Confounded by Codes

My bill from an information technology vendor is pages long. There are items that cause even my seasoned account manager to scrunch her face while trying to decipher it. My factory bills and allocations are similarly coded in unfamiliar language. There are model codes and alpha numeric build-status codes and a host of other hieroglyphics that would be much easier to understand if they substituted

My bill from an information technology vendor is pages long. There are items that cause even my seasoned account manager to scrunch her face while trying to decipher it.

My factory bills and allocations are similarly coded in unfamiliar language.

There are model codes and alpha numeric build-status codes and a host of other hieroglyphics that would be much easier to understand if they substituted words like “long-wheel base minivan'” or “built but not yet shipped.” Why not say that? Why use blurry insider codes? I can only assume a lack of real interest in making the information clear.

I can't imagine that the folks who send such cryptic documents have any real concern that they will be paid everything that's owed them. When the amount due is not paid in full, they probably just send another bill with the amount clearly stated next to a vague reference to the original bill.

I'll bet that sometimes dealers pay the same bill twice: the duplicate first and the misplaced original later when it's found. How quickly do you think the folks who send those hard-to-read bills are to refund overpayments?

And what about all the errors and credits that must surely be due once in a while? I wonder if my suppliers have taken note that the muddier their documents, the less likely I'll be to catch mistakes and pursue credits.

As paperwork fills my office at the end of the month, I'm likely to run out of month before I zero in on the details of factory and vendor payables. I feel a pressure to pay those bills quickly as part of finishing the month and sending my financial statement to my bank and manufacturer.

Of course that's just me. I'm not sure most of the 23,000 North American new car dealers audit their warranty reports, incentive payments and interest credits to the day, percent and penny.

Notwithstanding the above, I have been told that the national average for warranty payments is in the 85% range. So, if your office is of average diligence and skill, the odds are that you're giving the factory a 15% discount on all the warranty and incentive money that's due you. Imagine that.

This difficulty in staying ahead of the fine print is not limited to bill paying.

I've noticed lately that it's common to be expected to sign things and waive things without a fair chance to understand what all the signing and waiving is about.

Today, I was asked to sign up online for a regional dealer meeting. Before being able to complete the registration form (which asked little more than how I wanted my name badge to read), I was asked to agree to the terms of meeting.

Terms of the meeting? Those were hidden beneath a mouse click and scrolls of fine-print legalese. I clicked and read. I learned I was asked to waive my right to sue the company hired to register me. I suppose they were concerned that I might prick my finger with the pin on the name badge at the sign-in table.

Such an incident could prompt a sticky legal battle in which I would accuse them of intentional infliction of mental distress for having used unsterilized pins on the backs of name badges.

Whatever the rational, I was more than surprised that registering for a name badge at a regional marketing meeting would require such a clandestine legal strategy to obtain my waiver.

Between hidden waivers and coded bills it is getting hard to know all the things that everyone is expecting a dealer to stay on top of.

I used to think that the hard part of dealering was grasping all the rules and regulations that governed us. Just behind those were the unpredictable ups and downs of the marketplace.

Lately, I've noticed a new force that has come up from the depths. That monster is the rapid pace of factory and supplier documents that seemingly are designed to keep us off balance.

In a time when it takes a partnered effort to make a living selling and servicing cars, it's unnerving to realize that even our closest allies might be on the other side.

Peter Brandow is a veteran auto dealer in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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