Earlier this morning, a friend of mine in the real estate business shared a post on FB promoting a petition to eliminate the scraping of MLS listings by sites such as Zillow.  Their contention is that Zillow’s “zestimates” mislead homeowners and buyers regarding home values making discussions between realtor and customer very difficult when it comes time to actually arrive at a value when buying or selling a home.

Sound familiar?

Here’s a common conversation I have heard between sales managers and sales consultants on a fairly regular basis for quite a few years now:

Manager:  Your customer’s trade is worth $16k
Salesperson:  But, but, but…the customer said KBB valued their trade for $18k
Manager:  Tell ’em to sell it to KBB then

Here’s another one I’m sure you have all heard before:

Manager:  We’ll sell them that truck for $32,600 plus T’s…
Salesperson:  But, but, but…the customer said TrueCar said we should sell that truck for $28k!
Manager:  Awesome, tell ’em to roll on over to TrueCar’s lot and buy one…

I got in the car business in 1989 selling a very simple CRM program for dealerships.  While the program was great for keeping salespeople organized, the real purpose at that time was to get access to dealer’s databases so we could sell them direct mail programs…the meat and potatoes of that company.  This whole program became necessary when we could no longer get full registration data from the DMV.

I’m afraid it has all gone downhill from there.  In our never-ending lust for more leads, it would seem that we have basically dropped our proverbial pants and allowed the world to see every aspect of our business.  As a relatively new Internet Director at a dealership in Houston, I will never forget the first time a customer showed me an invoice for a vehicle we were trying to sell him.  I was furious and ready to set up a firing line for the traitor in our midst…that salesperson was in deep kimchi and I was the Ginsu knife!  Turns out, the customer had found the invoice online and I was quite certain our industry was doomed.  Was I right?

My cars dot com rep told me the other day that the most pressed button on their search console was the Sort:  Low To High button.  That’s what this has come to…an absolute race to the bottom and who can drop their pants the lowest and fastest.

Is all this worth it?  Can we put the genie back in the bottle and stop letting third party companies scrape our data and publish every invoice, level of holdback and incentive that we ever have?  Are online trade valuing tools just #fakenews?

Can we fix this and provide a more reliable source for determining realistic trade values?

Sorry for the long post and all the questions. This has really bothered me for a long time and learning of these tactics in another industry and watching them fight back seems to have given me a little glimmer of hope for our future…and our bottom line.