When Chris and I bought my very first new car in 2003, we started out with a delightful salesman.

He was a young Nigerian guy, and he was kind, helpful, and not at all pushy.  We’d talked trades, we’d picked out the one we wanted (a beautiful sage green Honda Civic), and right as we were about to go inside to talk numbers, it was apparently time for our salesman to knock off for the day.

So he traded us over to this nasty, creepy old dude that was missing almost all of his teeth, and the two he had left were crusty and brown with tobacco stains.

He smiled at me with that sneer that makes you want sanitize your entire body and then immediately call the cops.

But we stuck it out.  I negotiated hard for my car, got a good deal, and signed the papers.

At the end of the visit, he started the spiel.

“Now.  You’re going to get a call from our dealership asking you to take a survey about me.  I want you to answer “excellent” to all of the questions, okay?”


Clearly, he heard the LIE in my voice, so he decided to role play.

“I’m going to pretend to be the surveyor and ask you the questions exactly like they’re going to ask, and you answer.  Okay?”

And that greasy man made me sit there and pretend to give him a perfect survey. THREE TIMES.

A couple of days later, they called.

I gave him a nicer review than he deserved, and then they asked me if I had any comments.

“Yes.  Do you realize that he bullies his customers into giving him nice reviews?”


I proceeded to tell them about my experience.

And they were duly horrified, and a little embarrassed.

A few years later, we bought another Civic from that dealership.  Greaseball was gone, and our new salesman did not hound us about our upcoming survey.  I felt as if I had cleaned the place up with my survey.

I was proud that the world was a nicer place, all because of me.

Until we bought Flexi the Space Toaster.

The dealership was out of state, but our experience was delightful.  I did all of my hard negotiating over the phone and email, and was very pleased at the price and the amount I was receiving for my trade.  I’d researched Flexes for five weeks, and I knew that I was getting the best deal out there.

We arrived at the dealership, and they didn’t try to negotiate a single dollar, even though they hadn’t seen the encrusted bits of Chick-Fil-A and other Children’s Love Marks in my trade until we arrived.  Our salesman was wonderful, the dealership was great – everything was perfect.

Until it was time to talk surveys.

And our salesman hounded us with the fervor of five Greaseballs.

Then he hounded us again.

Then, “Some people get confused, so I’m going to pull out a copy of the survey to show you.  See – ‘completely satisfied’ is not the best response you can give – ‘perfectly satisfied’ is.  If you don’t give me ‘perfectly satisfied’, then they will dock my pay.

(He looks sadly at the photo of his seven year old daughter.)

I promise to give you a perfect review – just give us the keys already!!

A couple days after our purchase, he called to follow up.  And to remind me of his intense desire to receive “perfectly satisfied”.

A few days after that, because I had not filled out the survey yet (I was on VACATION), he called back to check on my perfect satisfaction, and by the way, have you received the survey?

I was highly annoyed, but I did like my salesman (before all of the survey stuff started, anyway), and I didn’t want him to get in trouble with the dealership or for his pay to get docked, so I did indeed give him “perfectly satisfied”.

As soon as I hit “send” on the survey email, he called to thank me for being perfectly satisfied.

But then.

The dealership emailed me, letting me know that I would also be receiving a survey from Ford, and to please rate their dealership as high as possible, and to keep in mind that “your survey answers will be grading your Sales Associate, and it is a direct reflection on him.”

So clearly, they are not only aware that their salesmen use guilt techniques to get good survey answers, but they model it as well.

Then  two days later, they sent me a second email, asking me again to please give them great ratings.

And something inside my nice, southern, unconfrontational self snapped.

So I responded.

Dear [Dealership],

I was very happy with my purchase, felt like I got a wonderfully fantastic deal on my car, was very happy with the way that my salesman was not pushy at all and willing to do all of the negotiating via the internet.  My deal was completed by the time I arrived, and I thoroughly enjoyed every part of my buying experience.

I would absolutely give the best review on both the dealership and my salesman for everything you have done.  And I still will.  However, I feel like I have been constantly hounded, guilted, and nearly even bullied into ensuring my perfect review by your dealership.  This in and of itself is the biggest complaint that I have with your dealership.  Surveys are meant to collect honest opinions from consumers, not to create an uncomfortable, awkward situations between the seller and the buyer. 

I highly recommend that your dealership (and your salesmen) simply act confident in the great service you provide, rather than pushing, guilting, and following up with your customers to ensure that they give good reviews.  Because your service is absolutely perfect, except for your tactics in making sure you get good reviews, which does the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. 



Okay.  I was still pretty nice.  But I felt like I made my point – quit bullying me and leave me alone.

