your friend, until you start showing disinterest. Up until you disagree with the price,—and you will, or at least, you should—everything is peachy. You think this salesman really cares about your future purchase and getting you into the right car for you. You even start having good thoughts about how the good treatment from this salesman must be a testament against the common misconception. Until, of course, when you realize that you probably don’t want leather. Then your adab-filled-mashallah-salesman lets you know how being cheap won’t get you anywhere in life, perhaps even an attack on your manhood. The more you talk, the more ammo you give him. I mean, they would even go as low as making personal attacks, all in the name of business. You are surprised at this Jekyll and Hyde persona in front of you, not sure of what to do, tied to them due to past kindnesses, but abhorring even one more minute of being in this paradoxical situation. Chandler even goes into the tactics used to pressure customers into these high-stress zones in order to incite irrational thought, in hopes of one more sale. I told you it got ugly.
One thing you do learn, though, is that when you’ve finally had enough, the best solution to end this ridiculous encounter with the salesman, is a simple phrase, said at this moment of animosity, with the utmost of politeness: I prefer to take my business elsewhere.
I could really care less about auto sales, as a matter of fact, I’m sure you don’t even need to read Philips’ article to know the sleaze-balls, scavengers, and hungry predators that make up this profession—but I stated all this as a prelude to what some may call an outrageous claim, unsubstantiated and uncalled for, about the ‘salespeople’ of this Deen. I wonder how different the article would have been instead of becoming an undercover car salesmen, Philips, became an undercover Muslim, giving ‘dawah’ to our brothers and sisters. How much of the article would be different?
How many times have you been offered a fatwa, without asking for it, having it shoved down your throat, by that unsuspected, once-adab-filled-mashallah-brother, forcing the sale, no matter the price. “No akhi, you must fear Allah, and this is what you must do!!”
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not dogging our brothers and sisters who give naseehah sincerely to their fellow Muslims, I’m just wondering when, as Sh. Yaser Fazaqa puts it, making a point became more important than making a friend. We too, in our zeal for the ‘sale,’ whether its to preach a better stand point on aqeedah or a more correct fiqh argument, tend to lose our clientele with our overzealous attitudes. There must be a reason why the “less practicing” fear the long beards and flowing hijabs—they don’t want to get beaten to death by the ‘haram-stick’—you know, “haram, haram, haram!!”
Not-so-random point of qawa’id (basis of Islamic thought): Every thing in this dunia (not related to ibadah, the worshipping of Allah), is halal (legal, fine and dandy). Except what Allah and His Messenger has stated as haram (illegal, sinful).
So, you’ve heard about fatwa shopping right? When people go to various scholars searching for a fatwa that fulfills the deepest desires of their hearts? Well, what about fatwa telemarketers, who, at the most inopportune time, decide to expound upon the Islamic perspective of why what you may be doing is wrong, or even mind you, how something else would be better—with no invitation. At times, these warden-like figures almost seem like they are possessing some holier-than-thou spirit, and that all that they do is righteous, and that their sole mission is to correct you. Can you imagine dealing with that day in and day out? Strangely enough, many of us don’t have to—imagine, that is.
So alas, if there was no wisdom in the beginning, let there be wisdom in the end.
Wisdom is to say or do the right thing, at the right time, at the right place, to the right people.
Let us invite to the way of our Lord with wisdom, and beautiful preaching.