Lenders, Dealers Can’t Let Slang Get Out of Hand

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / IcefrontLAS VEGAS — Dealerships and lenders should make a serious effort to ban offensive slang that’s commonly used in auto finance, like calling subprime lenders the “mouse house,” or expressions like, “Buyers are liars,” panelists said at the F&I Industry Summit here.

“All of us here visit dealerships all the time, and within two minutes, you can quickly tell what a dealer’s attitude is to the people they serve or to their own employees,” said Dave Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals (AFIP), Colleyville, Texas.

“We want to treat people as human beings, as customers, as consumers, and employees,” Robertson said. “We have a responsibility to treat them ethically and fairly.”

AFIP provides training for dealership employees to get certified in compliance with federal, state and local regulations in F&I. Robertson and other experts said efforts to stamp out offensive slang have to start at the top, with upper-level management. That is, lenders and dealerships should adopt formal policies for how customers are to be treated, and enforce those rules. The experts included themselves in that effort.

“Those terms used to be in the back of a lot of textbooks, the slang that we use,” Robertson said. “We have taken that out of any of our materials.”

Marv Eleazer, F&I manager for Langdale Ford, Valdosta, Ga., said it’s probably impossible to ban the use of slang entirely, but without naming them he agreed some terms definitely need to go, and even the more inoffensive terms shouldn’t be used where customers are likely to overhear.

“We all use slang. Our attorneys use it. We use it among ourselves. The danger, of course, is when we let it get out of hand,” he said in the panel discussion.

Lewis Kuhl, senior counsel and director of regulatory compliance for F&I vendor GSFSGroup, Houston, said customers could even be offended when dealership employees refer to the next customer as an “up” — an utterly common term. “Don’t just call them an ‘up,’ call them Mr. Jones or whatever,” he said.

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