I hit send, and in less than five minutes, my cell phone rang – from the dealership.

I stared at it with incredulous indignation.


I didn’t answer.

My salesman left me a message, making sure, yet again, that I was “perfectly satisfied”.

I began to stab my left eyeball out with my pen.

Two days later, I got another email from the dealership.

Not a response, apologizing for their guilting.


Not at all.

This email was from someone whom I had never met or heard of, and it said…

Dear Rachel,

Once again, I would like to thank you for purchasing your vehicle from us here. All of us really appreciate your business, and we hope that we exceeded your expectations.

As I may have mentioned, it makes me very proud to be a member of the sales team. Our business model is designed to eliminate much of the hassle traditionally associated with car sales. Hopefully, I have lived up to my promise which was to deliver you with a simple, honest, and hassle free vehicle purchase experience.

In closing, would it be too much to ask that you write a quick paragraph or two on Google Places summarizing how you feel about the experience you had here with our team? I would very much appreciate it.

Stab.  Stab.  Stab.


Yes indeed it would be too much to ask.

I only wanted to buy a dang car from you people, not become your full-time marketing department.

However, it would NOT be too much to ask for me to write a 1,300 word blog post about your relentless feedback pandering.

You’re welcome!


A would-be happy customer…if you’d just quit asking me to tell you that I’m happy already.

Car Dealership Survey Harrassing

29 thoughts on “A PSA To Car Dealerships Everywhere.

  1. Ugh, I have had the same exact experience. I used to take my car to the Nissan dealership near my house to get the oil changed (it used to be super cheap to get it done there). I went in one morning and dropped my car off and then went to the sitting area to wait. I waited for about an hour, but it was ok with me because it was so cheap. Wrong. When they brought me the invoice the oil change was $45! I asked them why and they told me they had changed their prices. They told me when I dropped the car off, I probably just forgot. Umm, no, had I been told that I would have turned my happy ass around. Then as I was leaving he told me, “you’ll be getting a survey, I need you to answer “perfect” to everything. Thanks and have a great day!”

    I was too mad to say anything at the time, but I went home and sent them an email through their site. Ten minutes later I got a phone call from the manager apologizing. I explained to him how surveys work. If you tell someone how to answer, it’s not an accurate survey. I have been told that if they do not receive a perfect rating their pay is cut. That also is a flawed system. Instead of giving them an incentive to give great service, it gives them an incentive to bully people into giving them perfect scores.

    Needless to say, I won’t be going back there. And I didn’t give him a perfect score on the survey either. Out of principle.

  2. The surveys and the online reviews are getting a bit out of control. You can’t even have a meal at a restaurant these days without being reminded about an online survey at the end.

  3. Love the post!! I agree that these survey bullies have gotten out of hand. The surveys are to help make a business better, not for them to always get the best rating just because they bully the customer into giving them the highest rating. Pay should not be tied into it, unless they get a really bad review because they were really rude, mean and did a very poor job. Maybe we should all start telling these places that I refuse to lie– so you’ll just have to be surprised at what answers I give!

  4. This is why my car is 12 years old. I hate the process that much. And I agree with Sue Anne that it has gotten WAY out of hand. Every place you go, they want you to fill out or answer a survey about how they did.

    If I wanted to be harassed, I just stay at home with my kid who wants to go to the pool and play with the brats across the street who won’t stop ringing our doorbell 15 times a day.

  5. OMG! When we bought our last car, the salesman told us about a survey. I’m pretty sure we ignored it. But your story is just crazy, don’t they know they are offending people? When you nag, that makes a negative feeling…… wow- they have a lot to learn!

  6. Terrific post and let’s hope that some of these salesmen/dealerships would read this. I have even had them chase me as we drove away.

  7. That would make me mad too! That doesn’t make any sense at all?! I’m sorry for your harassment…maybe Ford teamed up with the Robocalling politicians in hopes you would blog about them… Hmmmm…

    1. I really went back and forth about putting their dealership’s name in the post or not… since they’re so internet-focused, I assumed they would find it. But did I want them to? The difficult questions of a blogger.

  8. Oh NOOOO! As a marketing major and self-made critique of all things marketing-related I am APPALLED! This is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine. I do blame the dealership putting the pressure on their salespeople to just “get the perfect ratings”. I understand that people are doing lots more reviewing of companies online and such but this is uncalled for. There should be ONE follow-up. Let them give you a call, ask if it is a good time to make this call, then record it to save for any future marketing uses (with your permission of course) and give you a chance to record a good OR bad critique at the end. Done. How hard is that??

