If my parents were alive, they would get a kick out of this article because they would be saying, “We knew it all along that you would be in sales or teaching sales, etc.”

I should give you a little background on my family. I came from (this will be difficult to believe) a functional family, where there was tremendous love and values, not to mention two great parents. I was an only child, which probably provided me with more attention and my parents spending additional time teaching me right from wrong, etc.

Unfortunately, they died when I was in my early 30s, so I really have had no other family to reflect on past stories or childhood memories. We were not a rich family and not quite poor either, just a family making it by with a few extra dollars.

We lived in a rented duplex and my mother was a stay-at-home mom, fairly normal in the mid to late 1950s and early 1960s. There was no busing for kids and we came home for lunch during elementary school.

Now let me introduce my hero:

My “pop,” Joe was a used car dealer and his car lot was in a very poor area near downtown Cleveland. He did a few things prior to getting in the used car business, but this was his defining career and he was really good at it. He had to drop out of school in the eighth grade to help take care of his family during the Depression and did whatever he could to support his parents while now trying to take care of his family.

What I remember most of that car lot was my dad’s integrity. At that time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he only sold cars that were between $150 and $500. Many times, I watched him give back money to people who came in and said, “Hey Joe, this car isn’t that good,” or they had a problem. He sometimes gave his customers a choice if they were not completely satisfied, by saying, “Take any car on the lot instead or I will give you your money back. You choose.”

He was known as “Honest Joe,” and stayed in that location for more than 30 years. We never had the chance to talk about it, but I am sure all of my business values, I got from him.

Imagine this, a used car guy teaching honesty.

Here are the “used car” rules that I learned from him:

• Be honest. All you have is your reputation, so why not let others promote it. Take good care of your customers and they will come back.

• Make the sale about the customer and not you. He always sold customer’s cars that fitted them best. He never tried to upsell them to make more money for himself.

• Treat the customer with integrity and dignity, and they will stay with you forever. My father was color blind. He treated all people the same and instilled those values to me. He knew his customer’s wanted to trust him, so he earned it by being honest.

• Always sell at a fair price. He never gouged customers and always sold cars at a fair price. I never heard him haggle, since the customer knew the price he was giving them was reasonable.

• Never make promises you cannot keep. He told the truth and if he promised a car for someone on a specific day, it was ready for them to pick up.

• Be upfront with the customer. This is so easy to do if you are genuine and sincere with all people that you deal with.

Yep, my pop was “Honest Joe,” and he has been my hero and will be forever.

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers, “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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