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Trust & Credibility
By: Michael Whitfield
Let’s face it:
As a seller of abandoned and impounded property, retail buyers will always look at each vehicle purchase with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, if you want your abandoned vehicle program to maximize long-term revenues, a major key to accomplishing this is by maximizing your program’s credibility.
What are some easy and tangible steps that can be taken to maintain trust and credibility with your repeat buyers?
- Make your vehicles easy to preview. This is especially important for not only online auctions, but live auctions too. Provide designated hours for buyers to preview. Make keys available for check out. Have yard staff available and visible to answer questions and supervise vehicles for tampering.
- Give as much information as you may know about the vehicle to answer as many common questions as possible. Did the engine knock or smoke when it started? Did you see (or hear) any missing catalytic converters?
- Check your tow file and DMV record search for any branded titles. Your state probably requires disclosure of title brands when known.
- Make sure your photographs can answer all common questions. Are there any missing wheels? Are any airbags deployed? What kind of transmission does it have (photograph of gear shift or pedals)? Is any glass damage or missing?
- Have a set policy for most common challenges and problems. When there is a serious mistake in your item listing, how do you rectify it? The more reasonable your policies, the more credibility you will have with your buyers. However, you should develop a consistent set of policies for common occurrences and STICK TO THEM. Your auctioneer or liquidation professional should have a series of “best practices” and be available for advice and counsel. If you do not have a sales and marketing expert that knows the abandoned vehicle marketplace, consider hiring one.
- Sometimes, you just are going to have to earn your money twice. Buyers will default. Disputes will arise. Credit Card Chargebacks can be minimized but will occasionally occur. Checks will bounce. Vehicles will get tampered with. People will buy that RV and then disappear.
There can be challenges when developing a liquidation program. How you handle these challenges is what will keep your repeat buyers engaged and actively participating in all of your sales events.
Rejected paperwork can cost you money by eliminating days of storage that can be charged or ultimately the ability to sell the vehicle. You lose time by having to start your process over and repeat the steps you’ve already taken, including a visit to the agency office to file your paperwork. And the grief comes when something isn’t right, you’ve already sold the car and the owner hires a lawyer to sue you.
Making sure the information you are working with and the processes you employ in your office are correct can save the day. For example, making sure the records of owners and lienholders you use to send notification letters in real- time is imperative. The last thing you want to do is use stale data that doesn’t accurately reflect the interested parties on the title and registration. You may have to prove you sent the letters in good faith. If that information was accessed in real-time you can demonstrate that is what was provided by the DMV. But if your source provides records that could be as old as 30 days, you are flirting with disaster. Always check your data source for timeliness!
Pulling Your Hair Out?
Reading tow statutes is enough to make you pull your hair out but making sure you are following the rules when it comes to sending notifications in the manner and timeframe required by your state rules is obviously key to acceptable paperwork. Including the vehicle and location details outlined in the statute and making sure your response to an owner meets the spirit of the law, is paramount in covering yourself and your business interests during the process.
Tow statutes can change every year when your state legislature is in session. If you are a member of an association keep an eye out for legislative alerts or do your own research. Keep a link to your jurisdiction’s website and rules related to the abandoned vehicle process on the desktop of everyone who processes paperwork. If there’s confusion, check with the agency that has oversight and ask for clarification. Bottom line – stay informed, focus on accuracy, and avoid the grief that comes with rejected or incorrect paperwork.