    1. It’s definitely the dealership’s fault – they proved that by harassing me for over a month afterward. And not just to take a survey, but to write them a multi-paragraph review on Google Places??? Perhaps I should link this blog post…

  9. My husband is a Toyota mechanic and is the Foreman at a big dealership here in Colorado Springs. He, thank God, doesn’t have anything to do with the survey system, but he knows all about it. And here’s the thing. Not saying how they treated you is ok or trying to defend them, because I would have been seriously annoyed as well. But just to help you understand where they are coming from…(this is how it works for Toyota. I assume it is very similar for all other brands)…

    If salesmen and service writers get all perfect surveys, they get a green status on the CSI (Customer Service Index), which means they will receive the portion of their commission that is dependent on customer service. This is a very large portion of their salary. If they get *ONE* not-perfect score on a survey – even if it isn’t related to their job in any way (if you said that you were “completely satisfied” instead of “perfectly satisfied” with the waiting room, for example, which has nothing to do with the salesman or service writer), their status turns red, and it takes TEN PERFECT SURVEYS to make up for ONE not perfect answer on a survey. If they don’t have a green status at the end of the pay period, they don’t get that portion of their salary, and that is huge. Like almost a third. Imagine your paycheck getting cut by a third because of something that is completely out of your control. For some people, that is the difference between being able to pay their bills and buy food – or not.

    They ALL hate this system. It is a horrible, evil, incredibly flawed system – and it sounds like it is universal! I thought it was just Toyota! It really is the worst trap – these guys are forced to take extreme measures to try and get perfect surveys, because if they don’t, they are severely financially penalized. Which completely defeats the purpose of a survey, because now no one knows if there is anything that could be improved. I don’t know who came up with this pay-scale-perfect-survey deal – but they clearly have no idea what they are doing. And they clearly aren’t dependent on it for their own paycheck.

    Sorry for the rant – it really is a horrible system, from the salesman side as well as the consumer side. Sorry you had to deal with it.

    1. That is SO very sad. It sounds like the dealership’s way of bullying the poor employees out of their money. What good does it do to have a bunch of perfect surveys if they’re all bullied into it? The whole thing makes no sense.

      1. I know, right?? It is just unspeakably ridiculous. It isn’t the dealerships though – they all hate it, including upper management. Their pay is docked too, if their employee’s surveys aren’t all perfect. ‘Course they make a lot more, but still. It’s the owners of the dealerships or the companies that manage them, I’m guessing. Some fancy people, sitting in a room, with no idea how their decisions will affect people. So frustrating!

  10. I have only bought one car new, but I didn’t get hounded to give perfect service marks…THANK GOODNESS!

    I found your account quite entertaining, though.

    Just glad it was you and not me. (sympathetic, i know).

  11. Sounds to me like it is big corporation’s way of getting out of paying the employees what they really should be paid.

  12. We had the exact same experience at our local Canadian Toyota dealership. Everything was good, until we were there to pick up our vehicle, go through the manual, etc. with the customer service rep and then she gave us the survey talk! She didn’t elaborate like some of you have expounded, but it was so strange, being directed to give perfect scores. I can’t recall what we did, but I’m pretty sure we answered it honestly.

  13. We got the perect survey talk from the Nissan dealership too (not a million follow ups though), but we live w it because ky husband’s mom works for a dealership (not as a sales person, but she knows all about the dreaded surveys) and it’s exactly how Valerie says it is. It’s the brand, not the dealership as far as I know, but people seriously lose money for just one non perfect survey.

  14. Yeah, they have the same system in Ottawa too. We’ve been asked by Ford and VW dealers alike. Once we were asked to fill out two variants. One for the higher-ups with perfect, one honestly. I didn’t get why at the time, but the system sounds completely busted. I did enjoy filling out a survey after dealer-from-hell failed to reassemble our car correctly, which we discovered after the 1st fillup splashed straight through and onto the ground. I find it amazing how few places understand the value of an apology, especially if someone takes to time to complain in writing.

    I did some mystery shopping for a while (best hobby ever, a little sad I don’t have time anymore) and I always found it fascinating to see what “corporate” wanted to measure. I’ve concluded that too quantitative a process leads to worse customer service.

    1. Wow – yes, that is busted, if they acknowledge that they need you to fill out two, and one “honestly”.

      And the car reassembly? That’s insane!!

  15. how annoying!!! i’m proud of you for giving them a real, honest answer in that email. and good for you for not writing a review. you could send them a link to your blog though ;)

    1. You think? I’ve considered it. But due to the fact that they never answered my email, I don’t think they *really* care what I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *