Trust Me

Trust Me

By Bob Garfield and Doug Levy

Bob Garfield is co-host of the NPR show On the Media. Doug Levy is founder and CEO of MEplusYou, a strategic marketing agency. From Can’t Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results (Portfolio/Penguin). ©2013

This was one of those incredible experiences that inform a man’s impression of the world we live in. The scene was a lunch table at a Marina del Rey hotel meeting room. The occasion was a J.D. Power automotive marketing conference, the year 1990-something. There were ten people at the table eating chafing-dish salmon. One of them was one of your co-authors. Another was an extremely prosperous California car dealer. The subject of consumer trust had come up, whereupon the car dealer chimed right in.

“I know just what you mean,” he began. “We want people to feel at home in our stores. We want them to feel like they’re among friends. If I see a lady who looks like she’s worried about the process, I’ll just have her into the office, just to talk. Not to sell, just to visit, to find out something about her, share something about us. It is so important to establish that trust. And then, once we’ve done that, we can really squeeze ’em in!”

Upon the realization that this lecture was being delivered in dead earnest, nine people were rendered speechless. The only response was the sound of cutlery madly clinking against hotel china. The guy’s dumbfounded audience, most of whose members were in the car business themselves, could not tell if he was the most cynical man in their industry or merely the most oblivious. And surely they appreciated what this cardboard-cutout stereotype of a slick car salesman did not: that trust constructed as a means to a mercenary end is not trust at all.


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