July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Should My Friend Find Another Job?

Question: My friend works for a used-car dealership and the tactics that the dealership uses to sell cars are very disconcerting. I want to know if they are forbidden halachically. If so, does my friend need to find other employment? Below are the tactics employed.

1) The dealership does not ask how much the customer is looking to spend. The salesman asks, “What kind of monthly payment can you afford?” Then, the salesman inflates the price of the car, but stretches the monthly payments for as many months as possible, to lessen the monthly payment until it matches the customer’s expectations. The customer is happy but does not realize that he is still overpaying for the car.

2) If the customer is trading in a vehicle to defray the cost of the car that he will be purchasing, the dealership will add $3000 or $4000 to the price of the new car, while adding $1500 or $2000 to the value of the trade-in. Many customers are so pleased that they appear to be getting a generous valuation for their trade-in, that they do not realize that they are overpaying for the car they wish to purchase.

3) The dealership often answers a customer’s concerns with misleading information. For example, if there is a used car that has been in an accident and the door does not close smoothly and has some slight cracks in the paint—often tell-tale signs that the car has been in an accident—then to allay a customer’s concerns, the dealership will sometimes fabricate a clean vehicle history report and present it to the customer.

4) Salesmen are taught to add hidden fees which are only disclosed to the client at the very end of an (unnecessarily) long sales process (e.g., an $899 processing fee, a $435 title and registration fee and a $149 licensing fee). These fees are used as a pretense to squeeze more money out of the customer and are employed purely to enhance dealership profit.

5) The dealership draws out the car buying process unnecessarily. They make the customer wait and then wait some more—the salesman talks to the team leader who then talks to the sales manager who then talks to the general sales manager all in the interest of “…going to bat for you, to ensure that you are getting the best deal possible.” They know that the longer the car buying process takes, the more invested the customer is in the process, and the more tired he becomes. This makes it more likely that he will agree to purchase the car even if it is overpriced.

Answer: It is actually your friend who should pose the question to his own rav or posek, but it would seem that all of the above constitute ona’as mamon (financial oppression) and are forbidden tactics halachically. Tactics 1, 2 and 4 above are textbook cases of ona’as mamon through the overpricing of merchandise as found in Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 227:21. Tactic 3 above is ona’as mamon through rama’us (deception) as found in Choshen Mishpat, 228:9. Tactic 5 above is a type of oppression that is implied in the Rishonim and employed to bring about ona’as mamon.

Since these tactics are halachically forbidden, one should look for other employment. If he is good at sales, selling AI for specific databases is a hot field now, and has no onaah involved in it. Hatzlacha!


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