Relationship Versus Transaction

My husband and I both recently leased new cars on the same day but under totally different circumstances. Our dissimilar experiences made me consider the distinctions between a relationship and a transaction.

It was time for a change.  Even though I’ve been very happy with Lexus, I decided to try “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and lease a BMW.

BMW, like every dealer, tells the customer at the end of the process, “You’re going to get a survey. Please, please, please give us ‘excellent’ across the board,” which I usually have no problem doing.  In this case, however, there was nothing excellent or even above average about the transaction from the time I started talking with dealership contacts, to the time I drove off the lot and even afterward.

For instance, the person who took us out on test drives did not have the kind of personality one would expect if you’re trying to build a relationship with people. The person who taught me the car’s features before I drove off the lot, didn’t know the car that well, and left out some important aspects I had to find out about later.   After I had driven about 10 miles, I realized that there was no gas in the car, and I had to stop and fill up.  (To their credit, the dealership apologized profusely and sent a check to cover my gas expense.)

On top of those experiences, one of the features I understood would be in the car was not and couldn’t be retrofitted.  After many emails were exchanged, the dealership dismissed me with an apology which essentially said: Sorry we can’t do anything about it now that you have the car. We hope you enjoy driving it, and oh, by the way, every customer is important to us.

Overall, the whole process with them made me think about the fact that this experience was merely a transaction. It wasn’t a relationship. The dealership deserves nothing above an “average” rating.

By contrast, in the past, I’ve leased three cars from Lexus, the last two times from Lexus Santa Monica, which was terrific in every way. When I leased my last Lexus, I received phenomenal service. The man who showed me the car’s features had such a phenomenal teaching style that I still remember it.  The dealership deserved its excellent ratings on the post-purchase survey.

My husband’s recent car-leasing experience was far better than my dealings with BMW. He combed the state to find the color Nissan Murano he wanted and located one at a dealership in Folsom, California. He had to fly there in order to drive the car home. The day before, the salesperson called and offered to pick him up from the airport and find him a place to stay. After my husband drove home, the dealership called the next day to inquire about his drive and find out what he thought of the car.

The Nissan Murano is a nice car, but when people mention luxury cars, it’s usually not on the list.  But my husband had much more of a luxury-service experience with Nissan than I had with BMW. To me, it was the difference between a transaction and a relationship.

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